The discovery of stone artefacts, pottery shards and rock paintings indicate that Hampi has been inhabited since pre-historic times.
The Hampi region’s historical antiquity can be pushed back to the Mauryan period (322BCE – 182 BCE) as evidenced by the rocks edicts of King Asoka discovered in the area. The presence of inscribed Buddhist panels, comparable to that of the Amravati School belonging to the 1st and 2nd centuries CE from the time of the Satavahanas (271 BCE- 220CE), give us some more definitive clues of its pre Vijaynagara history.
Many dynasties ruled over this region, the most prominent among them being the Chalukyas of Badami (5 – 6 th century), the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (7 – 8 th century), the Chalukyas of Kalyana (9 – 11 th century), the Hoysalas of Belur and Halebidu (11 – 13 th century) and the Yadavas of Devagiri (13 th century).
Towards the late 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century, the area was invaded by the Delhi Sultanate who were, however, unable to retain the area for long. This led to a ‘power vacuum’ into which slipped two brothers – Harihara I and Bukka I – who seeded the Vijayanagara Empire that ruled the area with Hampi as its capital.
Three major dynasties ruled over the Vijayanagara Empire: Sangama (1336 – 1485), Saluva (1485 – 1505) and Tuluva (1505 – 1570).
The most famous kings of this vast empire were Devaraya II and Krishna Devaraya of the Tuluva dynasty. The reign of Krishna Devaraya is known as the golden period of the Vijaynagara Empire and is chronicled in great detail.
Domingo Paes, a Portuguese horse trader, who visited Hampi during its prime wrote “The size of this city I do not write here, because it cannot all be seen from any one spot, but I climbed a hill whence I could see a
great part of it. I could not see it all because it lies between several ranges of hills. What I saw from thence 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 and the king has close to his palace a palm-grove and other rich fruit-bearing trees. Below the Moorish quarter is a little river, and on this side are many orchards and gardens with many fruit-trees, for the most part mangoes and areca-palms and jack-trees, and also many lime and orange trees, growing so closely one to another that it appears like a thick forest; and there are also white grapes. All the water which is in the city comes from the two tanks of which I have spoken, outside the first enclosing wall.”
The empire went into steady decline after the death of Krishna Devaraya. In 1565 AD, at the battle of Talikota, the combined armies of the Deccan Sultanates inflicted a crushing defeat that led to the destruction of the city and the fall of the empire.
However, the decimated empire survived for another century under its last rulers, the Aravidu dynasty, with its capital shifting between Penukonda, Chandragiri, Vellore, and Srirangapatna.
Hampi, now an excavated city in ruins, is known worldwide for having once been the capital of a formidable empire. Many beautiful structures still exist in testimony to its glory and magnificence. They are a combination of various southern Indian schools and styles – Deccani, Chalukya, Hoysala & Dravida – that together nurtured and gave rise to the unique art and architecture of the Vijayanagara period.