Hampi chronicles: Charmed by the colonettes at Virupaksha temple 🛕

Hampi – Virupaksha temple complex, view from the nearby Hemakuta hill

It’s good to have a view of the Virupaksha temple complex in it’s entirety before entering it. It gives you a sense of direction and you are able to place the towering gopurams above the entrances better! The tallest gopuram marks the eastern entrance from the Hampi bazaar and the second tallest marks the northern entrance to the temple, from the Tungabhadra river bank.

After depositing our shoes, we entered the Virupaksha temple through a narrow passageway under the towering gopuram (on the right side in the above picture), that is the eastern entrance and it opens from the Hampi bazaar. The historians do not place much antiquity to this gopuram as it is a recent construction, but it still looks majestic and worth a snap 📸.

The towering gopuram above the western entrance to the Virupaksha temple, Hampi

If you are hoping for silent contemplation inside, you are in for a shock. Being a working temple, it’s bustling with devotees and tourists. The latter can be identified being accompanied by tag wearing guides pointing to this and that within the complex. Though it’s good to have a guide; this time we did not have one and hence were wandering within the complex with our newly bought Hampi guide book. Here’s an interesting fact found on the Karnataka govt.’s website on Hampi “The inverted shadow of the main tower falls on a wall inside the temple. Your tour guide will help you see this spot.”…ask your guide and check it out !!

First look into the interior of the Virupaksha temple from entrance – the smaller gopuram is from the 16th century Vijayanagara period built by Krishna Deva Raya

First look inside the temple complex and you can see the other two gopurams seen in the first entirety shot of the Virupaksha temple. The smaller gopuram right in front is an antique from the 16th century Vijayanagara period. This was built during the rule of the third dynasty of Vijayanagara – the Tuluva dynasty under the reign of king Krishna Deva Raya (1509 – 1529).

In the enclosed space between the two gopuras, on the left side, there was a pillared hall called the Kalyana Mandapa. It is credited with 100 pillars !! Again the Kalyana Mandapa was constructed under the auspicious of king Krishna Deva Raya in the 16th century.

100 column hall called Kalyana Mandapa at the Virupaksha temple complex
A closer look at the carvings on the pillars and the cut-out colonettes

The pillars had intricate carvings at the base and some of them were not just a column but had delicate and well polished cut-out colonettes. I am seeing these for the first time !! The looked majestic !! The pillars are what still stand tall everywhere in Hampi ♥️!!

Charmed by the colonettes at Hampi
Carvings along the base of the Kalyana Mandapa in the Virupaksha temple complex at Hampi

But it’s a sad sight too, the strictures look dilapidated and neglected.

Carvings of female figurines on top and aquatic animal motifs seen on the walls of a small tank opposite the Kalyana mandapa in the Virupaksha temple Hampi

Stepping in through the old gopuram you enter the inner enclosure. You have to watch out for monkeys who hop down now and then to collect the bananas kept as offerings by the devotees. There are the harmless stray dogs darting to and fro; a ruminating cow, an ox and even a baby elephant on the side. The elephant was hard at work but we didn’t venture that side.

Straight ahead in the inner enclosure stands the mandapa, more famously called the coronation mandapa as it was constructed on the occasion of king Krishna Deva Raya’s coronation in 1510. The inner sanctuary within is accessible from the left (queuing along the barricades seen on the left side in the pic below). The deity here is called Virupaksha.

Even long before the Vijayanagar empire, Hampi was a place of worship of Shiva as Virupaksha and the river goddess Pampa (the mythical name for Tungabhadra). The betrothal and marriage of Virupaksha and Pampa are the most celebrated festivals at the temple.

Standing in a line leading to the mandapa are the Nandi pavilion, altar and dipa stambhas (lamp columns). Colonnaded structure run along either sides of the mandapa. These structures once again have the columns and colonettes with carvings at the base. Also notice the cornice on the roof forming a cyma recta – a convex concave bend and they are decorated with carvings.

The inner enclosure with the coronation mandapa in the Virupaksha temple at Hampi
The cornice on the roof forming a cyma recta – a convex concave bend and they are decorated with carvings
Nandi Pavilion in Virupaksha temple at Hampi
Colonnaded structures lining the side of the mandapa in the background, with the Nandi pavilion, dipa stambha and altars in the foreground in the Virupaksha temple at Hampi
The colonnaded structure with the columns and cut-out colonettes
A mystery structure in the middle !? Wonder what this was used for ?

The coronation mandapa has a painted ceiling. The guides were seen pointing out some of the representations – marriage of Virupaksha and Pampa, Rama and Sita.

The painted ceiling of the coronation mandapa in the Virupaksha temple in Hampi

The painting is fading away. Not sure how old it is. At this rate a few more years down and you will only be able to make out the vague colours of the painting and we may have to say, that there was a painting on the ceiling once upon a time!

Close up of the one of the paintings on the ceiling of the coronation mandapa in the Virupaksha temple in Hampi

Moving on. From inner enclosure you can see another doorway opening towards the north (this is the second highest gopuram you see in the first entirety shot of the temple). This northern entrance also has a passage with a towering gopuram (smaller than the eastern entrance) and is called the Kanakagiri gopuram, named after a nearby town. The base of this tower dates back to the Vijayanagar period while the upper portions are recent constructions.

The northern entrance leads to a stepped tank called the Manmatha Tank. The tank was once used by the devotees to wash before entering the temple. The western bank of the tank has few small dilapidated structures.

Manmatha Tank with the gopuram of the western entrance in view at the Virupaksha temple in Hampi

It is sad to see the beautiful centuries old structures that have survived so far, gradually perishing right in front of our eyes. They are mementoes of the powerful Vijaynagar empire and I really wish that such a historic and beautiful temple was maintained with more care.

Walking further north leads to the banks of the Tungabhadra river. The water levels were low in the river; huge boulders are seen strewn all along the river. I have not seen such a rocky river bank. But then the landscape in Hampi is unlike anywhere else and that’s part of the mysticism associated with the land.

The Tungabhadra river bank where the Virupaksha temple stands

This about completes the tour of the Virupaksha temple complex. We spent an hour and a half here. The mood is one of sadness and gloom, wishing that we could maintain and protect our historic monuments in a better way!

The king remembered from the Virupaksha temple is Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529) of the Tuluva dynasty, the third dynasty to rule the Vijaynagar empire. The cornice on the roof of the colonnaded pavilion forming a cyma recta – a convex concave bend and decorated with carvings was something new. Also not to forget the temple columns and cut-out colonettes supposed to be a characteristic Vijaynagar feature.

Till next post, take care !!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. IndiaNetzone says:

    Hampi in Karanataka, now in ruins, was once the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. It brought about a renaissance of art and culture, as it defended the region against the plundering armies. Much of Vijayanagara is now in ruins, as when the rulers were defeated at the hands of the invaders at the battle of Talikota in the 16th century, most of the marvellous structures and edifices were systematically destroyed.


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