The much-publicised cultural extravaganza, to mark the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Sri Krishnadevaraya, got off to a colourful start at the world famous Hampi, the erstwhile seat of Vijayanagara empire on Wednesday.

A shobha yatra unfolded, in which artistes of various folk forms depicted the tradition and culture of different parts of the State in a procession. Elephants, horses and camels were also part of the pageant.

All the dignitaries, including senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj, Sri Sri Ravishankar of Art of Living Foundation, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and his Cabinet colleagues, were brought to the main dais in a fully decorated chariot.

All the roads, boulders, fort walls and monuments at the world heritage site were illuminated and this turned out to be a major attraction of the mega-cultural event. Rangoli was laid by the members of the Samskar Bharati at the Virupaksha temple and in front of all the six stages where the cultural events will take place during the three days of the event.

As a curtain raiser, a ‘janapada jatre’ was held in which several troupes from various parts of the State put up performances.

Immediately after Ms. Sushma Swaraj inaugurated the event by offering puja to the goddess Bhuvaneshwari and by lighting the lamp, the sky was lit with fireworks. A ballet put up by a large number of artistes followed.

Meanwhile, at a separate function to release two books — ‘Hampi the splendour that was’ and ‘Vijayanagar: through the eyes of Alexander Greenlaw 1856 and John Gollings, 1983’, and also books published by the Kannada University, the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram paid rich tributes to the kings of the Vijayanagara empire, especially of Sri Krishnadevaraya, the most powerful among them for promoting peace, harmony and coexistence. He said the values enunciated by them were worth emulating for the prosperity of the State and the nation.

Mr. Chidambaram was all praise for Sri Krishnadevaraya for his initiative in introducing the irrigation system and for encouraging agriculture, art, literature, architecture and communal harmony. “Sri Krishnadevaraya is known for respecting all sections of society and for patronising all languages. Hampi and its architectural marvel is a tribute to the great emperor,” he said.

Mr. Yeddyurappa, who presided over the function, called upon Mr. Chidambaram to extend all assistance for the development of Hampi, which is an international tourist destination.

Mr. Yeddyurappa said that the State Government was committed to the protection and preservation of the ancient monuments which have been attracting tourists all over the globe. He added that steps would be initiated to clear all encroachments around the monuments and making alternate arrangements. Nefarious activities would also be checked at the heritage site. Sri Vidyaranya Bharati of Vidyaranya Math, Ministers G. Karunakara Reddy, Suresh Kumar, Arvind Limbavali and Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, were among those present.