Virupaksha temple – Sojourn into the past

Virupaksha Temple is one of the oldest and famous temples in Karnataka, situated at the historical city of Hampi, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, lies on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River, to the north of the Hemakuta Hill. To know more about Hemakuta hills 

Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Testaments to the greatness of Vijayanagara empire-Eastern gopura

It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, worshipped here as Virupaksha (Virupaksheshwara), as the consort of Goddess Pampa. Hence the temple is also known as Pampapathi Temple. The presiding female deities are Pampa, who is believed to be the daughter of Lord Brahma, and Bhuvaneshwari.

A view from Hemakuta hills

A view of Virupaksha temple from Hemakuta hills.

This Temple is a perfect example of the Vijayanagara Style of architecture. The main entrance of the Hampi temple is through the chariot street in front of the temple, popularly called the Hampi Bazaar which is considered as the largest of the bazaars of Vijayanagara. The temple complex lies  within a long rectangular enclosure divided into 2 large courts. The lofty eastern gopura gives access to the outer court, while a smaller, inner gopura in the east leads to the inner court containing the main vimana with its subsidiary shrines. This area in general has been an important pilgrimage centre for the worshipers of lord Shiva.The northern gopuram, known as the Kangiri Gopuram, is a five storey and decorated with beautiful pilasters. The inner eastern gopuram is a three storey structure.

Gopuras of Virupaksha Temple, hampi Karnataka

Gopuras of Virupaksha Temple-From Left to right in Clockwise direction Eastern gopura,Inner gopura or Krishna devaraya gopura  & The northern gopuram, known as the Kangiri Gopuram.

The eastern tower rises to a height of 52m and is a well proportioned, nine storeyed structure.Literary evidence has it that Proluganti Tippa, a commander of Devaraya II (AD 1422-46) has built the gopura, was later repaired by Krishnadevaraya in 1510.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

The splendor and grandeur of mighty Vijayanagara empire

A Nandi is positioned near the opening. Near to it is a huge stone urn with decorations. Towards the end you can see a pair of metal bells and a large leather clad percussion instrument.

Nandi statue Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Nandi statue

From the East gopura, one enters a large courtyard which has several sub shrines and a large no. of mandapas called the Phalapuja mandapas. The small 3 storeyed inner gopura in the east, which leads into the inner courtyard, is named after Krishnadevaraya.The most striking feature of this court is the central pillared hall known as the Ranga Mandapa added to the temple complex in 1510 AD by Krishadeva Raya.Two mythical lion like creatures forms the balustrade for the entrance to this elevated open pavilion. As you enter the pavilion on your right is an inscribed plaque with Nandi image on top probably explains the royal patronage the temple enjoyed.

Sasanam, Virupaksha temple, Hampi

Description from left clockwise direction.This inscribed plaque with Nandi image on top probably explains the royal patronage the temple enjoyed.*Stories on walls-Ramayana on walls. *Sanskrit inscriptions

This hall with 5 aisles and 38 pillars is used for temple rituals including the marriage ceremonies. The highlights include rows of pillars shaped with rampant lion like mythical creatures (Yalis) standing on Makara(A mythical creature). Warriors seem riding on these ferocious looking creatures. Also portrayed here are some of Lord Shiva’s manifestations, the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu (Dashavatara) and scenes from Great Sanskrit Indian epic Mahabharata depicting Arjuna’s shooting the fish device to win Draupadi’s hand. 

The mural panel on the central portion of the hall is one of the few remains of this form of Vijayanagara art. Most of it is based on godly themes except the one at the eastern end. Here the founder sage of the empire, Vidaranaya, is portrayed moving in a procession.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

The mural panel on the roof of the hall is the typical Vijayanagara art

The ardha mandapa is seen to the west of the ‘ranga mandapa’ and its entrance is flanked by a pair of huge four-armed ‘dvarapalas’ (guardians of doors). A Vijayanagara structure, the ardha mandapa is decorated with bas-reliefs in its exterior walls and the central ceiling with a multi-petal lotus design.There are some monkeys who seem to live in the temple, They didn’t to beg for food, so they probably won’t bother you but I’ve had experience with aggressive monkeys in other temples so be forewarned.Virupaksha temple, Hampi KarnatakaThe temple elephant is massive, almost too big to fit under the temple roof, but is incredibly friendly if you bring a banana or two you can get a free smooch.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

Temple elephant

Behind the main sanctum, there are few steps which leads to the rear exit of the temple complex. Just before the exit on the right side you would find a dark chamber with a slit on the wall.An interesting feature is that the inverted shadow of the main tower falls on the western wall of the temple through a small hole behind the sanctum.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi

A kind of pinhole camera effect created with stonework.

 Many shrines and pillars dating back to the 12th century are found in the inner prakaram. The Suryanarayana shrine has a southern form of the deity and the Mukhi Narasimha shrine of Chalukyan sculpture.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi Karnataka

This statue of lion is the characteristic of Chalukyan sculpture

Adjacent to this is the Tarakesvara shrine with the figure of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati seated on his lap. In the south-west corner is a Goddess Saraswathi shrine with a small black stone image of a two-armed seated goddess playing on a Veena (A stringed musical instrument). A black stone figure of the six-armed Mahishamardini is in the western corridor.

  Check out the Slide show:

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My Experience:

I still remembered that morning, I went to the terrace of our guest house along with Charan and saw the majestic Gopura of Virupaksha temple..I always had imagined this temple and when I actually see this it turned out to be even more beautiful than I had imagined. It was fascinating and we were awestruck with the scene which we saw and experienced. Interesting feature was the inverted shadow of main gopura falling on the western wall. we were amazed by it. we spent around 20mins discussing about that. This place is an architectural marvel. I am really looking forward to visit this place again with my family. Stay tuned for more updates on the temples of Hampi…


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