Highlight on heritage: New book on Hampi aims to demystify stories around the historical site

By Sanath Prasad| Published: 15th November 2021 02:57 PM

 It was in 1960 that Vasundhara Kavali Filliozat visited Hampi as a student of Karnataka University, Dharwad, as part of a study tour. Little did she know that Hampi would turn out to be her ‘first love’ and in turn a window of opportunity to explore the genesis of the Vijayanagara empire. Or as the historian claims the Karnataka Samrajya (empire). 

Filliozat will be releasing her new book titled Hampi on November 15, as part of the Karnataka Rajyotsava celebrations through the month. Co-authored by her husband, Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, the book chronicles the history of the ‘Karnataka Samrajya’ from the early 12th century. 

Believed to be the first surveyors of Hampi, the Filliozats have been working on decoding and demystifying the history of the empire through the numerous transcriptions engraved across the heritage sites of Hampi since the late 1960s. 

From Sree Virupaksha temple to the Vijaya Vitthala Temple; from the rocks surrounding the city to the Lotus Mahal; over 4,000 inscriptions detailing the history of Hampi exist in the UNESCO World heritage site, claims Filliozat. The book is a collection of decades-long research and translations of inscriptions about Hampi and how it came to be the capital of the ‘Karnataka Samrajya’.  

“As part of my thesis related to the study of the Vijayanagara empire, at Sorbonne University in Paris, I translated over 150 inscriptions into French. Although these inscriptions were engraved centuries ago, the text was equivalent to modern-day Kannada. In 1973, we first surveyed and studied the inscriptions at Vitthala temple in detail and then we surveyed all the sites at Hampi over the years,” says  Filliozat, who is also the author of Vijaynagar. 

The book includes details in depth — starting with how Hampi was under the edifice of Kalamukha and Pasupatha (a Shaivite section) in the early 12th century even before Krishnadevaraya took over. “The book breaks down many popular misconceptions on the heritage site,” she says. 

According to the inscriptions, the empire was called ‘Karnataka Samrajya’ and not ‘Vijayanagara empire’. “This is because of Hoysala king Veera Ballala III, who was from Karnataka and decided to lead the fight against Muslim invaders by uniting all the kings of other kingdoms in the south,” says Filliozat, who also adds that the inscriptions rule out the worship of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari in Hampi until the 18th century. 

The husband-wife duo, as epigraphists, also wanted to highlight the architectural marvel of north Karnataka. “Many historians have misread and misinterpreted the story of the Karnataka Samrajya on various accounts. We are working to just translate the inscriptions as is through epigraphy. Moreover, many don’t make the effort to say something new about the architectural and cultural history of north Karnataka. Many historians still get miffed when I insist that the empire is not called Vijayanagara,” says Filliozat. 

(Hampi will be released by Mysore Maharaja Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, at the National Institute of Advanced Studies,IISc Bangalore, on November 15 at 4pm. Details:  Esthetique Architects Facebook page)

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