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Wednesday 7 September 2016

Hampi - Remnants and ruins of glorious Vijayanagara - Part 4

Part 4 – Hazara Rama temple, Pan-supari bazaar, Royal enclosure and other surrounding monuments at Hampi, a World Heritage site in Karnataka.

This part includes our visit to the "urban core", featuring the beautiful Hazara Rama Temple, Pan-supari bazaar, and the Royal enclosure with Mahanavami dibba or the House of Victory; along with handy maps and tips.

Hazara Rama temple and the Devi shrine beside it, at World Heritage Site Hampi, Vijayanagara
A view of Hazara Rama temple and the Devi shrine beside it.

Our Hampi Trip: Part 4

Here is the fourth part of our trip to Hampi, the famous world heritage site housing monuments and ruins of the magnificent historical capital "city of victory" - Vijayanagara, (or Vijayanagar).

Continuing from Part 3, from the Ranga / Madhava temple, we took a small walk through the street just outside Zenana enclosure to the Hazara Rama temple, via ruins of the Pan-supari bazaar. On the way, we encountered a small Yellamma temple and other ruined structures. Coming through the ruined gateway lead us into a large open space with the Hazara Rama temple ahead. We were standing in the Pan-Supari bazaar.

Pan-Supari bazaar

The Pan Supari Bazaar, opposite to Hazara Rama temple is now a large space with only a mandapa and a monolithic pillar that stands before it, along with other ruined remnants. The remains of a pushkarni (a stepped tank) is just beside this mandapa and pillar. The pillar is said to have been a deepa-stambha, meaning a light pillar, which might have been used like high-mast lightings we see nowadays, with the exception that oil lamps might have been hoisted up the pillar in this case.

An inscription of Devaraya II refers to the bazaar as Pan-Supari bazaar [1]

Hazara Rama Temple

Opposite to this bazaar, right across the street stands the magnificent Hazara Rama temple, meaning a temple of thousand Ramas. It is called this way as several relief sculptures of Lord Rama and scenes from the epic Ramayana are depicted on the temple walls, pillars and the enclosure walls surrounding the temple. The temple is sometimes also referred to as Hazara Ramachandra temple, incorporating its original name.

Hazara Rama temple is one of the large and beautiful temples at Hampi, and also a better preserved structure of Vijayanagara that you must visit. It has blended architectural features of earlier and later Vijayanagara eras considering the time span over which it was renovated with additions. This was once a temple of the Vijayanagara royals.

This temple, originally known as Ramachandra temple existed in early 15th century CE during the time of Devaraya I (1406-1422 CE), according to inscriptions. This was a royal temple used by the kings and the royal families of Vijayanagara.

From outside, this temple strikingly stands out from its one of a kind enclosure walls featuring bas-relief sculptures all over it.

Granite panels are arranged all over the enclosure walls, covering the entire wall. On these granite panels are bas-relief sculptures of soldiers, elephants, horses and dancers. These depict scenes of grandiose processions during festival times like the Mahanavami, which was described in detail by foreign visitors like Domingo Paes who visited Vijayanagara in around 1520-22 CE during Krishnadevaraya’s reign and Fernao Nuniz who visited in around 1536-37 during Achyutaraya’s reign.

These sculptured walls are only to north and east, as the west side and south side are covered by the walls of adjacent Royal enclosures.

There are two ornate entranceways, or more specifically entrance porches to the temple courtyard, one towards east, the larger main entranceway and another towards north, a smaller side entranceway. A small doorway in the south side of the enclosure walls opens to a long walled pathway leading towards the Royal enclosures.

These entranceways once had ornate brick and plaster parapets, as seen from ruins above (and from the pictures of Alexander Greenlaw in 1856 [2]), but do not feature a towered gopura. These entranceways or entrance porches are definitely of a time before tall and multi storied gopuras were built in Vijayanagara. Even the brick and plaster parapets whose little remnants are seen today, would perhaps be later additions to the entrance porches, a time when brick and plaster superstructures were used.

The columns of these entrance porches are beautifully carved, which have a lathe turned top section and cubical sections below, with beautiful bas-relief carvings on them. They seem to be an advanced form of earlier Deccan styles of the Karnatic region like the Western Kalyani Chalukya or Hoysala styles of pillars and columns.

This temple is believed to be originally a modest structure. It had several additions and renovations over the course of time. The open pillared mandapa in temple’s front is obviously a later addition (16th century), evident from its brick and plaster parapets and the style of its pillars and columns. You can still see the original smaller porch like structure with four earlier styled pillars, along with curvy eaves before the main entrance of the temple.

Just coming into the temple courtyard, you'll also see structures on both sides of the temple. On the south side of the temple courtyard is a pillared pavilion or mandapa and on the north side there is a walled room like structure with a wide doorway.

Interestingly only the front portion of the courtyard is paved with granite slabs, and not the entire temple courtyard, as seen in other larger temples here like Krishna temple and Virupaksha temple.

Parts of the temple like the elaborate brick and plaster shikhara or shala-shikhara towers or peaks above the main sanctums are also evidently later additions, as they stylistically resemble the 16th century temples and extensions, like the Krishna temple for example.

The Hazara Rama temple courtyard also contains an ornate free standing shrine just besides the temple on its north side, with a well preserved shala-shikhara tower above its main sanctum. Also there is a kalyana-mandapa, towards the Southwest end of the enclosure which was built during Krishnadevaraya’s reign, as per inscriptions.

The free standing shrine with two sanctuaries are believed to be of Lord Narasimha and Lakshmi Devi[3].

The top portion of the shikhara or vimana of Hazara Rama temple is missing. It probably had a hemispherical peak (shikhara) with a pinnacle (kalasha) above it, like the ones above main sanctums of several temples in Vijayanagara, for example the Raghunatha temple over Malayavanta hill, or like the well preserved brick and plaster shikhara above Pattabhirama temple in Kamalapura. The smaller shrines around the main Raghunatha temple feature shala-shikharas above them.

Our guess is, as this was a Royal temple, the missing top portion of the shikhara could have been gilded, either made of gold or any other precious metal, and it was possibly ruined during the ransacking that took place after the catastrophic sacking of Vijayanagara by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. This shikhara of Hazara Rama temple even appears similarly ruined in the 1856 images of Alexander Greenlaw and others. The similar but smaller ordinary brick and plaster shala-shikhara of the adjacent Devi shrine is untouched, bearing only signs of ruins due to ageing and weather.

The outer walls of Hazara Rama temple feature intricately carved relief sculptures depicting scenes of Ramayana, beautifully organized on 108 wall panels.

Inner part of the temple is simple, yet beautiful. It features a garbhagruha (sanctum-sanctorum or the main sanctum) which is believed to have once featured idols of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, facing a main mandapa or hall. This main hall, apart from the main entrance, has two ornate side entrance porches, one towards North and one towards South. There are two small exits on either side of the sanctum-sanctorum section, both opening towards West, or the rear side of the temple.

There is an elevated circular platform in the centre of this hall, which is typically seen in Hoysala temples, and four beautiful pillars which are intricately carved out of black stone and polished. They are connected to the ceiling by ornate granite sections. The vaulted ceilings are ornately carved granite slabs. Stylistically, the inner parts and designs of this temple resemble the earlier Vijayanagara periods which derived more from their Deccan predecessors like Chalukya and Hoysala architectural features.

Towards the Southwest end of the courtyard walls, is an ornate kalyana-mandapa, which as per inscriptions was built during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. It probably had a brick and plaster shikhara/shala-shikhara or at least parapets above, but now only some ruins exist above its roof.

Royal enclosure and Mahanavami Dibba

After a nice time appreciating the sculptures in Hazara Rama temple, we headed southwards towards the nearby Royal enclosure, which features the famous Mahanavami dibba (Mahanavami festival platform), also called as Dussera Dibba and the great platform. From Hazara Rama temple, we came through the path leading through what looks like a ruined gateway and the ruined remnants of other surrounding structures, finally coming to the board describing the elevated structure ahead as the Royal enclosure, housing the great pyramidal festival platform.

Just before the elevated area of the enclosure are two huge carved monolithic granite doors, each about 3.5 metres tall. These two doors that resemble typical carved wooden doors with high details are truly interesting as to what was their true purpose – whether they were actually used as large doors to something, or were they only for decorative or artistic purpose. Bottom of these granite doors are carved out thick cylindrical sections for fixing them firmly on ground, and probably to facilitate door rotation.

We believe that there has to be a much better way those monolithic granite doors are kept and preserved, as there were some ignorant people sitting on them as if they were some benches provided to be seated in a park! These are our heritage and not some typical benches one takes rest on, and deserve better preservation rather than the apathy of people and the authorities. However a lot of time has passed since our visit and we hope these monolithic heritages are now better preserved.

The great festival platform called Mahanavami dibba that now lies in ruins was once spectacularly grandiose, with beautiful embroideries. The nine day Mahanavami festival and its grandeur is extensively described by Domingo Paes in chronicles of his visit during the reign of Krishnadevaraya in about 1520-22 CE and also by Fernao Nuniz during his visit in about 1536-37, during Achyutadevaraya’s reign. The grandeur of this festival also appears in the Persian traveller Abdul Razzaq’s chronicles of the city of Vijayanagara (who visited in 1443 CE during the reign of Devaraya II) [3]. You must read their chronicles to know the pomp, magnificence and the extravagant opulence of this festival during Vijayanagara’s existence, and about this platform that now stands ruined as a barren edifice retaining only some bas-relief sculptures of stone on it as remnants of its past glory.

The great platform once had a superstructure, probably made of wood, which was used to place the deity during the festival times. Recent excavations have exposed the footings which supported wooden columns and superstructures. [4]

This is corroborated by the chronicles of Domingo Paes where he describes this festival with extensive details and the "House of Victory" as he calls an edifice, which corresponds to most features of this great platform. He also mentions that this "house of victory" was named so as it was built on the victorious return of Krishnadevaraya from his war against the Gajapatis of Orissa. [3][4][5][6].

However, it is believed that this platform existed even before Krishnadevaraya's time, probably since the 14th century itself, with higher levels and sculptures added later on in the 16th century during the riegn of Krishnadevaraya [5][6].

This is evident from the dark greenish schist relief sculptures that line the west side of the platform. Behind these dark stone sculpture panels are the much older original granite sculpture panels which are seen around this platform. These granite panels feature plainer relief carvings. The relief sculptures, both older granite and later schist panels feature horses, elephants, and their trainers, dancers, musicians, and other aspects of Royal and courtly life.

Just near by the platform, on the west are some excavated basements and tanks of the Royal enclosure. Further west are the remains of a 100 pillared audience hall and other ruins. Only the base of this hall remains with visible "holes" or footings to hold the hundred pillars or columns which were most probably wooden. Also remnants of steps leading to the vanished top stories remain on one side.

This is could be "the royal audience hall" mentioned in the chronicles of Abdul Rassaq [5][6]. This King's audience hall was known as Bhuvanavijaya [7].

Walking little towards south in this elevated enclosure brings you to the beautiful stepped tank or “Pushkarni” which was discovered in 1980s during excavations. There are also other smaller tanks and ponds along with the remains of the aqueducts that fed them water.

Next, close to the royal enclosure, we visited the monument called Queen’s bath.

This is a well preserved structure, built in what is commonly referred to as the Indo-Saracenic style, just like other courtly structures of Vijayanagara that we came across earlier. There is no water in this now, but you can still see the remains of the aqueducts that once fed it.

Eminent archaeologists John Fritz and George Michell believe that although it is named as Queen’s bath, this might have actually served the men and their companions. The towers of this monument that existed in 1799 when painters made watercolour paintings unfortunately don’t exist now [3].

It was around 2 PM by then, and we headed southwards to nearby Kamalapura for lunch. We had a good meal at Mayura Bhuvaneshwari in Kamalapura. Unfortunately as we already mentioned in part-1, this was a last minute trip with zero planning and we were at that time unaware of the nearby Pattabhirama temple at Kamalapura, which we completely missed. This well preserved monument is also worth visiting. After some minutes of rest post lunch, it was about 3:30 PM that we headed to the famous and the magnificent Vitthala temple, which we will cover in our next and concluding Part-5.

» Continued in Trip to Hampi – Part 5

Tips for travellers

  • All monuments open from Dawn to dusk (Sunrise to Sunset).
  • The Malayavanta Hill which provides fantastic panoramic views and beautiful sunrises and sunsets are a bit ahead towards East to the Royal enclosure and Queen's bath (See below map). Also situated on the Malayavanta hill are the Raghunatha temple complex and a smaller Prasanna Virupaksheshwara temple. You can plan accordingly suiting your time and convenience. Best times to climb the hill are in the morning and evening when the sun isn't too hot.
  • You can visit the Octogonal bath nearby the Queen's bath (zoom into below map)
  • You can also chose to explore the smaller Saraswati tempple and Chandrashekhara temple nearby Queen's bath in case you have more time at hand. (use below map)
  • The Ganagitti Jain temple and Bhima's gate are quite close by Queen's bath. (refer below map)
  • When in Kamalapura, you can visit the Pattabhirama temple complex, and you can visit the Kamalapura museum in case you are interested. Kamalapura museum timings: Open Hours : 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, Closed on – Friday.
  • There is no entry fee for any monuments mentioned in the above post Hampi trip Part 4.
  • Beware of the monkeys here, especially on the hills. Avoid them. They are known to snatch away your things and can get quite obnoxious. Beware of snakes in the bushes and overgrown grass.
  • You can have a quick look around the significant monuments and places in a day. You need at least two days to have a good look at all those worth seeing here. We made a nice and handy map for you marking most of the things to help you plan and navigate you trip. (Refer to the awesome map below)

Getting there and getting around: Transportation

Hospet town, just ~14kms away from Hampi village is well connected with roadways and railways; with buses from all major places in Karnataka and trains that come from Bangalore, Mysore or Hubli. KSRTC provides sleepers and Volvo buses to Hospet from Bangalore. Hubli is the nearest airhead. Once accommodated in Hospet, you can hire a cab to Hampi which you can enquire your hotel if they can arrange one. There are two wheelers available on rental basis at Hampi, but keep in mind this place gets very hot in summer. Once at Hampi, you can go around in your cab or vehicle, but still you can do a bit of walking also if you don’t mind the scorching sun.

Best times of Visit

This is known to be a hot place. At summer temperatures rise above 40 degrees C. We were there in June, during the hot and humid times, and we bore the brunt of the intense heat. Its best to visit during winter, October to February.

Location Map - Places to see in and around Hampi

We went there completely unplanned, without a map but you don’t have to! We have marked almost all the monuments of significance in the above map for your convenience, including nearby Hospet and Anegondi.
Zoom in for more detailed views and zoom out for more places around. Or, View larger map in new window. Let us know if we missed something or if there is a mistake!

Get Directions to Hampi from your place of choice
Note: The directions will open up with Google Maps in a new tab.

References and External links for further reading:
[1] Masterpieces of Vijayanagara Art by Sindigi Rajasekhara, Taraporevala, 1983
[2] Photograph 3816-1910 - Ramachandra Temple Complex: Hampi (Vijayanagar) Bellary District - V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum collections
[3] "Hampi Vijayanagar" by John M Fritz & George Mitchell, (2015) Jaico publishing house, ISBN 978-81-8495-602-3
[4] Throne Platform | ASI Hampi Mini Circle
[5] "The New Cambridge History of India I -2: Vijayanagara" by Burton Stein, (1989) Cambridge University Press 2008, ISBN 978-0-521-26693-2, 0521266939, 0521619254
[6] "The New Cambridge History of India I : 6 Architecture and art of Southern India - Vijayanagara and the successor states" by George Michell, Cambridge University Press, 2008 ISBN 0 521 61925 4, ISBN 0 521 26693 9
[7] Basemant of King’s Audience Hall | ASI Hampi Mini Circle

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