IFERP Newsletter

ABOUT HOSAPETE CITY AND ITS SURROUNDINGS

Hampi or Hampe (in Kannada), also referred to as the Group of Monuments at Hampi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in east-central Karnataka, India. It became the pilgrimage centre of the Hindu religion. It was the capital of Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travellers, particularly the Portuguese are saying that state Hampi was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city near the Tungabhadra River, with numerous temples, farms and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi - Vijayanagara was the world's second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India's richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained in ruins.

Located in Karnataka near the modern-era city of Hosapete, Hampi's ruins are spread over 4,100 hectares (16 sq mi) and it has been described by UNESCO as an "austere, grandiose site" of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India that includes "forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others". Hampi predates the Vijayanagara Empire; there is evidence of Ashokan epigraphy, and it is mentioned in the Ramayana and the Puranas of Hinduism as Pampaa Devi Tirtha Kshetra. Hampi continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple, an active Adi Shankara-linked monastery and various monuments belonging to the old city.

Hampi identifies with the mythological Kishkindha, the Vanara (monkey) kingdom which finds mention in the Ramayana. The first historical settlements in Hampi date to 1 C.E. Hampi formed one of the centers of the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565. Muslim emperors destroyed it. The founders of Hampi selected the site for its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides.

In terms of architecture and history, the site has immense significance. Abundant large stones had been used to create life-like statues of gods. Structure of historic importance stand every quarter of a mile. Sadly, the city stands in ruins, a testimony to the Islamic ravages of the sites. The conquerers considered the statues at Hampi idols, destroying or damaging all of them. Successive governments have been unable to protect the site from looters and treasure hunters, who cause further damage. The Archaeological Survey of India has conducted continuous excavations of the site to discover more artifacts and temples.