Hampi is one of the most visited and popular sites in Karnataka and it is really one of those places you never tire of seeing again and again. This is because there is so much to explore in this ancient town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and akin to an open air museum. I was delighted to visit this fascinating town again as part of the Golden Chariot journey.
Of the innumerable wonders in Hampi, the Vittala temple is considered to be the most magnificent and perhaps the ‘star attraction’ of the town. Built during the reign of Devaraya II, the temple was further renovated under the famous ruler Krishnadevaraya in the early 16th century. Often touted to be pinnacle of the Vijaynagar school of architecture, the Vittala temple is synonymous with architectural and sculptural brilliance.
Like many of Hampi’s monuments, the temple’s imposing brick tower, is not in a very good shape and is almost in a dilapidated state today.
Built on an ornate plinth, the temple complex is large and houses a number of pavilions, four halls, enclosures and temples. The 100 pillared hall pavilion or mantapa on the south western part of the temple and the northern and southern gateways carved with images of Vishnu, to whom the temple is dedicated are some of the special features of the monument.
Intricate sculptures of leaping yalis (mythical beasts) with riders mounted on them are seen abundantly in the temple especially in the southern hall.
The carvings on the outer walls are also detailed and boast of some of the most superior craftsmanship.
The pillars of the halls have multifarious and unique carvings.
The highlight of the temple is of course the iconic stone chariot and the marvelous musical pillars. Situated on the east, opposite to the entrance is the spectacular stone chariot that is literally, the symbol of Hampi. It is one of the three famous stone chariots found in India, the other two being in Konark and Mahabalipuram.
The wheels of the chariot actually rotate but the same has been cemented by the Archaeological Survery of India due to the potential damage it may cause given the high density of visitors. Dedicated to Lord Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu, the chariot is seen being drawn by two elephants. Originally there were a pair of horses in the place of elephants.
The other unique feature of the Vittala temple are composite pillars of the Sabha mandapa that are designed as clusters of hollow, slender pillars. These pillars when gently tapped emit soft melodious musical note like sounds. These are popularly known as the “Saregama” pillars today. Tapping on the pillars is prohibited now due to the extensive damage that has already been caused to these master pieces.
The entrance to the temple complex was a vibrant market, the remains of which are seen even today.