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Mysterious Magnificent Masterpiece of Karnataka- Vijaya Vitthala Temple, Hampi

by Sumiran Takhtani
(Bhopal, India)

India a country with a history of thousand years, a country rich in cultures and heritage. Several rulers ruled over it from time to time, creating kingdoms to leave behind a legacy that eventually gave us the roadmap to ancient civilization. Many magnificent structures, majestic forts, temples and palaces that we are able to stop at our very first sight are eventually a gift because of the rich history that we Indian have. While all such structures amaze us with their architecture and vast complex, some also amaze us with their mysterious nature. Vitthal Temple is the most extraordinary architectural showpiece of Hampi, an ancient village in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Vitthal Temple is one of the most magnificent and grand temples of Hampi. No words can describe this spectacle. The temple is built as an enormous complex with compound wall and gateway towers. Several halls, pavilions and temples are located inside this complex.
Keywords: History, architectural style, temple complex, mystery

There are places in Republic of India that defy all scientific laws and exist solely thanks to some divine mystery or one thing. While some believe that these are just myths, others think so. On those lines, we have more on the musical pillars of the Vitthal temple as the centre of attraction of Hampi. Hampi is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Hospet town in the Karnataka state of India. The Vitthal temple has some prime stone structures, like a stone chariot and musical pillars. Both these structures speak a ton about the unmatched craftsmanship of that period. This temple of Hampi attracts people from all over the world, yet is mostly in a dilapidated condition.

The first issue that amazes us is that the craft of the artisans of the Vijayanagara Empire. Dravidian vogue adorns the development of the complex, that is additionally increased with elaborate carvings.

The temple was originally built in the 15th century AD during the rule of Devaraya II. Vijayanagara Empire had several rulers, Devaraya was one of them. The temple is dedicated to Vitthal and is also known as Vijaya Vitthal Temple; Vitthal is also said to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to legends, the temple was built for Lord Vishnu in his Vitthal form, this aspect of Vishnu was worshiped by cattle herders in this part of the country as their cult deity. When he found that the temple was too magnificent in nature, his modest nature made him return to live in his simple home at Pandharpur. Several subsequent kings have extended the temple complex to its present form during their rule. The remains of a settlement called Vittalapur are present around this temple complex.

Among the many structures, the main hall or Maha Mandap, Devi Tirtha, Kalyana Mandap, Ranga Mandap, Utsav Mandap and the very famous stone chariot are notable.

3.1 Entrance
We generally reach the premises through the eastern entrance. Upon entering from this massive tower, the first thing that catches our attention will be a series of compact platforms along the central axis of the complex.

3.2 Chariot
The impressive pillared hall and stone chariot are the main attraction of the Vitthal Temple. The stone chariot located inside the complex is an almost iconic structure of Hampi.

It may appear and is sometimes referred to as a monolithic structure. This stone temple was built with large number of gaint granite blocks. The additions to the carvings and other decorative features that adorn the stone chariot are cleverly hidden.

3.2.1 Platform
The chariot is built on a rectangular platform a foot or so high. This base platform has carvings of great battle scenes around it. Though the chariot does not rest on it, the four massive wheels fitted with axle shafts and brakes mimic real life.

3.2.2 Wheels
A series of homocentric floral motifs enhance the wheels this appears from the mark on the platform, where the wheels rest, the wheels were free to rotate around the axle. We can still see the pentimento on the carvings of the chariot. Perhaps because it was relatively protected from the elements of natural wear, the chariot's chassis that is the metal frame of a vehicle onto which the other parts fit is one of the best-preserved specimens of such paintings. It is said that the sculptures of the Vitthal temple were once aesthetically painted in a similar trend using minerals.

3.2.3 Charioteer
Two elephants are sitting in front of the chariot as if they are pulling the chariot. In fact, these elephants were brought from elsewhere and later posted here. Originally two horses were bred in that position. The tail and hind legs of horses can still be seen just behind these elephant sculptures. A broken stone ladder giving access to the sanctum sanctorum is placed among the elephants. Marks on the floor and door where the ladder once stood are still seen.

3.4 Main hall
After the stone chariot, the main hall in front of the Vitthal temple is carved on huge granite pillars with a vast array of sculptures. Despite being partially damaged, this hall is still awe-inspiring. Access to this high open hall is provided by a series of steps flaked by elephant balustrades facing the stone chariot.

3.4.1 Balustrades
The balustrades on the east and west verandahs of this hall are more dramatic. They have gaunt lion Yalis fighting the dwarft elephants.

3.3.2 Platform
The Maha-Mantapa stands on a highly embellished platform. This flute stage is carved with a series of floral motifs. Its lowest part is a series of horses, its trainers and traders.

3.4 Open halls
The Maha-Mantapa has four grand open halls. South, North and East are still intact. The central western hall has collapsed, possibly due to arson that followed the fall of the capital.

3.4.1 Eastern hall
The eastern hall is known as the Musicians Hall and it is famous for sculptures of musicians on the pillars. Musicians, drummers and dancers are carved on each pillar around this hall.

3.4.2 Southern hall
The southern hall is dominated by giant mythological creatures called Yalis. The capitals of each column branch into heavily ornate corbels, ending with lotus buds.

3.4.3 Northern hall
The northern hall is encircled by a series of pillars with Narasimha the human-lion incarnation of Hindu deity subjects. Most notable is the killing of Hiranyakashipu by Narasimha by holding him in his lap. Prahlad is seen sitting on the base in a prayer posture.

3.4.4 Ceilings of hall
The ceilings of the hall are also interesting with a lotus-like carving in the centre.

3.4.5 Further west
There is a closed hall with two verandahs on either side.

3.5 Sanctum
The inner sanctum is destitute of any idol. A narrow and unlit passage surrounds the inner sanctum. Some stairs on either side of the main entrance of the sanctum provide access to this passage. The outer wall of the sanctum sanctorum, which can be seen only from this passage, is richly decorated with kumbha-pankaja that is lotus flower flowing from pot motifs. A shared head image of a bull and an elephant. The left part is in the form of a bull and the right part is complete in the form of an elephant!

3.6 Pillars
The main attraction of the Maha-Mantapa is its richly carved huge monolithic pillars. The huge Ranga Mandapa has 56 musical pillars, also known as Saregama Pillars. The mandapa consists of a set of main pillars and several smaller pillars. The roof of Mandapa is supported by these pillars and the main pillars are designed in such a way that they act like musical instruments.

3.6.1 Musical Notes
The outermost pillars are known as musical pillars. Each main pillar is wrapped by seven smaller pillars, which emit musical notes. Each swara emanating from these pillars produces a different sound, which also changes when the strings, percussion and wind instruments are played. If the pillars are hit with sandalwood, they release rhythmic sounds close to Saregama. These have been attributed to the musical notes that arose out of them. These slender and small pilasters, carved from huge pillars, if they thump the pillars gently, the notes of the music can actually be heard. These are not related to any standard musical note, but the musical tone of the vibes gives it a name. The visitors are attracted to the rhythmic sound produced by the pillars but the reason is still not known. The unconscious curiosity of visitors has damaged many of these pilasters and taping has been banned for protection.

Science and faith are two different things, but sometimes they collide and have no explanation. Belief is sometimes supported by scientific findings, but again, there are no clear lines here. There are occasions once we see one thing that has no scientific clarification. Mystery is that the solely issue that defines them. Mysterious Vitthal Temple in Hampi and its musical pillars is one of the structures that has fascinated people since time immemorial. Called the middle of attraction of Hampi, this temple is a masterpiece in terms of magnificence and design. Words will fail to live up to describe the admiration of the beauty of this place.



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