Vittala Temple, Hampi
The Vittala Temple or Vitthala Temple is located in the historical town of Hampi, Karnataka, and is dedicated to Lord Vitthala. The temple was constructed in the 15th century by the fearsome ruler of the Vijaynagar Empire. The extravagant architecture and exceptional craftsmanship of the Group of Monuments at Hampi have made them a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The history of Vittala Temple, Hampi dates back to the 15th century. Hampi is situated on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, it was built during the reign of King Devaraya II (1422 – 1446 A.D.) Several portions of the temple were expanded during the reign of King Krishnadeva.
The stone chariot was built by King Krishnadeva, he went to war in Odisha, seeing the chariot in the Sun Temple of Konark, he took a firm resolve to build a chariot made of the same type of stones in his empire. Then he got this stone chariot constructed in Hampi. An idol of Vitthala-Vishnu was enshrined in the temple.
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The Architectural Marvel
The Vittala Temple is the grandest of all temples and monuments in Hampi. It possesses immense creativity and architectural excellence possessed by the sculptors and artisans of the Vijayanagara era. This temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture. The most notable features of Vittala Temple are the shrine of Goddess Devi, Maha Mantapa, Tanga Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa, Utsava Mantapa, and the stone chariot.
The Stone Chariot is one of the most complex and famous architectures of the Vijayanagara kingdom. It is built on a rectangular stone platform and its inner chamber once enshrined a Garuda idol. This chariot made of stones is made by slabs of granite. Made of Dravidian style, this chariot has four wheels and two elephants in front which look like they are pulling the chariot. Earlier there were horses with elephants in this chariot but due to the chariot being damaged, now only the feet of horses are visible. A ladder was also built from among these elephants which the priests used to climb up to the inner sanctum, but now it too has been destroyed. This temple reflects the skills of earlier artisans and architects. This temple is built of stones, it looks like a single piece of the concrete structure.
The main hall opens out to the maha mandapam, which has the most fascinating and famous part of the temple—the musical pillars. Carved out of a single rock, each of the massive pillars emits a different musical tone also called the SAREGAMA pillars, which when tapped gently emanate light musical chimes. The pillars have been damaged by the British, who cut the pillars to check what was responsible for producing the sound. The temple has spectacular carvings and sculptures. This complex also has a large Pushkarani (stepped tank) with a Vasantotsava mandapa (ceremonial pavilion at the center), wells, and a network of water channels.
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Some of the stunning attractions of the temple
1. Maha Mantapa
The Maha Mantapa or main hall of the Temple is housed inside the inner courtyard. A beautiful structure, it has a well-defined ornate base with carvings of horses, swans, warriors and several other traditional ornamental motifs. The columnar structure has four smaller halls and has beautiful inscriptions done all over them.
2. Stone Chariot
The temple complex has the grand stone chariot, which is possibly the most striking fixture of the entire compound. The Ratha or Stone Chariot has a carved Garuda figure, the half-human – half eagle vahana or carrier of Vishnu. There are only two other stone chariots found in India – Konark, and Mahabalipuram.
3. The Musical Pillars of the Ranga Mantapa
One of the star attractions of the Vittala Temple in Hospet is the glorious Ranga Mantapa. The large hall has more than fifty musical pillars, which produces musical notes when tapped gently. Primary pillars are surrounded by seven 7 minor pillars, which emit musical notes similar to different Indian musical instruments.
Some Interesting Facts about Vittala Temple
1. The Vijaya Vithala Temple is one of the finest examples of the exquisitely carved temple of all the Hampi temples.
2. The musical pillars of the Vittala Temple were carved out of single pieces of stone which could be tuned to produce sounds, especially musical notes.
3. The British colonizers were also fascinated by this mysterious pillar. To unravel its mysteries and to check what was inside these pillars, it was ordered to cut one of them into half and they did not find anything.
4. Stone chariot of the Vittala temple was is another magnificent structure located outside the main compound. The chariot was carved out of the single stone slab and has a figurine representative of Garuda, the Vahana of Vishnu.
5. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu but now no worship is offered in the temple as there is no deity inside the inner sanctum.
6. The stone chariot is a big attraction at the temple and draws tourists from near and far. The other two stone chariot in India are in Konark and Mahabalipuram.
7. The stone chariot is one of the most photographed monuments in India.
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Hampi is the World Heritage Site
Hampi has been internationally recognized as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. UNESCO described it as an “austere, grandiose site” of thousands surviving remains of the last Hindu kingdom which include “forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures, and others”.
Hampi stone chariot is featured on Rs 50 note
Karnataka’s heritage ‘Stone Chariot‘ located inside the Vittala Temple in Hampi is printed on the backside of Rs 50 note. The Stone Chariot temple is carved out of a single block of granite and resembles the Konark Sun Temple chariot.
How to reach Hampi
Hampi is well connected by road to the major cities, the nearest Bus stand is Hospet KSRTC Bus Stand. The nearest Railway station is Hospet Railway Station which is 10 km from Hampi. Bellary Airport if the nearest Airport of the region which is 64kms away from Hampi. Taxi and buses are easily available outside for traveling Vittala Temple.
Best time to visit Hampi
Before planning your trip to Vittala Temple, Hampi you should consider the heat and humidity in the south of India. The month from November to February are the best as they are the cooler months when the weather is pleasant. The Vijaya Utsav, also known as the Hampi Utsav is held during the first week of November for 3 days and it is the best time to explore the cultural richness of the region.