Asian Section Research at the Penn Museum

Vijayanagara ("City of Victory") was founded by a local Hindu dynasty during a period of great political instability in southern India.


The site of the Vijayanagara capital, locally known as Hampi, is located in the valley of the Tungabhadra River, Karnataka, southern India.

The village of Hampi that clusters around the 14th-16th century Virupaksha temple is a focus of contemporary Hindu pilgrimage and tourism. Aerial photograph by Claire Arni. 


Prehistoric and Early Historic settlements are found in the region where Vijayanagara was founded in the mid 14th century. The city was destroyed in 1565 but limited occupation continued thereafter. In the mid 20th century, the construction of a large dam, led to the expansion of agriculture, industry and tourism.


  • John M. Fritz, Penn Museum
  • George Michell, University of Melbourne
  • Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Karnataka
  • Anna Dallapiccola, Edinburgh University
  • Sister Anila Verghese, Sophia College, Mumbai

Associated Researchers

  • Robert Brubaker, Fayetteville
  • C. T. M. Kotraiah, Archaeological Survey of India, ret., Mysore
  • Kathleen Morrison, University of Chicago
  • Carla Sinopoli, University of Michigan
  • Nathalie Tobert, London
  • Philip Wagoner, Wesleyan University

Project Overview

Their capital grew in size and magnificence as their kingdom extended its authority over much of the sub-continent. At its height in the 16th century, the city’s wealth and size amazed foreign visitors and local people alike. It fortifications, encompassing 650 sq. km. (250 sq. miles), protected palace and temple complexes, hydraulic systems, and religiously and linguistically diverse communities. After the city was sacked the structures gradually decayed; they were "rediscovered" in the mid 19th century. National and state archaeological services intensified the clearing and restoration of ruined structures from the 1970s; in 1986 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in mid 1986.

The Vijayanagara Research Project (VRP), begun in 1980, has undertaken a program of "surface archaeology", recording the extraordinary range and richness of archaeological detail in the core of the city through architectural and archaeological drawings, photographs, descriptions and maps. The central city, an area of some 20 sq. km. (7.7 sq. miles) contains more than 1000 standing or partly ruined structures and tens of thousands of lesser features. The art, architecture and urban form of the capital have proved important for understanding the organization of different urban activities in space and their relation to the evolution of royal power, to mythological associations of the landscape, and to underlying concepts of spatial order.

Visit the Vijayanagara Research Project website

Additional Sponsors

  • Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Karnataka
  • American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi and Chicago
  • INTACH UK Trust
  • The Asian Cultural Council, New York
  • The British Academy
  • The British Association for South Asian Studies
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities
  • The National Science Foundation
  • The Reader’s Digest Foundation
  • The Shelby White-Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • The Smithsonian Institution, Special Foreign Currency Program
  • A number of private donors

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