Hampi – the name itself brings out myriad feelings in one depending on whether one is a person interested in Mythology, Geology, Art, History, Social History, Irrigation Engineering, Archaeology or just an ordinary person enamored with Nature. So it is no surprise that UNESCO chose it to be a World Heritage center. Hampi acts like a beacon when one is interested in looking back at the bygone years to understand our past in a meaningful way.
Mythology identifies the area as Kishkinda – the abode of Vaali, Sugreeva and above all Hanumanta. Naturally the stories of how events unfolded here at the times of Ramayana is a part of the folklore of the place. The huge boulders strewn all round is attributed to the aftermath of the fight between the two brothers Vaali and Sugreeva as they used them as missiles in their fight. The explanation changes once the Geologists take over. They attribute the various rock formations to tens of millions or even billions of years of erosion from wind, water and weather. The huge boulders lying one over the other in a beautiful formation all round the place bowls you over without a doubt. Here Nature is the sculptor. For sheer beauty in standing rocks – Stonehenge give way – Hampi is here !
The Archaeologists have tried to excavate and explore the place so that we get to see, albeit in bits and pieces, the glory that was Vijayanagar in the land of Hampi. The result of joint study of the experts in Archeology, Epigraphy, Numismatics, Art History and others brings out the beautiful tapestry of social life of a city which was perhaps one of the greatest ever to have adorned the earth.
The level of expertise in building of temples and making of the figurines, panels and the idols is reflected in the ruins of the plundered temples and damaged idols. The irrigation channels with the water made to flow through carved out stone slabs is silently doing its job even to this day! The entrance tower or the Raja Gopura of Lord Virupaksha temple stands majestically with its spiral proclaiming to the world that not every thing good could be destroyed. This is one temple where the God is worshipped even to this day as the marauding Muslims did not enter it as the figure of Boar (Varaha Avatara) – the state emblem of the Vijayanagar kings – stands guarding it.
The carved panels adorning the walls of the temple, the figurines in various temples, the carved pillars in the Mantapas all give a glimpses of the social belief and the history of the period. Huge idols of Ganesha, Narasimha and Shiva Linga even in their present forms are awe inspiring. The point of perfection in stone carving is visible in the temple of Vijaya Vittala where you have the Stone Chariot with its movable wheels standing in front of the musical pillars! It is literally feast to the eyes and music to the ears. We now make music from instruments but to make the stones musical sounds for you is – well that is Hampi!
The huge stone boulders just stand silently braving the sun and rain from millions of years of yore. The river Tungabhadra meanders by the sides of the present day ruins, just as it has been doing from times immemorial, the water making slight ripples on small stones which is magical to the ears. If only they had voices what a great symphony we could have had with the thunder of the stone and the softness of the river. However, a visit to Hampi will still make music in your hearts and sooth your minds.
Written by Giridhara Govinda Rao, (Retired Senior Manager, Bank of India), MA in Ancient History