Hampi Hopping, Sacred Center: Hemakuta Hill

Hemakuta Hill is a large expanse of exposed bedrock that rises southwards from the base of Virupaksha Temple, crests and then descends towards the Krishna Temple which lies to the south of the hill. On the hill, as in the Virupaksha complex, are situated a few temples and shrines that predate the founding of Vijaynagar. Other temples on the hill are from the 14th c AD, i.e. from the earliest phase of Vijaynagar construction. All these structures are relatively small compared to many of the religious projects of subsequent Vijaynagar periods.

If we keep in mind that at that early time (14th c AD) the large Virupaksha Temple complex did not exist in the way it does now, in the sense that it did not have the large gopurams, walled courtyards and mandapas, and instead consisted of small shrines (some possibly from as far back as the 10th c AD) like the ones next to Manmatha Tank, we get the picture of an area extending from the banks of the Tungabhadra River till the crest of Hemakuta Hill, dotted with small pre-Vijaynagar temples, and the earliest Vijaynagar temples built on a similar scale next to them. This was possibly the first agglomeration of temples in the Sacred Center.

This also indicates that at the beginning of the Vijaynagar era, the temples being constructed were at a relatively small scale, in line with local temple-building traditions following the Later Chalukyan and Western Ganga periods . It is only when the Vijaynagar Empire grew in power and annexed Tamil lands in the 15th c AD that their temples started to follow the styles of Tamil architecture, with their much grander and more cohesive temple complexes, enclosed by walls and accessed through tall gopurams. The Hazara Rama Temple from the first half of the 15th c AD can be considered as transitional, and the early 16th c AD Krishna Temple as a more complete acceptance of this Tamil influence. The Vitthala Temple and the mahamandap of the Virupaksha Temple, also built in the prolific early 16th c, can be considered as contributing to and taking the Tamil style forward.

Coming back to the Hemakuta Hill for now, here are some images of its temples:

Temples on the exposed bedrock

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Potentially pre-Vijaynagar temples with three shrines accessed from a single ardhmandap

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View of the temples, shrines and gateways

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These well-proportioned though boxy temples resemble Hoysala examples stripped of their profuse sculpture work

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Hemakuta Hill temples and gateways with the Virupaksha gopuram in the background

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Higher up on Hemakuta Hill

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Gateway at the crest of the hill

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Fortifications along the crest of the hill

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Gateways on another side of Hemakuta Hill leading to Hampi Bazaar

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