In the Hindu legends of Ramayana, this area was Kishkinda, the realm of the monkey gods. In 1336 the Telugu princes Harihara and Bukka founded the city of Vijayanagar, which over the next couple of centuries grew into one of the largest Hindu empires in Indian history.
By the 16th century, the greater metropolitan region of Vijayanagar, surrounded by seven lines of fortification, covered 650 sq km and had a population of about 500, 000. Vijayanagar’s busy bazaars were centres of international commerce, brimming with precious stones and merchants from faraway lands. This all came to a sudden end in 1565 when the city was ransacked by a confederacy of Deccan sultanates; it subsequently went into terminal decline.
Today’s battles are being waged between those who want to protect what’s left of Hampi’s ruins and the people who now live there. Although it was declared a World Heritage site in 1986, only 58 of the 550 monuments in the area hold heritage-protection status. The businesses occupying Hampi Bazaar have been given their marching orders and a new complex for the area’s modern-day needs is under slow construction away from the monuments. Global Heritage Fund (www.globalheritagefund.org/where/hampi.html) have more details about Hampi’s endangered monuments.