HAMPI (Bellary District): "The eye has never a place like it and the ear was never informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world" was the observation of Persian Ambassador Abdur Razzak during his visit to the capital of the Vijayanagar empire in 1443, which was then known as Bidjnagar and is now called Hampi.
There are vivid accounts of the grandeur of the city and the empire and its social and religious traditions and fairs and festivals in the memoirs of visitors such as Domingos Paes (1520), Fernao Nuniz (1535) and Abdur Razzak. Historians have acknowledged that Hampi was not only the magnificent, prosperous and flourishing capital of the Vijayanagar empire but also the cultural capital of the region. The public celebration of festivals such as Ugadi, Deepavali, Dasara and Holi started by the Vijayanagar kings continues even today.
Nicolo Conti, another foreign visitor to the city, has written about the grand manner in which these festivals were celebrated. "Men and women, having bathed and clad themselves in new garments, spend three entire days in singing, dancing and feasting," he has noted.
The nine-day Dasara celebrations also marked the annual review of the Vijayanagar army by the king, courtiers and dignitaries near Mahanavami Dibba.
Although the Mysore Maharajas continued the tradition of organising festivities after the fall of the Vijayanagar empire, it was the Ramakrishna Hegde government that revived the Hampi Dasara celebrations. The man responsible for this was M.P. Prakash, a connoisseur of art and music, who is now the Home Minister. The first Hampi Utsav was dubbed the Kanaka-Purandara Ustav.
The utsav became a regular feature only from 1995. The cultural events include dance, drama, music, wrestling, art exhibitions and the like. Artistes such as Hariprasad Chaurasia, Begum Parveen Sultana, Rajan Mishra and Sajan Mishra, Mandolin Srinivas, Vidyabhushan, M.S. Sheela, Anup Jalota, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, S.P. Balasubramaniam, Shobana and Meenakshi Seshadri have performed at the Hampi Utsav.