Seeing through the eyes of stone

History always gets a new dimension when it gets viewed through the lens of a master photographer. And that is the story of Vijayanagar Empire: Ruins to Resurrection by Raghu Rai and Usha Rai.

‘The city of Bidjanagar (Vijayanagara) is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world, Persian traveller Razaak wrote in 1443 after seven months in Hampi,’ says the book.

‘Four and a half centuries later in 1900, Robert Sewell, civil servant and historain, called Hampi “an everlasting mine of historical treasure” in his book The Forgotten Empire. Even today, it continues to be like Pandora’s Box with excavations and restoration work constantly revealing new facets of the Vijayanagara kingdom...’ writes Raghu Rai and Usha Rai.

Spread over 26 square kilometers, Hampi’s ruins are a World Heritage Site (WHS) and Hampi has the rare honour of being on the WHS for its natural beauty and environs as well as its archaeological significance. ‘Though the grandeur ended some 400 years ago, Hampi still lives and breathes as if in resurrection,’ - this gets embodied in the spectacular pictures by Raghu Rai as he brings Hampi alive in the pages of  Vijayanagar Empire.

Vijayanagara, once one of the mightiest Hindu empires, has now been reduced to a mere village. Through extensive research and restoration efforts, dedicated conservationists and the ASI have made every possible attempt to restore the lost brilliance of the empire, says the book. The splendid rocks and large boulders, together with the awe-inspiring royal architecture, confer on Hampi the accolade of a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

In Vijayanagar Empire, Raghu Rai takes the readers on a visual adventure showing Vijayanagar in the way it must have existed centuries ago. His photographs capture the magic of the stones in all their splendid permanence and eternal glory. He also lets the present flow in as he captures the changing faces of Hampi. Usha Rai’s words give form to Raghu Rai’s images as they take on the journey to uncover the centuries old history of Vijayanagar through the rocks.

‘The existing photographs were taken with old, bulky and slow cameras, but today’s technology has given us an edge, enabling us to capture not only the depths and details of the ruins, but also the fleeting experiences in a fraction of a second,’ says Raghu Rai.

Pick up the book. Discover the magic.

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