Hampi, beyond myths and wonder

Once the second-largest city in the world and richest city in India, now a ruined village, Hampi holds many stories, myths, and wonder. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most searched places in Karnataka. It was on my bucket list for a long time. Finally, I managed to come here.

History – rise and fall of Hampi

The history of Hampi dates back to the 2nd and also the 3rd century that is the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras. The popular folklore is that two local chiefs called Hakka and Bukka, the sangama brothers established the city. This was the start of an empire that went on to become one of the richest. In over 200 years, a total of four dynasties ruled Vijayanagar. The city brought a lot of wealth, fame, and splendor to Hampi. Hampi was also rich in art and architecture. It had reached its prime during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya who ruled this city between 1509 and 1529. This was the same period when international trading had flourished and reached great heights. Merchants from all over the world used to come here.
However, Hampi succumbed to the attacks from five Deccan Sultans – Bidar, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golconda, and also Berar. They attacked Hampi again and again in 1565 and looted for approximately six months. An attack of six months long brought such massive destruction that it could never rise again. They robbed and damaged the temples of Hampi and most of the markets. Thus the golden era of Vijayanagar came to an end. The city did function, but it had lost its strategic importance and thus got lost in time. Even today, the loss and destruction of the 1565 attacks can be seen in many parts of the city.


It is believed that Hampi is the Kishkinda Vanara Kingdom from Ramayana. This is where Ram and Lakshman had stayed when they had set out in search of Sita.

How did I reach

You can either take a bus or train to reach Hampi. The nearest railway station and city is Hospet. It is about 12 kilometers from Hampi. I took a bus from Bangalore. The sleeper buses start in the morning from the Kempegowda bus station, Bangalore. I missed those buses and took a regular bus. It took almost 8-10 hours to reach Hospet. Direct buses were available till Hampi before Covid. Now Hospet is the main bus stand. From Hospet, you can take an auto/ bus to Hampi.
On my way back also I took a bus from Hospet. They leave by 8:30 pm and reach Bangalore by 7 in the morning.

Where did I stay

Homestays are available at Hampi. But I preferred Hospet. Hampi is a small and remote village. It is a tourist spot, so the hotels/ lodges are costly as compared to the services they provide. Whereas, being a proper city, Hospet has options for food and lodging. You get good hotels and restaurants right outside the bus stand.

Hampi through my eyes

I reached Hampi around 10:30 pm. But I could easily manage a nearby hotel. I heard a lot about the sunrise from the Matanga hill and Hanuman Temple. And after a 10-hour long journey, I could barely stand. So I put an alarm to 5:00 am and called it a day.

Matanga Hills

Bus Stand, Hospet

The next morning I started around 5:30. Like any bus stand in India, proper breakfast stalls were running. I had some fresh Idly and coffee. The bus was scheduled for 6:30. I decided to take an auto, I could not afford to lose the sunrise. With my broken Kannada and Hindi, I managed to tell the auto driver that I want to see the sunrise. He recommended Matunga hills but warned me about the steep climb and monkeys. I did not care, I was too excited. Auto dropped me right under the hill and I started running. It was 5:55. I had to catch the sunrise.

By the first 60 steps, I was out of breathing. The steps were high and I was overconfident about my stamina. My legs were shaking. I was breathing heavily. I had never faced such breathing issues. To my surprise, the route was not properly marked and there were no proper steps. Swaying bushes, rustling leaves, boulders mixed with the cold breeze made me feel that facing a wild cat or a group of wolves here is not impossible. It was dark. And I was alone. For a moment I thought I should get down. But for some reason, I kept walking. I crossed a group of monkeys. Then some temple ruins. Again I was out of breath. The trek was getting harder with each step. I heard some cracking. But when looked back I saw nothing. I started again. At one point I could not figure out the route. I had to choose between a huge bolder and a cave. I choose the first one and started walking. But there was nothing across the boulder. I had to come back. To my surprise, that group of monkeys was waiting for me. They were following me. When I crossed them a couple of minutes back, they were not more than five. Now they are at least ten. I had no option but to cross the boulder again. For a second I thought the monkeys won’t follow me anymore. But I was wrong. My backpack was food for them. I waited for a minute, tried to calm myself, and went through my options. I did not have much. The territory was unfamiliar and I was outnumbered. I looked up. It was almost dawn. I was about to miss the sunrise. Suddenly, I saw a guy at the top of the hill, taking pictures. A current of delight went past my spine. I jumped, waved at him, shouted ‘Hello… Hello…’ He looked down. ‘Where is the way up?’ He showed me the route. And I rushed.

Me running from the monkeys at Matanga Hill

Finally, I managed to reach the top of Matanga hills. It was a cloudy morning. The sunrise was not that clear. But the chilled breeze, the silence, the steady burble from a nearby waterfall made the experience unforgettable. All the hustle was worth it. I set up my tripod to shoot a time-lapse sunrise and sit beside it. Waited for the sun to come out of the cloud. I was not thinking about anything else. I don’t remember how long I sat there, but it was surreal.

Monolithic Ganesha and Nandi

Right under the Matanga hill, there were Monolithic Nandi and Ganesha. There were ruins all over the place. I was surprised to see how the architects cut the rocks to make such beautiful structures.

Kampa bhupa Path, Achyutaraya Temple

I took a right from the Nandi statue and through Kampa bhupa cave I reached the temple complex of Dasha-bhuja Durga Temple, Ram Temple, and Hanuman Temple. The stunning Tungabhadra river was on my left. I kept walking and found Venkateshwara Temple, Pushkarani, and Lakshmi Narasimha Temple. After the Pushkarani there was the massive complex of Achyutaraya Temple. It was bigger than any modern football stadium. One could easily imagine this area to be a busy market six-seven hundred years back. I walked past the open area to reach the Temple. It is broken, but the architecture brilliance and detailing were still awesome. It is said, the Achyutaraya temple was the last grand temple to be built before the empire fell and got defeated in the hands of the Decan Sultan.

Vijaya Vitthala Gudi, stone chariot

The Vijaya Vittala temple is one of the most breathtaking pieces of architecture in Hampi. Built-in dedication to Vittala who is a form of Vishnu. Several hallways, gateway, towers, and pavilions make this temple very beautiful. The highlight of the Vittala temple is the stone chariot. It is almost considered as an iconic structure of Hampi. The complex also has musical pillars that are as iconic as the stone chariot. It is told that each pillar of this temple depicts a musical instrument and also serves as the main support for the whole structure. This has been arranged around the main pillar of the temple which when struck gives out the 7 notes from each of the instruments that it represents. But you are not allowed to touch them anymore.
The British found this pretty suspicious and went on to cut open the pillar to find out if there was anything hidden that produces the sound. However, on cutting it open they found nothing and it is considered a miracle. The cut made by the British can still be seen.

Kings balance

Right beside the Vijaya Vittala Temple complex, there is King’s balance, a five meters tall archway-like structure. The structure has been carved from stone. It is believed by many that during Dussehra, the King was weighed with gold and many other precious stones. These jewels were then given away to the priests of the temple.

Virupaksha Temple

One cannot-miss temple when in Hampi is Virupakshya temple. It is right beside the bus stand of Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Tungabhadra Dam

Mighty Tungabhadra River

One thing you should not miss while visiting Hampi or Hospet is Tungabhadra Dam. It’s obvious that it’s a dam on the Tungabhadra river. This was important for me because I used to hear a lot about the floods on the Tungabhadra river. I was always fascinated by history and architecture.

Tungabhadra Dam one of the first and largest dams of India is about 5-6 kilometers from Hospet. Regular buses are available from the Hospet bus stand. You need only 2-3 hours to visit this massive dam. There are parks and boating facilities around it.