The Courtesan Street (Soolai Bazaar or Sule Bazaar) in Hampi is a deserted temple street. It is located at the foot of the Matanga Hill and in front of the beautiful Tiruvengalanatha Temple, also known as Achyuta Raya’s Temple. Lined with a number of exquisitely carved pillars, this street was one of the liveliest market places of the Vijayanagara Empire. Even today it grabs the attention of visitors due to its beauty and lost splendour.
- Timing: From 5:30 AM – 1:00 PM and from 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM on all days of the week
- Entry Fee: No entry fee required
- Photography: Allowed
- Visit Duration: 1 to 2 hours
- Best time to visit: From November to February
History of the Courtesan Street or Sule Bazaar, Hampi
The Courtesan Street is one of the four market places that existed in Hampi during the time of the Vijayanagara Empire. An interesting fact to note is that all these four market places were situated opposite four prominent and large temples.
The Courtesan Street, as the name indicates, was a market place occupied by the dancing girls of ancient Hampi. As such, it is also referred to as the dancing-girls street of Hampi.
The Courtesan Street is also known by several other names such as the Soolai Bazaar or Sule Bazaar, which literally means the prostitute’s market or the harlots market. The dancing girls used to stand on this street and entice men. There are vivid descriptions of the market in many ancient literatures, documents and archives.
The Ruined Beauty of the Courtesan Street, Hampi
The Courtesan Street (Soolai Bazaar or Sule Bazaar) was one of the most interesting thoroughfares of the Vijayanagara Empire. It was a street with a length of half a kilometre and a width of 50 metres. The street was lined by finely carved pillars that stood it’s on both sides. The pillars were once part of pavilions that also lined the street during the days of the Vijayanagara Empire. However, the pavilions are in a ruined condition now. But even in the damaged condition the street and the temple forms a picturesque setting.
There is a large rectangular stepped tank or bath located at the northwest end of the street. The tank is presumed to be a part of the Tiruvengalanatha (a form of Lord Vishnu) Temple.
Interestingly, the tank has a small rectangular pillared pavilion at its centre. Though the pavilion has been damaged, its traces can still be found inside the tank. The pavilion was used as a base to keep the images of the god & goddess during the annual boat festival of the temple. The street is also flanked by two ruined ramp-like structures that stand on both sides of the main entrance of the temple. These were used as a place for the huge temple chariots.
Present Condition of the Sule Bazaar, Hampi
The Courtesan Street was once a lively place that brimmed with activity. But today it is a deserted and ruined place that stands with its ruined glory and beauty.
No activity can be seen in the area except for a few restoration activities that are carried out by the archaeological survey teams. But the place attracts tourists who love to stand among the ruined structures and try to imagine the hustle-bustle of the by-gone days in that market place.
How to reach Soolai Bazaar, Hampi
The Courtesan Street or Soolai Bazaar is located at the base of the Matanga Hill. As the route to the street is a rocky one, it is not possible to reach it by motor vehicles. However, the place can be reached by a bicycle.
Hampi is an ancient city with no airport of its own. The nearest town to have an airport is Bellary. Visitors can take a flight to Bellary (Ballari) and then avail local means of transport to reach Hampi. Bellary is situated at a distance of about 64 km from Hampi.
The nearest railway station to reach Hampi is located at the nearby city of Hospet. The Hospet Junction Railway Station is situated at a distance of about 10 km from Hampi. One can reach Hampi from Hospet (Hosapete ) by taking one of the buses that travel frequently between the two places. There are also other means of local transport to reach Hampi from Hospet.
Hampi is well connected by the road network. The ruined town can be easily reached by buses that operate from a number of major towns and cities in Karnataka. There are also provisions for hiring private cars, cabs or other vehicles from major cities like Bengaluru (Bangalore) or Mysuru (Mysore) to reach Hampi.