This is the epitome of the marvel of the craftsmanship of Vijayanagara architecture. This is the place where art historians can spend days understanding the design and its depth. This is the place where modern technology itself awes the creation of sounds in a stone. The Vitthala temple is in every way, a wonder.
Vitthala is the Krishna aspect of Lord Vishnu. This temple is one of the largest temples of that period, built under the patronage of Devaraya II (1422-46 AD). Substantial portions of the present structure were added during Krishnadevaraya’s (1509-1529 AD.) reign. The hundred pillared mantapa (pavilion) to the southwest of the main temple, and the Eastern and Northern gateways carved with depictions of Vishnu and his other forms, are attributed to Krishnadevaraya and his queens.
Just outside the temple, there is the Vitthala Bazaar, measuring 945 mts. in length and 40 mts. in width similar to the Krishna Bazaar and even here precious stones were sold. This should have a prominent place for business, as people from other villages and countries should have been visiting this famous tourist destination. This Bazaar leads to a sacred tank called Lokapavani. Even today, this is one of the most crowded monuments.
We can feel the importance of the temple by looking at its main entrance or the Gopura. As in most of the temples of the Vijayanagara era, the lower half of the gopura is made of stone and the upper half of brick. We should really appreciate the craftsmen carving beautiful sculptures on the brick. The picture here shows an example.
The best time to visit this temple is between 4 and 5.30 PM where heat is less and we can spend at least 1 hour in the complex. As soon as we enter the temple complex, we will understand why is the Vitthala temple the best. The complex is big with some open space before we get to the monuments. The entire complex seems to be like a sequence of pillars everywhere. There are 7 monuments inside out of which three are big and contains lots of pillars. To the left, there is the Narasimha Mantapa, where a pillar has the sculpture of a Yogavarada Narasimha and other various forms. The inside of this Mantapa is filled with pillars on which stories of Krishna are sculpted beautifully. There is a platform on which the pillars are the sculpted with long carvings of lions, the mark of Vijayanagara architecture.
The main temple is built on an sculptured ornate plinth. The composite pillars of the Sabha mantapa (congregation hall) are massive, hewn out of single granite blocks, which are designed as clusters of slender pillars. Here is the wonder that everyone talks about. Some of these, when tapped gently produce musical notes. The pillars are slim and hollow from inside. How the pillars are made so, we never know. The congregation hall is on maintenance, so tourists are not allowed to enter inside. As any of the authorized guides and they will tap the pillars and they will show this feature. We can go around the temple again and again to see this wonderful creation. You also see this picture of a person playing the mridangam (a drum). We can hear the musical notes even when we tap on the drum. Behind the congregation hall, is the main temple and the sanctum. All around the complex, a pillared balcony runs around. We can have a good view of the balcony from the side entrance of the temple. The Mukha Mantapa of the temple has large square pillars on which various stories of the life and times of Lord Krishna are depicted nicely. The inner sanctum has two stone pedestals, which probably seated the main deity and the Devi. Even if there is no idol of the main deity “Vitthala” in the inner sanctum, there is a bust sculpted on the top of the outer ceiling of the inner sanctum. The guides make a point to show it. There are two outer walls to the main temple and there is a gap between the two. This is probably for the devotees to do the Pradakshina (rounds of the sanctum). There is a long inscription at the entrance of the main temple, probably about the consecration of the temple. The Devi shrine is simple without any sculptures.
Just in front of the congregation hall, is the icon of Vijayanagara and is perhaps the most stunning achievement, typical of the Vijayanagara period, the Stone Chariot. This is the image that one see on any brochure about Hampi. This reproduction of a processional wooden chariot houses the image of Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. The whole chariot is carved with ornate designs. There is a stone ladder in front of it to reach the small enclosure where the image of Garuda is located. Two elephants are on either side of the chariot suggesting they pulling it. The wheels of the chariot are large and with designs all around them.
There is a large Rangamantapa to the right of the chariot and this is also as good as the congregation hall. The platform is beautifully carved along with the ceiling. This temple complex is one of the best i have visited till date and speaks about the grandeur of the empire and the skill of the craftsmen. I have visited other temples constructed by different dynasties, but the Vijaya Vitthala Temple will always take a special place in my heart.
We then move on to reach the river Tungabhadra where other temples are waiting to be told their story.