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Hampi

This ancient ruined city preserves great secrets

Cultural exploration or romantic getaway

Spread over 35 hectares, Hampi was once a great city and capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It’s dotted with numerous dilapidated and ruined temple complexes where you find wondrous ancient arts.

The period of the Vijayanagara Empire is considered an age of prosperity in South India. In the 14th century CE, travelogues written by visitors including ambassadors and authors of the time provide ample proof of a vibrant era. Agriculture was the main sustenance and the river Tungabhadra was the life blood of the capital city.

"After Timur's sack of Delhi, North India remained weak and divided up. South India was better off, and the largest and most powerful of the southern kingdoms was Vijayanagar. This state and city attracted many of the Hindu refugees from the north. From contemporary accounts, it appears that the city was rich and very beautiful—The city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth", says Abdur-Razzak from Central Asia.

An example of the excelltent artwork at Hampi

There were arcades and magnificent galleries for the bazaars, and rising above them all was the palace of the king surrounded by "many rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even." The whole city was full of gardens, and because of them, as an Italian visitor in 1420, Nicolo Conti writes, the circumference of the city was sixty miles. A later visitor was Paes, a Portuguese who came in 1522 after having visited the Italian cities of the Renaissance. The city of Vijayanagar, he says, is as "large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight"; it is full of charm and wonder with its innumerable lakes and waterways and fruit gardens. It is "the best-provided city in the world" and "everything abounds." The chambers of the palace were a mass of ivory, with roses and lotuses carved in ivory at the top--"it is so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere, another such.

~ Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India

Getting there: Drive the 350km from Bangalore (Bengaluru) via Chitradurga to the city of Hospet (or Hosapete) in the Bellary District in central Karnataka. It is located on the Tungabhadra River just 12 km from Hampi.

Trains: There are 18 weekly trains from Bangalore to Hospet and the journey can take 18 hours and fares range up from ₹200.

Bus: There are many bus services and the duration for Bangalore to Hospet is between 5h-30m to 9h-30m depending on the bus type and operator. Fares range from ₹400 - ₹600.

Where to stay? There are places in Hampi site and nearby Kamalapura where you'll also find the Archaeological Museum.

Getting about: Autorickshaw, local bus, scooter or bicycle hire. Bicycles are good as you can ride between sites of interest without long detours.

Although Hampi is not as well known as other famous archaeological sites, its ruins make it the biggest open air archaeological museum in the world, and it has been classed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2008.

As explained in the video, the ancient water harvesting techniques employed thousands of years ago still work to provide water today even though the systems have not been maintained since the fall of the city.

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