Zenana enclosure was a secluded area reserved for the royal women. This walled harem houses many interesting highlights. The major attraction is the Lotus Mahal located at the southeast corner.
As the name suggests, you would enter into a sprawling compound with a mud road running through the middle of the compound. Probably the only thing you eyes catch soon when you are inside is the pastel colored Lotus Mahal at the far right corner. It’s a two-storied arched pavilion.
The whole area was the private enclosure for the royal women folks. The Queen’s Palace (visible only the basement) is located at the middle of this area, on the left side of your path. Measuring about 46 x 29 meters, this has been the largest palace base excavated in the Hampi ruins so far. Also the three-tired elaborate base structure speaks of its importance as a palace. The super structure was made of wooden or less durable materials compared to the stone base. Along with the other royal structures, a gut during the rival incursion could have destroyed the palace. A rectangular deep tank (now empty) just at east of this probably used as a water source to the palace.
Opposite to the palace base, across the central path, at the east lie the remains of a water pavilion. This is basically a decorated platform at the center of a shallow pool. This low laying spot is the first you would visit once inside the enclosure.
Three watchtowers can be seen at the corners of the enclosed area. You can spot these two storied towers close to the southeast, northeast and northwest corners. These again were built in the hybrid Indo-Islamic architecture style. Being the ladies quarters, it has been said that eunuch soldiers guarded the area. It’s possible to climb to the top floor of one of these towers (if very crowded, the guards may not allow this). It’s a vantage position to survey this area and the Elephant stables behind the Zenana Enclosure.
It’s Interesting the royal Treasury building too was located in this enclosure. At the northwest corner you can spot an otherwise featureless rectangular building. Some believes that it was the quarters of the eunuch guards protected this area. The structure has a simple entry at the east. A corridor runs all around inside with arches at regular intervals. The absence of windows and light inside makes it believe that this was at the best a kind of store rather than a living space.
There are the traces of a number of unnamed structures and a separation walls inside the campus.
The whole Zenana enclosure is encircled with a tall and broad walls made out of cut stones arranged in interesting patterns. The construction style of the wall is noteworthy.The enclosure had been strategically designed for the women folks to watch the royal ceremonial functions or the march past in privacy.
However there is another school of archeologists who believe this was never used as the women’s area. The archeologists assigned the names (Zenana Enclosure, Lotus Mahal etc) arbitrarily than based on some assumptions. The closeness of the nearby structures (the elephant stables, the guards quarters etc) suggests this was not a harem. They believe the Lotus Mahal as a council room for the chief commanders rather than the women’s pavilion; the rectangular enclosed building at the northwest corner as the armory or mint or treasury rather than the quarters for the eunuch guards; and the palace belonged to the king.
The path to the other locations like the Elephant Stable, Guard’s Quarters and a few other temples’ runs through the center of this area. The whole area is now made into a sort of open garden with sprawling lawns. You can see people take nap under the trees in the noontime. A good site map too is located in this area, if you need to (you will need to!) reassure your location and the next direction.
Reserve about 1 hour plus to roam and explore this area. In all likelihood your next destination would be the Elephant Stables at the east, the Ranga Temple & Yellamma Temple at the south, the Jain Temples or the Hazara Rama Temple at the southwest.
This is one of the few places in Hampi where visitors have to pay for the entry ticket. The ticket counter is located outside (west) the main entrance of the enclosure. Admission fee is Rs 250 (USD5). For Indian citizens the government offers a subsidy on entry ticket and the fee is Rs10. Children under the age of 15 are admitted free.
Photography is allowed free of cost.
The same ticket is valid (only for the same day) for entry at the Vittala Temple and the nearby Elephant Stables. Preserve the ticket.