Anand & Madhura Katti
It’s been a cliché that gems, pearls and precious metals were sold by the measuring jars at wayside markets in Hampi during the Vijayanagara kingdoms rule. Foreign travellers of the time have described Vijayanagara as a prosperous and well-planned city, and even compared it to Rome. History books depict that famous rulers of Vijayanagara brought many reforms and people-friendly measures, apart from good ruling. Much before the discovery of America and many centuries earlier to the opening of the malls, Vijayanagara empire’s bazaars bustled with local and imported goods and produce.
It is known that the word “market” came from the Kannada word “marukatte” (meaning a platform for selling commodities), which later on evolved as “market” in English language. The Kannada word “marukatte” itself originated at the bazaars of Hampi, six centuries ago. Hence, Hampi bazaar streets can be considered as one of the first attempts seen in Indian building history to provide organised retail space at a city level.
The mighty empire of Vijayanagara contributed immensely to culture, art, architecture and literature of India. The architecture is highlighted by the vast hypostyle halls and open-pillared mandapas with colonnades (some even musical). Karnataki-style originated here. Many travellers from Italy, Portugal, Persia, Russia and China were attracted by its glory and have left their reminiscences.
Financially, the Vijayanagara empire had reached its peak. Agriculture was flourishing and bazaars bustled with fresh produce. Kings mainly purchased their requirements for army from foreign traders. Razaak, a visitor from West Asia has written in his account that there were 300 ports in the country. That highlights importance of foreign trade during that era. Horses were imported from Arabia, Persia and Europe. Elephants were brought from Sri Lanka and South East Asia.
Each of the seven key bazaars of Hampi was designated a day of the week for its santé (market) day. Hampi bazaars held at a different place (mostly near a popular temple) everyday also had entertainment, education and accommodation facilities. These bazaars also supported cultural activities like fairs, festivals, music and art. Remains of bazaars can be seen at many of these markets through stone columned structures. Hampi bazaar in front of Virupaksha Temple is 717-metre-long with each stone mandapas (individual partition) having two or more halls. Some even are multi-storied with staircases. This well-developed city was destroyed by a group of invading kings. Its remains are being carefully excavated and maintained at this World Heritage Site to showcase to modern-day visitors for an inspiring and thought-provoking experience.
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