Hampi the 14th century capital city of the Vijayanagar Empire lies in the Deccan heartland, in the state of Karnataka. The ruins spread over an area of more than 26 sq. kms protected by the tempestuous river Thungabhadra in the North and by rocky granite on the other three sides. A terrain such as this was excellent for a capital city that needed to be vigilant. It may not have been military shrewdness alone that made the god-conscious Vijayanagar kings settle for this fierce landscape and build on it one of the great imperial cities of medieval times. It was believed to have been the site of the monkey kingdom of Kishkindha associated with the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. The presence of a large number of monkeys seems to testify to that.
HAMPI, the abode of Lord Virupaksha and his consort Pampadevi, has a hoary past. Traditions and local legends speak of the penance of Shiva on the Hemakuta hill and his subsequent marriage with Parvathi. The ancient Kishkindha of the Ramayana was situated close to present day Hampi. This is the site of the fight between Vali and Sugriva, killing of Vali by Lord Rama, and the subsequent stay of Rama in Malyavantha Hill when Hanuman went in search of Sita to Lanka. Thus, many of the sites: Matunga, Malyavantha, Rishyamukha, Anjanadri Hills and Pampa Sarovar and Sita Serugu are all associated with RAMAYANA.
Hampi or Hampe is generally held to be a later Kannada form of the term Pampa, the ancient name of the river Tungabhadra. The site is naturally endowed with great strategic importance. The wide, torrential Tungabhadra on one hand and the rugged hillocks on the other made it a natural fortress. These factors no doubt induced the Vijayanagara rulers to choose this site. What was once only a pilgrim center of the devout became the seat of a mighty empire.
Hampi is also referred to a Virupakshapura, Vidyanagara and Vijayanagar. In course of time, this capital city developed into a sprawling metropolis with the establishment of suburbs of Krishnapura, Nagalapura, Tirumalapura and others. Lord Virupaksha became the patron deity of Vijayanagar rulers and they used the word " VIRUPAKSHA " as their insignia.
The city was founded in 1336 by two brothers Harihara (also called Hakka) and Bukka who had been taken as prisoners of war by the Delhi Sultan, Mohammed-bin-Tuglak in 1326-1327, when the Chalukyan kingdom of Kampili near Hampi was overthrown. Harihara and Bukka seem to have been model prisoners, because when his southern provinces began to get rebellious, the sultan sent back the brothers to restore order. Restore order they did, and so successfully that they were soon able to set up an independent kingdom. The Vijayanagar Empire grew in strength and splendor and resisted all onslaughts till 1565 when the then Vijayanagar commander Rama Raya was defeated by a confederation of Muslim kings and the capital city was ransacked.
The Vijayanagar rulers were in power from 1336 till the battle of Rakkasa -Tangadi in 1565. After the disastrous battle, the rulers shifted their capital from Hampi, which never recovered its past glory and is in a ruined state till today. The disaster of the 1565 defeat can still be seen in the ruins of the imperial-city. Workmen seem to have fled, abandoning their tools by the side of the river. The broken kingdom came under the Moghul rule in 1689 and was later annexed by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1780.