Hampi – Route One leading to Virupaksha Temple

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Karnataka | 70
In my previous posts, I have mentioned Hampi several times and every time, I wonder how I would be able to do justice to this huge treasure trove of heritage. There is just so much to see and soak in that one post is not going to do justice to this place. A UNESCO heritage site and a town that goes back to times of the Ramayana, Ashoka the Great and the Vijayanagara kingdom, this place has over 500 monuments including the famed Virupaksha temple, some of them still being excavated, some of them in ruins but all of them magnificent in their looks. 
With this post, I will embark on a 3 trail series of Hampi. The trails that I mentioned can be found here. Of these, this post takes on trail number 1 or the Route one as the map suggests. There are 13 suggested sites along this trail and while we list them out in brief, this post highlights some key attractions on this trail.

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Monolithic Sasivekalu Ganesha, near Virupaksha temple, Hampi          
Monolithic Sasivekalu Ganesha
Sasivekalu means mustard seeds and as you can guess, from the picture, why the name. This is a gigantic 8 foot tall, monolithic Ganesha, greeting you as you begin your trail. If you notice, there is a snake around the belly and as legend has it, Lord Ganesha was very fond of eating and his belly threatened burst one day. To prevent that, it is said that he tied a snake around his belly and that is what is depicted on this idol. The carving on the Ganesha is very beautifully done, some ravaged due to time.  

Kadalekalu Ganesha

Image Credits: By Ssenthilkumaran by CC by SA 
Image Credits: By Ssenthilkumaran by CC by SA
This is is a Ganesha carved in stone, placed in a temple with huge pillars, each pillar carved with some intricate designs. 

Hemakuta Temples

Atop the Hemakuta hills , next to Virupaksha temple, Hampi
Atop the Hemakuta hills
As you proceed along the trail towards the famed Virupaksha temple, you have to climb up the boulders. What unfolds is a landscape dotted by multiple temples with pyramid-like roof. These are the Hemakuta temples. Some say that these are actually Jain temples, while some believe that they are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legend has it that Lord Shiva wished to marry a local girl Pampa and ended up doing penance for it. To distract him, Lord Kama (God of Love) showed a rain of Gold (Hema). Lord Shiva got angry and reduced him to ashes by opening his third eye.
This place is surrounded by boulders all around and you can spot some beautiful, cool caves to explore.
Caves on the Hemakuta Hill, Hampi
Caves on the Hemakuta Hill
The trek is not too difficult and the landscape breath-taking, especially at Sunset. One can spend some time just admiring the boulder-filled landscape. You may even spot different birds here, including loads of parrots.
Parrots on Hemakuta hills, Hampi
Parrots on Hemakuta hills

Virupaksha temple

Virupaksha temple, as seen from the Hemakuta hills, Hampi
Virupaksha temple, as seen from the Hemakuta hills
Virupaksha temple is the main attraction of this trail. Almost a landmark in Hampi, this is an imposing temple, built along the Tungabhadra river. This is one of the oldest temples here and was built by several kings in succession. One approach to this temple is through the Hampi bazaar and the other is you descend down the Hemakuta hill along the trail that this post describes.
The temple is made of stone and is so beautiful that it almost has a different color at every time of the day. The entrance is grandiose with beautiful carvings. There is a lot of restoration being done and one can really admire the amazing work. 
Carvings on the roof of the Virupaksha temple, Hampi 
Carvings on the roof of the Virupaksha temple
The temple has three different sanctums and various other buildings. All of these are lined by magnificent pillars.
Pillars of Virupaksha temple, Hampi
Pillars of Virupaksha temple, Hampi
The highlight of this place is the “inverted shadow” that is formed on one of the walls of the temple. A flight of stairs lead you to this area and once you enter this spot, you can see an inverted shadow of the highest gopuram (temple pillar) forming on the wall, all through a tiny hole.
In the Shiva temple, check out the murals on the walls and ceiling. Various scenes of the Mahabharata, including one of Draupadi’s Swayamwar and that of Shiva’s family. The paintings on the wall are made with vegetable ink and hence the same are quite visible
Shiva Parvati's wedding scene in Virupaksha temple, Hampi
Shiva Parvati’s wedding scene in Virupaksha temple

Hampi Bazaar
Hampi bazaar as seen from Hemakuta Hills, next to Virupaksha temple
Hampi bazaar as seen from Hemakuta Hills
As you exit the Virupaksha temple, you will see a long line of mantapas, which served as the Hampi bazaar in the olden times. 
After this, if you follow the trail suggested, you will be back to the same Sasivekalu Ganesha. After this, you need to trek up a hill to get to the Veerbhadra temple. 
There are a series of steps that are the easiest to reach this temple and this can be a long climb. Along the way, there are a few carvings and stone sculptures. As you reach on the top, you can get a panoramic view of the entire Hampi – truly a beautiful sight.
Though this post, while I have highlighted the main attractions of this trail, don’t miss out on the others as well – Krishna bazaar and temple, Badavilinga temple, Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Chandikesvara temple, Sarawathi temoke and Manmatha Tank shrines. 

Travel tips:

  1. Best time to visit Hampi is from October to February. Make a note of the Hampi festival in January.
  2. Carry lots and lots of water – no matter what season.
  3. Flat and comfortable shoes with comfortable cotton clothing will make the sight-seeing more comfortable.
  4. There are plenty of good restaurants near the Hampi bazaar that serve some good food and variety of cuisines- including some good Israeli and middle-eastern food. Try out the Mango tree for some yummy food.
  5. Hiring a guide would be advisable as Hampi has a lot to offer and sometimes, identifying these monuments and their secrets on your own may not be very feasible. There are very few clear signages and hence, not every site is self-explanatory.
  6. While hiring a guide, insist on the ones that have a Permit from the tourism board.
  7. Hampi is best explored on foot and cycle. However, cars and autos are also, available. 
  8. One could opt for the small guest houses in Hampi. However, it is advisable to stay in Hospet, which has better options in terms of homestays and hotels.

Getting there:

  • There are overnight trains available from Bangalore to Hospet.  Hampi is just 12 kms from Hospet and it is the best to stay at Hospet. 
  • Buses from Bangalore and Goa are available on an everyday basis.
  • Travel by road is also, not a bad option as the roads to this place are quite well-developed and well-maintained.
My other posts on Hampi





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70 Responses

  1. Matthew and Heather

    Beautiful Site. We try to visit as many UNESCO sites as possible. The parrots surprised me.

  2. Nikki

    I’ve been hearing a lot about Hampi lately, the temple looks incredible! Very informative post…I like hearing about the stories legends behind masterpieces like this one!

    • Ami

      Thanks Nikki. It is one of the most searched destination on the internet in India.

    • Ami

      Wait till you see the other wonders. Have a look at the other trails and I am sure you will have a tough time deciding which one of these top your charts

  3. Rob Taylor

    Each time I read about the legends behind some of the statues and sights, I’m impressed with the amount of work and dedication shown by those who’ve labored over them. Maybe it’s because of my own views/beliefs and that I don’t connect with a history like this, I don’t know. Either way, I’m beyond fascinated by places like these and the whole of Indian culture/history.

    • Ami

      The place is one of the most searched UNESCO destinations in India. You must check out the other posts on Hampi as well on my blog.

  4. 2traveldads

    I can’t imagine the amount of time it took to complete all of those carvings. Really an incredible complex!

    • Ami

      It sure is amazing. And I too, keep wondering how much time it must have taken for the entire set of buildings to come up

  5. journalofnomads

    Gorgeous photos! I enjoyed reading the stories and legends behind the carvings!

  6. Corinne

    Such a gorgeous site! I would love to go. Loved the Ganesha statue; he’s my favorite. The other carvings are also stunning. Hampi, you are on my list.

    • Ami

      Hampi has been one of the most searched UNESCO destinations in India. Not many know about it but it is catching on.

  7. Taylor's Tracks

    I’ve mentioned this before of how much I love the detail in temples, but I also love how in India everything has a meaning behind it, especially the names. It holds so much history that makes it so much more special than any modern day things.

    • Ami

      Thank you Christina. Though I think they can do better with some maintenance here.

  8. Jennifer Sikora

    There is so much beauty here. I would so love to see parrots in their natural habitat and capture a few photos. This is so beautiful!

    • Ami

      Thank you Jennifer. It was fun here with the camera. And am sure you will have a blast too

    • Ami

      Madurai Meenakshi Temple is really gorgeous and I totally loved it. If you liked the history and the art there, you will definitely like it here.

    • Ami

      Thanks Jatin. The Chariot temple and musical pillars are in the Vittala temple. I have written about them in the second trail. Have a look.

  9. Matthew and Heather

    Another location added to our list. We will need at least a year to see all the sites we have added from your posts 🙂

  10. Chris

    Every time I see and read of Hampi, it climbs a little higher in my must visit list!

    Is it a place you could lose a full day or even more in?

  11. Neha

    Amazing! Hampi is on my list of must visit places this year! Will refer this again while planning the trip!

    • Ami

      You should really experience the sunset from up there. It is gorgeous. The golden glow over the hills.

  12. Adam, Bite of Iceland

    I was in India in February this year and Hampi was definitely a highlight of our one-month trip. I’m an art historian, so for me this place was a paradise. I especially enjoyed hanging around the temples early in the morning, just before sunrise, when there were so few people and the heat hasn’t started to pour from the sky.

    • Ami

      Thanks Adam. Glad you liked Hampi. It is one destination that escapes a lot of travelers to India. Hoping that people realize its potential soon.

  13. Vyjay Rao

    This is one place that I want to visit again and again and also read about again and again. The stones of this once great city seem to echo the stories of a once great civilization. When it comes to Hampi, once is not enough!

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