Rediscovery of Vijayanagara

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Following its virtually wholesale destruction, Vijayanagara was never able to recover its former importance and languished virtually ignored for centuries.

After it came under the under the control of the British following the last Anglo-Mysore war in 1799, the site began to attract sporadic levels of scholarly and archeological interest, including visits by British amateur antiquarian Captain Colin Mackenzie, who was later to become Surveyor General of India, in December of the very same year, and Colonel Alexander Greenlaw, who took over 60 photos of the surviving temples and court buildings of the city fifty years later.

But it wasn’t until 1885 when Alexander Rea, head of the newly created Archaeological Survey of the Madras Presidency, surveyed the ruins and attempted to identify the different zones of the city and their principal monuments that more serious archeological work really started, with Rea and his successor AH Longhurst supervising the clearance and repair of many of the ruined structures.

Longhurst documented his findings in the fascinating Hampi Ruins, Described and Illustrated, which he published in the early part of the twentieth century. Another highly influential contemporary book about the city was Robert Sewell’s ground-breaking A Forgotten Empire accompanied by the first English translations of the descriptions of the capital by the two Portuguese visitors, Domingo Paes and Fernao Nuniz.

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After this initial spurt, interest in Hampi died down again until the 1970s when the Indian government set aside funds for the Archaeological Survey and the Karnataka government’s Department of Archaeology and Museums to excavate the site further. This work received a further boost in 1986 when the Hampi group of monuments was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, leading to increased global awareness of the site.

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