- The foundation of Vijayanagara Empire
- Hampi – The land of Shiv, Vishnu and Ramayana
- Octagonal bath, Saraswati and Chandrasekhar Temple in Hampi
Hampi is the Land of Unbroken Sanctity.
One day incessant barking of dogs woke me up from the early morning slumber. I saw a rabbit running for its life followed by ferocious dogs; two warriors were also following that race of survival on their horses. These two warriors were not strangers to me. I had seen them in the area earlier as well, talking about their nomadic way of life; discussing the need to lay the foundation of their empire at a strategically located place and to settle down. Perhaps the wild chase in this boulder infested area made them curious and they decided to follow to see how long the dogs would take to finish the game.
The dogs were close. Rabbit reached a boulder, jumped over it only to stop running further and thus exposing itself. Suddenly it turned back and faced the dogs, and then barked at them. This sudden development surprised not only me, but also the two warriors and the wild dogs chasing it. The dogs stopped, looked at the rabbit for few seconds and ran back as fast as possible as if they followed a tiger in the disguise of a rabbit. Amazing turn of events! It was funny to see the aggressive dogs running for their life, afraid of a rabbit.
The two warriors were also amused with what just transpired in front of them. They were discussing it loudly, laughing at the way the rabbit managed to scare the dogs. Revered seer Vidyaranya was meditating around. When he heard the discussion and the laughter, he stopped his meditation and came out to see and meet them. On seeing a holy man coming towards them from behind a boulder, the two warriors got down of their horses, bowed to the holy man and narrated the incident they just witnessed and asked the wise sage about his opinion of the incident.
Instead of giving them the answer the sage smiled, looked at them piercingly and asked them, “Who are you? What are you looking for? I have not seen you here, earlier”.
The two warriors replied, “We are brother Harihara and Bukkaraya. We are looking for a suitable place to establish a kingdom that can stand like a wall to any invasion from North”.
The sage murmured, “You are at the right place”.
He then asked the two brothers, “What is your opinion about the strange incident you witnessed”?
Bukka replied, “In my opinion, there is not much in what we just watched. I think the clever rabbit ran out of its breath; realized that he might be caught any moment from now, so instead of running further, he decided to face the attackers. As such incident happened for the first time for these stupid dogs, they felt threatened and ran away.”
The sage smiled and asked again, “I understand that the dogs saw a barking rabbit for the first time, and they ran away. What about you? Have you seen or heard about a barking rabbit?”
The Sangma brothers were stumped and gave a puzzled look. Both of them now looked at the saint with immense curiosity to unravel the mystery for them. I also started to listen carefully to understand what is so special about my surroundings.
The sage replied in a deep, calm voice, “This is not a normal piece of land. It is a land of God and Goddesses with an unbroken tradition of sanctity from the time immemorial. What you saw a few minutes ago was not an exceptional occurrence. It is the result of power this sacred land bestows on its inhabitant”.
Tungbhadra river and Hemkunta Hill, Hampi : The land of Shiva and Pampadevi
The sage then pointed his fingers towards the Tungabhadra river flowing, “Let me tell you the story of the river that was known as the Pampa River in the ancient times. You would be knowing about the suicide of Sati when her father Daksha insulted Lord Shiva; after committing suicide Sati took many births and rebirths. In one of her births she was born as Pampadevi to none other than Lord Brahma. She grew up into a beautiful maiden. Around the age of marriage when Lord Brahma discussed various proposals of marriage, she clarified that she would marry no-one else but Shiva only.
In her pursuit to please Shiva, she started doing severe penance and meditation. She took a vow that she would not touch any male except Shiva. One day a sage came and asked her, “I am traveling from far. I am very hungry. Could you please provide me some food?”
Devi Pampa was happy to get this opportunity to serve a holy man. She replied, “It would be my pleasure O holy soul”. She noticed that the sage was tired and was covered in dust. She suggested, “While I am preparing food for you, why don’t you go and take bath in the river flowing nearby. It would refresh and rejuvenate you.”
While she was preparing the meal for the sage. She heard loud calls for help coming from the bank of the river. She rushed to the river. A crocodile was holding the sage’s leg and pulling him into the water. The sage was crying for help. He stretched his hand to be hold so that he can avoid crocodile’s strong grip. She did not think even once before stretching her hand to pull the sage out of crocodile’s grip.
The sage thanked her, but there was something mischievous in his mannerism. Pampadevi noticed that even after strong grip of crocodile there were no wounds on his leg. She then remembered of her vow of not touching any male other than Lord Shiva. It had been violated during the incident. She was enraged that her vow was broken by the deceiving sage. She looked angrily at the sage. The anger and the fury was so strong in those eyes that the sage was left with no option but to reveal his true identity.
He was Shiva himself!
Shiva revealed his identity and asked for her hand. Pampadevi’s prayers were answered. She requested Shiva to take permission from her father Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma was waiting long for this auspicious union. He readily agreed. On the auspicious day of their marriage, God and Goddess showered gold from the sky. It is believed that the gold showered was so much that the hillock on which the marriage was solemnized completely got covered with it. Since then the hillock is known as the Hemakuta hill, meaning the hill with a golden peak.
Locally, the bridegroom, Lord Shiva was known as Lord Virupaksha, the god with oblique eyes and the whole region become famous as Pampakshetra. In Sthalpurana, a compendium of local myths associated with Lord Virupaksha and Pampadevi have been mentioned.
Bukka replied with an awe, “So this is the land of Lord Shiva. The numerous lingas etched on the rocks and equally high number of Shiva’s shrines affirms Shiva’s association with the place”.
The sage Vidyaranya refuted him, “Don’t differentiate holy places as the land of Lord Vishnu or of Lord Shiva. This mythical landscape is imbued with the presence of many God and Goddesses. Follow me.”
The sage then signaled Hakka and Bukka to follow him.
Chakra Tirth, Hampi: Where Vishnu got His Sudarshan Chakra
The sage brought them to the bank of the Tungabhadra River, Rishiyamukha Hill is in its North and the Matanga hill formed its backdrop. Here the river takes a Northward turn through a rugged narrow gorge, which makes its water to swirl fast. The sage then told them, “The water is swirling fast even on the surface today, so you know its dangerous. But, even if it appears calm and placid on surface, there are such strong undercurrents that they can easily throw away an expert swimmer or even the coracles.”
“This place has a strong religious significance and it is considered as the holiest bathing place on the banks of Tungabhadra. It is known as the Chakratirtha as it was on this spot the Lord Vishnu got Sudarshan Chakra as a boon from Lord Shiva”.
The sage continued, “Once the demons became very powerful. They started to attack the heaven quite often and tormented Devtas. The devtas approached Lord Vishnu to protect them and to save them from the daily menace created by the demons. Lord Vishnu suggested them to approach Lord Shiva. Looking at their helpless faces, he realized that they were not able to contact him. So he decided to approach Lord Shiv on their behalf. However, Lord Shiva was in trance and even Vishnu could not get his attendance. To please Shiva and to get his attention, Vishnu decided to pray earnestly. He made a daily routine of reciting his thousand names, and at the end of prayer, he offered him thousand lotuses.
Shiva was pleased with Vishnu’s devotion. However, he decided to test him further. One day when Vishnu was taking his names, he stole one of the thousand lotuses Vishnu had collected to offer him. After the prayers, when Vishnu offered the lotus flowers he noticed that he had only nine-hundred and ninety-nine flowers. He decided that his daily routine must go without disruption; to compensate the one missing lotus, he decided to pluck his lotus like eye and offer it to Shiva. When he attempted to do so, Lord Shiva appeared and asked the reason for his penance. When Shiv learnt about it, he granted Lord Vishnu the Sudarshan Chakra which swirled like the water of Tungbhadra at the Chakratirtha. He also told him that this weapon will be Vishnu’s permanent companion, it would return to him after every use.
On a Ramayan Trail in Hampi :
So now you understand the importance of this land. However, this mythical landscape is not only associated with Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, but also prominently features in Ramayana too. In those days the place was known as Kishkindha-Kshtera. Harihara (also know as Hakka) was listening with rapt attention, it was now his turn to speak, “This terrain appears similar to the image of the place I formed while reading Ramayana.”
The sage adds, “In the Telugu and Kannada version of the Ramayana, Kishkindha’s landscape has been described in great detail and it is mentioned in those Holy Scriptures that the River Pampa flows through Kishkindha, adding authenticity to the popular imagination.
Matang Hill where Sugriv took refuge
The hill behind you is the Matanga Hill. You would be knowing that once Bali (the monkey king of Kishkindha) and Sugriva (his brother) were challenged by the demon Mayavi. When Mayavi realized that he was no match to Bali’s strength, he ran for his life. The two brothers followed him. Mayavi entered a cave to save himself. Bali decided to follow him there too; before entering the cave he instructed Sugriva that he must wait for his return only for six months, after that he must return to the kingdom assuming that he is no more.
One day, Sugriva saw a stream of blood flowing through the cave. Either Bali or the Mayavi was dead. Sugriva waited for six months, but no one came out of the cave. He concluded that somehow Mayavi managed to kill Bali. In order to stop that demon from coming out of the cave, he put a huge boulder over the cave and returned. Realizing that the kingdom needs a king, he reluctantly occupied the throne.
However, it was Bali who killed Mayavi and not the other way round. When he returned back to the entrance of the cave, he found a big boulder covering its mouth. It took him great efforts to remove the boulder. He was wondering why Sugriva left and who put the boulder to close the cave. When he reached the kingdom he saw Sugriva on the throne and concluded that Sugriva closed the access in the lust for the power. Anger blinded him; he rushed to kill Sugriva. Sugriva tried to reason but Bali did not listen and intended to kill Sugriv.
It was the Matanga Hill over which Sugriva took refuge; Sugriva knew that it was the only place where he would be safe. Bali would not dare to climb over it as he was cursed by Matanga Rishi that he would be dead if he ever tried to climb the hill. There is an interesting story behind this incident too.
Once a powerful demon Dundhubhi arrived in Kishkindha and challenged Bali for a duel. He was coming from far, challenging, defeating and killing many on the way. His desire to meet a strong opponent bought him to Kishkindha. However, Bali was not an ordinary combatant. He was probably the strongest man of his time. He caught hold of the demon from its neck, broke it, swirled hid dead body and threw it on a far-away hill. Unfortunately, Matanga Rishi was living on that hill and he was doing the preparation for the Yajna. The corpse of the demon fell over his yajna vedi and blood flowed all over his ashram.
The rishi was extremely angry on the person who dared to impure his Ashram to boast of his powers. He cursed that the person who threw that dead body to the hill would be dead, if he would ever tried to climb over it.
You would be surprised to know that Dundhubhi was Mayavi’s father – What a strange turn of events.” Rishi paused and pointed to another hill.
Anjangiri : where Mahaveer Hanuman was born
“On the other side of the Tungabhadra River is Anjanagiri where Mahaveer Hanuman was born. The mountain hill is now revered by the name of Lord Hanuman’s mother, Anjana Mata. Hampi is hemmed by granite peaks, the highest being Matanga hill, 145 mts above sea level and Anjenadri – around 140 mts above sea level.
When Ravana kidnapped Maa Sita, she threw her jewelry over here. So in case Lord Rama ever reach here in her search, he would be aware of her trail. Sugriva saw the jewelry being thrown from the sky near a small water body which is now known as Sita Sarovar, and hid it in a cave.
Rishiymookha Hill : Where Ram, Laxman met Hanuman
Later when Rama and Lakshman reached Kishkindha and were looking for Sita’s clue, Sugriva spotted them on Rishiyamookha Parvat, and send Hanuman to inquire about them. He feared that the two warriors might have been sent by Bali to kill him. And so the first meeting between Ram, Lakshman and Hanuman took place on Rishiyamookha hill.
Ram found Bali’s behaviour inappropriate and killed him. There is a huge mound of ash in the nearly village of Nimbapuram, which locals believe is the cremated remains of Bali.”
Now indicating to a temple behind Hakka and Bukka, Rishi continued the tale.
Malyavanta Hill : Where Lord Ram and Laxman stayed
“After Bali’s death, Sugriva was made the king in the Kondadrama Temple behind you. Monsoon started by that time, so Sugriva requested Lord Rama to wait for it to be over, after which he would send search parties to look for Maa Sita. Lord Rama and Lakshman stayed on the Malyavanta Hills during that time.”
The sage paused and spoke again, “You will now agree with me that this is a not a normal place, but a sacred place that blesses its inhabitant with sacred powers. Also, this place with numerous hillocks, massive boulders and a terrain with granite outcrop provides formidable natural barrier and enormous raw material to do the fortification. Once the fortification is done, no enemy cavalry or army of foot soldiers would be able to approach or attack the citadel with ease.
Further south the granite outcrop gradually disappears into a landscape with broad plains that continues for over ten kilometer ending at the foot of the steep slopes of the Sandur hills beyond the footstep of the town of Hospet. This fertile land would provide food for the people of Hampi. In my opinion, this is the place where you must lay the foundation of the new empire.”
Birth of the future empire of Vijaynagar
Hukka and Bukka then told the revered saint how they were captured and taken to Delhi as prisoners, how they were forcefully converted to Islam and were sent back by Tuglaq as his mercenary. They expressed their desire to give-up the forced religion and to break-free of Tuglaq and assert their independence. Sage Vidyaranya gave the duo his blessings of laying the foundation of the strongest city in the world that would never be captured by is enemies. Sangma brothers gave up Islam and on 18th April 1336, Harihara was coronated in presence of Lord Virupaksha; he took the pledge of ruling as the agent of the Lord Virupaksha and the sage Vidyaranya was appointed his spiritual mentor. This small foundation grew into an empire that acted as a bulwark against attacks and destruction of temples by invaders.