Located in Hampi, 350 km from Bangalore, Virupaksha Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also part of Group of Monuments at Hampi, and Group of Monuments at Pattadakal. This Dravidian style temple is close to the famous temple of Kailasnath at Kanchipuram and is said to have been built by the queen of Vikramaditya II, Lokhamahadevi to commemorate king’s victory over Pallava of Kanchipuram.
The Shiva temple that was once destroyed by Muslims stands grand as ever today
The capital of Vijayanagara, Hampi, sits on the banks of Tungabhadra River, and this Temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi. Many consider this to be the most sanctuary over the centuries. Lord Shiva here is in the form of Virupaksha.
History of Virupaksha Temple
From about 7th century, the history remains untampered and had existed way before the capital of Vijanayagara was located here. The inscriptions date back to the 9th and 10th centuries. It indicates that the temple had actually started as a small shrine, and then under the rule of Vijayanagara kings, the temple grew into what it is now today, a large complex. The additions were made during the Chalukyan and Hoysala periods, according to evidence, even though the core main structures were built during the rule of Vijayanagara kings. Lakkana Dandesha, a chieftain under the ruler Deva Raya II of Vijayanagara Empire, built the temple building.
There used to be a great flow of native art and culture during the 14th century under the rules of Vijayanagara kings. But they were defeated by Muslim invaders, and during that process, many decorative structures were systematically destroyed.
However, the sect of Virupaksha-Pampa did not end with the destruction of the city in 1565. Many still went there to worship, and the culture continued over the years. Most of the renovation started at the beginning of 19th century, and that included the paintings, towers, ceilings.
The Structure of Virupaksha Temple
There is a sanctum with three antechambers, a pillared hall, and an open pillared hall. The cloister, gateways, courtyards, smaller shrines and other structure make the temple grandeur.
The largest nine-tiered eastern gateway of 50 meters is well-rounded with a design inspired from earlier structures. The base is made of stone with brick as its core superstructure. This leads to the outer court that has many other sub-shrines.
The eastern gateway of Virupaksha Temple also leads to another court with many smaller shrines.
There is a gopuram at the north side and is known as the Kanakagiri gopura, which leads to a small enclosure with subsidiary shrines and then to the river Tungabhadra. The river flows along the terrace and then moves down to the temple kitchen, then to the outer court.
The famous King Krishnadevaraya was a patron of the temple, and most of the embellishment were done by him. He built the central pillared hall and the gateway tower. There is an inscription near to the pillared hall that talks about his contributions.
Festivals at Virupaksha Temple
The Virupaksha temple draws crowds during the annual chariot festival in the month of February. The temple is also known for betrothal and marriage festivities of Virupaksha and Pampa in December.