A Unesco World Heritage Site on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river, Hampi boasts the evocative ruins of Vijayanagar or the “City of Victory”.
The capital of three generations of Hindu rulers for more than 200 years, Hampi reached its zenith under Krishnadeva Raya (r.1510-29) and Achyuta Raya (r.1529-42). The site, which comprises the Sacred and Royal Centres, has a superb location, with rocky ridges and granite boulders acting as natural defences. The urban core of the city was fortified and separated from the Sacred Centre by an irrigated valley through which ancient canals and waterways still run.
Climb any boulder-toppled mountain around the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and you can see the dizzying scale of the Hindu conquerors’ glory; Hampi was the capital of a kingdom that covered the whole of southern India. Little of the kingdom’s riches remain; now the mud huts of gypsies squat under the boulders where noblemen once stood, and the double decker shopfronts of the bazaar where diamonds were once traded by the kilo is now geared solely towards profiting from Western tourists and domestic pilgrims. Away from the hubbub and hassle of the bazaar, Hampi possesses a romantic, hypnotic desolation. You’ll need at least a full day to get a flavour of the place, but for many visitors the chilled-out vibe has a magnetic attraction, and some end up staying for weeks.
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