While being spellbound by the sheer size of the entrance to the temple, you almost forget to notice the delicate carvings on the walls of stone !! Maybe the novelty of this temple entrance is that it is not in the usual pyramidal tower format like the Virupaksha temple. The base of the main entrance is granite blocks while the top has bricks. The temple is facing north.
Achyutaraya temple is the third temple complex in the sacred centre of Vijayanagar. It is also called the Tiruvengalanatha temple as the deity worshiped here was Venkateshwara, a form of the Lord Vishnu also called Tiruvengalanatha.
Both Achyuta Raya and his predecessor Krishna Deva Raya were devotees of Lord Venkateshwara at Tirupati (in current Andhra Pradesh). Srinivas Reddy in his book Raya details the visits made by Krishna Deva Raya to Tirupati and recalls the inscription made during his first visit. The inscription gives account of the gold, precious stones, pearls and ornaments gifted by the king and was written in three languages – Telugu, Kannada and Tamil so that pilgrims may read it with zeal in their recognisable mother tongues and thus remain etched in their memory.
After you step through the first entrance, you see an almost similar but smaller structure marking a second entrance. The temple in it’s entirety can be seen from top of the Matanga hill; but we didn’t do that climb. Pictures show the temple with two concentric rectangular walls running from the two entrances.
On entering the inner courtyard, you see the open mandapa. Two elephant sculptures are on the either side of the small steps that lead to the open mandapa. Notice the pillars of the open mandapa, they are the sculptures of the magnificent Yali ‼️
If cut-out colonettes were the discovery in the Virupaksha temple, it’s the magnificent Yali sculptures that are our discovery here in the Achyutaraya temple !! The whole composition seem to be carved out of a monolith. Spectacular 😘.
Yalis are often carved as guardians to the temples. They are a mix of many animals, how many can you identify in the above sculpture? A lion’s head, a horse’s body, claws and canines of a tiger, eyes of a crocodile, ears of hare, an elephant at the base😀. The idea being that the Yalis have the combined strength of it’s many parts, to ward off evil !! An further to our absolute delight, the Yalis have soldiers riding them; they are armed, you can see the curved sword I’m one hand and with the other they are holding chains hanging from the Yali’s mouth. It’s magnificent ❤️.
The open mandapa then leads to a closed mandapa and then the inner sanctum, it was locked. And so we turn attention to the surrounding structures.
The inner rectangular enclosure of the temple has three small gates; we entered through the north facing gate. There are gates on the east and the west too. You notice once again colonnaded structures with columns and cut-out colonettes running along the boundary of the inner rectangular enclosure.
You will be drawn to the beautiful carvings of elephants on the base of the colonnaded structure and then the lions seated at the base of the colonettes. Majestic !!
And by now the standard structures in a temple complex are familiar – a columned mandapa, Kalyanan mandapa is also seen here.
It’s after 3:00 pm now and we have to keep moving. Hampi beings to shut down by 5:00 pm and we have one more temple complex to cover. I think there were Yalis in the Virupaksha temple too, they just like the colonettes, are another hallmark Vijayanagar beautiful temple architecture !!
More in the next post !!
Take care !!