Monday, September 5, 2011

Hampi, Pattadakal and Aihole

Large and diverse as our country is, it can claim to only 28 odd UNESCO world heritage sites. Hampi and Pattadakal are both on that exclusive list. The capital of the 15th century Vijaynagar empire, Hampi had a small but bright existence in India’s vast history (compared to some of our cities which span several millennia), with its rise and decline spanning scarcely 200 years. Yet in this small time, it became one of the biggest city in the world at its time, with half a million inhabitants, as traveler Nicholas Conti recorded during his visit to Hampi in 1420.

Hampi’s fortunes were linked to the Vijaynagar kingdom, which flourished between 1350 and 1565. They built their capital near present day Hospet in Northern Karnataka (10km from away) in a hostile-looking rocky landscape flanking the Tungabhadra river. Honestly, if I were looking for a spot to build my new capital, I’d have chosen someplace else, but the rocky landscape did provide natural defensive structures. The landscape can be best described as low lying hills completely covered with ochre colored rocks (granite) – much like sprinkles covering a cake.

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