The tourist town of Hampi in Karnataka’s arid Ballari district and home to the erstwhile Vijayanagar empire, finds itself in second place in the New York Times’ list of ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’. Hampi is the only Indian destination, which has managed to secure a place in the list.
The top position is held by the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in late 2017.
The ruins and remains of the glorious 14th century kingdom have already been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and in February 2018, the Union government chose it to be one of the 10 tourist destinations across India to be developed as an ‘Iconic Tourism Site’.
The place is best known for several Hindu temples that have been constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture. However, Hampi’s most famous icon is the stone chariot in the Vittala Temple. Over six lakh tourists including foreigners, flock to Hampi annually.
Located in Hosapete taluk of Ballari district, there are 57 major monuments in Hampi, most of which come under the core zone of Hampi, including four villages spread across 41.8 sq. km.
The UNESCO describes, “Hampi’s spectacular setting is dominated by river Tungabhadra, craggy hill ranges and open plains, with widespread physical remains. The sophistication of the varied urban, royal and sacred systems is evident from the more than 1600 surviving remains that include forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, Mandapas, memorial structures, gateways, defence check posts, stables, water structures, etc.”
Recently, the tourist town had, however, made news for the wrong reasons. The Karnataka government in late November had announced that the annual Hampi Utsav would be cancelled as an austerity measure in light of three consecutive drought years. The festivities include cultural events, music shows, puppet shows, dance performances by artists from the state and elsewhere, apart from other recreational activities.
The cancellation triggered protests from locals and from the opposition BJP, forcing the newly elected Congress MP from the district— VS Ugrappa, to announce that all MLAs, MPs of the area will speak to the chief minister to hold the festival. However, despite this, the Hampi Utsav was finally not held.