Last Updated on November 26, 2020 by Soumya
Hampi, the lost capital of ancient Vijayanagara Kingdom in South India, is home to countless temples. It is quite possible that once you land in Hampi, you will be confused as to what to see and what to skip. In this post, I make your life easier by talking about the 14 most beautiful temples in Hampi that you need to include in your Hampi bucket list. Plus some tips on which ones you can skip and which ones you should absolutely visit.
Hope you will enjoy this Hampi temples ride with me!
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14 Incredible Temples of Hampi
Hampi flourished as the capital of the Vijayanagara Kingdom between the 14th and the 17th centuries. Trade prospered and the kings put in a lot of wealth into the building of Hampi’s temples and royal enclosures. [Hampi’s royal enclosures are absolutely divine and totally deserve a day when you are visiting Hampi. But let me not digress.]
Consequently, what we see today on the banks of River Tungabhadra on a rocky-bouldered terrain is a collection of exquisite temples – big and small – dedicated to various Hindu deities. Some are adorned with war scenes while many depict trade and alliances. Most importantly, they give us a sneak peek into life from more than 600 years ago during the glorious days of the Vijayanagara Empire. Here are some of Hampi’s truly unmissable temples.
Vijaya Vittala Temple
This is the most iconic temple in the entire Hampi ensemble. The famous Vijaya Vittala Temple with its equally popular stone chariot. Well, it is the stone chariot that has garnered more fame than all the temples of Hampi put together.
You will notice the stone chariot as soon as you enter the main gate. It was not really a chariot but a shrine dedicated to the holy bird Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s carrier. The chariot shape was inspired from the Chariot Temple of Konark, Odisha. Apparently, Krishnadevaraya got smitten by Konark when he went to fight a war in Odisha.
Another highlight of this temple is its unique collection of musical pillars that adorn its mantapas. Yes, they really create music! And it is mellifluous. But you should have a guide with you to figure out how to listen to it.
I feel the second-most iconic temple in the Hampi archaeological area is the Virupaksha Temple with its own set of eccentricities and intrigues. Eccentricities because this temple has its own pet elephant! And intrigues because of the mysterious inverted shadow of the temple gopura (main gate) that you can see in a secret chamber at the back.
This is the only living temple in the complex and has been around since the 7th century. Not in this form, though. Much of it has been added during the Vijayanagara times. A key highlight of the Virupaksha Temple is the exclusive collection of vibrant and beautiful murals on the walls and ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa.
For a detailed tour, head to our detailed travel guide for Virupaksha Temple in Hampi.
Hemakuta Group of Temples
Right behind the Virupaksha Temple is a set of hills that are home to 35 small temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. These are the Hemakuta Group of Temples.
The Hemakuta group is a cluster that has a very different architectural style from the rest of Hampi’s temples. And that is because they are from the pre-Vijayanagara era. They are often referred to as Hampi’s Jain temples because of similarity in architecture. But in reality, they are Hindu.
Additionally, Hemakuta Hill is generously sprinkled with these absolutely photogenic, four-pillared mantapas that form great picture frames. At the top of the hill is a storied gateway which is a great sunset spot. Plus, you can get some amazing views of Virupaksha Temple and the Hampi bazaar from here.
Pro tip: Come here right before sunset.
Monolith Nandi of Hampi
This is not a full-fledged temple but rather a pillared pavilion dedicated to the mount of Lord Shiva, Nandi bull.
The monolith statue is huge. It is located right opposite the Virupaksha Temple at the other end of the road so that Nandi could face his master Lord Shiva. Location of the shrine against a huge stack of Hampi boulders makes the place extremely photogenic.
Pro Tip: If you are running short on time, consider skipping this.
Sasivekalu & Kadalakelu Ganeshas
These are the two famous Ganesha temples in Hampi that house huge monolithic statues of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha was fond of food and often ate a lot. At the temple of Sasivekalu Ganesha, the deity is presented with a snake tied around his stomach to actually prevent it from bursting open. Now, isn’t that an interesting anecdote for young kids?
Kadalekalu Ganesha is more somber with no snakes. But his belly resembles that of a Bengal gram (called Kadalekalu in local language) and that is how the temple got its name. Take some time to appreciate the tall granite pillars of the mandapa at this temple. They are beautifully carved. Also, you can get a stunning view of the ruins from the front porch.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
Yet another monolithic structure (in fact the largest in Hampi), the Lakshmi Narasimha statue is an impressive monument. It is located near the southern slopes of the Hemakuta hill.
The statue represents Lord Narasimha (part man part lion) one of the fiercest avatars of Lord Vishnu. Before the shrine was destroyed by Mughal attack in the 16th century, there sat on Lord Narasimha’s lap a small statue of Goddess Lakshmi, his consort. That is why the name.
Badava Linga Temple
Right next to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple is a small, compact shrine that is home to a monolithic Shiva linga. The Linga is 9 ft tall and unique because it remains permanently enclosed by water on all sides. Yes, the floor of the temple is far below the ground which keeps it covered with water most of the year. But the good part is that the shrine is small and you do not to need to enter it to see the Linga. It is quite visible from outside the door.
Hanuman Temple | Anjaneya Temple
The Hanuman Temple of Hampi is unique because it features the Hindu God in a rare meditative state. And this image is contained within a hexagonal amulet that is placed in the inner sanctum of the temple.
The location of the temple is even more dramatic. It is situated on the top of a hill by the River Tungabhadra where Lord Rama and Hanuman (from the Hindu epic Ramayana) are believed to have met for the first time. Even though the temple itself is a small one, the views from here are stunning.
Did you know that Hampi could possibly be the birthplace of Hanuman?
Bala Krishna Temple
The Krishna Temple in Hampi is yet another temple that is connected with the eastern Indian state of Odisha. It is believed that Krishnadevaraya built this temple to commemorate his victory over Udaygiri in ancient Odisha. He used the temple to house the image of Bala Krishna (which the king brought back from his conquest), the infant form of Krishna, and that’s why the name.
The primary highlight of the Krishna Temple is the abundance of stone carvings here. All the walls and pillars are decorated with images from the Raya-Gajapati wars, mythical creatures, and scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. You can easily spot the mysterious Yali (part lion, part elephant, and part horse) here.
Pro Tip: This is a great place to get good pictures because there isn’t usually a big crowd here.
Probably the only temple dedicated to a Hindu goddess in the entire Hampi ensemble, Saraswati Temple is mostly in ruins today. It is located on the top of a hill near the octagonal bath in Hampi. Consequently, it provides a good view of the ancient city.
Built in the 13th century during the Vijayanaraga reign, this temple dedicated to Goddess Saraswati is much older than many others in the area. It is also one of the lesser-visited ones even though it has some amazing stone carvings. So, if you are looking for some peace, history, and art together, consider visiting the Saraswati Temple of Hampi.
Hazara Rama Temple
One of the most elegant temples in Hampi, the Hazara Rama Temple is also one of the lesser-visited ones. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Ram and has thousands of his images. It is located in the midst of Hampi’s royal quarters and is believed to have been the private temple of the royal family.
The Hazara Rama Temple is unique because of the hundreds of decorated bas reliefs that adorn the walls of the temple. They depict stories from the Hindu epic, Ramayana. And that is how the temple got its name because Lord Rama is represented countless number of times on these reliefs.
Prasanna Virupaksha Temple or The Underground Shiva Temple
Located pretty close to the Hazara Rama Temple within the Hampi royal complex is another interesting temple called the Prasanna Virupaksha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is unique because it is the only underground temple in Hampi and is located several meters below the ground.
The temple remains flooded most of the time especially during monsoons which means rainy season is definitely not the best time to visit here. We visited in November and even then, there was ankle-deep water inside the inner sanctum. But the pillars inside are beautiful carved and worth a peep even with all that water.
While Hazara Rama Temple was used as the temple for all royal ceremonies in the open, it is believed that Prasanna Virupaksha Temple was more of a place for extremely private events – things that needed to be done away from the eyes of the public. Intriguing, isn’t it?
Recommended: How to take a tour of Hampi’s royal enclosures?
One of the most incredible temples in Hampi, Achyutaraya Temple was a late creation (in fact, one of the last ones of the Vijayanagara Empire) and a beautiful one at that.
The temple is home to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu, and is named after the king who built it, Achyuta Deva Raya. Located between the Gandamadhana and Matanga hills, the temple is pretty off-the-beaten-path in Hampi. You have to take a flight of stairs from behind the monolithic Nandi statue to get here or take a walk from the coracle ride in Hampi near the Kodanda Rama Temple.
The hike is totally worth the effort. The temple is stunning with every inch of its walls and pillars covered with exquisite carvings. Quite notable here is the powerful depiction of Yalis that cover each of the monolithic pillar in the porch.
Pro Tip: Definitely one of the must-visit temples in Hampi. It is an architectural gem and provides wonderful photo ops.
Pattabhirama Temple is yet another massive and impressive structure in the whole Hampi ensemble. It is located a little further away from the main historic center which is why it is also one of the least visited. So, less crowds!
When we arrived here on a late Sunday afternoon, there was hardly a soul in sight. Some locals were having lunch and one of them kindly offered to tour guide us through the temple.
Pattabhirama Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is believed to have been an important pilgrimage center during the Vijayanagara times.
The highlight here is the main mantapa which is a splendid piece of Vijayanagara architecture. It has many pillars adorned with intricate designs. If you get a guide, they will show you that these pillars are musical too. Exactly like those of the Vijaya Vittala Temple.
Apart from the majestic temples of Hampi, you should also check out
- Amazing things to do on a trip to Hampi
- A detailed travel and history guide to Virupaksha Temple in Hampi
- A detailed travel and history guide to Vijaya Vittala Temple in Hampi
- How to enjoy a coracle ride in Hampi?
- Explore the royal enclosures of Hampi