Virupaksha Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Hampi, 350 km from Bangalore. This beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also part of the 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. It is said to have been built by the queen of Vikramaditya II, Lokhamahadevi, to commemorate the king’s victory over Pallava of Kanchipuram.
The capital of Vijayanagara, Hampi, sits on the banks of the 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 the 7th century, 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.
According to evidence, the additions were made during the Chalukyan and Hoysala periods, even though the main core structures were built during the rule of Vijayanagara kings. Lakkana Dandesha, a chieftain under the ruler Deva Raya II of the 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 the 19th century, including paintings, towers, and 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 structures make the temple grandeur.
The largest nine-tiered eastern gateway of 50 meters is well-rounded with a design inspired by earlier structures. The base is made of stone with brick as its core superstructure. This leads to the outer court, which has many other sub-shrines.
The eastern gateway of Virupaksha Temple also leads to another court with many smaller shrines.
There is a gopuram on the north side 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 and the outer court.
The famous King Krishnadevaraya was a patron of the temple, and most of the embellishments were done by him. He built the central pillared hall and the gateway tower. There is an inscription near the pillared hall that talks about his contributions.
Festivals at Virupaksha Temple
The Virupaksha temple draws crowds during the annual chariot festival in February. The temple is also known for the betrothal and marriage festivities of Virupaksha and Pampa in December.