Located on the Tungabhadra river, about 120 km west of Bellary in Karnataka, , Hampi: earlier called Vijayanagara, was founded in 1336 AD. From 1336 to 1565, the site served as the capital of Vijayanagara Empire: perhaps the most glorious Hindu kingdom, which was founded in the wake of Muslim invasions of peninsular India. As the seat of a military state that dominated the whole of South India, barring the Kerala coast, Vijayanagara: -the City of Victory’, was built up by its rulers as a showpiece of imperial magnificence. It came to be celebrated throughout Asia, and even Europe, for its might and wealth.
Though a Shaivite tirtha (pilgrimage centre) from the pre-Vijayanagara days, Hampi has always exhibited a harmonious coexistence of all different religious cults and faiths. This explains the wealth of religious images found at the site. Alongside these images, there also exists a wide variety of secular sculptures, depicting martial, courtly and everyday scenes. This intermixture of religious and secular themes is what makes Vijayanagara sculpture uniquely interesting and altogether different from the south Indian sculpture of earlier times.
As the most extensive of all ruined sites in South India, Hampi: the splendid city, has always had an irresistible appeal to worldwide visitors and scholars alike. Lying in complete ruins for about four hundred years – after its merciless plunder and destruction, the city’s glorious legacy has been in the process of resurrection since the latter half of the 20th century. Hampi today is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
This volume is an attempt to highlight legacy that has so far been resurrected – its amazing sculptural masterpieces and also it architectural marvels, specially its imposing temples, gorgeous palaces and other secular buildings. The book carries a bonanza of exquisite photographs illustrating the remains of a splendour that Hampi once was.
R. Gopal is Director of Archaeology and Museums, Karnataka.