More than a century ago, as he stitched together narratives that offered a glimpse of the lost City of Victory, Robert Sewell, in his seminal work A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): A Contribution to the History of India, couldn’t help note “… yet in the present day the very existence of this kingdom is hardly remembered in India… Even the name has died out of men’s minds and memories, and the remains that mark its site are known only as the ruins lying near the little village of Hampe”.
On the banks of the Tungabhadra in Ballari district of Karnataka, Hampi is testament to the glory that was Vijayanagar, the Hindu kingdom in the South when Islam held sway over much of India.
Under Krishna Deva Raya (reign 1509-1530), Vijayanagar rose to dizzying heights. Portuguese traveller Domingos Paes, Sewell recalled, spoke of a street where “you will find all sorts of rubies, and diamonds, and emeralds, and pearls, and seed-pearls, and cloths, and every other sort of thing there is on earth and that you may wish to buy”.
Paes said the city “seemed to me as large as Rome, and very beautiful to the sight; there are many groves of trees within it, in the gardens of the houses, and many conduits of water which flow into the midst of it, and in places there are lakes”.
Vijayanagar’s end was cataclysmic. A confederacy of Deccan Sultans, scoring a decisive victory in the Battle of Talikota (1565), lay waste the City of Victory, never to be rebuilt.
Hampi’s monuments are now part of the World Heritage List with UNESCO underlining: “The sophistication of the varied urban, royal and sacred systems is evident from the more than 1600 surviving remains that include forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, Mandapas, memorial structures, gateways, defence check posts, stables, water structures, etc.”
Ranked No. 2 in The New York Times list of ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’, Hampi has always been a difficult destination. Most tourists head to Bengaluru, take a taxi for a seven-hour ride to Hosapete, the town nearest to Hampi, or board the night train Hampi Express.
But that could soon change. Working with the Tourism Ministry, the Civil Aviation Ministry, expanding its UDAN programme, has unlocked Ballari’s Vidyanagar airport, 40 km from Hampi. For now, TruJet operates flights to Ballari from Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
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