The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi, India, is one of the world’s most stunning archaeological sites.
Where We Work
With its collection of over 500 monuments spread over 26 square kilometers, the natural and cultural splendor of Hampi is undeniable. Temples from this ruined city are known for their large size and wealth of sculptures depicting subjects from the India epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The highlight of the ruins is the Vitthala Temple, whose outer pillars, known as the Musical Pillars, reverberate when tapped.
Founded in 1336, the site of Hampi, Karnataka, is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River with a backdrop of majestic rock boulders. Once the capital of the Vijayanagara Kingdom, the 15th century Chandramauleshwar Temple is centrally located in Hampi and is one of the site’s most prominent architectural buildings, aligned with the primary axis of Vithhala Temple overlooking two rivers on a popular pilgrimage route to a sacred mountain at Hampi. In 1986, UNESCO inscribed the group of monuments at Hampi as a World Heritage Site. More recently, Hampi was listed by UNESCO on the List of World Heritage in Danger, a move prompted by the construction of two new suspension bridges and a new major road within the Core Protected Area, as the addition of the road and bridges threaten the World Heritage site’s integrity. However, in 2006 Hampi was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger after addressing the World Heritage Centre’s (WHC) concerns.
A decade of research at Hampi by scholars from 1987 to1997 has revealed a much larger area of settlement around the urban core and World Heritage Zone, where a large population lived and transformed the landscape. The Vijaynagar Greater Metropolitan region of approximately 650 square kilometers includes an enormous wealth of built structures, archaeological sites and natural features—including forts (evidence of as many as 10), walled settlements (5), temples and religious sites, mortuary sites, tanks, canals, fields, trade routes, civic structures and remains of industrial sites. All these structures are located in the unique natural landscape of Tungabhadra, famous for its watershed and boulders.
Beyond the ongoing deterioration of the monuments and sculptures throughout Hampi, there exist serious problems in the current site designation, land use, and the implementation of cultural heritage policies and regulations at Hampi. Only a few monuments in the citadel area of Hampi were designated UNESCO World Heritage or National Heritage, where as the actual setting and the context was not. As well, recent research shows that many important monuments exist outside the protected area that are facing complete devastation, with many being used for building materials of modern structures within the town.
Conservation of historic Hampi has been underway since the end of the 19th century, but much of the conservation work has lacked proper sciences or documentation resulting in poor restoration. A great deal of work at Hampi has been piece-meal in nature and each monument has experienced a wide range of conservation techniques, many unsuccessful.
The site of Hampi as a whole has been threatened by unplanned development, inadequate protection and seasonal flooding, while prior to GHF involvement Chandramauleshwar Temple was facing a number of immediate threats including:
- Collapsing gateways and fortification walls
- Deterioration of temple exterior/interior
- Misuse of temple for storage and refuse
- Animal and human feces
- Fire damage and scorching
- Water damage/leakage
- Plant growth and intrusion
- Looting and vandalism
What We Do
Of significance is the fact that the work on this temple is the first pilot project in Karnataka for the restoration of a State Protected Monument in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi, and is further a pioneering initiative of public-private partnership by the Hampi Foundation and the Government of Karnataka. By establishing best practices in this project, it can serve as an exemplar for future preservation projects within the site and across the region.
A Master Conservation Plan for the temple and its environs was identified as the first necessary step before any other work could proceed, and this was completed in 2004. Since that time, the focus has shifted to the stabilization of the temple and its associated structural features. In 2007, the initial mobilization works of setting up a site office, providing support bracings and shoring for the temple proper and embankment walls were undertaken. In 2008, the site work has focused on consolidation of the upper embankment wall supporting the temple platform after careful numbering, dis-assembly and re-assembly.
The Master Conservation Plan incorporates an international approach to heritage and tourism, one that will take into account each site’s spectacular landscape, vernacular buildings of the surrounding villages, the traditional understanding of sacred sites, the monuments and ruins, as well as the needs of local communities. Under GHF planning, the modern concept of heritage encompasses the entire complex cultural eco-system, blending archeological aspects with environmental (natural landscape) and cultural aspects (traditional ways of life, music, dances, customs and folk arts).
GHF is undertaking stabilization of the temple’s foundation and conservation of the walls and roofs of the main hall and other sacred chambers as well as the temple embankment walls. A large number of structural components of the main temple and plaza area, are piled up around the temple and must be inventoried and analyzed to determine appropriate usage and placement, both for structural integrity and architectural and historical authenticity.
Chandramauleshwar Temple will be one of the first structures at Hampi which will be completely conserved using the latest scientific methods and the only site with an integrated ancient bridge reconstructed and useable for visitors. Additionally, the temple will present its unique history and its conservation using the best examples of on-site museum displays based on authenticated historical research.
The works began on site in January 2006 and the initial mobilization works of setting up a site office, providing support bracings and shoring for the temple proper and embankment walls were undertaken in the first half of 2007. The work on the consolidation of the upper embankment wall was undertaken in year 2009 to stabilize the temple.
GHF has built strong relationships with each level of government, the communities and with local business leaders including UNESCO World Heritage Centre South Asia, the Governors and Ministers of each State and key federal officers and Ministers, local site directors and their staff, and local mayors and business leaders. GHF is also monitoring plans for regional tourism and infrastructure development at each site and region- ie. airports, roads, hotels, national and state investment.
The local community of Anegundi has supplied skilled stonemasons and other craftsmen to work on the project, as well as local boatmen who ferry people up and down the river on coracle boats. Another group benefitting from GHF’s involvement are the religions pilgrims and the religious sadhus living in the ashram on the site. Now they can access the ashram more easily as the temple steps have been reset.
- Hampi Foundation
- Cornell University
- State of Karnataka
- Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)
- New Delhi School of Planning and Architecture
- Jindal Vijayanagar Steel Limited
- Unesco World Heritage Centre – South Asia
Why It's Important
From the architecturally superb Chandramauleshwar Temple to the musically enhanced glories of the Vitthala Temple, Hampi is one of the most beautiful world heritage sites in India. After much effort, it was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2006 in no small part due to Global Heritage Fund’s work in the area.
- In 2011 total station mapping was started to check all coordinates and levels at Chandramauleshwar Temple to finalize future courses of action for temple consolidation.
- Monitoring through MASTRAD tell tales to determine severity of cracking to temple stones.
- Careful documenting and planning for Chandramauleshwar Temple and its associated features are being conducted by trained architects in order to guide reconstruction.
- Conducted ongoing monitoring of temple to assess any movement that could lead to destabilization, cracking and other damage
- The major thrust of the works in 2011 was completing the stabilization of the upper embankment wall. This was done with a view to stabilize the temple as the shifting embankment wall had caused severe cracking and stresses in the temple.
- Work at Chandramauleshwar Temple this year has focused on addressing drainage and stability of the embankment walls as well as stone paving.
- A 45-meter stretch of the upper embankment wall was rebuilt using original stone material from onsite, requiring no new stone to be added.
- The local community has benefited from the project through employment on the site, with the local boatmen getting daily employment as the project team members are ferried up and down the river on coracle boats.
- Local stone masons, craftsmen and labor have been employed on site to prepare and place stone in the embankment wall.
- The other group of stakeholders are the religious pilgrims and the religious sadhus living in the ashram on the site, who have benefited by the steps leading up to the temple being reset and therefore making it easier for them to access the ashram.
- Signage and interpretative panels, to enrich the visitors’ experience, are being implemented.
- The local ashram is being redesigned for visual integrity with the temple and the greater site of Hampi.
- Conservation funding secured from provincial and national governments as a result of approved Master Conservation Plans
- $290,000 in-country funding raised
- $1.2-1.6 million in funding from the national government for conservation of the Grand East Hall based on GHF’s Master Conservation Plan
- Received Award of Merit for Cultural Heritage Conservation from UNESCO-Asia Pacific
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