Forgotten History of Hampi – Part 1 (Vijaya Vitthala Mandira)

The city of Vijayanagara, known today as Hampi is visited by many people from various parts of the world as a tourist spot. While many people enjoy the scenic beauty of this ruined city which stands a testimony of the intolerance possessed by the Islamic invaders, its history and significance is completely ignored by them. In this series of articles, we try to portray the forgotten significance and history linked with each structure of this ruined city which unfortunately is completely hidden from the text books we make our kids study in school.

The city of Vijayanagara served as the capital of the empire of Vijayanagara – formed by the brothers Harihara and Bukka under the guidance of Jagadguru Sri Vidyaranya, earning him the title Karnataka Simhaasana Prathistaapanaacharya. The empire served as the greatest defender of Dharma for about 300 years – protecting Dakshin Bharat from the cruel fate of Islamic invasion. This ancient city is blessed with many temples, most of which are currently in ruins – stand as the testimony of architectural skills possessed by our ancestors. We will be looking at the significance of many such temples in this series of articles. As a part of it in this post we present you the architectural greatness of the VIJAYA VITTHALA MANDIRA which stands as a wonder in its own style.

VIJAYA VITTHALA MANDIRA, HAMPI

When we verbalize the architectural skills and astuteness possessed by the people of Vijayanagara empire we may have several questions arising in our mind like how did the architects of Vijayanagara empire plan their construction? How were the kalyana mandapas (espousement halls) of the emperors adorned? How were the markets  of the city of Vijayanagara constructed? Where did the great poet Purandharadasa indite his poems? The answers to illimitable number of such questions can be found together only at one place – VIJAYA VITTHALA MANDIRA

The gopuram of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi
The gopuram of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi

It was constructed in the 15th century as a small temple during the rule of Deva Raya II, who is considered as the greatest of all the Vijayanagara emperors and whose rule is considered as the golden age of south Bharat. His empire extended from Ceylon in the south to Gulbarga in the north and the Bay of Bengal in the east to the Arabian sea in the west. Deva Raya II is known to be an able administrator and a brave warrior. As a result of the continuous attacks and eradication of the Vithoba Mandir (Vitthala Mandira) of Pandharpur, the king though being an ardent Saivaite, provided for the construction of a temple for Vitthala, who is considered as one of the manifestations of Vishnu because of the devotion of his citizens towards Vitthala. This temple was later elongated by the successive emperors of Vijayanagara to become the largest temple of Vijayanagara city and also the headquarters of Vaishnavism in the city of Vijayanagara.

Vithoba, Pandharpur

The temple, which is currently in ruins because of the cruel and cold hearted ravagement and plunder of the city by Islamic invaders, still stands as a wonder of its own kind. The gopuram of the temple in ruined state welcomes us though its upper part is broken. On entering the temple through the gopuram we visually perceive the famous Stone chariot of Hampi with its rotatable wheels (rotation currently banned by the Archeological Survey of India because of its large size) which acted as the shrine of Garuda, the vahana (mount) of Vishnu during the functioning days of the temple. It is believed that people in those days used to rotate the wheels of stone chariot praying for their welfare.

Opposite to the stone chariot stands the nritya mandapa (hall used for staging various types of dances) with its musical pillars which make sound when tapped making musical instruments nonessential for the dance functions – this was constructed during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya. Around eighteen of these 54 musical pillars in the nritya mandapa are still in working condition. The architectural wonder of these pillars is such that they are solid and not hollow as they look. An astronomically immense rock has been used to make the main pillar and around 10-12 sub pillars are around this main pillar.

From various inscriptions in the temple and scriptures it is quite evident that the second queen of Krishna Deva Raya, Chinnamba served the lord as a dancer in the temple even after her marriage with the king. Another beautiful part of this nritya mandapa is the ability of its roof to decelerate the force of rain water and make it fall slowly through the edges making the droplets of water look akin to pearls.

Stone chariot, Hampi
Stone chariot, Hampi
Nritya mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi
Nritya mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi

The Purandaradasa mandapa on the right of the stone chariot was constructed for dance performances on the kirthanas of the great poet who composed around 4,75,000 kirthanas on the Vitthala of this temple.

Purandaradasa mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi
Purandaradasa mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi

The Kalyana mandapa to the left of nritya mandapa with a number of mythical sculptures was utilized for the marriages of Vitthala with Rukmini and also the emperors of Vijayanagara.

Kalyana mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi
Kalyana mandapa of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, Hampi

In the outer prahara of the temple we see the ruins of long mandapa near the outer wall of the temple extending the whole perimeter of the temple. This mandapa was utilized for annadana (food donation) where thousands of people who came for the darshan of Vitthala were provided with food which has been the tradition practice of temples for centuries until their administration was taken over by the secular government following which the practice was stopped at most of the temples.

At the backside of the temple on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, is the small mandapa with a murthi of the great poet Purandharadasa in it. From the inscriptions it is found that the great kavi composed 4,75,000 kirthanas on Vitthala at this place. As a sign of honor, a murthi of Purandaradasa has been placed at this mandapa.

The murthi of Purandaradasa, Hampi
The murthi of Purandaradasa, Hampi

The Vijaya Vitthala Mandira, like innumerable temples of Hampi, is currently in a ruined state. The shrines of the temple are currently without murthis and one of the dvarapalakas of the shrine of Vitthala (Vijaya) is also missing. The Vitthala temple with its majestic architecture in a ruined state stands as an indisputable evidence of the horrific Moslem invasion of south Bharat.

Many historians and present guides of Hampi claim that the Vitthala murthi of the temple was taken to Pandharpur, in order to prevent the lord from ravagement at the hands of moslem plunderers after seeing the state of Vijayangara city post the ingress of marauders. This point, though making us feel marginally better, seems to be illogical as the Moslem soldiers after murdering Rama Raya in the Battle of Talikota entered the city of Vijayanagara from the northern direction. Hence by this fact, the Vijaya Vitthala Mandira must have been the first temple to be ravaged by the marauders as it stands in the northern border of the city.

Thus the present state of Vijaya Vitthala Mandira stands as proof of the atrocities of Moslem incursion and makes it evident that tolerance for other religions was not present in any of the Moslem expeditions. Many more such stories of Hampi will be presented to our readers in our articles to follow.

(Note: This article first appeared at https://paanchajanya1284.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/vijayangara-the-forgotten-city-part-2-vijaya-vitthala-mandira/?frame-nonce=8fde7940ce and is being republished here by the same author)


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About the Author

Paanchajanya
Yato dharmas tato jayah... Tweets at @paanchajanyaa
  • Swayam

    Please include more monuments in this article so that this post ranks on the first page of Google .