Virupaksha Temple is located in the historic village of Hampi. The village of Hampi (historically called Hampe) lies within the limits of the ruins of the Vijayanagara city. The word Hampi is derived from the name Pampa (Lord Brahma’s daughter and the old name of River Tungabhadra), and one of the regions around Hampi is still known as Pampa kshetra. As one makes a foray into the ruins of Hampi, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one cannot escape the popularity and prosperity of the bygone era that existed in the empire of the Vijayanagara dynasty.
The holy Virupaksha Temple stands in the center as the symbol of this greatness and grandeur of the empire that flourished during the 14th – 16th century. The architectural wonder is a testament to the times of a great, well developed and well-administered city. The history of the Virupaksha Temple is inseparable from the story of the great city. The name Virupaksha means “with oblique eyes”. Some also believe that the word means “misformed eyes” referring to the third eye of Lord Shiva. It can also be inferred that “Virupa” meaning “Distorted” and “Aksha” meaning “Eyes” refer to the occurrence of three eyes for Lord Shiva and consider that itself as a distortion.
Virupaksha Temple is also known as the Pampapathi Temple. The presiding deities of Virupaksha Temple are Lord Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva and Goddess Pampa, his consort. This is only fully functioning Temple among several ruins of other Temples in the Hampi area.
Vijayanagara architecture is a mixture of Chalukya, Pandya, Hoysala and Chola styles. Virupaksha Temple Complex consists of the Sanctum, three Ante-Chambers, two pillared halls, a pillared quadrangle walkway known as the Cloister, three Gopurams, courtyards and several smaller shrines. Besides the main shrine dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, other shrines are dedicated to Goddess Bhuvaneswari and saint Vidyaranya is located within the Temple Complex. The pillared Mandapam was built under Krishna Deva Raya in 1510 AD as per scriptures on the walls. This Mandapam contains paintings and murals of several avatars of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The murals on the ceilings also depict scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Among the three Gopurams of the Temple, the Eastern Gopuram is the main entrance to the Temple. The Gopuram is nine-storied and has a cuboidal structure. The Northern Gopuram is five stories high and the inner-eastern Gopuram is three stories high.
The main sanctum houses the deity, Lord Virupaksha in the form of a Linga. The smaller shrines dedicated to Goddess Pampa and Goddess Bhuvaneswari, consorts of Lord Shiva are situated to the north of the Sanctum and are much older that most of the Temple.
The “Ruins of Hampi” or the “Hampi Complex” consists of several civil and religious buildings. The important Temples inside the complex that one must visit to experience the spirituality of the great kingdom are Vittala Temple, Ramachandra Temple, Underground Shiva Temple, Kodandarama Temple, Krishna Temple and the Chandramouleeshwara Temple.
History and Legends of Virupaksha Temple
- The origin of the Virupaksha Temple predates the origin of Vijayanagara as a city and as an Empire. The main sanctum is believed to date back to 7th century. Several inscriptions mentioning the greatness of Lord Shiva can be found on the walls of the Temple. They date back to the 9th and the 10th century.
- Several additions and renovations were carried out by the Chalukyas and the Hoysalas. However, Virupaksha Temple flourished under the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire.
- Hampi was the capital of the Empire and was known as Vijayanagara. According to most of the historians, the founders of the Empire Harihara I and Bukka (popularly known as the Sangama brothers) were commanders in the Hoysala military. They were patronized and supported by Sri Vidyaranya, a Saint belonging to the Sringeri monastery. Their main aim was to thwart the invasion of the Deccan regions by the Muslim invaders from the North.
- The Empire reached its peak during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529 AD). During his reign, the whole Southern India was brought under his control. His army fought off invasions by the Deccan Sultanates of Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar and Berar. The Empire retrieved areas from the Deccan Sultanates in North and East regions.
- The prosperity of the Empire began to decline after the death of Krishna Deva Raya. Rama Raya, his son-in-law took control of the Empire and made some ill-advised decisions on the political affairs of the Deccan Sultanate. Eventually in 1563, the rivals from the North who were bitter with the Empire formed an alliance and declared war on the weakened Vijayanagara Empire.
- During the famous Battle of Talikota, Rama Raya was captured and killed. The Sultanate’s army attacked Hampi and destroyed it into the present state of ruins. The Empire ceased to exist after the reign of Sriranga III in 1646. The Empire split into the Mysore Kingdom, Keladi Nayaka, Nayaks of Madurai, Nayaks of Tanjore, Nayaks of Chitradurga and Nayaks of Gingee.
- Virupaksha Temple has been named after a local deity named Pampa, who is believed to be a form of Goddess Parvati. The origins of the Temple can be traced back to the references in various Puranas of the Daksha Yagna episode in Hindu beliefs. To refute the insult meted out by Daksha to Lord Shiva, Goddess Sati, Lord Shiva’s wife self-immolates. Hearing this, Lord Shiva becomes extremely angry and performed the Tandava Dance with Sati’s corpse in his hands. He destroys everything in his path. Eventually, to calm himself, he reaches Hemakuta in Hampi and starts meditating. All the Gods decide that the only way Lord Shiva could be happy again was to marry him again to Goddess Parvati.
- The locals in Hampi believe that Pampa was the incarnation of Goddess Parvati who took up meditation on the opposite bank of the River Tungabhadra. The Kama, the God of Love and attraction brought Pampa to the attention of Lord Shiva. Pampa expressed the desire to marry Lord Shiva and he eventually agreed. It is believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Pampa married at the place now known as the Virupaksha Temple.
Significance of the Virupaksha Temple
- The main deity of the Virupaksha Temple, the Shiva Linga is believed to be one of the 64 Jyotirlingas that exist as per the Hindu religious beliefs. The Linga is believed to be Swayambhu meaning self-manifested. 5 of the 12 jyotirlingas are in the state of maharashtra in India.
- Virupaksha Temple is only fully functioning Temple belonging to the Vijayanagara area. Other popular sites nearby such as the Vitthal Temple are masterpieces of architecture but the worshiping of Gods and Goddesses have been discontinued at these places.
- The Eastern Gopuram which is the main entrance of the Temple is constructed in such a way that the inverted shadow of the structure falls on the western wall of the Temple through a small hole inside the Sanctum. The Gopuram is 160 feet tall. The Gopuram was constructed in the first half of the 15th century and was renovated by Krishna Deva Raya.
- Virupaksha Temple has been constructed in such a unique way that River Tungabhadra flows along its terrace, descends to the Temple Kitchen and then flows through the outer courtyard of the Temple.
- A three-headed statue of Nandi can be seen installed near the main Temple entrance. This statue is unique and rare in India.
- The ancient city of Vijayanagara was inhabited by about 500,000 people during the 15th century. That was 0.1% of total world population. It was the second largest city in the world after Peking in Beijing. The importance of the city can be inferred from the fact that the size of the city was about three times the size of Paris during that time.
- The region of Hampi has been described in ancient scriptures as Kishkinda, the kingdom of Vanaras (Monkeys). It is believed the Hanuman Temple in Hampi was the cave where Lord Hanuman, his mother Devi Anjana, Kesari and Shabari resided. The holy pond Pampasarovar houses the cave where Sugriva, King of the Vanaras is believed to have made his home.
- The Kodandarama Temple near the Virupaksha Temple marks the spot where Lord Rama crowned Sugriva as the King of Vanaras or Monkeys.
- The Stone chariot among the ruins of the Vittal Temple is considered as one of the three finest chariots in India, the other two being in Konark and Mahabalipuram. The wheels of the chariot could be rotated. But to prevent the damage caused by curious visitors, the Government has now cemented the wheels. Another wonder of the Temple are the 56 musical pillars of the Temple. They are also fondly called as the SaReGaMa pillars. Each of the pillars that support the roof of the main Mandapam represents a musical instrument. Seven pillars surround this pillar. When struck, these seven stone pillars emanate seven notes of music from the respective main instrument.
- The Badavi Linga is the largest Linga among the ruins of Hampi. The Linga is situated inside a chamber and the sanctum is perpetually filled with water. The Linga has three eyes carved on it representing the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
- The Chakratheertha, a holy Theertha in River Tungabhadra is a sacred place for devotees to take a dip. It is believed that Lord Shiva gave the Chakra, a weapon to Lord Vishnu at the very spot.
Virupaksha Temple Timings
- The Temple opens at 9 AM and closes at 9 PM.
- The Darshan remains closed from 1 PM to 5 PM.
The ruins of Hampi lie on a barren open land and it gets extremely hot during the summers. Hence, it is recommended to wear light, airy cotton clothes for the visit. The Temple does not follow any strict dress code. However, it is recommended that decent and clean clothes should be worn to visit the holy site.
Festivals celebrated at Virupaksha Temple
- Mahashivaratri – The day is celebrated with great spirituality and reverence. Thousands of devotees observe fast and pray to the God for good health and prosperity. The devotees take a dip in River Tungabhadra and then visit the Temple for the divine darshan and blessings from Lord Shiva. Bhajans and cultural programs are held at night. The uniqueness of the celebration is that a huge Gold crown studded with rubies and diamonds is placed on the Shiva Linga. The Linga is believed to be donated by the mighty Krishna Deva Raya himself to commemorate his coronation. Shivaratri is one of the four special days on which the crown is displayed to the public.
- Annual Ratha Yatra – The annual Ratha Yatra of the deity, Sri Virupaksha and his wife Goddess Pampa takes place during the months of March-April. The deities are placed in a huge wooden chariot and taken in a procession along the main chariot street in Hampi. This festival is the largest religious festival celebrated in the town of Hampi and is attended by thousands of devotees from nearby areas.
- Phalapuja festival – This festival is held in December every year. Special Poojas are performed for the deities and Prasadam is distributed to the devotees. The day is celebrated as the engagement day of Lord Virupaksha with Pampa. The celebrations take place for three days. The Teppotsavam is conducted for the deities on the first day by taking them around the Manmukha Kunda in a small boat like vehicle. A grand procession of the deities takes place on the third day to the Kodandarama Temple in silver Vrishabha Vahana.
Poojas and Rituals at Virupaksha Temple
- Bilva Pathrarchana – The Archana is performed for the deity with the Bilva leaves on behalf of the devotee.
- Karpoora Aarti – The Aarti is performed for the Lord with Camphor known as the Karpoora on behalf of the devotee.
- Panchamrutha Abhishekam – The Lord is bathed with Panch Amrit (five elixirs) that are Milk, Curd, Ghee, Honey and Sugar on behalf of the devotee.
- Sahasranama Archana – The Lord is worshiped by reciting his 1008 names and singing chants praising him on behalf of the devotee.
- Maha Rudrabhishekam – This Abhishekam is done by reciting the four ancient holy texts; Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and the Atharva Veda in front of the Linga.
How to reach Hampi
- By Air – The nearest Airport is situated in Bellary, 60 km away. However, the Airport dows not operate commercial flights. The Vidyanagar Airport, also known as the Jindal Vijaynagar Airport located 40 km from Bellary operates sightseeing charter flights to Hampi. The Hubli airport, located 3 hours away from Hospet connects Bengaluru and Belgaum.
- By Train – The nearest railway station to Hampi is Hospet, situated 13 km away. Several trains connect Hospet to cities like Bengaluru, Mysore, Goa, Vizag, Bhubaneshwar, Vijayawada, Howrah, Kolhapur, Tirupati, Belgaum, Surat, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Raichur and Hyderabad. Other nearby stations are Guntakal and Hubli which are well connected to the rest of the country like New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata. One can hire a taxi or board a bus from Hospet, Hubli, and Guntakal to Hampi.
- By Road – The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation runs several buses from cities like Hospet, Bengaluru, Mysore, Mangalore, and Bellary. Several interstate buses also operate out of neighboring states like Goa, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Private operators also run buses daily to Hampi.
Where to stay
There are no hotels situated in the immediate vicinity of the Temple. However, several hotels, lodges, and resorts have opened up in the surroundings of Hampi ruins. Some of the popular ones are Sri Lakshmi Golden Beach Resorts, Royal Orchid Central, Hampi’s Boulders Resorts and Hotel Malligi.
Where to eat
The town of Hampi is becoming a major tourist attraction lately. Hence, a lot of restaurants have been set up surrounding the world famous ruins. The cuisine offered by these restaurants vary from simple south Indian to exotic cuisines like Italian and Portuguese. Some of the most popular restaurants are Mango Tree, Laughing Buddha, New Shanthi, Ravi’s Rose and Sagar Hotel.
- Vittal Temple – The Temple is one of the most popular attractions of Hampi. The Temple is famous for the movable stone chariot and the musical pillars. The architecture of the Temple is immensely intricate and a wonder in itself. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vittala, a form of Lord Krishna.
- Chandramouleeshwara Temple – The 900-year-old Temple is one of the most popular temples in Hampi. The intricately carved Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
- Achyutaraya Temple – The architectural wonder is dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Lord Vishnu. The unique feature of the Temple is that it consists of two enclosures instead of one.
- Hazara Rama Temple – The Temple is believed to be the site where Lord Rama killed Vali, the Vaanara King and Son of Indra. The sanctum lies empty. But the murals depicting the Ramayana are worth visiting.
- Besides these Temples, several monolithic statues depicting Lord Shiva (Badavi Linga), Lord Vishnu (Lakshmi Narasimha) and Lord Ganapathi (Kadalekalu Ganesha and Sasivekalu Ganesha) are a must visit.
- Anjeyanadri Hill – The shrine dedicated to Lord Hanuman is situated atop the hill. The small Temple is located at a distance of 5 km from Hampi. It is believed that Lord Hanuman was born here to Mother Anjana. It is one of the important pilgrimage sites for Hindus all over the country.
- Badami Cave Temples – The world famous cave temples of Badami are located 100 km away from Hampi. This historic group of five cave temples located on the banks of the Malaprabha River dates back to 578 CE. The beautiful cave temples display remarkable architecture and follow the Chalukyan style of sculpturing and construction. These Temples are some of the earliest known Hindu Temples in the world. Caves 1 to 3 is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The fourth cave is dedicated to Jain Teerthankaras and the fifth cave is dedicated to Buddhist monks.
- An Aihole group of Temples – The Aihole group of Temples located about 140 km away from Hampi, consists of about 125 Temples constructed under the Chalukyan period. According to the legends, Aihole was the place where Lord Parashurama washed his ax after annihilating 21 generations of Kshatriyas.
- Pattadakal Temples – The Pattadakal group of Temples are situated 97 km away from Hampi. The most prominent temple among a string of architectural wonders is the Virupaksha Temple. The Virupaksha Temple in Pattadakal is a declared UNESCO world heritage site. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and built around 740 AD. The Temple was constructed by Queen Lokamahdevi to commemorate the victory of her husband Vikramaditya over the Pallavas.