Hampi – The Vijaya Vitthala Temple


Vijaya Vitthala Temple, Hampi

The lost city of……Hampi – you might have guessed right if you read my previous post ;-). We shall continue our journey into this ancient city through today’s post, with a visit to the Vitthala temple.

We walk through a dilapidated ‘Gopuram’ or gateway and an array of grand structures set in a vast stone compound greets us. (Note – The picture below is sourced from Malayalalokam.com)

http://malayalalokam.com/mlcmsj/images/stories/travel/hampi/vijaya-vittala/2-hampi-vijaya-vittala-pano.jpg

To the extreme left are covered pillared halls ostensibly used as waiting halls, followed by the ‘Kalyana Mandapam’ or the Wedding Hall. The famed stone chariot commands attention placed right in the centre, partly obscuring the ‘Sangeeta Mandapam’ or Music Hall behind. There are a few more pillared halls to the right and then the ‘Bhajana Mandapam’ or Prayer Hall to the extreme right completes the picture.

The Vitthala temple is dedicated to a form of Lord Vishnu called Vitthala or Vithoba, the primary deity of the Haridasa sect in Karnataka and the Varkari sect in Maharashtra.

Those interested in religious worship alone might be disappointed given that there is no idol of the deity in the ‘Bhajana Mandapam’ where Poojas were performed. However, there seems to be a credible story about the void. As narrated by our guide, it is believed that the Saint Pundalik escaped with the Vitthala idol when Hampi was attacked and he later established it at Pandharpur in Maharashtra.

What remained of the structure has been painstakingly put back together by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Bhajana Mandapam to the left, visitors admire a centuries old tree at the Vitthala temple, Hampi

Bhajana Mandapam to the left, visitors admire a centuries old tree at the Vitthala temple, Hampi

As have been parts of the stone chariot. Its wheels evoking memories of the Sun Temple at Konark, this ornate edifice was built in the likeness of wooden chariots traditionally used for annual processions of temple deities. It symbolically houses an idol of Garuda (eagle God) the vehicle of Lord Vishnu – though our guide was not sure if it was always there or was placed later.

Stone Chariot at Vitthala temple

Stone Chariot at Vitthala temple, Hampi

Garuda idol, identified by wings on the sides. On the top is a 'naamam' sign of Vishnu followers (Vaishnavites)

Garuda idol, identified by wings on the sides. On the top is a ‘naamam’ sign of Vishnu followers (Vaishnavites)

Forming the backdrop for most of the ‘touristy’ pictures, it is also a subject of curiosity. While there, I observed an elderly gentleman looking behind the wheels – several times. It seemed as if he was trying to solve the mystery behind the greatest invention of early human civilization…yes, the wheel. And yes, I was also guilty of having pictures taken in the time-honored, guide-dictated ‘pushing the wheel’ pose.

Not to dwell more on such random acts, let’s move ahead to the biggest and second most attractive structure in the complex.

While all of Hampi’s monuments seem frozen in time, the effect is more pronounced at the Hall of Musical Pillars or the ‘Sangeeta Mandapam’. It seems to be waiting for an audience, reminiscing about the days when live dance performances at the venue would cast a magical spell around.

A lateral view of the Music Hall or 'Sangeeta Mandapam'

A lateral view of the Music Hall or ‘Sangeeta Mandapam’

As per folklore King Krishnadeva Raya got this hall built for his first wife Tirumala Devi, a proficient dancer, and she used to perform here for the king and a select royal audience. The stone pillars, bearing sculpted musical instruments whose sounds they replicated, were played during such times.

Musical pillars in Sangeeta Mandapam, Vitthala Temple

Musical pillars in Sangeeta Mandapam, Vitthala Temple

Drum player magnified. The drum seems to be different from other common ones in India.

Drum player magnified. The drum seems to be different from other common ones in India.

Guides will point out to stone loops overhanging the fringes of the roof and tell you that curtains and flowed garlands were hung from these for the duration of the performance, meant for a private audience.

Details in the roof of the Music Hall, Vitthala Temple

Details in the roof of the Music Hall, Vitthala Temple

Sadly, entry to the Mandapam is now barred thanks to vandalism by domestic tourists. There is not much else to marvel at, as the combined forces of man’s barbarity and nature’s vagaries have weathered the gopurams (gateways) and other parts.

Baal Krishna set in stone at Vitthala temple Hampi

Broken stone pillar showing a young (Baal) Krishna

Dismembered sculptures at Vitthala Temple complex, Hampi

However, if you are visiting in the evening you can loiter around watching the sun go down, casting a golden glow on these bearers of history.

Sun set at Vitthala temple Hampi

As you walk away to the battery powered vehicle that waits to ferry stragglers  to the visitors’ stand, the Temple falls silent, as it has been for centuries.

A view from one of the pillared halls at Vitthala temple

View from one of the pillared halls at Vitthala temple

Related links:

For a basic understanding of Indian temple structure – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Architecture_of_the_Khajuraho_temples.jpg

For the Vijayanagar style of architecture -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayanagara_architecture

More about the Vijaya Vitthala temple

http://www.vijayanagara.org/html/vitthala.html

http://wikimapia.org/211349/Vitthala-Temple-Complex

http://asibengalurucircle.org/bellary-80.html

http://hampi.in/vittala-temple

About drums and Indian drums -

http://www.worldmusicalinstruments.com/c-9-world-drums.aspx

http://www.chandiramani.com/drumsofindia1.html

About Vitthala/Vithoba at Pandharpur, Maharashtra – http://jaimaharashtratourism.blogspot.in/2010/11/vithoba-temple-pandharpur-aarti-puja.html

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9 responses to “Hampi – The Vijaya Vitthala Temple

    • Which is why I was the last one out of the place. :-). Hampi is beautiful at night too – imagine the moonlight reflecting off the rocky landscape and you will know what I am talking about. A warning though- I was told there are leopards around so, even the locals don’t walk around post dark. We traveled by rickshaw and my daughter kept asking if it was safe. We assured her it was, but the best bet for night travel would be a car.

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