Where Stones Sing: The Hemakuta Hill in Hampe

Published on: 06/05/2024

EveryWherever RajivShyamSundar Hampi-12

Photo title: Hemakuta Hill


Photo Credits: Rajiv Shyamsundar

An undulating rock. Like a wave of all things molten from Earth’s womb that rose composedly and decided to ebb quickly in strange peace. As if tectonic timescales decided to freeze into a patient and expansive stillness, breaking away from waves that know only to roar. This surreal geological art — this rocky wave — exists, and is called the Hemakuta Hill.

When Lakshmeesha Tolpadi, a Kannada philosopher, scholar, writer and thinker of our times, spoke at the acceptance of his Sahitya Akademi Award last December, Hampe might have crossed our minds.

“Into every nook and corner in India are folded many folklore and references to the Mahabharata or the Ramayana,” he said. “This is how the two epics have endured for millennia, for they are kept alive by people who feel a sense of being rooted to a land of ancient human stories celebrating deeply spiritual values.”

Hampe, or the anglicised Hampi, keeps several mythological stories alive to this day. Etched in stone. Literally.

The very name ‘Hampe’ finds its origin in the story of Goddess Pampa, an avatar of Parvati performing penance to marry Shiva. Eventually, Shiva, delighted by her dedication, accepts her. In celebration, the cosmos (according to a myth birthed in this part of Karnataka) rains gold on a particular hill in Hampe, giving the Hemakuta Hill its name: hema is Sanskrit and Kannada for gold.

To the north of the hill is one of the most celebrated wonders in this part of Hampe, the Virupaksha Temple, whose gopura (tower) looms dauntingly, hauntingly, like the word ‘honour’ had acquired form.

On the hill are structures that are by themselves a journey, articulated one stone at a time, letter after letter forming the alphabet of a language. Some known to belong to an even earlier period, all of them are built in Dravidian architectural style, dated between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. More than thirty-five temples are believed to have been on the Hemakuta Hill, most of which are dedicated to lords Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu).

EveryWherever RajivShyamSundar Hampi-9

Photo title: Virupaksha Temple


Photo Credits: Rajiv Shyamsundar

On the zenith of the Hemakuta Hill is the unassuming Moola Virupaksha Temple reflective of the formative stage of the Vijayanagara architecture style. Moola means origin, and is befitting for a shrine that is older than the Virupaksha Temple. It is as if the temple itself is meditating, the natural pond in front of it relentlessly reflecting it. Behind the Moola Virupaksha Temple is the small shrine dedicated to the mighty Hanuman, easily recognisable by the frangipani tree with its blank branches — a muse for every seeker and chronicler of beauty. From here, you can behold the vast sweep of the city now in ruins, one which is glorious even in reminiscence.

Further down on the slope are the fabled 2.4-metre-high Sasivekalu Ganesha and Kadalekalu Ganesha idols housed in somewhat open, pillared shrines. The former is carved out of an in-situ boulder, a monolith. These idols may remind you of the humbling perspective of the Italian sculpture maestro Michelangelo, that he saw a block of stone that hid a figure already and all he had to do was to chip away at the excess to access the form and reveal it for others. The two Ganeshas, although exposed to elements for centuries, have let time flow through them gracefully. Named after mustard and chickpea seeds respectively, and being so massive, they make you grin for the poetic latitudes the ancients took in naming deities.

The twin, two-storeyed gateway nearby, with all its pillars, plays hide-and-seek with the sun as the life-giving star crawls across the sky. Slanting rays of sunburst add an ethereal side to the earthly. From this archway, you get a breathtaking aerial view of the stunning Krishna Temple complex with its kalyani to the south. Beyond its presence, you can also recognise the equally popular Lakshmi Narasimha and the Badavalinga temples.

From most of the pillars of these temples and other structures emerge carvings that appear to be somewhat crude, only in comparison to the intricacy one can find in, for instance, a deity carved in the Hoysala style. But in Hampe, it is this very unapologetically pagan glory that will seep down your being and stay under your skin. Parts of the hill’s perimetre, on the other hand, retain what’s believed to be the remains of fortification, predating the Vijayanagara Empire.

Besides these things of beauty shaped by human hands, the Hemakuta Hill offers you enchanting sunrise and sunset views from a vantage point. You see the changing light once silhouetting the neighbouring temples and once revealing them in their raw glory.

From it lurks a sweeping view of this ancient city which, even in ruins, looks so glorious that you can only imagine with some pain what the days of glory might have looked like.

And thus Hemakuta Hill shines a light on Hampe, now a radiant muse, now a world of delight hemmed by a luminous ache; an ache throbbing with the flow of time but still, golden.


Sourabha Rao

Sourabha Rao is a professional writer, poet, translator, former freelance columnist and voiceover artist, with literary proficiency in English and Kannada. She deeply cares about producing stories primarily on nature and wildlife, social issues, history and art. She strives to write truthfully and creatively in an earnest attempt to create content that educates and entertains, has impact, and mobilises positive social change. She has written op-eds and photo-stories for leading Kannada and English newspapers, and has collaborated with filmmakers in wildlife conservation and water conservation. Sourabha lives in Bengaluru, while a big chunk of her heart has stayed back in Mysuru, her forever-muse.

EveryWherever RajivShyamSundar Hampi-12

Where Stones Sing: The Hemakuta Hill in Hampe


Craft Calling: Traditional Lambani Arts and Crafts and the Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra

R6  7662

The Path of a Downfall: Movements that Led to the Collapse of the Vijayanagara Empire


Hampi Ruins in the 1900s: Stellar Photographs From A Forgotten Historical Text

IMG 3527 2

North Karnataka’s Threesome — Badami, Aihole, & Pattadakallu


Hampi Ruins in the 1900s — The Gateways into the City

IMG 3068

Badami Caves — A Feast for Your Eyes


The Diamonds of the Vijayanagara Empire


Architectural Wonders

Temple as viewed from the river 2

Yantroddharaka Hanuman Temple – A Deep Dive


The cute little denizens of the Kamalapura Palace, Hampi


The Tale of the Tungabhadra

IMG 1384

Geological Note on Hampi’s rocks

Elephant Stables, Hampi

On the trail of the elephant in Hampi

603577 10151112098784049 2080128102 n

Hampi – The Other Side of the Coin

Img0689 - Local Breads(Jallad RotiAkki RotiRagi Roti)

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Jallad Roti | Akki Roti

Img0759 - Qubani ka Meetha and Shahajahani ka Meetha

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Qubani ka Meetha and Shahjahani ka Meetha

Img0847 - Murgh-e-Bahmani

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Murgh-e-Lazeez

Img0833 - Nizami Machali ka Salan

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Nizami Machali ka Salan

Img0782 - Dum ki Nalli

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Dum ki Nalli

Img0512 - Anapa Ginjala Pulusu

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Anapa Ginjala Pulusu

Img0731 - Raan-e-Kamalapura

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Raan-e-Kamalapura

Img0813 - Bhaghara Baingan

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Baghara Baingan

Img0564 - Natukodi Pulusu

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Natukodi Pulusu

Img0526 - Tondekai Palya

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Tondekai Palya

Img0573 - Royala Igaru

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Royala Igaru

Img0637 - Pulihora

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Pulihora

Img0704 - Koli Chuttada

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Koli Chuttada

Img0607 - Karibale Cutlets

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Karibelle Cutlet

 MG 8292 final u0ogqz

The Battle of Talikota and the Sacking of Hampi

Img0678 - Kori Ghee Roast

From the Kitchens of Evolve Back – Kori Ghee Roast

Varhara - Royal Emblem of Vijayanagara

Harihara & Bukka: founders of the Vijayanagara Empire


Hidden in Plain Sight

GSC 5685

On Invisible Trails


The Battle of Raichur: The Beginning of the End


‘Monument Mithras’ (Friends of Monuments)

DSC 0106

Vijayanagara Empire – the origins

167 2

Kinnal Craft: Artistic Heritage in Wood


Beyond the Open-Air Museum

DSC 1003 1

The Indian Grey Mongoose


Nava Brindavana – an Ode to Madhva Philosophy

royal stepped tank

A Tale of Two Travellers – 2

DSC 0123

Crafting Livelihoods

Krishnadeva Raya and his two wives

A Day in The Life of Krishnadeva Raya

bank of the river tungabhadra and virupaksha temple

A Tale of Two Travellers

 DSC1936 2

The Unseen Predator – the Indian Grey Wolf


Anegundi – a Photo Walk


Of A Grandeur Long Forgotten


The Women of Ancient Hampi

IMG 4438

A Glimpse of Village Life


Hampi: Undiscovered and Reimagined

Krishna Temple Complex, Hemakuta Hill.

The First Photographic Record of Hampi


The Ruins of the Achutaraya Temple

Hampi abstract 1

Vignettes of the Past

Hampi wildlife 1

The Wild Denizens of Hampi

IMG 5735

The Dancing Girls of Hampi


Vijayanagara Courtly Style

IMG 5747a

Horsepower in Hampi


The Myriad Feelings of Hampi!