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. To the extreme left are covered pillared halls that were 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).
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.
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.
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.
Guides will point out to stone loops overhanging the fringes of the roof and tell you that curtains and flower garlands were hung from these for the duration of the performance which had a select, private audience.
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.
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.
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.
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 –
More about the Vijaya Vitthala temple
About drums and Indian drums –
About Vitthala/Vithoba at Pandharpur, Maharashtra – http://jaimaharashtratourism.blogspot.in/2010/11/vithoba-temple-pandharpur-aarti-puja.html