Karnataka, India

Sacked 1565

The Disappointed Tourist: Hampi, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 24 x 18″ (61 x 46 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Hampi (also known as Hampe or the Group of Monuments at Hampi), located in present day Karnataka, was the capital of the Vijanyanagara Empire in the 14th Century. At the time it was the world’s second largest city, attracting traders from as far away as Persia and Portugal who left descriptions of its wealth and beauty. The city is mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Puranas. In 1565, the Vijanyanagara Empire was destroyed by a coaltion of Muslim sultanates, leaving Hampi in ruins. 

The site is now a designated UNESCO heritage site and covers over 4,100 hectares (16 sq. mi) and includes many impressive structures although most of it is in ruins. I couldn’t find a reconstruction of what the city looked like before its destruction, so I ended up painting the Virupaksha Temple which has remained an an important Hindu religious center to this day. It felt strange painting something that actually still exists. . .  The painting is based on an uncredited photograph.

I wrote a book about the Vijayanagara Empire. (20 years ago) The cover is an interior royal court painting by an artist 75 years ago. Look closely and besides the elephants and the king, you can see musicians etc. and a wall, and a flag with the Vijayanagara emblem of sword and boar. I have written descriptions from visitors there 500 years ago, in parts of my book. Hampi is another name for Vijayanagara, which the empire was called officially. William J.