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February 2015
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Hampi site

Hampi site. Karnataka © Cécile Sepulchre

When discovering Hampi, beyond the delights of walking around this site, you must consider the force of Indian history and penetrate the ‘deepest dreams of India’, which are so dear to André Malraux. Deemed a world heritage site by Unesco, this former capital of Vijayanagar was a greater city than Rome itself, housing a palace of sophistication and ambitions to rival Versailles. Its history has the air of legends, to the extent that it is impossible to differentiate between myth and reality.
With a lunar austerity about it, the site falls into a supernatural dimension with gigantic blocks of granite, from the original chaos of our planet, dramatically tangled up in fantastic stacks. Some may say that it is the work of demons or the gods.

Mythology tells us that this is the birthplace of one particular legend: Sugriva, the Monkey King, who reigned over the Kishkinda before leaving to help Rama find his wife, Sita, who was kidnapped by the demon Ravana. At the first of the 14th century, North India succumbed to the Muslim domination, whereas the South experienced instability under a charismatic leader. The tale touches on the legend that tells of Shiva, who asked his two brothers, Harihara and Bukha, to found a new town under the name Vijayanagar or “The City of Victory”. When seeking the spot to place the first stone, these two caught sight of a hare attacking two dogs. This unexpected vision convinced them, in around 1336, to choose this site, establishing the construction of the future capital of South India.

This royal city prospered for over two centuries, shining for its riches as well as its army, its creativity and architecture. The princes who ruled the city of gold, famous for its precious stones and fabrics, had established the world’s second richest city, after Rome. But a tragic end came to this pearl of India. Betrayal led to defeat against the coalition of Muslim sultans, who murdered King Ramaraja and his entire entourage. For six months, they plundered this city spanning 43 km2, massacring the population, burning and pillaging all its wonders…

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