The Tiruvengalanatha Temple was built at Vijayanagara[ Hampi] during the reign of Achyutraya, younger brother of the most famous king of Vijayanagar empire, Krishnadeva Raya. Though like most of the temples at Hampi this too has Lord Vishnu as it’s principal deity but it has come to be  popularly known  as Achyutaraya Temple.

The temple complex is between two hills Gandhmadana and Matanga hills. There are two routes to temple one is to climb the steps behind the Nandi at the east of Hampi Bazar and another is from King’s palace path.

I had two experiences of Achyutraya temple, one while visiting it, roaming through it’s vast open spaces and mandapas with intricately carved pillars and the second one looking at the vast spread temple complex from the top of Matanga hills.

When we walked in the premises of the temple it was almost mid day. The day outside was bright, sunny though it was not hot. Walking towards it from a distance I could see the tall, wide imposing gate.  Reaching there I stood on the gate taking in the architectural grandeur spread before me and seeping in the serenity, the quiet, the peace of the moment. At the moment there were not many tourists in the premises, at least not in the range of our eyes and ears. From gate a well laid path led to another gate  and on both the sides of that path were open green patches of grass. In the middle of open space of one side there lay a big boulder with flat surface. A lone figure sat on that boulder, a soft golden light filling the space with ethereal feel. In the background loomed the pillars, pavilions and other structures, writing the testimonials for the time bygone. It was such a beautiful moment that I am incapable of putting it in the words. A moment when heart is filled with the mixture of diverse emotions, awe for the magnificent creations spread before, joy for being able to witness those, pride for being one from the land of those master craftsmen and a tinge of sadness for the end of that golden era of our history.

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The way which led us towards Achyutraya temple. On the right side  a bawali [ step well] was being excavated and being arranged. How much could be restored and how much has been lost.

The long lost path, rediscovered, re-travelled, an attempt to treasure the glory, to water the roots, the past cant be reconstructed, future can’t be predicted, ‘The moment’ to be lived in all it’s fullness.

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Imposing, magnificent first gate of Achyutraya temple. The second gate can be seen in the background. This is the outer side of the temple gate.

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The inner side of the first gate, one of the mandapam at the far end, the lone figure on the boulder.

Silence whispered tales from days bygone

figures on stone stood eloquent in their muteness

sky leaned over to caress the wounds of earth

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Every pillar, every gallery, every corner has a rich heritage tale of art and culture to narrate.

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These two pictures show the view of Achyutraya temple complex from Matanga Hills.

Entire plan is so grand and magnificent. This is said to be the last grand project before the fall of Vijay Nagar Empire. The temple was consecrated in AD 1534.

All the pics by Sunder Iyer

Badavilinga is the largest monolithic Shivalinga in Hampi. The name and the story behind it makes an interesting read. Badavilinga is said to be combination of two words — Badava and Linga. Badava in the local language means poor and we were told that this temple was commissioned by a poor peasant woman, hence the name. All other temples, sculptures dotting Hampi are said to have royal patrons, either kings or their chieftains.

The huge Shivalinga stands inside a small stone chamber occupying almost entire chamber. The Shivalinga is placed on a large circular pedestal which in turn stands submerged in water. The chamber is always filled with water as a water channel flows through it. This is a kind of symbolic representation of the holy river Ganges coming down on earth and it’s flow being controlled by  Lord Shiva.

The mythological story related to River Ganges coming down to earth

Raja Bhagirath did great penance for years and years to bring the Ganges down to earth from heaven. It is said that the holy river Ganges was born in the Kamandal of Brahma. Raja Bhagirath was doing this penance to provide moksha/liberation to his sixty thousand ancestor who died due to curse of………… Ultimately when Goddess Ganges was convinced to come down to earth, it was feared that the entire creation would be washed away due to her tremendous power and force. Hence Lord Shiva was requested to  control her flow by making her descend on earth via His long, matted tangled hair.

Another attractive feature of this Shivalinga is the three eyes etched on it, representing three eyes of Lord Shiva.

The stone chamber around Shivalinga has no ceiling and sun rays enter through open space to bathe the Linga in golden light. The entire concept of it is beautiful. The huge black stone Shivalinga bathed in golden sunlight and swaying water ripples at the bottom. All the Panch Tatva as if congregate at one place — the sky, air, water, the warmth of sunlight and earth.  Besides that to be on the spot while sun rays enter the enclosure is kind of living a divine moment. Occasionally the sun light  reaches water below and the flickering light on water surface looks like lighted lamp. The almost inaudible murmuring of ripples sounds like mantras.

 

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Badavilinga bathed in celestial light

 

Laxmi Narasimha or Ugra Narsimha is located near  Badavilinga. This is said to be the biggest statue/ idol of any deity in Hampi. Both these temples are located on the road that connects royal area to the sacred area.

As per Hindu mythology Narsimha is another form of Lord Vishnu. Lord Narsimha is depicted having human body with a face of lion. He is considered to be a great protector of his devotees. Story of Prahlad in Hindu mythology is associated with this avatara of Lord Vishnu.

In this temple Lord Narsimha sits  cross legged in yogic  mudra  with a serpentine hood over his head. He is shown seated over coils of snake, the Sheshnaga, whose seven heads are clearly visible in the hood above deity’s head. It is said that originally Goddess Laxmi was depicted sitting on His lap. The temple was severely damaged during attacks by invaders. Now only a hand of Goddess can be seen. In Hindu mythological images Vishnu is seen lying on Sheshnaga, floating in the ocean and Goddess Laxmi is invariably with him. Though in those images Lord Vishnu is not shown in His Narsimha form.

Standing before the giant, magnificently chiselled statue I felt humbled not just by the divine aura but also by the stupendous creativity and unfathomable imagination of those artist of the times bygone. I tried to imagine Goddess Laxmi sitting there beautiful, delicate, decked in/ with all finery and ornaments  and the irreparable loss saddened me. At the same spot, at the same moment the realization hit me forcefully how creative and how destructive humane mind can be. It all depends  on what we believe in and what we want to leave for posterity.

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Laxmi Narsimha and Badavilnga, both the temples in one frame

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Vittala temple at Hampi is another magnificent imprint of the extraordinary craftsmanship of the sculptors of the Vijayanagara Empire. The temple is said to be built in 15th century during the period of Devraya 2nd, one of the ruler of the Vijayanagar empire . Many extensions were done and new structures added to it by Krishnadev Raya, the most famous ruler of Vijaynagar empire. The sprawling campus of Vittala temple consists of many halls, mandapams, gopurams etc but the stone chariot and the hall with musical pillars are two of it’s crown jewels.

 

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The main entrance of Vittala temple on the east side. It appears that the primary building material of this gopura was red brick. It is very likely that the same was partially destroyed after the fall of Vijayanagara empire in the battle of Talikota.

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Images carved on the floor of the gate of the temple…devotees.

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An overview of Vittala temple complex, just after entering through the east gate.

The iconic stone chariot of Vittala temple now finds it’s place in recently printed fifty Rs. currency notes. It is said that initially this stone chariot was the shrine dedicated to Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, the Vittala. It appears that this chariot is a monolithic structure but it is not . This was built by many giant granite rocks and the joints are hidden under the carvings and other decorative patters. Such amazing was the skill of the craftsmen that even stones as if turned into silk when in their hands. The chariot does not rest on wheels. As a shrine it was built on a high rectangular platform but the wheels on the sides are set in the manner as if they carry the chariot. The wheels are complete with axis, shafts and brakes etc.

 

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The iconic Chariot at Vittala temple, Hampi. The clouds above and behind it painting the perfect background for Garuna’s shrine …imagine Garuna floating through azure expanse, wings wide spread with spirit so determined.

 

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Another angle of Garuna’s shrine – the Hampi chariot.

Behind the stone chariot is Maha Mandapa. This consists of four halls but the unique feature of Maha Mandapa  is it’s exquisitely carved and sculpted musical pillars. There are fifty six such pillars. Every main pillar has seven small pillars around it. It is said that these minor pillars emit the sound of different musical instruments. I have not experienced it as some repairing work was going on inside.

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The Mahamandapa with musical pillars.

Even if we leave apart the unique music emitting quality of pillars the entire Mandap is  very graceful and magnificent. The exquisite carvings impart it a kind of delicacy. This Mandapa stands on very ornate platform which has bas reliefs of horses. Entire Mandapa is divided into four halls, each facing different directions. Each hall has it’s own steps and entrance. The front, that is east facing is the one with musical pillars.

 

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A closer look of East facing hall of Mahamandapa. The horses on the base and carvings can be seen. Repairing work was going on in this hall when we visited.

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The guide at the temple.

 

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This Mandapa is highly ornate . Pillars with mythical Yali are its special feature. In the picture with me are the guide and guard, Prashant. We had hearty chat about life at Hampi, the cultural heritage, art and creativity. Prashant is very passionate about photography. He showed me his photo gallery and he had many wonderful shots . It was really enlightening to talk to these two young men.

 

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I love those white clouds, sailing through the blue sky, inviting me to limitless journey to yonder lands where everything assimilates into ultimate.

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We met him in one of the Mandapam. His mother was  sweeping the mandapam. The little bundle of energy became so fascinated by Sunder’s camera that he wanted to peep inside the lens from the front instead of posing for a click.

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And the sun showered it’s blessings….

  1. All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.