Virupaksha Temple, Hampi – A Blend Of Art & Sanctity
With nearly everything around in ruins, the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi is just as finding an oasis in the middle of a desert. Here’s an interesting read about the Virupaksha Temple that will get you rushing to the city of bygone tales and royal ruins.
Standing tall amongst boulders, and located in the heart of Hampi, Virupaksha Temple in Hampi is the first monument that you’ll notice upon entering this historical city.
The Saga Of Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
The Virupaksha Temple, Hampi is perched on the Southern Bank of the Tungabhadra River in the northern part of Karnataka. The temple has been functioning since its inception in the 7th century, making it one of the oldest functioning temples of India. This is a stark contrast to the fact that the city of Hampi was ransacked and reduced to ruins in the year 1565 AD by its invaders.
The original shrine of the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi is believed to have been built by Queen Lokmahadevi who commemorated her husband Vikramaditya’s victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. Initially existing as a small shrine, the temple gradually developed into a big sprawling complex during the Vijaynagara Empire, although additions to the temple complex were also made during the Hoyasala and Chalukyan eras preceding the Vijaynagara era. There are many ancient inscriptions dating back to the 9th and 10th century.
Incredible Architecture Of The Temple
Probably one of the most striking feature of the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi is the nine-storied, 50-meter tall east facing tower called the Gopura projecting a pair of cow horn like projections on its top. The lower two tiers of the tower is adorned with stone work whereas brick and mortar has been used to construct the remaining tiers on the top.
The surprising element of this magnificent tower is the use of mathematics to build it. If you stand nearby and take a closer look at the tower top you will find it to be perfectly symmetrical with each tier shrinking and repeating itself until it reaches the top. Such precision at a time when there was neither advanced tools nor education stands proof to the superiority of craftsmanship of the architects as well of the workers of the time.
Every tier of this iconic tower has intricate figures of several Hindu dietes that are carved to impress. Even more striking are the erotic inscriptions depicting fertility rites. Various sexual positions are depicted through these sculptures. You would either need a camera or a pair of binoculars as the height of the tower renders it difficult for the naked eye to catch a glimpse of them.
The tower gateway opens up to two large courtyards of the temple – the outer and inner courtyard. The outer courtyard has many small shrines and sub shrines whereas the inner courtyard has three antechambers, an entire complex system of sanctums, a temple kitchen, a 100-pillared column hall or the Ranga Mandapa on the far left, a Kalyan Mandapa or a marriage hall – where marriages are held till date – on the far right and a few smaller shrines. One has to pass through a relatively smaller gateway tower to reach the inner courtyard of the temple. This tower was built by the most celebrated ruler of Vijayanagara Empire – Emperor Krishnadevaraya. In the middle of the inner courtyard is a lamp post, a flag post and a platform where two Nandi statues are installed. Around this are gaps left on the north, south and east which houses many sub shrines.
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi – An Insider’s View
The 100-pillared column hall is a much later addition to the original shrine of the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi and was added by Krishnadevaraya in the year 1510 AD to mark his accession to the throne. There is also a stone plaque installed next to the hall that explains his contribution to the temple. On the one hand two mythical ferocious looking lions guard the entrance to the temple and on the other hand every pillar has a lion carved out of it which seems as a support to the pillar itself. In the center of the hall on the rooftop are mural paintings based on mythological themes. Amongst these is depicted the founder of the Vijayanagara Empire, Vidyaranya, moving in a procession.
The 100-pillared hall also houses a statue of triple-headed Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. The inner sanctum sanctorum of the hall has the idol of Lord Virupaksha in the form of a ‘linga’ (phallus). Around the shrine of Virupaksha is the idol of his consort – Goddess Pampa and Goddess Bhuvaneshwari. As you move a bit towards the east you will find a flight of stairs that leads to an underground chamber which houses the deity of Pataleshwara – another form of Shiva. To the far east of Virupaksha’s shrine is the shrine of the planetary deities.
At the exit behind the main sanctum, make sure to look to your right and you would find a dark chamber with a slit on the wall. Upon looking through the slit, you’ll be delighted to see an inverted shadow of the main gateway. There is also a narrow passage that leads to a kitchen. A water channel system from the nearby Tungabhadra River flows along the temple’s terrace which descends to the temple-kitchen just outside the southwest corner of the temple.
Other Attractions Near The Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
On the backside of the temple complex from the other side you will find many shrines and idols – many of which are not worshipped today except for a shrine of Goddess Durga. As you proceed outside you will come across a sacred pond in a rectangular enclosure known as the Manmatha Tank. Brick steps leading to the pond from all sides are painted in white and red.
Located in the heart of Hampi and near the Virupaksha Temple is Hampi Bazar. It is a dream destination for shopping aficionados who barely find time for shopping and visiting the local markets while travelling. Here you can binge at the many food stalls while you shop for handicrafts, locally manufactured beads and garments. You can also buy souvenirs and even rent a motorcycle, moped or a bike to get you around this ancient city filled with wonders.
Hop aboard the Deccan Odyssey and visit the city of ruins of Hampi and marvel at the Virupaksha Temple on its incredible rail journey – Jewels of the Deccan: Mumbai to Mumbai
About The Author
Sumit Roy is an Editor, Writer, Researcher, Translator and Proofreader at Aatman Innvoations Pvt. Ltd. When not working, he likes to read, write, watch movies or series, play computer games or even better – procrastinate. He believes in free basic education for all and thinks that capitalism first and socialism next can change this world for better.