The Royal Enclosure in Hampi is a huge fortified area that was once the core of the Vijayanagara Empire. The enclosed area was the place where the royal family of the Vijayanagara Empire used to dwell. The Royal Enclosure is spread across a huge area of 59,000 square metres.
It is believed that the enclosure once housed as many as 43 buildings, all for the use of the royal family. The area has ruins of several palace bases, water tanks, temple, ornate platform, aqueducts and canals, and many other structures.
- Timing: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM on all days of the week
- Entry Fee: No entry fee required
- Photography: Allowed
- Visit Duration: About 8 to 10 hours
- Best time to visit: From November to February
Entrances to the Royal Enclosure, Hampi
The Royal Enclosure, as the name indicates, was the place where the King of Vijayanagara Empire lived and ruled from. No wonder, the sprawling area was protected by double walls. It had three entrances, two on the northern side and one on the western side.
The ruins of one of the entrances on the northern side are located to the east of the audience hall. It served as the main entrance to the area during the period of the Vijayanagara Empire. During the period when the Vijayanagara kingdom was at its peak, this entrance was a well-guarded place. It had massive doorways to offer protection to the royal area.
The other entrance on the northern side is located near the stately Mahanavami Dibba platform. It had exquisitely carved doorways, similar to those used in temples during that period. The doors are carved out of a single stone and display the artistic talent of the workers of that era. The western entrance of the enclosure is located near a passage that connects it to the Hazara Rama temple on the northern side.
The Lost Splendour of the Royal Enclosure, Hampi
The Royal Enclosure is an area that consisted of some of the most magnificent structures of the Vijayanagara period. The architecture seen in some of the less damaged structures signify towards the prominent Vijayanagara style, though a few structures have traces of Mughal architecture as well.
As with most other structures of that period, the constructions within the Royal Enclosure show ample use of stones. It is also one of those areas in Hampi that has witnessed the maximum destruction. Some of the palaces and other structures have just their traces remaining in the form of their bases, while the whole upper structures have succumbed to destructive forces. Even then, the ruins within the enclosure manage to provide glimpses of the grandeur of royal life during that era.
A Few Impressive Structures within the Royal Enclosure, Hampi
The Royal Enclosure in Hampi has a certain unique characteristic about it. Even in its ruined condition, the area has the capacity to capture the imagination of the visitors and transform them to an era of magnificence. The area is akin to a large open-air museum that expresses two contrasting things at the same time:
- First, it portrays the architectural excellence that existed during the Vijayanagara era
- Second, it depicts the mass destruction of a hostile army that ruined such beautiful and precious structures without any hesitation.
However, the area still manages to attract a large number of tourists on a regular basis. A few impressive structures within the Royal Enclosure are:
Mahanavami Dibba: The Mahanavami Dibba is one of the most remarkable and prominent structures found among the ruins in Hampi. It is a pyramidal platform that was integral to the Dasara celebrations observed during the Vijayanagara Empire. The main attraction of the high platform is its ornate carvings of elephants, horses, soldiers and stately processions.
King’s Audience Hall or the Durbar Hall: The King’s Audience Hall is a huge structure that lies to the northwest corner of the Royal Enclosure and west of the Mahanavami Dibba. The hall contains remnants of 100 pillar-sockets and so, is also known as the 100 Pillared Hall.
Stepped Tank: The Stepped Tank is located in the south-eastern side of the Royal Enclosure. This elaborate tank is a beautiful ornate structure. The huge water tank has an area of 22 square meters and a depth of 7 meters. It is a 5 tiered tank and each tier comprises of a few steps.
Underground Chamber: The Underground Chamber is one of the most interesting structures that exist in the Royal Enclosure. It lies between the King’s Audience Hall and the Stepped Tank. It is believed to be a secret chamber where the king held important meetings and discussions with his trusted aides and other important people.
Hazara Rama Temple: The Hazara Rama Temple is the only temple that is situated within the Royal Enclosure. It is located at the centre of the Royal Enclosure. The main attraction of the temple is the multitude of bas-relics decorating the walls of the temple.
These bas-relics portray the story of Ramayana. The relics also portray processions of soldiers, elephants, horses, attendants, and dancing women taking part in the Dasara festival rally during that period.
Aqueducts: The Aqueducts in Hampi are an intriguing network of waterways that provided water to all corners of the town, including the Royal Enclosure. The main aqueduct of Hampi was built to provide water to the Royal Enclosure.
Public Bath: The Public Bath is situated at a short distance from the Stepped Tank. It is a pool with a huge size. It is connected to the main aqueduct that runs through the Royal Enclosure. The aqueduct used to provide the pool with fresh water during the days of the Vijayanagara Empire.
It is believed that the pool was open for use by the common people as well as for organizing water sports.
Present Condition of the Royal Enclosure, Hampi
The Royal Enclosure is among those areas in Hampi that has suffered the maximum damage. Many grand structures within the enclosure have nothing left of their superstructures. The only remnants of such structures are the base stones.
Several structures in the Royal Enclosure were constructed with stone and wood. As such, it was easier for the attackers to burn the wooden portions and bring about much more destruction than the solid stone structures found throughout Hampi.
In fact, on first look the Royal Enclosure seems to be a vast land with nothing interesting to see. However, on close observation the remnants speak about the rich architecture and the grandness of the buildings. Some of the structures are in a better condition than others.
The Royal Enclosure is like an open air museum that is scattered with relics from history. The Archaeological Survey of India has renovated some buildings within the enclosure. Even in its ruined form it remains one of the most interesting spots to visit in Hampi.
How to reach the Royal Enclosure?
The Royal Enclosure is among the most famous tourist spots in Hampi. The enclosure can be easily accessed by vehicle or on foot. It is better to keep some time in hand while visiting this fortified area as it is a vast place with remnants of several structures.
It is good for visitors to start early in the morning. Hiring a bicycle to visit the various structures within the Royal Enclosure is a good idea as it saves the visitors a lot of walking.
Hampi, though a famous tourist destination, has no airport of its own. Ballari (Bellary) is the nearest town to have an airport. Ballary is located at a distance of about 64 km from Hampi. Visitors can reach Ballari by flight and proceed to Hampi by means of local transport.
Hampi does not have a railway station within its area. The nearest railway station is situated in the town of Hosapete (Hospet). It has the Hospet Junction Railway Station. Hosapete is located at a distance of just 10 km from Hampi. One can easily take a bus or avail other means of local transport to reach Hampi from Hosapete.
Hampi has a good road network and is well connected to many towns and cities by means of the road network. There are several buses that operate between Hampi and many of the major towns and cities in Karnataka.
Visitors can hire private cars, cabs or other vehicles from major cities like Bengaluru (Bangalore) or Mysuru (Mysore) to reach Hampi.