Route 3 – Hampi’s inner circle of royalty

Let me start Series 3 by telling you a truth I lived – nothing prepares you for the magnificence of Hampi. Even though I read up on experiences of others and saw picture of Hampi monuments, the actual Hampi visit left me mesmerized. I am a sucker for all places historical but Hampi left me asking for more.

If the Sacred Center and Riverside ruins were breathtaking, the royal center is absolutely mesmerizing. We started the Royal Center with a royal bath 😉

1) The Queen’s bath

The name certainly piqued my daughter’s interest. Anything related to queens and princesses – bring it on ! As we enter the building, we come upon a big open pool in the middle with verandah all around it and balconies projecting towards the pool.

Queen’s bath with verandah all around it and balconies projecting towards the pool

The balconies are decorated with tiny windows. While the brick lined pool is empty today, in its hey-day, perfumed water with flowers filled this pool. It is not at all difficult to imagine, inspite of the ruined structure, the laughter of the queen and her friends on a hot summer day enjoying the perfumed cool water.

The lovely jharokhas (window) in the Queen’s bath. Is this how the queens and friends would laugh and play ?

The dome roof of the verandah are equally intriguing. Each dome is unique in its design !

Each dome in the verandah of the Queen’s bath is uniquely designed

A big water canal encircle the Queen’s Bath from outside. Our guard informed us that it housed venomous snakes who were unleashed on any intruder who dare walked upon the bathing royalty.

2) Zenena Enclosure

Further down the road from Queen’s bath is the Zenana Enclosure. As the name suggests, this was a secluded area for the royal women. It is a sprawling compound. Our guide informed us that this sprawling compound housed palaces of the 2 queens – the King’s first wife and his favorite. The Queen’s palace, where only the basement is visible now, was the first queen’s residence. This is apparently the largest palace base excavated in Hampi.

Basement of the queen’s palace

The palace of the favorite queen is pretty non existent now. When the two royal ladies had to meet, they would choose a neutral venue – the Hawa Mahal or Lotus Mahal !

3) Lotus Mahal

Hawa Mahal or Lotus Mahal is the most prominent building in this enclosure. It is also probably the most photographed and preserved.

The beautiful Hawa Mahal aka Lotus Mahal

The archways and the balcony along with the central dome resemble a half opened lotus bud, hence the name.

The intricately designed arches of the Lotus Mahal

It was kept cool using aqua ducts. A well behind this building is said to be the source of the cooling water. The entire area is now made into a sort of open garden with sprawling green lawns and you can see visitors catching a few winks under the shade of trees.

You can spot three watchtowers in the area. It is said that the eunuch soldiers stood guard to the royal ladies in the enclosure.

One of the 3 watch towers in the Zenana enclosure which would be manned by eunuchs

The path to the other locations like the Elephant Stable, Guard’s Quarters and a few other temples’ runs through the center of this area.

4) Elephant Stables

Elephant Stable is another major tourist attraction in Hampi. The first glimpse is quite breathtaking. Huge expanse of green grass and then this long row of 11 domed chambers to ‘park’ the royal elephants !

11 domed Elephant stables with the sprawling greens in front

Metal hooks, to tie the elephants, can be seen in the center of the inside roof. At the rear of each hall are small openings for the mahouts.

The individual cells for elephants. Notice the small entrance at the back for the mahout (elephant keeper)

5) Guards Quarters

Located right next to the Elephant Stable, these were probably a ceremonial building. Both the elephant stables and the Guard’s Quarters share a common courtyard. Currently, this is used to store the stone sculptures from the ruins.

Guard’s quarter near the elephant stables

6) Hazara Rama Temple

This 15th century temple was undoubtedly of royal patronage, given its location at the heart of the the royal center. The first thing that strikes you, on seeing this temple, is the outer walls decorated with relics of Rama, Krishna and portrays Dushera festival procession of horses, elephants, attendants, soldiers and dancing women.

Relics portraying Dushera festival procession of horses, elephants and soldiers on the outer walls

One relic showing a break dance performance !

Another characteristic feature is the long row of carvings of Hindu mythology, Ramayana along the walls. These carvings are the reason for this temple gets its name Hazara Rama (a thousand Rama).

Numerous panel carvings of Hindu mythology, Ramayana at Hazara Rama Temple

It is worth noticing that while the walls and exterior of this temple is quite ornate with relics and Ramayana stories, the inside is quite stark except for the 4 beautifully carved columns at the temple’s main entrance.

The 4 decorative columns at the temple’s main entrance, everything else being quite plain

In front of the temple, you can see the Pan Supari (Beatle nut) Bazaar.

7) Underground Siva Temple

This temple dedicated to Lord Siva is built many meters below the ground level, hence the name. I had read that to reach the sanctum and the core parts of the temple, one had to wade through water. For this reason too, I was looking forward to visiting this.

For starters, it was as dry as a bone. So that out of the equation, it was a pleasant enough visit – especially as it is believed to be one of the oldest temples in Hampi ! The architecture is believed to be of 14th century. Its uniqueness lay in the fact that it was below ground level and hence cool. A series of wide large steps lead you to the sanctum and the inner parts of the temple.

Entrance to the Underground Shiva Temple

The main hall in front of the shrine is huge with massive pillars supporting the roof.

The pillared corridor leading to the sanctum

You can see the lamppost actually protrudes through the roof, which lends to a belief that it was not completed. There is a beautiful lawn built around the temple. The crowd was considerable less as it is a little off the beaten track.

8) Royal Enclosure

This was the seat of power of the fallen empire. Its first glimpse reminded me strongly of the World Heritage site of Nalanda ruins in Bihar

Before we enter, we are treated to a view of the huge stone doors to the Royal Enclosure. Apparently the elephants were employed to operate these.

Massive stone doors to the Royal enclosure that were probably elephant operated

The most imposing and intact structure in this area is the platform from where the king would watch any display or festivities. It is also known as the ‘Dushera Platform’, Dushera being a major festival and accompanied by a procession.

The Dushera Platform from where the king would watch any display or festivities

The view from atop the platform gives you an idea of the grandness and expanse of the Royal Enclosure.

You can see the stepped tank and the overhead water canals around it. The symmetry of the step well is quite fascinating and a lady guard was given the difficult task of watching no one get close to the steps. Probably as a safety measure against over zealous tourists and photographers tumbling into it !

Aerial view of the stepped tank and the overhead water canals from the Dushera Platform

The fabulous stepped tank

Adjacent to this is another tank used as a bathing area.

The kids loved the huge swimming pool style tank, replete with a toddler pool. I could well imagine the mixed sounds of adults and kids enjoying the cool water in the hot Hampi sun.

The swimming pool

Further down, we spotted the underground chamber and entrance to the same. The king had access to 6 such underground passage and it was a well managed secret which one he would use at any point !

One of the 6 underground passages that the king would use at any point in time

9) Sister’s stone (Akka Tangi Gudda)

These are two gigantic boulders leaning against each other. You will find them on the left side of the main road when you go from the Underground Shiva Temple towards Hampi village square. The folklore goes thus. These two sisters were visiting Hampi and they made fun of the place. A curse turned them to boulders – the very object of their ridicule !

Two sisters turned into two gigantic boulders leaning against each other

Link to other Hampi article in the series (in case you missed these)

Route 1 – Exploring Sacred Center

Route 2 – Exploring the riverside at Hampi

Post 4 – Exploring Vittala temple – the showstopper of Hampi

Post 5 – Exploring Anegundi – mother kingdom of Hampi

Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)

  • Getting here and other tips from my first blog
  • Zenana Enclosure is one of the few places in Hampi where entry ticket is needed. The same ticket is valid (for the same day) for entry at the Vittala Temple and the nearby Elephant Stables. Keep the ticket safe
  • For Indian citizens the entry fee is Rs 10. Children under the age of 15 are admitted free. For other nationals, admission fee is Rs 250 (USD5). Photography is not charged
  • All the other monuments in this route have free entry and photography
  • In front of the Queen’s bath is a parking slot and a paid public toilet facilities, the only one in this area !
  • Underground Siva temple closes in the evening by 5:00 pm
  • Royal enclosure is a wide-open ground with no shelters and requires a good walk as bicycles etc have to be parked outside. Try to visit in the evenings or early mornings
  • Wear sensible walking shoes and be generous with that sunscreen
A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

admin

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

48 Responses

  1. Thank you Very much for updating more details about hampi monuments with images, hope you are more interested about hampi ruins

  2. Enjoyed reading about Hampi. Nice informative writing. Excellent!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Yatindra. Am glad you liked it. Have you been there ? Planning a 5 series blogpost on Hampi. Would love to hear your feedback on them.

  3. magiceye says:

    Thank you for the wonderful virtual tour of Hampi!

  4. Alok Singhal says:

    I can imagine why the Mahal is the most photographed location! The place is rich in history.

    I was imagining the happiness of queen while taking bath in the perfumed water. Such simple pleasures.

    • admin says:

      Yes Alok. It was an amazing experience. The Queen’s bath is one of my favourite in the Royal center. I saw the excitement in my daughter’s eyes when the guide was talking to it. It was so easy to imagine the queen and her friends enjoying the perfumed cool water on a balmy summer day !

  5. Beautiful and detailed account on this ancient city and its glory. Like your daughter even we were quite curious to see the pictures of the Queens bath after reading about it and couldn’t stop imagining how it would have been in its bygone days…

  6. Emilia says:

    Gorgeous pictures – seems like a fantastic place to visit!

  7. Nikhil says:

    Thanks for this post. I have visited hampi 4 yrs before and this post took me to memories of hampi.
    I will plan to visit hampi one more time this December

  8. Marine says:

    Very interesting article! I was in India two months ago but didn’t have time to go to Hampi. For sure I add it to my bucket list for next time, India is such a great country!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Marine. Do plan to visit when you are in India next. I can help plan your itinerary if you want. Just give me a shout !

  9. Alexxa says:

    Really informative! Seems like there’s so much to see and understand about the history.

  10. celine says:

    The Queen’s bath is intriguing. I can imagine the luxurious days the Queen and her maids spend in it. There is so much to see and learn about India.

  11. Indrani says:

    So much of photo opportunity in these places. I have been there twice yet not satiated.
    I can fully relate to your daughter’s curiosity about this place.

  12. Marge says:

    It’s quite interesting to see these old infrastructures and imagine how they are being used in the old days. Like your daughter, I got real interesting with the queen’s bath. My oh my that’s a big space. So they let out snakes for the intruders? Wow, they sure take the queen’s safety seriously back then.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Marge. It always amazes me how much advancement in technology already existed in olden days. I guess people were much more hard working and skilled. Also, automation hadn’t taken over and each structure is so unique. Yeah snakes were an overkill IMHO. The guides’ story had more horrific narration, which I have kept out for readers’ sensibility 😉

  13. Karie says:

    I love going through your posts as they are so very detailed. It’s like going back in time or reading through a history book. Love the pictures as well. I seriously want to visit Hampi some day!!

  14. neha says:

    Oh..how I wish to go back to Hampi after reading your posts. These places we couldn’t explore on our first trip because our baby was too small and the heat too scorching. How’s the weather of Hampi during the monsoons? I want to make another trip there as soon as possible.

    • admin says:

      Neha, that is another time I want to visit Hampi – in monsoons. It will be humid and hot but the greenery and views will be breathtaking !

  15. Nice to know more about Hampi. Thanks for sharing. I added this on my list

  16. I never knew there are so much to see and explore in Hampi! I am also amazed by the intricate architecture and designs given that it was done in an age where technology was very limited. I am eager to visit this part of India soon!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Aldrick. Hampi is a treasure trove. Also called a large open museum ! If you are into history, you can spend days here. You must surely visit

  17. Mihaela says:

    Oh wow this place is incredible! How could they build these structures with so many details? I can almost imagine how everybody was enjoying the days back then. Hope you had an amazing experience!

  18. Gel says:

    If ever I visit the place, I will make suee to check out Lotus Mahal because it looks so nice to take photographs. And the Royal Enclosure too!

  19. Great post and images, I visited India last year but didn’t have time for this. It’s on my list for next time though!

  20. Lee says:

    Entrance fee is only 5usd? That is cheap for a place like this!!! Instagram worth place plus cultural and history enrich

  21. Wow, this is truly a beautiful place. I wouldn’t get tired ambling around this beautiful temple. I actually haven’t heard about this one yet and I’ll surely include this on my bucket list to visit in India. I love all the intricate design from how it looks like outside and even inside of it. Thank you so much for touring us around virtually. I really appreciate it.

  22. These photographs of monuments, ruins and structures are amazing. I am quite intrigued on how the ancient people designed this and how they lived during their time. India has a lot of ancient temples and ruins and their stories are also interesting. I will surely visit India soon and have a tour in one of your beautiful ancient ruins 🙂

    • admin says:

      You are welcome Blaine and let me know if you need help in charting your itinerary. Glad my post inspired you a little more to plan for a trip to India 🙂

  23. Ami Bhat says:

    This route had so many hidden wonders, I could not complete them myself. The Queen’s bath was so amazing with its massage tables and those inlets and outlets. And yes, open to the sky. And the underground Shiva’s temple was filled with water when I went…though I did not wade through it. (bless my jeans for it). Glad you were able to inspect it closer. What fun!

  24. Erica says:

    Magnificent architecture indeed! No wonder why you felt like u wanted more! Btw, ive noticed elephants and lotuses are usually integrated to such temples. I wonder their significance?

    • admin says:

      Thanks Erica. Lotus flowers are symbol of divine beauty and purity, also offered to Gods like Vishnu and Lakshmi. Wisdom is represented by the elephant and also represents Lord Ganesha. This could be the reason for its representation in temples ! Do you have another view ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *