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Physical Landscape

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Vijayanagara Site

Vijayanagara is located in the basin of the Tungabhadra River in the southern Deccan, the elevated plateau that dominates peninsular India. This is a tributary of the Krishna River that originates in the Western Ghats and flows eastward into the Bay of Bengal.

The first thing that most visitors notice when they arrive at the Vijayanagara site is the remarkable scenery. The village of Hampi, the ruins of Vijayanagara and the green, irrigated fields that surround it are set in a wilderness of extraordinary beauty. Granite boulders of varying tones of grey, ochre and pink dominate the landscape, distributed either as long ridges or hills or of piles of rock that seem to have been thrown down by some primeval cataclysm.

But this impression of volcanic disturbance is misleading since Hampi's granite terrain is one of the most ancient and stable surfaces to be found anywhere in the world. Vast layers of granite were formed under the earth’s surface about 3 and 3.5 billion years ago during the geological period known as the Archaean, a division of the pre-Cambrian. At that time, the granite formed part of an ancient super continent. The breakup of the continent of Gondwanaland, and the separation of what is now the Indian subcontinent from Africa, is relatively recent. It was at this time that the basalt dykes found for example, east of Kamalapur, intruded into the granite. Elsewhere in the Deccan, these eruptions created volcanic cones and thick beds of lava and ash.

The unique rocky appearance of the granite landscape was not created by earthquake and upheaval, but by countless millions of years of weathering, first underground before it was exposed by gradual uplift, then by the erosive forces of sun, wind and occasional rain. So even is the grain of the granite that the rock was worn away to create spherical shapes; hence the many rounded and detached boulders, some of which are perched precariously, as if about to roll over.

The Tungabhadra River traverses the Hampi landscape. Flowing in a north-easterly direction the river has cut its way through weaker, more fractured rocky terrain, creating a narrow gorge. For some distance, granite hills hem in the river, the highest of which are Matanga hill on the south bank, rising 115 metres above the river, and Anjanadri hill near the north bank, almost 140 metres high. Flooding has worn away the rocks that border the river, creating islands, lagoons and small pools. A parallel valley to the south, marks an alternate course where the river overflowed during wet periods. Yet further south, the granite outcrops gradually disappear and the landscape opens out into a broad plain. This plain continues for more than 10 kilometres before ending at the rising slopes of the Sandur hills beyond the modern town of Hospet. These hills are rich in iron and manganese and are now subject to intensive strip mining.

Sunset View of Tungabhadra
Sunset View of Tungabhadra

Matanga Hill and Hampi Gopura

Matanga Hill

Anjanadri Hill
Anjanadri Hill

Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project