To underline the importance of cultural heritage as a factor of intercultural dialogue, social integration and economic development, the Mediterranean Exchange of Archaeological Tourism promotes every year cooperation among peoples through exchange of experiences and the partecipation of a guest country that for 2015 will be India.
Hampi, the last capital of the great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar
The austere and grandiose site of Hampi comprise mainly the remnants of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom. The property encompasses an area of 4187, 24 hectares, located in the Tungabhadra basin in Central Karnataka, Bellary District.
Hampi’s spectacular setting is dominated by river Tungabhadra, craggy hill ranges and open plains, with widespread physical remains. 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.
Among these, the Krishna temple complex, Narasimha, Ganesa, Hemakuta group of temples, Achyutaraya temple complex, Vitthala temple complex, Pattabhirama temple complex, Lotus Mahal complex, can be highlighted. Suburban townships (puras) surrounded the large Dravidian temple complexes containing subsidiary shrines, bazaars, residential areas and tanks applying the unique hydraulic technologies and skilfully and harmoniously integrating the town and defence architecture with surrounding landscape. The remains unearthed in the site delineate both the extent of the economic prosperity and political status that once existed indicating a highly developed society.
Dravidian architecture flourished under the Vijayanagara Empire and its ultimate form is characterised by their massive dimensions, cloistered enclosures, and lofty towers over the entrances encased by decorated pillars.
The Vitthla temple is the most exquisitely ornate structure on the site and represents the culmination of Vijayanagara temple architecture. It is a fully developed temple with associated buildings like Kalyana Mandapa and Utsava Mandapa within a cloistered enclosure pierced with three entrance Gopurams. In addition to the typical spaces present in contemporary temples, it boasts of a Garuda shrine fashioned as a granite ratha and a grand bazaar street. This complex also has a large Pushkarani (stepped tank) with a Vasantotsava mandapa (ceremonial pavilion at the centre), wells and a network of water channels.
Another unique feature of temples at Hampi is the wide Chariot streets flanked by the rows of Pillared Mandapas, introduced when chariot festivals became an integral part of the rituals. The stone chariot in front of the temple is also testimony to its religious ritual. Most of the structures at Hampi are constructed from local granite, burnt bricks and lime mortar. The stone masonry and lantern roofed post and lintel system were the most favoured construction technique. The massive fortification walls have irregular cut size stones with paper joints by filling the core with rubble masonry without any binding material. The gopuras over the entrances and the sanctum proper have been constructed with stone and brick. The roofs have been laid with the heavy thick granite slabs covered with a water proof course of brick jelly and lime mortar.
Vijayanagara architecture is also known for its adoption of elements of Indo Islamic Architecture in secular buildings like the Queen’s Bath and the Elephant Stables, representing a highly evolved multi-religious and multi-ethnic society.Building activity in Hampi continued over a period of 200 years reflecting the evolution in the religious and political scenario as well as the advancements in art and architecture. The city rose to metropolitan proportions and is immortalized in the words of many foreign travellers as one of the most beautiful cities. The Battle of Talikota (1565 CE) led to a massive destruction of its physical fabric.
Dravidian architecture survives in the rest of Southern India spread through the patronage of the Vijayanagara rulers. The Raya Gopura, introduced first in the temples attributed to Raja Krishna Deva Raya, is a landmark all over South India.