From the Jacket
Spread across 26 sq kms lie the remains of the splendid medieval city of Hampi or Vijayanagara, the City of Victory. Bounded by the wide, almost unfordable Tungabhadra river on one side and impassable craggy hills and ranges with massive boulders on the other sides, the site offered natural defences which the Vijayanagara kings used to their great advantage. Hampi was the capital of the powerful Vijayanagara empire from AD 1343 to 1565.
The Vijayanagara empire at its height stretched over a large part of south India and was ruled by powerful kings like Harihara II, Deva Raya II and Krishnadeva Raya who showcased their immense might in the grandiose monuments they constructed at their capital - Vijayanagara.
Foreign travellers like Domingo Paes, Abdur Razzaq and Nicolo Conti have left glowing and graphic details of the opulent grandeur of Hampi; its luxurious palaces, imposing temples, bustling bazaars, imposing houses, brilliant jewels and ostentatious festivals.
Hampi was the epitome of the power and might of the Vijayanagara empire and in that lay its nemesis. The inglorious end of the city of Victory came when it was laid siege to and defeated by the combined armies of Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmednagar in 1565. Thereafter the city was robbed and pillaged and left desolate, its pavilions and temple standing forgotten - mute spectators of a glorious past.
Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagara empire, today covers an area of about 26 square kilometers on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra in Karnataka. In medieval times, the Vijayanagara dynasty, famed for its patronage to art and culture ruled from here.
Hampi's history goes back beyond historical times, for it is said that this regions was the mythical Kishkindha-kshetra from the Ramayana. It is here that Rama is said to have fought alongside the monkey-king Sugriva against Vali, who had usurped Sugriva's kingdom. Grateful for Rama's aid. Sugriva later gave him his army for the epic battle against the demon Ravana.
During the medieval period, Hampi and it environs were ruled by a succession of dynasties, including the Kadambas, the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas and the Hoysalas. Then, between 1326-27, the Delhi sultan, Muhammad-bin-Tughluq, conquered the area but, within ten years the Sangama brothers, Harihara and Bukka, led a rebellion and regained the area. They founded the celebrated city of Vijayanagara, 'City of Victory'.
The splendid ruins spread across this area include some of the finest specimens of medieval Indian architecture and attest to the greatness of the Vijayanagara empire. The Hampi monuments include civil, military and religious structures and are of interest to anyone, whether tourist or academic, who wants a glimpse into this great historical period.
Hampi, traditionally known as Pampa-kshetra, Kishkindha-kshetra or Bhaskara-kshetra, has an unbroken tradition of sanctity from ancient days and continues to be an important pilgrimage centre. Pampa is the ancient name of Tungabhadra, the river on whose southern bank Hampi is located. The word Hampe or Hampi is generally held to be a later Kannada form of e Pampa'.
Hampi has strong mythological associations. Kishkindha-kshetra of the Ramayana is believed to have been situated close to it. According to the epic, the kingdom of Kishkindha was ruled by the monkey-chiefs Vali and Sugriva. A quarrel broke out between them and Sugriva, who had been driven out, took refuge on the Matanga-parvata, along with his deputy, Hanuman.
When the demon king Ravana abducted Sita (wife of Lord Rama) and carried her away to Lanka, Rama and his brother, Lakshmana, came in search of her and met Sugriva and Hanuman. Rama killed Vali, restored to Sugriva his kingdom and then stayed on the Malyavanta hill nearby,
awaiting Hanuman who had gone in search of Sita to Lanka.
Hampi and its environs are considered holy ground as many of its sites and names are associated with episodes of the Ramayana. Matanga- parvata, on which Sugriva took refuge, is a steep hill to the east of Hampi village. Malyavanta hill, on which Lord Rama is said to have lived, is on the road to Kampili and has a Raghunatha temple with a large image of Rama.
A huge mound of scorious ash in the adjacent village of Nimbapuram is believed to be the cremated remains of Vali. A cavern on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra is said to be the cave where Sugriva hid Sita's jewels for safety, while certain marks and streaks on the sheet rock near it are pointed out as marks made by Sita's discarded garments. Two other hills, the Anjanagiri and Rishya-mukha, and the sacred tanks of Pampasaras on the northern bank of the Tungabhadra are also believed to be associated with the Ramayana.
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