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Hospet

Hospet, a small dusty town in Northern Karnataka, was once the seat of the powerful Vijayanagar Empire. Though the town does not have much to offer the visitors, its importance lies in its nearness to Hampi, the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar rulers. There was a time when Hampi was the epitome of architectural wonders. Most of the great buildings of this place are now in ruins, though UNESCO and the Archaeological Survey of India have tried their best to recreate the original charm of the place. Hospet is the ideal base for tourists visiting Hampi and other nearby places.

Sightseeing:

Chitradurga Fort:
The fort is situated at Chitradurga around 290 km south of Hospet on the Bangalore-Hospet road. Also known as the Fort of Seven Rounds, it was built in the 17th century by the Nayak Poligars, the wealthy semi-independent landlords who fled south after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1565. Haider Ali later crushed the Poligars and captured the fort. He replaced the mud fort with stone and later his son Tipu Sultan built a palace, granaries, oil pits, and a mosque in it.

Hampi:
Hampi is a world Heritage Site and the erstwhile capital of the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar. A living testimony to the greatness of a bygone era, this ruined town is guarded by rivers and granite ridges. The travellers from Europe who visited the place at the height of Vijayanagar Empire wrote that the city was as large and as beautiful as Rome and hesitated to describe its grandeur for fear of it being thought fabulous. Most of the tourist centres in Hampi can be divided under two broad regions, the Hampi Bazaar area and the Royal Centre.

Queen’s Bath:
This 15-metre square bath is encircled is enclosed with gallery, verandas and overhanging Rajasthani balconies. The minor waterfall inside the bath was once poured with cool, perfumed water that flowed out through an underground drain. Open to sky and carefully shielded on all sides, the bath was a celebration of relaxed and opulent life which was also the leitmotif of Hampi.

Vithala Temple:
A World Heritage Site, the temple is located 2 km east of Hampi Bazaar. It was built in the 16th century and displays the architectural splendour acquired by the artisans of Vijayanagar Empire. There are beautiful carvings on the walls of the temple and its columns are so balanced that they have musical qualities.

Raghunath Temple:
Located on a hilltop, the Raghunath Temple is known for its Dravidian style, excellent views from the rock above at sunset, and tranquil environment.

Virupaksha Temple:
One of the oldest monuments in the town, this 15th-century Virupaksha Temple is part of the Hampi Bazaar area. The principal deity is Virupaksha, one of the many forms of Lord Shiva. Rising to a height of 50 metres from the ground, the temple belongs to the later Vijayanagar period, though many shrines inside the temple are much older. Most of the stone carvings are larger than life in size, as for instance the Nandi on the eastern end and Ganesha on southern end. There is also a 6.7-metre-high image of Narasimha, the half-man and half-lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu, as well as a huge lingam, the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva with its base in water.

King’s Balance:
Situated near the Vithala Temple, the King’s Balance has a golden past. According to legend, this balance was used to weigh the rulers against gold, jewels, and food that were later distributed to the Brahmins.

Achyutraya Temple:
It is a large temple complex dedicated to Lord Vishnu, whose image has been shown in a reclining position on the coils of a snake (Sheshnag).

Lotus Mahal:
The Lotus Mahal is an exquisite pavilion located in the walled area of zenana near Hazara Ram Temple. The pavilion derives its name from the lotus bud that is carved on its dome and vaulted ceiling. A fine blend of Indo-Islamic architecture, it was used by the women of the royal family living in the Queen’s Palace to disport themselves in the water pavilion within their protected enclosure. The structure is later became a model for Mughal monuments in Agra with some modifications.

Royal Residence:
Situated to the west of the Hazara Rama Temple, the Royal Residence has been unearthed from recent excavations. Not much can be seen of the original residence which once displayed the typical architectural style of Vijayanagar with the sequence of rising levels in a ’U’ formation with the private chambers on the top. Some stone basements, walls, and plaster floors are all that remain today.

Museum & Art Gallery:
The museum run by the Archaeological Survey of India has a very good collection of sculptures belonging to the Vijayanagar Empire. It is situated at Kamalapuram, a small village near Hampi.

Vijayanagar Empire:
Founded by the legendary brother princes Harihara and Bukka in 1336, the Vijayanagar Empire was once the mightiest kingdom of the South. It looks quite strange that a kingdom can perfect the art of building construction while fighting throughout their reign. The empire reached its height during the reign of Krishnadevraya (1509-29), a legendary king who controlled the entire peninsula south of Krishna and Tungabhadra Rivers, barring some area on the Malabar cost. The kingdom had a continued source of income from the spice trade to the south. A confederacy of Deccan rulers including that of Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar, and Berar attacked Vijayanagar in 1565 leading to the sudden end of this mighty empire.

Excursions From Hospet:

Tungabhadra Dam:
Situated at a distance of around 6 km from Hospet, the dam is 6 kilometres in length and 49 metres high. The dam offers panoramic views across the 80-km-long lake. It is also one of the largest masonry dams in India and took 8 years to complete.

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