The Zenana Enclosure was a fortified and secluded area reserved for the royal ladies of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Zenana Enclosure is located in the area approaching the Royal Enclosure and near the Ranga Temple.
The enclosure is a sprawling compound that had tall walls surrounding it on all sides and watch towers to keep guard against any trespassers. It was constructed during the days of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The highlight of the Zenana Enclosure is the Lotus Mahal or Kamal Mahal, one of the most remarkable structures in Hampi.
- Timing: 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on all days of the week
- Entry Fee for Indians: 10.00
- Entry Fee for Foreigners: 250.00
- Entry Fee for Children: Free for Children under 15 years of age
- Photography: Allowed (no extra charges levied)
- Video Charges: RS. 25.00
- Visit Duration: Around 3 hours
- Best time to visit: From November to February
Protection Provided to Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
A distinctive feature about the Zenana Enclosure is that it was a well-guarded place during the days of the Vijayanagara Empire. The fortified area has two entrances, one in the northern side and the other in the north-eastern side.
The enclosure initially had four watch towers. But now, there are just three watch towers which are located in the eastern, south eastern and northern sides of the enclosure. The presence of these three watch towers indicates that the enclosure was a protected area that offered privacy to the royal women of the Vijayanagara Empire, including the Queen.
It is believed that the watch towers and the whole enclosure were guarded by the eunuchs. These eunuchs prevented any male from entering the area. The only exception is believed to be the king, who had the right to visit his queen inside the enclosure.
Unique Architecture of Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
The structures of the Zenana Enclosure are designed in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. It is a deviation from the traditional Vijayanagara style of architecture seen in most monuments and structures of Hampi. The design of the structures in the Indo-Islamic style reflects the secular view of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Though most of the structures within the enclosure are in a ruined condition, the Lotus Mahal is in an undamaged condition. It provides ample scope for visitors to admire the exceptional and distinctive architecture used for the design of the structure.
Key Attractions of Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
The Zenana Enclosure is an area that has quite a few interesting structures. The fortified area includes several structures such as the Lotus Mahal, Basement of the Queen’s Palace, Water Pavilion, Treasury Building and the Watch Towers.
Lotus Mahal: The main attraction of the Zenana Enclosure is the Lotus Mahal. It is located in the south-eastern corner of the enclosure. It is one of the most famous structures in Hampi and one of the very few structures that have been left undamaged by the Mughal attackers. It is a beautiful domed structure has been designed in the shape of a lotus bud.
The archways of the structure resemble petals of a lotus and provide the whole structure the shape of a half-open lotus bud. The Lotus Mahal is a two storied symmetric structure that has tall arched windows.
Basement of Queen’s Palace: The Queen’s Palace is a ruined structure that has only the basement as a proof of its existence. The basement is located in the centre of the Zenana Enclosure. The basement has an area of about 46 x 29 meters. It is the largest palace base excavated among the Hampi ruins so far.
The elaborate base is a three-tiered ornate structure that suggests that the original palace might have been a grand structure. There is a deep rectangular water tank near the basement. It was probably used as a source of water for the palace.
Water Pavilion: The Water Pavilion is located opposite to the palace base and at the eastern side of the enclosure. The water pavilion is a decorated platform situated in the centre of a shallow pool. Though the water pavilion is no longer in a working condition, the low spot is one of the attractions of the enclosure.
Treasury Building: The Royal Treasury Building is a rectangular structure that is located in the north-western corner of the enclosure. The building is a plain looking structure, without any distinctive features. It has a simple entry at the eastern side.
The building has a corridor inside that runs on all sides and has arches at regular intervals. Some people believe that it was actually the quarters of the eunuchs who used to guard the Zenana Enclosure.
However, the building contains no windows or any source of light. This enhances the belief that it was not used as a living quarter, but as a storage space for something important.
Watch Towers: The three Watch Towers are located in three corners of the enclosure. Each tower is a two storied structure built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. There are steps that lead to the top of two of the towers.
The sight from the top is a beautiful one. Visitors can have a view of the surrounding areas and the Elephant Stables situated behind the enclosure from the top of the towers. It is believed that the ladies of the royal family could stand at the top of the these watch towers and look at the royal processions and other ceremonies without being seen by the common people.
Contrasting Belief about the Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
Some archaeologists believe that the Zenana Enclosure was not at all an area for the Royal women. They assume that the Lotus Mahal was a council room where the King used to hold meetings with his chief commanders.
The treasury building is supposed to be an armoury. According to them, the palace was the King’s Palace. Their assumptions are based on the fact that the area of the Zenana Enclosure is located near the Elephant Stables and the Guards Quarters.
The area is considered to be more appropriate for being a King’s habitat rather than a secluded place for the royal women.
Present Condition of the Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
The Zenana Enclosure has some ruined buildings and a few undamaged structures. The surrounding wall of the enclosure is in a ruined state. The watch towers are in a ruined state, but at least one can be accessed to reach the top.
The water pavilion is also in a non-functional state. The treasury building is also in a state of ruins. The Queen’s Palace is a totally ruined structure with just the basement remaining there.
However, the one structure that is in an almost intact condition is the Lotus Mahal. It is not only the main attraction of the Zenana Enclosure, but also one of the most beautiful structures found among the ruins in Hampi.
How to reach the Zenana Enclosure
The Zenana Enclosure in Hampi is a tourist spot that is regularly visited by people from far and near. The area is easily accessible by vehicles. It is one of the few places in Hampi that requires a ticket for entry.
Hampi, the famous tourist destination, does not have an airport of its own. The nearest town to have an airport is Ballari (Bellary). Visitors can travel to Ballari by flight and then proceed to Hampi by means of local transport. Ballary is situated at a distance of about 64 km from Hampi.
Hampi is an ancient town with no railway station of its own. The nearest railway station is located at the city of Hosapete (Hospet) that has the Hospet Junction Railway Station. Hosapete stands at a distance of just 10 km from Hampi. There are several means to reach Hampi from Hosapete. One can take a bus or avail other means of local transport to reach Hampi.
Hampi has a good road network and is well connected to several places through this network. There are a number of buses that ply between Hampi and several major towns and cities in Karnataka. Visitors can opt to hire private cars, cabs or other vehicles from major cities like Bengaluru (Bangalore) or Mysuru (Mysore) to reach Hampi.