Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in east-central Karnataka, India. It became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire capital in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travellers, particularly the Portuguese, state Hampi was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city near the Tungabhadra River, with numerous temples, farms and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained in ruins.

 

Texts and history

The toponym Hampi—traditionally known as Pampa-kshetra, Kishkindha-kshetra or Bhaskara-kshetra—is derived from Pampa, another name of the goddess Parvati in Hindu theology. According to mythology, the maiden Parvati resolves to marry the loner ascetic Shiva. Her parents learn of her desire and discourage her, but she pursues her desire. Shiva is lost in yogic meditation, oblivious to the world; Parvati appeals to the gods for help to awaken him and gain his attention. Indra sends the god Kama—the Hindu god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection—to awake Shiva from meditation. Kama reaches Shiva and shoots an arrow of desire. Shiva opens his third eye in his forehead and burns Kama to ashes. Parvati does not lose her hope or her resolve to win over Shiva; she begins to live like him and engage in the same activities—asceticism, yoga and tapasya—awakening him and attracting his interest. Shiva meets Parvati in disguised form and tries to discourage her, telling her about Shiva’s weaknesses and personality problems. Parvati refuses to listen and insists in her resolve. Shiva finally accepts her and they get married. According to Sthala Purana, Parvati (Pampa) pursued her ascetic, yogini lifestyle on Hemakuta Hill, now a part of Hampi, to win and bring ascetic Shiva back into householder life. Shiva is also called Pampapati (lit. “husband of Pampa”). The river near the Hemakuta Hill came to be known as Pampa river. The Sanskrit word Pampa morphed into the Kannada word Hampa and the place Parvati pursued Shiva came to be known as Hampe or Hampi.

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