Vijayanagara: the Beginning

50 comments
Asia, India, South
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

Chapter 2, Part 1

Powers rise and fall, a constant change on earth like the ebb and flow of the sea. Men’s insatiable need for power has caused the world’s political borders to change from time to time, as well as the death of millions of people, the alleviation of others from poverty, the cultural exchanges among nations, the bankruptcy of once prosperous kingdoms, and the constructions of magnificent religious structures. Religion has indeed been central in the history of mankind for going to heaven, or attaining enlightenment, or breaking away from samsara (endless cycle of life and rebirth) and reaching moksha, or other similar notions about one’s afterlife are instilled in people’s minds as of utmost importance in life. Ironically many sought it in an unheavenly, unenlightened way, driven by vana (desire) to reach nirvana (a place with no desire).

In the 14th century, the Indian subcontinent provided a setting for a tug of war between two major religions: Hinduism and Islam. The former had been holding a firm grip of the region for over a thousand of years, forcing Buddhism which once dominated the subcontinent to find safe havens at its peripheries. It also exported its influence to Southeast Asia, from Java (in modern-day Indonesia) to Champa (part of present-day Vietnam), and its vestiges can be witnessed as beautiful, imposing temples found throughout the region.

Islam, on the other hand, emerged from the desert of Arabia in the seventh century, and in a relatively short period of time expanded into multiple denominations and schools of thoughts, often at conflicts against each other like in other religions, and spread as far as northern Africa and the Iberian peninsula in continental Europe (modern-day part of Spain and Portugal). To the south of the Himalayas, the Delhi Sultanate ruled much of northern India after conquering Hindu kingdoms in the northern and western parts of the subcontinent in the 12th century.

Repeated raids from Muslim rulers from the north brought about demise to several southern Indian dynasties, leaving only the Hoysalas as the main Hindu power south of the Deccan plateau. After resisting Muslim military campaigns for nearly three decades, the Hoysalan king Veera Ballala III and his son were killed during a battle against the Muslims. However, Harihara I who at that time controlled the northern part of the Hoysala Empire, quickly consolidated his power and established a new Hindu kingdom, Vijayanagara, which would later rise to prominence and become a formidable Hindu power in the subcontinent’s south.

Harihara I of the newly founded Sangama dynasty based his seat of power in the area by the banks of the sacred Tungabhadra river, already richly dotted with Hindu temples and shrines that predated the soon-to-be empire. Virupaksha temple at the southern bank of the river had existed centuries prior to the Vijayanagara period, although its iconic 52 meter-high eastern gopuram (a towering structure found at the entrances of southern Indian temples) and several other sections of the temple were later added by Vijayanagaran rulers. As was the norm for any Shaivite temples to have the statue of Nandi – Shiva’s vehicle – in front of them, a huge monolithic bull was carved out less than a kilometer to the east of the temple, across the expansive Hampi Bazaar.

Directly to the south of Virupaksha temple, the shrine-studded hill of Hemakuta hosts some of the oldest structures in Hampi, as how the ancient capital of Vijayanagara is better known today, as well as later additions, including Kadale Kalu Ganesha temple with a giant, 4.5 meter-high statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god.

Eduru Basavanna (Monolithic Bull)

Eduru Basavanna (Monolithic Bull)

Virupaksha Bazaar

Virupaksha Bazaar

The East Gopuram of Virupaksha Temple

The East Gopuram of Virupaksha Temple

Life around the Temple

Life around the Temple

Kadale Kalu Ganesha Temple

Kadale Kalu Ganesha Temple

Ruins at Hemakuta Hill

Temple Ruins at Hampi

In spite of the plethora of ancient temples at the southern banks of Tungabhadra, it was the northern banks of the river, however, which became the seat of the first capital of Vijayanagara. Anegondi was situated on the same side of the river with Anjanadri hill, an outcrop of giant boulders believed to be the birthplace of Hanuman (Hanoman), the monkey-god from Ramayana. Kishkinda, as the area is called in the Hindu epic, was the ancient dwelling of the monkey kingdom to whom Rama sought help to rescue his wife, Sita (Shinta), from Rahvana (Rahwana) the king of the island of Lanka.

In their effort to release Sita from Rahvana’s hands, the monkey warriors, led by Hanuman, built a bridge from the Indian mainland to Lanka, possibly using the giant boulders available in abundance at Kishkinda. As a matter of fact, up until the 15th century a narrow strip of land connecting both sides did exist, allowing people to cross on foot. It was a storm in the late 15th century which made the once walkable isthmus impassable.

Pampa, our patient rickshaw driver who was also our guide, explained that in the past only Hindu sages would climb to the top of Anjanadri where Hanuman temple perched. However today a flight of staircases makes the hill more accessible, enabling us to marvel at the otherworldly landscape littered with endless giant boulders as far as our eyes could see, a fitting home to one of the most venerated characters in Ramayana. Hanuman holds a special position among the locals, so much so they use his image to guide people to go to the right direction as would an arrow sign in other parts of the world. Whichever way Hanuman looks, that’s the way to follow.

Peppered with an ancient fort, a hilltop Shiva temple, a modest palace, a sacred pond, and ancient temples, Anegondi provided a glimpse into a period of power consolidation in the early decades of Vijayanagara. Despite its present-day tranquility, where ripening rice grains filled in the arable lands amid the imposing rock formations with cars and motorcycles occasionally passing through the otherwise empty road, Anegondi was where early Vijayanagaran rulers’ fiery ambition to reassert Hindu dominance in South India more than six centuries earlier was established. Today, unlike its more family-oriented southern counterpart where most locals live, the northern side of the river appears to resemble a hippie village with a curiously high proportion of male tourists wearing kippa, restaurants serving Israeli dishes, and establishments with signboard written in English and Hebrew.

The river itself remains sacred for the locals, and less than a kilometer to the east where Tungabhadra turns northward, Chakratirtha is considered the holiest bathing spot in the river. Overlooking the river bent with modest-sized mandapas (pillared pavilions) on both sides is Narasimha temple, built in the late 14th century by Hiriya Timma Setti, a custom officer of Harihara II. Under his rule the empire defeated the short-lived Madurai Sultanate and continued its expansion and successfully conquered lands as far as modern-day Andhra Pradesh, Goa and parts of Maharashtra.

To the east of Narasimha temple, through a sun-exposed path on the granite hillock, lies a vast temple compound which marked the apex of artistic and architectural accomplishments of Vijayanagara at the height of the empire’s power in the southern part of the subcontinent, regardless of the constant threat from their northern neighbors.

While Waiting for the Boat to Cross the Anegondi

While Waiting for the Boat to Anegondi

All that Gold

All that Gold

Virupapuragadde (Ancient Viaduct)

An Ancient Viaduct at Virupapuragadde

Hanuman Temple on Top of Anjanadri

Hanuman Temple on Top of Anjanadri

View of the Boulder-Studded Plain from Anjanadri

View of the Boulder-Studded Plain from Anjanadri

Another Angle, Anjanadri

An Otherworldly Landscape

Ruins of Anegondi Fort

Ruins of Anegondi Fort

A Small Temple Near Pampa Sarovara

A Small Temple Near Pampa Sarovara

View from Narasimha Temple at the Sacred Center

View from Narasimha Temple at the Sacred Center

Sweeping View across Tungabhadra Rive

A Sweeping View across Tungabhadra River

Another Angle from Narasimha Temple

Another View from Narasimha Temple

A Small Shrine across the RIver

A Small Shrine across the River

Chakratirtha, Considered the Holiest Bathing Spot in Tungabhadra River

Chakratirtha, Considered the Holiest Bathing Spot in Tungabhadra River

A Coracle by Tungabhadra River

A Coracle at Tungabhadra River

Symbols of Shiva Carved on A Rock

A Symbol of Shiva Carved on A Rock

Virupaksha Temple Viewed from Narasimha Temple

Virupaksha Temple Viewed from Narasimha Temple

Two-Story Gateway, One of the Entrances to Vitthala Temple

Two-Story Gateway, One of the Entrances to Vittala Temple

Click here for the full list of stories from the Spice Odyssey series.

Posted by

Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

50 thoughts on “Vijayanagara: the Beginning”

  1. Beneran baru tahu kemegahan Virupaksha Temple di India bagian selatan ini. Kemegahan bangunan Kadale Kalu Ganesha Temple pun bikin geleng kepala, pengaruh Romawi banget. Nice share, Bama. Oh iya dari dulu masih belum paham chapter to chapter yang kini sudah masuk chapter kedua hehehe, tapi daku tetap akan mengikuti cerita demi cerita awal peradaban dunia di India ini. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hampi ini memang dulunya kosmopolitan banget, disinggahi berbagai bangsa sehingga terjadi akulturasi dengan budaya Dravida khas India bagian selatan. Nanti di postingan selanjutnya akan lebih dalam menjelaskan kemegahan Hampi pada masa jayanya. Di sana bahkan ada beberapa bangunan yang kalau cuma lihat di foto bisa nyangkanya itu ada di Yunani. Untuk pembagian chapternya sih mengikuti tema besar yang sedang terjadi di masa lampau, nah untuk perpindahan Chapter 1 ke Chapter 2 ini ditandai dengan mulai meluasnya pengaruh Islam di Asia Selatan dan Tenggara. Semoga sabar mengikuti sampe akhir ya Halim, hehe. 🙂 Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow….. speechless Bama…
    Totally amazing, breathtaking, superb…. how did both of you get around the old city? It’s sooooooo big… and climb to the Hanuman’s temple? Cant imagine to walk under the sun and hike…
    And btw, after writing this I will re-read your post, this time slowly and enjoy every words… hehehe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ini baru bagian pertama lho mbak.. Hampi memang sesuai reputasinya sebagai kota kuno yang megah. Selain bangunan-bangunan yang dipengaruhi seni arsitektur kerajaan-kerajaan di India selatan sebelumnya, pengaruh arsitektur Persia terasa kuat. Bahkan ada satu bagian di Hampi yang sukses bikin saya kagum karena mirip sama foto-foto kuil-kuil kuno di Yunani yang terletak di area perbukitan. Thanks for reading and for being so patient. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mules ih liat gedenya. Hebat banget ya, megah sekali… pasti luar biasa banget saat berdiri disitu ya Bama? Dan pastinya ga cukup seharian disitu.

        Like

      • Luas banget.. eh iya, lupa jawab pertanyaan mbak yang sebelumnya, hehe. Di sana kami nyewa tuktuk mbak. Tapi di seberang sungai Tungabhadra kami nyewa motor buat keliling Anegondi sama ke Anjanadri. Naik ke Hanuman temple lumayan sih, olahraga siang-siang. 🙂 Kalau mau ke Hampi at least 3 hari mbak biar bisa eksplor situs-situs utamanya dan beberapa situs lainnya yang jumlahnya memang banyak banget.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Trees. We took the train from Londa (a small town on the border of Karnataka and Goa) to Hospet, the nearest town to Hampi. From there we took a rickshaw to our guesthouse. Hampi really is far from any major big cities, which probably helps retain its charm.

      Like

    • Thank you, Peta. Hampi is a paradise for ancient temple lovers. The landscape itself is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And yes, that is an elephant being bathed by its mahout.

      Like

  3. “Powers rise and fall, a constant change on earth like the ebb and flow of the sea” no truer words ever stated ~ another piece of history you’ve brought out for us to see and experience. You cover a lot of ground here, Bama and one again through words and your photographs – you make history come to life. Also, I do like the tribute you pay to your rickshaw driver, Pampa, as it often is the locals who bring their culture and history into a more real form easier for us to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After exploring Asia for a few years and learning the history of its ancient kingdoms and empires, I came to that conclusion, which is also the case with other parts of the world, I believe. Some people learn, some don’t, and through my travels I’m constantly reminded that we all can have a better future, only if we can learn from the past. Pampa was instrumental in our exploration of Hampi for he was a very gentle and patient driver as well as a reliable source of information. Thanks Randall.

      Like

  4. Bama, this is an enticing introduction to a new chapter of the Spice Odyssey and a series on Hampi. The boulder-filled landscape and the wondrous ruins set among them were a sight to behold – somehow it repeatedly brought to mind the temples of Ancient Greece. I can’t wait to see the photos of Vittala Temple in your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad we decided to visit Hampi despite the long journey from Goa. The ancient city was just as how I imagined it — magnificent temples surrounded by giant boulders in a bucolic setting. When Pampa was taking us around Hampi Bazaar, the structures near the giant Nandi really struck me for their resemblance to the images of Ancient Greece I have seen before. Truly a special place Hampi was!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I meant to begin with all the posts I had missed from your previous series, but this was too fascinating to resist. Your narrative is fabulous as always, as your knowledge of South Indian history! And I love the light in your photos. I have been fascinated by the Vijayanagara empire ever since I watched a Kannada movie on Krishna Deva Raya a long, long time ago. Why I haven’t visited such a major site in my home state yet, is something I find hard to explain even to myself! Hoping to set that right before the end of this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Before reaching Hampi James and I were talking about how nice it would be if you could join us in Hampi. I guess you’d have to fly to Bangalore and drive to Hampi? So many places on the list, I believe. 🙂 Krishna Deva Raya was a really remarkable king (I’ll write a little bit about him on my next post) and a movie about him is something I would definitely watch. Hope you make it to Hampi sometime this year, Madhu, and thank you for your encouraging words, as always!

      Like

    • Hi Shelley. Hampi is a special place — history, architecture, and culture enthusiasts would love it! Hope you make it there sometime in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Those are the places where I really want to see. I was fascinated with the architecture esp. that of the Virupaksha Temple. It was intricately designed, simply amazing!

        Like

      • Amazing it really was. One of the great things about Hampi is the fact that you can marvel at those beautiful temples from the many hills in the area, giving you a better perspective of the scale of the ancient kingdom’s capital.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The height and intricacy of some of those temples is mind-blowing! While the history and building photos are, of course, enlightening, I loved the smaller scenes as well – the resting elephant and the basket by the river in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed. Even the smaller temples are magnificent! The local residents themselves were among the most gentle in all the places I visited in India. There really is something magical about Hampi. Thanks for reading, Lex.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sekilas, Kadale Kalu Ganesha itu mirip dengan Kuil Parthenon di Acropolis ya Bam? Makin asik aja ini ceritanya … *lanjut nyimak*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nah, iya kan.. Ada lagi satu bagian di Hampi yang bentuk bangunannya dan landscape-nya itu Mediterania banget. Pas baca catatan-catatan pengelana zaman dulu terbayang betapa megahnya Hampi ini pas di masa kejayaan Vijayanagara.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Memang situs-situs kuno dan megah macam ini selalu mempermainkan imajinasi kita tentang masa lalu ya 🙂

        Like

      • Banget! Dan India itu salah satu tempat paling kaya akan situs-situs kuno nan megah. Di titik ini aku udah mulai ada keinginan buat balik lagi ke India sih, hehe..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mulai bosen masakan India apa gimana sampai bosen? Eh tapi pas jalan sendirian di India gak seberapa lama itu, aku juga ngalamin titik dimana pengen buru-buru balik ke Indonesia. Tumben-tumbenan lho 🙂

        Like

      • Kalo aku lebih ke makanannya sih. Masala lagi masala lagi, bahkan sempet nemu minuman dingin ala jus gitu tapi pake masala. 😀

        Like

  8. Wow, an exquisite site, along with your narrative. India has such depth. I don’t want to go until I can dedicate at least a couple months to exploring the country and sites like this. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would return to India again one day for there are still so many marvelous ancient sites to explore. However I think I can only handle one month at the most for each visit to the country — India is a bit too chaotic to my liking. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Kelly.

      Like

  9. Bama I sat with my mouth hanging open at the images of Virupaksha Temple. Often when I come to your blog I think about the mundane nature of North American buildings and churches. Such boxes. Should you come to bviti we shall have to focus you completely on nature, the sea, the mountains and the wildlife. I’m afraid the architecture will leave you yawning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think North American historical buildings are still worth visiting, especially those with Neo-Gothic and Neoclassical architecture. Not to mention the history of each building which would be interesting to learn about. However it is indeed the natural landscape of Canada which I would love to see the most.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well perhaps you could provide me some architectural education in my own backyard Bama. Then we will head to the mountains. 🙂

        Like

  10. Somehow, I could imagine myself being immersed with the surrounding depicted in your magnificent pictures, just by looking at them. Wow. I can almost imagine the overwhelming vista you must have had witnessed there. I feel like I have been taken to a different era, far from the noiseless digital atmosphere.

    Like

    • Robin! Vijayanagara was nothing short of amazing. I know you would enjoy this place as much as I did — and take lots of photographs. Surely most, if not all, hotels and guesthouses have WiFi, so you won’t be entirely free from the internet. The control is in your hand. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

      Like

  11. Pingback: Vijayanagara: the Golden Period | What an Amazing World!

  12. Bama, I’ve never heard of these ruins or this dynasty, so I was pleased to read your post. The ruins are outstanding, and when combined with the otherworldly landscape, it’s an astounding site. I think that sometimes Westerners don’t fully appreciate how big India is and what a long, rich history it has. Informative posts like this help bring it to light for future visitors, and for armchair travelers as well. Excellent photos as always. ~James

    Like

    • I’m glad this post enlightened you about this ancient Indian empire, James. The first time I learned about Hampi was from an article on GEO France magazine back in 2007. The article mentions about how most Westerners (since it was written from a French perspective) were largely unaware of this magnificent site in India. However based on my observation last year, there were quite a lot of Western visitors in Hampi. Most of the temples are actually quite accessible for armchair travelers — except those perched on top of the many hills around the village. But I do hope when you and Terri visit Hampi one day she won’t need the armchair. Thank you, James, and all the best for Terri’s recovery!

      Like

  13. Pingback: Vijayanagara: the Legacy | What an Amazing World!

  14. Pingback: The Fall of Constantinople | What an Amazing World!

  15. Pingback: Goa and Catholicism in India | What an Amazing World!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s