What The Heirs Of Vijayanagara Feel About Hampi And Its Ongoing Ruin

What The Heirs Of Vijayanagara Feel About Hampi And Its Ongoing Ruin

by Harsha Bhat - Saturday, March 13, 2021 05:14 PM IST
What The Heirs Of Vijayanagara Feel About Hampi And Its Ongoing RuinKrishna Devaraya with his son Tirumala Venkata Devaraya
  • An interview with the heirs of Vijayanagara empire of Hampi on the current state of the once glorious empire Of Krishna Devaraya.

They are heirs to one of the most glorious kingdoms of India - an empire that not just upheld Dharma but also set a benchmark for one before it saw decline. Yet the namesake of Krishnadevaraya, the greatest ruler this land has witnessed, has the misfortune of witnessing the remnants of the Vijayanagara empire being ruined to this day.

One wall at a time, one pillar at a time, what should have been treated like prized possession is being relegated to dust and history - thanks to the apathy of authorities, lack of a single organisation to handle its upkeep, the attitude of letting ‘remains’ be treated as ‘ruins’ and the endless greed of those who plunder it to this day.

The ruin is ongoing as a large part of the compound wall of the Aliya Ramaraya palace has collapsed yesterday. Having visited the site, both Krishna Devaraya and his son Tirumala Venkata Devaraya have yet again sought action to check such destruction of the remains of the kingdom.

The young ‘Prince’ who is now involving himself with various local organisations and volunteers in cleanliness and conservation activities of Hampi is saddened by the collective apathy that is letting Hampi be ruined even today.

Tirumala Venkata Devaraya, a student of history at the University of Durham had also written a letter addressed to the PMO a month ago but ‘in vain’.

“The ASI and the govt don’t seem to be doing much about it - be it the monuments that are falling or the people scratching their names on them,”.

The ‘response’ that he received from the PMO office to his letter implied since there was not a ‘specific grievance’ so ‘nothing can be done’. “The website just said ‘case closed’. It wasn’t even a response from them’ he laments.

But this isn’t the first instance that the ruin has hurt the heirs, the locals and all those who see value in what we as a generation have inherited in Hampi. Krishna Devaraya, in an interview to Swarajya tells us of all this and more.

The Titular heirs of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara
The Titular heirs of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara

Reminscing his earliest memories, of visiting the Virupaksha temple every Monday along with his parents and when John Fritz and George Mitchell were in Hampi, attending the Hampi Rathotsava with his father, Krishna Devaraya wishes the change wasn’t this disappointing.

“There used to be lots of people participating in all the rituals but now the number has reduced. The current approach to conservation has led to curtailment of living traditions. This has severely impacted the cultural aspect of Hampi as well as causes needless hardship to both residents and pilgrims,”.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: As the heir of a kingdom that is said to be one of the country's most glorious ones, which aspect of its current situation hurts you the most?

Krishna Devaraya: Vijayanagara is still in the minds and hearts of the people. It might have faced certain military defeats but the noble ideas it has nourished for 300+ years are still enshrined in the hearts of the public. Thus the word Vijaya in Vijayanagara emphasises its triumph over perilous times.

Unfortunately, not many people are aware of the contributions of the Vijayanagara Empire to the history of our country. There is illegal quarrying going on around the monuments and the whole region as well. This is destroying its landscape. The monuments are being subjected to vandalism and it pains me that no one is taking interest in the conservation of this priceless piece of history that our country possesses.

Hampi’s iconic stone chariot (Ram Nagesh Thota/Wiki Commons)
Hampi’s iconic stone chariot (Ram Nagesh Thota/Wiki Commons)

Q: For decades the issues have stayed the same despite it being a world heritage site. What is it that ails Hampi and its management?

Krishna Devaraya: Any memory can stay alive when there is a gratitude show towards it by the next generations. Same is true with Vijayanagara monuments lying across South India. All of them need to respected and protected by one and all. As far as Hampi is concerned, I feel that no proper planning has been done since many decades. There are several agencies like the ASI centre, ASI state, Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority (HWHAMA), Gram panchayat, UNESCO but there is no coordination among them. No one from these agencies seems to be taking responsibility for coordinated functioning and the current situation in Hampi.

Q: There are so many agencies involved, many a NGO too who work around Hampi yet one can see the situation isn’t getting any better. Your comments.

Krishna Devaraya: In my opinion, the overall development of Hampi operationally and aesthetically can happen when there is an agency that works as a single window. Take for example HWHAMA – it must be made into an autonomous body and be vested with such authority that it can take up the projects at the appropriate time and on its own. It needs to be converted into an authority that can work professionally not one that spends time moving files from one government department to another.

Q: Given that facilities aren't up to the mark isn't it important to regulate Tourism?

It isn’t a question of regulating tourism as much as it is about creating awareness and making sure that the facilities are up to the mark. Hampi gets quite a substantial amount of funding, so facilities should be taken care of and revamped. It is my strong recommendation to all agencies – to please come out of the idea that Hampi is a place of dead people and culture. No. It is not.

Hampi’s ‘atma’ is very much alive and as vibrant as it was in the bygone centuries. Unless everyone sees the place as lively as it used to be, no effort can yield any result. I recall what Purandaradasaru said - “what is the use of doing Arati to a dead body?” Similarly, our efforts too will bear fruit only when we look at it as live inheritance rather than dead ruins.

Q: Floods affected the region badly last year. The monuments too are not weather protected. The "ruins" only seem to be further getting ruined. What can be done to ensure the structures aren't damaged by natural forces as well as humans?

Krishna Devaraya: Proper restoration work has to be implemented. Repair should be undertaken using the age old and indigenous lime and mortar technique and not the easier modern means of construction.

There has to be regular maintenance of the monuments which has not been done. The Achyuta Raya temple has no guards, nor any regulations in place. When my son visited it, he said there were kids playing football and fireworks were being burst inside the temple.

Heirs of Vijayanagara dynasty (Left) The extent of the empire until the Battle of Rakkasatangadi
Heirs of Vijayanagara dynasty (Left) The extent of the empire until the Battle of Rakkasatangadi
Krishna Devaraya, Twitter

Q: These were sites of worship and a temple was built especially for the community at large to use it. But relegated to the status of a monument it restricts access in the name of conservation. If you could do it any differently, how would you want these spaces to be functioning or utilised.

Krishna Devaraya: As I said before, the very assumption that Hampi is a city of dead is not only wrong but outrageous as well. This wrong premise of ‘dead city’ is the root cause of all its problems including calling a temple that can come back to life as a ‘monument.’

Their deplorable condition is evidence to the fact that the conservation efforts haven’t paid off. And this is mainly because they are being relegated to being just ‘monuments’.

It its time. Idols should be reinstalled in the garbhagrihas and nitya pooja should be started in these shrines once again.

One of the reasons Krishna Devaraya himself was famous was because he lavished on temples and conducted ’nitya poojas’ in almost all the temples across the south - even if those were temples built during the reign of the Hoysalas, Cholas, Chalukyas etc. Contrast to that, it is a travesty that in this day and age we cannot do the same for the temples in Sri Krishna Devaraya’s very own city.

Hopeful of a change in the times to come, Krishna Devaraya and his son look forward to initiating action in this direction. “There are many ideas that we are considering that are still at very initial stages. We would like to approach the concerned officials and get it implemented,” he says as he signs off.

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