Question – Hampi is also known as the ‘City carved in stone’ due to its excellent place of natural landscape and archaeological remains. Elucidate the architectural and historical importance of this place. – 19 March 2022
Answer – One of the greatest empires of medieval India during the fourteenth century, Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, is located in the state of Karnataka, founded by Harihara and Bukka in the year 1336.
Hampi is also known as the ‘City carved in stone’ due to its excellent natural landscape, rich geology and archaeological remains. These monuments, popularly called “Hampi ruins”, are mainly located between the villages of Kamalapuram and Hampi.
The monument blends the harmonious workings of both man and nature, and represents the magnitude of human effort, in which the rugged landscape has been used with utmost skill.
The Hampi World Heritage site is located on the banks of River Tungabhadra which spread in Hospet Taluka of Bellary district and Gangavathi Taluka of Koppal district.
The unique rocky appearance of the granite landscape was not created by earthquake and upheaval, but by countless millions of years of weathering.
The site is naturally endowed with great strategic features. The vast, raging Tungabhadra River on one side, and the uninhabited hills and ranges with vast boulders uninhabited and fractured on the other provide a strong natural defense.
These facts undoubtedly inspired the Vijayanagara rulers to choose this site as their illustrious royal capital. The city was called ‘Vijayanagara’ or the city of victory, or ‘Vidyanagara’ in memory of the sage Vidyaranya.
Architectural significance of Hampi
- Different from traditional architecture: It exhibits variation from traditional temple construction (centralized temple with external ancillaries). Religious buildings are scattered into small units, each with its own importance and function.
- Combination of religious and secular places: The ruins of Hampi can be divided into areas such as sacred area, intermediate irrigated valley, urban core, palace area and suburban centres. It is surrounded by seven rows of fort walls.
- Use of local materials: Locally available granite is extensively used in most of the monuments. Polished and furnished granite slabs were mostly used for exterior walls and entrances to temples, while the superstructure was made of brick and mortar.
- Grand Outlines: The temples of Hampi are noted for their large dimensions, a wealth of religious and mythological depictions including floral ornamentation, paintings and carvings, majestic pillars, grand mandapas and themes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Notable examples are the Virupaksha temple at Hampi and the Vitthal temple at Vitthalpur.
- Use of non-indigenous styles: Elements of Islamic architecture such as arches, domes and stucco decorations, lotus palaces, elephant stables and queen’s baths, etc., form an integral part of the royal structure.
- Water Harvesting: Water bodies including tanks, stone canals, drains, aqueducts and wells are also an important component of Hampi architecture.
Historical significance of Hampi:
- Historical Stamp: The dynasties that ruled the region have also left their indelible mark here; For example, the Vijayanagara style of architecture relied on natural resources, while other dynasties used soft schist rock suitable for ornate carvings.
- Diversity: Although Hampi was primarily ruled by Hindu rulers, different linguists and adherents of different religious traditions resided in the city.
- Attracted foreign historians: Due to its architectural grandeur, cultural prosperity and trading ties, the city attracted many European and Persian travellers such as Nicolo Conti and Abdul Razzaq, to Vijayanagara. They provide vivid descriptions of life at the capital during the 15th and first half of the 16th centuries.
Dravidian architecture that survives in the rest of Southern India was spread through the patronage of the Vijayanagara rulers. The Raya Gopura, introduced first in the temples attributed to Raja Krishna Deva Raya, is a landmark all over South India. Due to its architectural marvel Hampi has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.