Virupaksha Temple at Hampi – An Architectural Marvel
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The Virupaksha temple is one of the most important structures located amongst the ruins at Hampi. Hampi is about  12kms from the town of Hospet in Karnataka State.  Hospet is about 419 kms from Bangalore by train. The ruins of Hampi have been accorded the status of the UNESCO World Heritage site and are under the protection and maintenance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The temple has surprisingly survived destruction in the hands of the invaders since the battle of Talikota in the 16th century when many of the monuments were systematically destroyed or defaced by the invading armies.  Today, this temple is a functional temple where prayers are offered on a daily basis.

This temple is amongst the structures that were built during the period 1336 to 1570 AD i.e. the Sangama period starting from 1336 AD to the end of the Tuluva dynasty in 1570 AD. The notable period being the rule of the great King Krishnadeva Raya from 1509 to 1529.

This temple is dedicated to God Shiva who resides here in the form of Virupaksha. His consort is Goddess Pampa or Pampavati which is another name for the River Tungabhadra which flows nearby.  Virupaksha literally means “one with the oblique or misformed eye”. It is believed that God Shiva was in penance here. Parvati wanted to marry Him and felt that the only way she could get Him would be thru penance. Hence she also sat in penance and when God Shiva came to know of this He was so impressed and pleased that he agreed to marry Her.  It is believed that the venue of their marriage is the location of the Virupaksha temple.

It is said that originally a small shrine for Virupaksha existed here and it was during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya that additions to the temple and renovations were undertaken to bring this temple to the present state of grandeur. One of the works undertaken by Krishnadeva Raya was the construction of a “Mantapa” (Hall) in front of the sanctum with beautiful bas relief  panels  and murals in Vijayanagar style. There are also several manifestations of Shiva as well as the ten Avatars (incarnations) of God Vishnu. There is also the  famous scene from the “Mahabharat” (an important Hindu epic) depicting the scene in which Arjuna is shown shooting the fish in order to gain the hand of Draupadi in marriage. There is also a mural of Guru Vidyaranya – the spiritual founder of the Vijayanagara kingdom in procession. Perhaps the most awe inspiring aspect  of this temple is the massive “Gopura” (entrance structure of a South Indian temple). This Gopura is about 165 feet tall, 150 feet in breadth and 120 feet in depth. This is one of the tallest Gopura in South India and is in 11 tiers.  This Gopura has been built in such a manner that an inverted shadow of the Gopura falls on the western wall of the temple through a small hole adjoining the sanctum sanctorum. There are two other Gopura in this temple complex. The northern Gopura is constructed with five tiers and another Gopura in the inner eastern side is constructed with three tiers.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A view of the two eastern Gopuras. The on in the background is the main towering Gopura.

The main east facing Gopura Gopura as seen from the Hemakuta hill. It appears as though the Gopura is piercing out of the rock. 

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A corner view of the main east facing Gopura. Towering and majestic.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A top view of the temple complex shows all the Gopura and a majestic view of the entire temple complex.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A front view of the main east facing Gopura. Tall,  regal and majestic. This is nothing but sheer grandeur.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

Students of fine arts from a local college enthusiastically working on a painting of this  majestic monument. 

Where there is Shiva there has to be a “Nandi” – Bull which is His guardian and body guard. In front of the main Gopura on the eastern side there is a broad road running to about a km and ending in a massive monolithic statue of Nandi. This is considered as one amongst the biggest statue of Nandi of South India.  The statue itself is  awe inspiring and as you stand in front of it you are  totally mesmerized by its sheer size, proportions and details.  This statue is huge and is sculptured out of a single solid hard rock. A magnificent sight and a lovely piece of stone architecture. In the local language Nandi is referred to as “Yeduru Basavanna”.

There are several giant size Nandis sculptured of single solid hard rock such as granite in temples dedicated to God Shiva. Some of the gigantic sculptures of Nandi can be found in the following locations in South India:

Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

Brahadeeshwara temple, Tamil Nadu.

Gangaikondacholapuram, Tamil Nadu.

Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu.

Chamundi Hills, Mysore, Karnataka State.

Bull Temple, Bengaluru, Karnataka State.

Hoysaleshwara temple, Halebidu, Karnataka State.

Shanthaleshwara temple, Halebidu, Karnataka State.

Virupaksha temple, Hampi, Karnataka State.

Vadakkunathan temple, Thrissur, Kerala State.

Kadereshwara temple, Balligavi, Karnataka State.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A view of the structures just behind the Nandi temple. The steps take you to the top of a hillock for an overhead view of the Achyutharaya temple complex. The view from the top is breathtakingly beautiful.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A close up of the colossal  monolithic , hard rock stone carving of Nandikeshwara looking at His lord and master – Virupaksha

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

An elevation view of the Nandikeshwara temple in a canopied structure

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A side view of Nandikeshwara. Note the ornaments on the neck of Nandikeshwara.

On either side of the road in front of the eastern Gopura of the Virupaksha temple there are stone structures and it is said that a bazaar existed here for shopping, buying & selling and other commercial activities.  Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler who visited Hampi during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya  wrote:

“You have a broad and a beautiful street, full of rows of fine houses and mantapas,   — ——and in this street live many merchants and there you will find all sorts of rubies and diamonds, and emeralds and pearls and clothes and every other sort of thing there is on earth and that you wish to buy———–”

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Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Bazaar area, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A view of the bazaar area as seen when you walk down the road from the Virupaksha temple.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Bazaar area, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

Bazaar area. Modified by us . Competing architecture!

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Bazaar area, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A top view of the bazaar area from the steps of the hillock behind the Nandikeshwara temple. In the far background is the towering and the majestic main eastern Gopura of the Virupaksha temple.

Hampi, Vijayanagar Empire, Krishndeva Raya, Karnataka State, Dravidian Architecture, Shiv temples, Virupakhsa, Nandi, Bazaar area, Shankar Adisesh Photography, www.shankarphotography.com

A view of the bazaar area road.

I put my camera down and sat down on the road totally flabbergasted. I looked on my left and saw the towering Gopura on the eastern side and looked west at the huge statue of Nandi. Both majestic, towering and of indescribable beauty. An architectural marvel now standing in mute testimony to the excellence of the Vijayanagara style of architecture as if mocking us and saying – can you recreate this??

Author- Shankar Adisesh areas of photography are: Nature including landscapes, seascapes, riverscapes, portraits in naturally available light, classical Indian dances, street photography, travel photography and photographing temples and monuments. He is profoundly fascinated by the architecture, layout, sculpture, form and style of ancient Indian temples, churches and historical monuments.  He firmly believes that “A photograph must either convey beauty or an emotion or tell a story. Anything else would just be information” and works towards achieving this goal. He lives in Chennai with his wife Anuradha

In March 2012 he along with another photographer put up an exhibition of photographs on the “Beauty and Grandeur of the Pallava Temples of South India”. in Chennai.  The exhibition was well attended and was covered in “The Hindu “ of March 29, 2012 under the caption:  “Seeing Pallava Architecture through a shared Lens”

You can view more of his work here : www.shankarphotography.com

and www.flickr.com/photos/shankaradisesh