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Virupaksha Temple

The Virupaksha Temple, also known as the Pampapathi Temple, is located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River, just a short walk from where the local buses drop visitors. This area has long been an important pilgrimage destination for devotees of Lord Shiva. The temple attracts both tourists and pilgrims, with its annual festivals drawing huge crowds.

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    The history of Hampi as a sacred place is closely tied to the myths surrounding this ancient temple. It is believed to have been continuously functioning since its inception in the 7th century AD, making it one of the oldest operating temples in India. The Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal is not only a significant religious site but also a marvel of architecture.

    Virupaksha Temple

    The Evolution of the Virupaksha Temple Complex

    The original worship site consisted of a few humble shrines (also dating back to the 7th century) housing the images of the deities. Over the centuries, the temple gradually expanded into a sprawling complex with many sub-shrines, pillared halls, flag posts, lamp posts, towered gateways, and even a large temple kitchen.

    The main entrance tower, known as the Gopura, is accessed through the Hampi Bazaar, a chariot street in front of the temple. The Virupaksha Temple, built by the Chalukyas, showcases an impressive blend of architectural styles that evolved over time.

    Impressive Entrance Tower of Virupaksha Temple

    The nine-story, east-facing Gopura is the most prominent landmark in Hampi. Its pastel-painted exterior features a pair of cow-horn-like projections on top. The lower two tiers are made of decorated stone work, while the upper tiers are constructed with brick and mortar. The exterior of the first tier is adorned with many interesting stucco figures, including erotic depictions of amorous couples located on the south side of the tower. These fertility icons are considered auspicious on a philosophical level.

    The Main Virupaksha Temple Complex

    The main temple faces east and has two large courtyards. The first courtyard, accessed through the entrance tower, houses a 100-column hall, a Kalyanamantapa (wedding hall), administrative offices, a ticket counter, a police outpost, and an old well. A kitchen complex projects out from the south wall, overlapping the two courtyards. A narrow passage on the wall of the 100-column hall provides access to the kitchen, which features a water channel system connected to the nearby river. The plan of the Virupaksha Temple is meticulously designed, reflecting the architectural ingenuity of its builders.

    Interesting Features and Attractions

    Just inside the entrance, visitors can see an unusual triple-headed Nandi (bull statue). Behind it, the wall is painted with a large map of Hampi, highlighting the main attractions. Near the police outpost, foreign tourists are requested to register their details, a simple process of entering names and other information in a register book. The ticket counter sells entry tickets (Rs 5), camera tickets (Rs 50), and video camera fees (Rs 500). The inner courtyard is accessed through the three-story tower built in 1510 AD by the famous king Krishnadevaraya.

    Inside this courtyard, visitors can interact with the temple’s resident elephant, which takes a one-rupee coin from visitors with its trunk and gives a “blessing” by touching the visitor’s head with its trunk. The timings of Virupaksha Temple are convenient for both early birds and late visitors, accommodating a broad spectrum of devotees and tourists.

    Exploring the Virupaksha Temple Complex

    The Virupaksha Temple complex is a fascinating blend of architectural wonders and religious significance. Let’s take a closer look at some of its most striking features:

    • The Central Courtyard

    At the center of the courtyard, along the axis facing the main shrine, you’ll find a lamp post, sacred platforms (Balipitas), a flag post, and a whitewashed pavilion housing two Nandi (bull) statues. The open area is surrounded by pillared cloisters, with gaps on the north, south, and east edges leading to a series of sub-shrines. The facing portion of the cloister is lined with a row of decorated pillars, each with a lion figure carved on the base, supporting the slender upper portions. A closer look reveals interesting animal figures and life scenes carved on the pillars. The architecture of the Virupaksha Temple is a testament to the intricate craftsmanship and the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka.

    • The Ranga Mandapa

    One of the most striking features of the courtyard is the central pillared hall known as the Ranga Mandapa, added to the temple complex in 1510 AD by King Krishnadevaraya. Two mythical lion-like creatures form the balustrade at the entrance to this elevated open pavilion. An inscribed plaque with a Nandi image on top, probably explaining the royal patronage the temple enjoyed, can be seen on the right as you enter the pavilion.

    This hall, with five aisles and 38 pillars, is used for temple rituals, including marriage ceremonies. The highlights include rows of pillars shaped with rampant lion-like mythical creatures (Yalis) standing on aquatic creatures (Makara or Crocodiles), with warriors seemingly riding on these ferocious-looking creatures.

    • The Main Shrine and Sub-Shrines

    Further west, beyond a small inner hall, is the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Virupaksha. Two four-armed guardian deities, about eight feet tall, stand on either side of the entrance to the inner hall, whose ceiling is decorated with an open lotus motif. The sanctum contains the idol of Lord Virupaksha in the form of a Linga (a phallus image), with a corridor surrounding it.

    The most important sub-shrines are those of Goddess Pampa and Bhuvaneswari, consorts of Lord Shiva, located to the north of the main shrine. These shrines are much older than the rest of the grandiose structures in the compound, with richly carved short circular pillars, doorways, and ceilings. The detailed information about the Virupaksha Temple provides a comprehensive understanding of its historical and cultural significance.

    Other Attractions

    Behind the main sanctum, a flight of steps leads to the rear exit of the temple complex. Just before the exit, on the right side, you’ll find a dark chamber with a slit on the wall. The sunray passing through this slit forms an inverted shadow of the main tower on the wall, a kind of pinhole camera effect created with stonework.

    Tracing a narrow path along the outer wall towards the south will lead you to a small but interesting pond with pillared halls all around it, surrounded by thick banana plantations and shrubs. The giant north tower, called Kangiri Gopura, near the main sanctum leads to the temple’s sacred pond, the Manmantha Tank, and a series of shrines.

    To fully appreciate the temple complex, it’s recommended to spend at least an hour exploring it. If you prefer, you can hire a guide who will approach you near the main entrance tower (for a fee of Rs 50). Where is Virupaksha Temple located? It’s in the heart of Karnataka, India, serving as a beacon of spiritual and historical grandeur.

    Virupaksha Temple FAQs

    What is special about Virupaksha temple?

    The Virupaksha Temple is the 7th-century Shiva temple in Hampi, Central Karnataka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lord Virupaksha, also known as Pampapathi, is the main deity in the temple complex, which also houses shrines of Bhuvaneshwari and Vidyaranya.

    Which God is Virupaksha temple for?

    The Virupaksha Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Pampadevi. It is the only temple in the area still actively used for worship, with parts predating the Vijayanagara empire. The temple's nine-storied gopuram stands tall above other structures in Hampi.

    Which queen built Virupaksha temple?

    Built in 740 AD, the Virupaksha Temple is the oldest known temple constructed by a queen in India. Queen Lokamahadevi built it to commemorate her husband King Vikramaditya's victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

    Why is Shiva called Virupaksha?

    Shiva is unique with his three eyes, symbolizing his Trinetra form. The name Virupaksha translates to eyes without form, highlighting Shiva's distinctiveness. Known as Devon ka dev Siva Mahadeva, his diverse-eyed form earns him the title Virupaksha.

    What is the maths behind Virupaksha temple?

    The Virupaksha Temple showcases the use of mathematical concepts in its construction and decoration. Notably, the temple incorporates repeated patterns demonstrating Fractals, with its main shape being triangular, adding a unique mathematical dimension to its architectural beauty.

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