Virupaksha Temple Complex

The Sacred Center of Hampi – Virupaksha, Hemakuta Hill, Mustard Ganesh

We had to cover Hampi and Anegundi in just 2 days. So we planned on starting the day early and take as less breaks as possible. The heat did make it difficult and we ended up taking one long break during lunch.

We started aIMG_6530t the “Mustard Ganesh” temple.IMG_6534

Mustard Ganesh: Hampi was a place of trade and a mustard trader made a great deal of money in the Hamp Bazaar. With the permission of the king, he built a Ganesh temple with his profits. Hence, the name Mustard Ganesh.

The rear part of the Ganesh temple is shaped like the posterior of a woman. Archaeologists believe the Ganesha idol was supposedly sitting on the lap of Goddess Parvati. Due to the destruction of statues, only part of the idol remains.

There are more than 80 temples in Hampi, but only 3 are used for worship today. This is because during the invasion of Adil Shah, most idols were destroyed. In Hinduism, a ‘khandit’ (incomplete) idol is not used for worship.

Next, we passed the Krishna temple complex and climbed atop the Hemakuta hill. The hill almost seems like a really big boulder with numerous temples on top.

Hemakuta hill

Hemakuta
Hemakuta Hill

Before Hakka and Bukka built the Vijaynagara kingdom centered around Hampi, there were several abandoned Jain temples in this area. Many of them can be seen on the Hemakuta hill. All over Hampi (as also on this hill) you can see several Mandapas. These were used either as watchtowers or as resting places for traders or pilgrims travelling from far away.

Mandapa
Mandapa
Two floored Mandapa
Two floored Mandapa
Matanga Hill
Matanga Hill

We also caught sight of Matunga Hill. It is supposed to be the best place from where to view the

sunset in Hampi. But the climb takes upwards of 30 mins and while climbing down you need to be really careful as it starts to get dark and there is no lighting in the area. So we decided to skip it.

On top of the Hemakuta hill, we found small Shiva lingas like in the picture below. The guide could not explain why the lingas were not inside a temple, but it is believed that founders of Vijaynagar kingdom were strong followers of Shiva. Also you can see these single pillars in front of each temple. This was the flagpost for the temple.

Virupaksha Temple Entrance
Virupaksha Temple Entrance

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As we trekked and crossed the hill, we caught the first glimpse of the Virupaksha (Virupaxa) temple entrance. It looked magnificient!

The Virupaksha temple is also a Shiva temple. The actual origin of the temple is not known. Some believe the original construction of the ‘garbha gruha’ (where the main idol is placed’ was done by the Chalukyas, but there is no record of that.

The rulers of the Vijaynagara kingdom helped develop the entire temple complex, with Krishnadevaraya contributing to some of the most magnificient and interesting features.

Virupaksha Temple Complex
Virupaksha Temple Complex

As we started to descend the hill, we got an amazing view of the entire Virupaksha temple complex. I could not help but wonder what glorious days this region must have seen! The effort made in developing such amazing architecture showed how rich a culture the Vijaynagara empire possessed.

At the temple entrance
At the temple entrance

IMG_6571At the bottom of the hill, a 10 year old boy came to us selling postcards and guide-books, speaking broken but intelligible English. When we asked him how he learnt to speak English, he told us his mother had taught him. The residents of Hampi really take their foreign tourists seriously! We bought a guide book and a packet of postcards from the boy and posed with him 🙂

To enter the Virupaksha temple, you have to purchase an entry ticket for Rs 2! Again, the lady guarding your footwear charges Rs 2 per person! And guarding the temple entrance is was this huge langur! The village is full of langurs, but they don’t really trouble anyone. We got to capture some funny antics in a video, post-lunch.

Just on the inside of the temple entrance, we saw a three-headed black bull. It supposedly symbolizes the Trimurti (Trinity).

Trimurti Bull
Trimurti Bull

Hakka and Bukka were sergeants of the Hoysalas and hence we can see some similarities. They borrowed the symbol of Varaha (reincarnation of Vishnu as a wild boar to save the Earth from drowning), which seems to be really important, as you find it everywhere. The royal seal of the Vijaynagara empire consisted of the Varaha, a sword (symbolizing Kshatriyas), the Sun and the Moon.

Royal seal of Vijaynagara
Royal seal of Vijaynagara

The temple complex consists of resting areas on both sides of the corridor. These were used by the traders who visited the Hampi bazaar. The Hampi Bazaar lies just outside the Virupaksha temple complex and is stretched upto a length of almost 1 km. There are 5 such markets in Hampi, all used for separate trading purposes, like spices, precious metal and stones, horses and even prostitutes!

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There are three small platforms at the center of the complex, each of increasing height. Each is used for a separate purpose. The first one consists of a small linga like mound. It is believed that if you join your thumbs together and placing your palms along the circumference of the mound, try to join your index fingers for 1-2 hrs and they do finally meet, anything you wish for will come true!

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Photography is not allowed inside the main temple, but the corridors and rooms in the complex are beautifully decorated with carvings and intricate paintings on the ceilings. All of this is believed to be have done by the Vijaynagara kingdom, mainly Krishnadevaraya. The latter’s interest in science can be seen by the fact that he built the Gopura (Temple entrance) at such a distance that its shadow can be scene on a wall inside the temple complex, upside-down! So basically he built a Giant Pin-hole Camera!

Pin hole image
Pin hole image

Just then we saw the temple elephant entering the temple after taking his bath in the Tungabhadra. (The next day we also got to watch him taking his bath, but that’s for the next blog post.) The complex consists of several small temples, and as the elephant approached each of these, on the instructions of his mahout, he bowed in front of each of them. After bowing he stood up on his hind legs.

Temple Elephant
Temple Elephant

As we started to exit the complex, we saw a hippie couple performing some stunts. Pretty cool it was. I managed to capture the image with the Gopura as the backdrop.

Yoga

Every Shiva temple has a Nandi bull constructed right guarding the linga. Right opposite the Virupaksha temple, once you have crossed the entire stretch of the Hampi bazaar, right at the end of the road is a Monolithic Bull.

Monolithic Bull
Monolithic Bull

Next we moved on to Chana Ganesh. Explore the rest of Sacred Center with me here.



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