Hampi -“The Lost World” or “The Lost Empire “or “The World Forgotten” whichever way you call it the place is replete with structures of amazing architectural beauty that defies description. Had been to Hampi to see the magnificent structures and the architecture of the Vijaynagara Empire now spread over an area of approximately 350. sq. kms. It would be impossible to cover this place in a matter of a few days that we spent there. This is a World Heritage site and thanks to the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) who is maintaining and guarding this place assiduously. Had it not been for the ASI many of the icons and structures world have vanished!
Hampi is also a place of mythological importance. This is the abode of Lord Virupaksha (another form of God Shiva – Virupaksha – the one with the oblique eyes) and his consort Pampadevi or Parvati. God Shiva was the presiding deity of the Vijaynagara Kings. It is believed that God Shiva was in penance here. Parvati wanted to marry Him and felt that the only way she could get Him would be thru penance. Hence she also sat in penance and when God Shiva came to know of this he agreed to marry Her. It is believed that the location of their marriage is the location of the Virupaksha temple.
The Vijaynagara Kings were not only devotees of God Shiva but paid equal importance to God Vishnu. This is evident from the many shrines that they built for Lord Ram and Krishna. Their Royal Emblem was Varaha – an incarnation of God Vishnu. Vishnu in the form of Varha destroyed the demon Hiranya who had captured the Earth. This emblem seems to be commensurate with their goal.
While the Kings of the various dynasties contributed to the growth and at times to the downfall of the Vijaynagara Empire the period reigned by the Tuluva King – Krishnadevaraya (The Tuluva Dynasty reigned between 1491 to 1570) saw the maximum growth in art, architecture and expansion of the Vijaynagara Empire. Despite Krishnadevaraya the Vijaynagara Empire suffered extensive damages the hands of invaders and many a shrine here as well as elsewhere in India were severely damaged or brought down.
We owe to this great King for preserving the Hindu culture, architecture and monuments as also for protecting, building and renovating the various shrines in South India. They built these magnificent structures with mind boggling architectural details in hard rock for us to see and admire. How they managed to carve out such intricate details in hard rock with the then existing facilities will forever remain a mystery. These are the monuments which can never be built again or emulated. But for the Vijaynagara Kings our temples especially in South India would have disappeared long ago.
As you drive round Hampi you will not miss the endless stretches of huge hard rock formations of odd shapes and sizes some breathtakingly huge and in curious formation. In fact the presence of the rocks on one side and the mighty Tungabhadra on the other made an ideal haven of safety for the Vijaynagara Empire and one of the reasons for their presence here. They now stand in mute testimony to this empire that was there once upon a time.
There are more than 45 excavated sites there to see now and many more are under various stages of excavation, study and documentation. Therefore to see this place and appreciate the architecture would take several months. In fact we came across people who have been staying there for several months. Nonetheless, we have covered as much as possible during our stay there and photographed some of the structures. This is the first album that I am presenting and therefore in all fitness would like to open my account with a short narration with photographs of two Ganesh temples known as “Sasivekalu” (mustard seed) Ganesh and “Kadlekalu” (Bengal gram seed) Ganesh.
As one drives into Hampi from Hospet these are first two temples that would appear before you.
Sasivekalu Ganesh Pictures
Elevation of the temple Sasivekalu Ganesh temple. The entire temple in the form of an open pavilion including the statue is constructed out of the locally available hard rock.
The magnificent statue of Sasivekalu Ganesh
This is a giant statue of God Ganesh about 8 feet tall and carved out of a single block of solid rock. The tummy of Ganesh resembles a mustard seed and hence in the local language He is called “Sasivekalu” (Mustard seed) Ganesh.
If you closely observe the photograph you will see that a snake has been tied around his tummy. It is said that he ate so much that he caught a snake that was nearby and tied it around his tummy to prevent it from bursting!
He has four hands. The right hands hold the goad and the broken tusk while the left hands hold the pasha (noose) and a sweet ball – “Modak” as it is popularly known and his favourite food.
What a beauty. The love of a mother for her son. Here the sculpture has depicted Ganesh seated on the lap of Parvati. What an imagination and the perfect geometric proportions. Please note that all this has been done from a single stone. Imagine the planning and the efforts that would have gone into making this masterpiece.
An environmental photograph of the Sasivekalu Ganesh temple and the adjoining hill and the structures under a beautiful blue sky.
Kadlekalu Ganesh Pictures
This huge statue is entirely monolithic and is about 15 feet tall and located in pillared hall. The hall has pillars with intricate carvings. In fact one of the interesting features of the Vijaynagara architecture is to have interesting and intricate carvings on stone columns. Unfortunately the statue suffered damages at the hands of the invaders.
Close up of Kadlekalu Ganesh showing the damage to one of the tusks
Damage to one of the fingers.
The Mantapa gives a view of the environment and affords a panoramic view of the surroundings. Between the pillared hall and the boulders is the majestic Gopura of the famous Virupaksha Temple (dedicated to God Shiva). One gets the feeling as if the Gopura is piercing its way out of the rocks!
As I packed up for the day I was left with a sense of awe and admiration for the sheer size and intricacy of the work executed by the architects of the Vijayanagar Empire in hard rock – something which can neither be recreated or emulated in current times.
Author- Shankar Adisesh areas of photography are: Nature including landscapes, seascapes, riverscapes, portraits in naturally available light, classical Indian dances, street photography, travel photography and photographing temples and monuments. He is profoundly fascinated by the architecture, layout, sculpture, form and style of ancient Indian temples, churches and historical monuments. He firmly believes that “A photograph must either convey beauty or an emotion or tell a story. Anything else would just be information” and works towards achieving this goal. He lives in Chennai with his wife Anuradha
In March 2012 he along with another photographer put up an exhibition of photographs on the “Beauty and Grandeur of the Pallava Temples of South India”. in Chennai. The exhibition was well attended and was covered in “The Hindu “of March 29, 2012 under the caption: “Seeing Pallava Architecture through a shared Lens”
You can view more of his work here : www.shankarphotography.com
Featured Image : Credit : Flickr/Abhinay Omkar