Hampi and the Ramayana

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The Hampi area is also believed to have been the site of Kishkindha, the forest domain of the monkeys, where some of the most dramatic scenes in the Ramayana occurred.

According to this epic tale, Kishkindha was ruled by two brothers of the monkey race called Vali and Sugriva. After a terrible quarrel, Sugriva was driven out by his brother and fled with his minister Hanuman to the woods of Rishyamuka Hill on the bank of the River Pampa near the dwelling place of the holy sage (rishi) Matanga on what is now known as Matanga Hill.

Here Sugriva was safe from Vali, for the sage was so furious at finding the putrefying body of demon (rakshasa) that Vali had killed and left close to his hermitage that he had pronounced a dreadful curse upon him if ever he should again enter that area.

When the hero of the poem Rama and his brother Lakshamana were journeying south to rescue Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita, who had been abducted by the ten-headed demon king of Lanka, Ravana, they were told Sugriva could give them news of her.

The two brothers set off for the area straight away to meet with Sugriva and were told by Sugriva how he had seen Sita drop her jewels and one of her garments as she was being carried through the sky above by Ravana.

Sugriva had collected these objects and hidden them in a cave for safekeeping, and showed the items to Rama as proof of the truth of his story.

Sugriva and Rama then went to seek out his brother Vali, who had also taken Sugriva’s wife Ruma when he deposed him as king of Kishkindha. As Rama stood by watching, Sugriva and Vali fought each other but were evenly matched until Hanuman stepped forward and placed a garland of flowers around Sugriva’s neck. Rama then shot an arrow right through Vali’s heart, and after burning his massive body on a funeral pyre restored Sugriva to the throne.

In addition to getting his wife Ruma back, Sugriva also took Vali’s wife Tara as his queen and now that he was king again spent his time relaxing rather than continuing to help Rama. This greatly angered Rama, and it was only after an intervention by Tara that the two men were reconciled and Sugriva sent Hanuman off in search of Sita.

While Rama waited on the nearby Malyavanta Hill, Hanuman set off in search of Sita, ultimately finding her as a captive in Ravana’s island fortress of Lanka. After bringing back tokens from her to reassure Rama that she was still alive, Hanuman organized the monkey army which built the causeway to Lanka that Rama crossed to rescue his bride after one final climactic battle.

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Many of the events from this episode of the Ramayana are identified with specific locations around Hampi, and references to the epic can be found throughout the area, not least in the form of multiple statues and carvings of the monkey god Hanuman. The key sites include the following:

Sugriva’s Cave: Located nearby the south bank of the Tungabhadra River, this is believed to be where Sugriva hid the garment and jewels dropped by Sita.

Sitasarovar Pool: Close to Sugriva’s Cave, this is named after Rama’s wife.

Matanga Hill: This is where Sugriva is believed to have received magical protection from the sage Matanga who had placed a curse on Vali.

Nimbapuram: A mound of cinders near this small village is believed to be the cremated remains of Vali.

Kodandarama Temple: This marks the spot where Lakshmana is said to have crowned Sugriva after Vali was killed.

Malyavanta Hill: This is where Rama and Lakshmana are said to have waited for Hanuman to return from his search for Sita.

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