Demolition at Hampi exposes treasures of Vijayanagar empire

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What was supposed to be a ho-hum demolition drive in Hampi last month, turned out to be the beginning of an exciting journey to unearth stunning treasures of the glorious Vijayanagar Empire. 

The Hampi Demolition site [Credit: Bangalore Mirror]

On July 29, the Hampi Development Authority, under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which was involved because Hampi is a heritage site, started demolition of 260 illegal constructions along the Virupaksha Bazaar Street — the very place where ages ago gold, diamonds and rubies were sold on pavements. And the rubble threw up glimpses of more historical treasure lying underneath. 

The demolition drive unearthed several artefacts — statues, pillars and even an underground floor. The list grew every day, and ASI authorities are convinced that they had found the tip of a mountain of treasure of the Vijayanagar  Empire which still lies hidden. They are saying it could be something as big as the find at the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala. 

“It has been decided to excavate the entire stretch of over 1 km, using over a 100 staff members. It is going to be one of the largest excavations in recent times,” an ASI source at Hampi told Bangalore Mirror.

For the first time, an excavation will be carried out so close to the Virupaksha Temple. An eight-foot-deep trench will be dug up with the help of experts to ensure that the heritage structure is not damaged. 

A statue of a lioness emerged from the rubble [Credit: Bangalore Mirror]

First finds 

On the first day of the demolition drive, officials found a water-tank made of white stone. Then followed other artefacts — a pot, three statues of Basavanna made of white stone, a statue of a lioness, and a headless black stone statue. 

Ancient pillars were found, and most importantly, there emerged an underground floor dating back to the 13th-century Vijayanagar era. 

A large statue of an elephant, with only its head showing [Credit: Bangalore Mirror]

A large statue of an elephant, with only its head showing, found about eight feet below the ground near the Kalika Temple, on the right side of the Virupaksha Temple, has added to the leads. ASI officials feel that all this is just a tip of the proverbial iceberg and that more treasure lies beneath. 

More than eight steps of the Virupaksha Temple buried beneath the earth, gives more credence to this notion. 
Since the Virupaksha Temple housed the main deity of the Vijaynagar rulers, officials think treasure may have been hidden around the temple. 

An ASI technical team, led by expert G S  Narasimhan, along with the local tahsildar, has visited and inspected the place. “We have discussed how to go about the excavation. We will be working on preserving the present structure and will further excavate and explore for historical treasure,” Kempegowda, conservation assistant, ASI, said. 

Author: Chetan R | Source: Bangalore Mirror [August 11, 2011]

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