Hampi – Route Two from Vittala Temple

posted in: Asia, Heritage, India, Karnataka | 79
First Published on May 21, 2015

I hope you are well rested after that beautiful Hampi trail through Virupaksha Temple and its surrounding wonders. With those memorable historic pieces, anyone would need to cool their senses – especially to recover and soak in the details. Assuming that you have done that, it is time to set out to explore the masterpiece of Hampi – the Vijaya Vittala Temple.

The Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple complex in Hampi
The Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple complex in Hampi

If there is one monument that is almost synonymous with the 15th century UNESCO World Heritage site, then it is the Vittala Temple. It is not one single building but a large temple complex – an architectural marvel in South India. My 2nd Hampi trail starts with this monument and takes you back to the Hampi Bazaar near Virupaksha temple. Though there are over 10 monuments along the trail, you will find that the spotlight on this trail is largely on the Vittala temple. Once you have gone through the post, you will know the reason why Vittala Temple is one of the key places to visit in Hampi.

The Masterpiece of Hampi – Vittala Temple

Located next to the River Tungabhadra, the Vittala temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  They say that it was built by Devraya II and was expanded by King Krishnadevaraya later.  Given the sheer details that this monument offers you, it is advisable to start your trail here. You can even do this Vittala temple trail in reverse and end it here. Irrespective of when you visit here, you will end up spending 80% of your time here.

Remains of the Bazaar along the Vittala temple
Remains of the Bazaar along the Vittala temple

For ecological and preservation reasons, one cannot drive up to the temple directly. As you come near this monument, there is a designated area to park your vehicles. From there you need to either walk around a km to the entrance of the monument or take the eco-friendly buggy till the entrance. I recommend a walk for there are plenty of things you might want to see along the way.

The Pushkarni & Vittala Temple Market

The first major stop along the way is the temple tank or the Pushkarni. This was essentially used for a ritualistic bath before the prayers as well as for any religious occasions like washing the idols or Holi or immersing the idols. Opposite this are a few smaller temples. Most of these are missing an idol.

Pushkarni near the Vittala temple, Hampi
Pushkarni near the Vittala temple, Hampi

As you continue along the road, you will see a row of several buildings – quite like the Hampi Bazaar. My guess is that these shops might have sold flowers and temple offerings in those days. The line continues right till the grand entrance of the hero of this trail.

The Grand Entrance to Vittala Temple

Entrance to the Vittala Temple
Entrance to the Vittala Temple
Close up of the Vittala Temple gate
Close up of the Vittala Temple gate

Though not as huge as the Virupaksha Temple Gopuram, the entrance of Vittala Temple is no less grand. There is something very stunning about the half-fallen structure. Whether it was the contrast against the bright blue skies or the artistic carvings that still stood out – the gateway held my attention for a long time. The little wait at the ticket window beside it allowed me enough time to do it. At the same time, my heart was being tugged by the sight of what lay beyond the gate.

The Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple

The Stone Chariot of Vittala Temple, Hampi
The Stone Chariot of Vittala Temple, Hampi

A step through the doorway of the Vittala temple complex allowed me to feast my eyes on one of the few chariot temples of India. The Stone Chariot with its intricately carved façade and 4 wheels stood right in the center of this temple complex. Dedicated to Lord Garuda – the celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu, this structure is exquisite from every angle. The carvings on it are mini stories from mythology.

Read about the other beautiful chariot temples – not one but 5 – Pancharathas of Mahabalipuram. A different sculpture, a different concept by the shore.

The Stone Chariot seems like it is made from a single stone but that is not the case. It is actually made from different blocks of granite that are held together by ingenious joints. You may not be able to see those for they appear as decorative pieces of the chariot. The wheels of the chariot are actually, free to turn. You could actually spin them but owing to the wear and tear, they have now been blocked.

Close-up of Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple
Close-up of Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple

Notice the elephants that seem to draw the chariot. Well, they are not a part of the original ensemble. They were actually found elsewhere in Hampi but kept here in lieu of the missing horses. The original stone horses are said to be destroyed but you can still see some parts of it close to the elephants. If you look carefully at the front of the chariot, you can see a part of the tail as well as the hind legs of these horses.

The Stone Chariot temple was never just for décor. As I discovered, the temple shrine hosted an idol of Garuda that has now got lost. To get to the shrine, an old ladder was used. The stone ladder can be found lying near the elephants of the chariot.

Mahamantapa of Vittala Temple

Facing the chariot is the Maha Mantapa known for its musical pillars.  This is the one feature that draws every visitor who comes to Hampi. The many pillared hallway is also, referred to as Ranga Mantapa. The grand hall is actually divided into four parts. The east ern one faces the Chariot and this is where the mystical musical stone pillars.

The Maha Mantapa with the Musical Pillars at Vittala temple
The Maha Mantapa with the Musical Pillars at Vittala temple

The carved pillars actually, have one main pillar and several smaller ones around the main one. Each of them has a specific image carved on it. From horses on one to drummers on another. These are not random carvings but representation of the sound that the pillar makes.  The one with the horses made the sound of gallops while the drums naturally, produced the drum notes. And how does the musical pillar work? Well! Just by tapping the minor pillars around the main one.

Tapping is no longer allowed as it caused damage to the heritage monument. However, our guide took us to another smaller area to demonstrate this. With our ears close to the pillars and the guide tapping, we did hear some drums!

Sound of Horses galloping in the first pillar, the drums in the second
Sound of Horses galloping in the first pillar, the drums in the second

As the legend goes, in the olden days, the Mahamantapa was the hall where dance and music performances took place. A cloth was said to have been hung around the pillars while they were used by the musicians. The dancers occupied the center stage of the hall. The melodious medley of ghunghroos and the musical notes could be heard miles around the temple.

The British rulers of India were so mystified that they cut two of these musical pillars open. They discovered that these were solid and not hollow. Till date, no one is able to fathom how the music emanates from these pillars.

Miniature Model of the Vittala Temple
Miniature Model of the Vittala Temple

The Southern hall of the Mahamantapa has several guardian pillars – the stone lions called Yellis. Near the steps leading to the hall, is a miniature temple. As I gathered, this was a possible prototype of how the Vittala temple was to be constructed. Notice the corners around the various platforms of this temple. This is where you need a guide who will demonstrate how each one of them is a “four-in-one” carving. Take this one for instance – can you spot a frog, a baby monkey and mother monkey, a cobra/ sheshnag and a lion?

The four in one artifice at Vittala temple
The four in one artifice at Vittala temple

The Northern hall has carvings of the Dashavatars of Vishnu – specifically Narasimha. The Western hall has been ravaged and very little of it exists.  While you are busy admiring these sculptures, remember to look up at the artistic ceilings.

Inner Sanctum of Vittala Temple

A bull and an elephant with a common head.
A bull and an elephant with a common head.

The inner sanctum of the temple has been plundered and destroyed. However, it does not mean that you must skip it. Enter it and look by its door to see massive statues of Lord Vishnu and Mohini. Follow the crowd in a clockwise manner and inspect the walls. You are bound to see the pretty lotus flowers on a pot. Don’t miss spotting a single-headed elephant and bull. Its like having dissimilar Siamese twins. However, cover one body with your hand and you will see a complete animal.

Kalyana Mantapa & other halls of Vittala Temple Complex

One of the smaller temples in the Vittala Temple Complex
One of the smaller temples in the Vittala Temple Complex

Facing the Chariot temple in the center, if you turn to your left, you will see a minor hall. The purpose of this is not known but this one too, has acoustic properties. This is actually, where our guide demonstrated the musical pillars. It could be that these were possibly accompaniments for the main event that took place in the Mahamantapa.

The Kalyana Mantapa of Vittala Temple, Hampi
The Kalyana Mantapa of Vittala Temple, Hampi

On the right of the Stone Chariot is another grand hall called the Kalyana Mantapa – the marriage hall. This was used for various ceremonies like naming ceremonies and royal coronations. Remember to peek behind this hall too. You will see the 100 pillar hall – one of a fascinating part of the Vittala temple complex.

Carved Pillars of one of the temples
Carved Pillars of one of the temples

There is so much more to this temple but I will leave it to you to discover more. You might have forgotten but Vittala Temple is just the start of this Hampi trail. There is so much more to see. So, let’s go along.

Purandaradasa Mantapa

Purandaradasa Temple, Hampi
Purandaradasa Temple, Hampi                                     Image Credits: Dr.Murali Mohan via Wikimedia Commons under CC by SA 3.0

The musical journey that started with Vittala temple continues as you walk along the River Tungabhadra. You will see an open pavilion almost in the water. This one has a statue of a famous poet – Purandaradasa of Hampi. He is depicted with his tambura and he is not just immortalized by this idol. His compositions are still used in Carnatic Sangeet. Every year, a small music festival is held here in this pavilion as celebration to his greatness.

King’s Balance in Hampi

King's Balance
King’s Balance                                                                                        Image Credits:By Srikar.agnihotram  under CC BY-SA 3.0

As you exit and head along the trail 2 towards Hampi Bazaar, you come across this structure, which is actually a weighing balance. The king used to sit on one side of a weighing scale while the other side would be piled with Gold, silver and precious stones. The treasures weighing equal to the King’s weight would be distributed to the poor and the priests on special occasions. Check out the image of the king sculpted on this scale. You can even see the loops through which the balance was hung.

Sugreeva’s Cave

Through a “Two-Storied Gateway”, past a small Narasimha temple, you come across this small hill. Hidden amid them is a small cave that is said to be the abode of the exiled monkey king  – Sugriva of Ramayana. It is here that he got back his kingdom and also, helped Ram and Lakshman by picking up the fallen jewels of the abducted Sita. There are some footprints near the cave, which the Hindus believe belong to Ram and Lakshman.

Riverside Ruins in Hampi

Riverside Ruins of Hampi  Image Credits: Rajarshi Mitra via Flickr under CC by 2.0

It is time to get a little adventurous now. A small gorge is what you will encounter next. A bit of a climb and you will see the most amazing sight – rocks with innumerable lingas. There are actually two such clusters. One with 108 lingas and the other with 1008 lingas. No one knows why they are here and that adds to the mystery of the place.

Kondandarama Temple

Walking along the same River Tungabhadra, a little further from the Riverside Ruins is a temple that too, might be submerged partly in water. The temple name means “Crowned Rama” and it houses huge statues of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman. The Kondandarama temple used to be a place for the pilgrims. It is considered holy as it is believed to be the place where Lord Rama crowned Sugreeva as the King of Kishkinda.

Rangatha Temple of Hampi

The next monument in line on this Vittala Temple Hampi Trail has one of the most elaborate carvings of Lord Vishnu. Within the Rangatha temple, you will see Vishnu reclining on Sheshnag (the cobra) with his consort Lakshmi and Bhudevi by his side. Sprouting from his name is a lotus on which Lord Brahma is seen. The shrine is quite dark and damp and it is best to go in on a bright morning to be able to see this exquisite carving.

Achyuta Raya Temple

Slowly the Tungabhadra is left behind as you turn in towards the Courtesan’s street. This is yet another Vijaynagara bazaar like the Hampi bazaar. However, this was a market of precious stones and jewels. The market leads you to another major attraction on this trail – the Achyuta Rayas Temple. Shielded by the hills, this one is not oft visited. You can cover this either in this trail or the Virupaksha Temple trail after Matanga Hill.

Achyuta Raya Temple                                                                                  Image Credits: Arian Zwegers via Flickr under CC by 2.0

The temple complex is in ruins but has some gorgeous carvings for you to see. The lion-faced Yelli guardians here have a rider on them, controlling them with chains. Within the shrines, you can spot several stories on stone – a lot of them from the life of Lord Krishna. The temple per se, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

After visiting this temple, the trail takes you past two more temples – the Varaha temple and the Yantrodhara Anjaneya Temple to end at a small trekking trail of 2 km. This is referred to as Kampa Bhupa’s path and it leads you back to the Hampi Bazaar near Virupaksha temple.

I am pretty sure that by now you are dazzled by the splendor of various monuments here, especially the Vittala temple. And I guess, you too now agree that this temple complex is the masterpiece of Hampi – don’t you? Tell me what according to you makes it so :D. Take a break, soak it all in and come back later for the last trail of Hampi.

Please refer to this post on how to get to Hampi. The same post has some useful travel tips for Hampi. These will be handy when you embark on any Hampi trail.

Additional Trails of Hampi

Virupaksha Trail  

Royal Enclosure & Lotus Mahal Trail 

Offbeat trail of Hampi across River Tungabhadra.

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79 Responses

  1. Lata Subramanian

    This post will truly inspire readers to visit Hampi

  2. Ami Bhat

    Thank you…and will definitely check your blog out too. Will be sharing a blog on Bali as well soon. Keep a watch out.

  3. 2traveldads

    The musical pillars? Wow, that’s so cool!! I will forever be fascinated to ancient technology.

    • Ami

      Thank you Kevin. Precisely why I love this place – the history and the architecture.

  4. Allison Fun Family Vacations

    Wow this looks like a really cool experience. The pillars are so interesting to see. I love to see historical sites and ruins

  5. Vyjay Rao

    Hampi is an all time favourite and I love each and every structure there, especially the musical pillars. I remember that when I had visited there long ago, while still in school, we could actually strike the pillars and listen to the musical sounds. It is not allowed now.

    • Ami

      Yep, I wish I could tap it myself but well, could not. 🙁 Nonetheless, it was amazing.

  6. Svet Dimitrov

    What an incredibly lavish and opulent palace. The ornamentation is just stupendous! I love how well it looks probably because of the preservation efforts.

    I’ve never been to India, but I’ve heard you either love it or hate it. I believe I will be one of the former 🙂

  7. GirlAstray

    Lovely photos! Definitely, the Vittala temple is probably the most stunning architectural piece I have ever been to; the musical columns are what really got me!

  8. wyldfamilytravel

    you photos always make you articles look an feel alive. I never quite realised how many temples and palaces there were in India until i started reading your website.

  9. The Soul of Seoul

    I heard so much about Hampi when I was up in the north. We never made it that far but I clearly have to go back. It looks just stunning. ^^

  10. Amy Chung

    What an interesting read and such an eye opener. I had no idea about this area and the beautiful temple ruins. They remind me of Angkor but on a smaller scale although the detail of the carvings are just as intricate and beautiful. Can’t believe this is on the START of the trail!

    • Ami

      Oh yes Amy, stay with me and when you see the other two trails, you will be in a frenzy. Thanks for stopping by

  11. Kavita Favelle

    Hampi keeps climbing up my wishlist thanks to posts like yours with the great photography and info. The Vijaya Vittala Temple looks incredible. I’d especially like to see the stone chariot, the main entrance and the mahamantapa, and also Sugreeva’s Cave.

  12. Jing

    I can’t believe how intricate the carvings are in these temples and how much culture and history each of them tells. I have encountered a similar River of 1000 lingas in Phnom Kulen in Cambodia. The lingas are carved at the bottom of the shallow river and believed by the locals to bring fertility to the water and the fields to which they eventually flow downstream. I wonder if the purpose is similar as that in Hampi

    • Ami

      I am not sure if the river flowed over it. The Tungabhadra is said to have shifted a bit. But your theory does make it additionally intriguing. Thanks for sharing that.

  13. Daniel

    Hampi is one of the few places I wanted to visit in India but didn’t even though I spent a whole year there. The more I read about it, the more I want to visit it. I guess there’s always a next time 🙂

    • Ami

      Oh, please come back for it. Trust me, it will be worth the effort. Thanks for stopping by, Daniel.

  14. Shreya Saha

    What an incredible place it is! The intricate architecture is comparable to none. Vittala Temple is huge and magnificent. I have never been to Hampi yet but now I know why it is considered as an UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site.

    • Ami

      And that is just one of the many sites. Take a peek at the other trails, Shreya and I bet you will be in awe. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Anjali W

    You have really inspired me to make a visit to Hampi. It’s splendid architecture, musical pillars, stone chariot and intricate carvings are really fascinating. The Vittala Temple too looks incredible. This place is high up on my list now.

    • Ami

      And rightly so. Keep aside at least three days for this for what you see is just one trail. There are a few more such trails. Thanks for stopping by, Anjali

  16. Lisa

    Wow I don’t know where to start! The Vittal temple was impressive alone on first seeing your photos, and then seeing those musical pillars, the detail is insane! I’ve so many places I want to see if I ever make it to India. And these temples will be high up on the travel list. Will definitely remember Hampi after reading this.

    • Ami

      Thanks Lisa. Everything about Hampi is enthralling. I am pretty sure you will enjoy seeing all the monuments here.

  17. Yukti

    Vittala Temple at Hampi looks stunning with grand architectures. The sculpture of bull and man with common head looks interesting and it is great to know that this places also has foorprints of Ram and Laxmana. Purandaradasa temple along the river Tungbhadra looks beautiful.

    • Ami

      Every corner on this trail was a surprise, with Vittala Temple being the highlight. I hope you can visit and see it for yourself. Thanks for stopping by Yukti

  18. Christopher Rudder

    This is one of the most beautiful UNESCO world heritage site I have ever learned! I am now super curious where is this music coming from that pillar. I love mystery stories like this one!

    • Ami

      Not just you, all of us are curious where the music comes from. Amazing technology, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by Christopher

  19. Danik

    Words cant sum up on what I see on the photos. I would totally love to check out this temple, its stunning. Would love to see these carvings up close as well. Another place to put on my India bucket list.

  20. Linda

    We had not seen anything on the Vijaya Vittala Temple before. Fascinating to hear that this is a large temple complex with 10 different monuments. The grand entrance does indeed look very grand. You say it is half-fallen but the pictures make it look like it is largely intact. I loved the stone chariot. So many stories in the carvings. The Mahamantapa looks so intricate. It would have been amazing to hear a musical show here. And then there were more! I was indeed dazzled b the splendour of this site!

    • Ami

      I can understand how overwhelming this entire route can be. I was reeling with the details I encountered. Either way, no best way to decipher except visit there 😀

  21. Diana

    I am so amazed by the detailing on these structures, starting with the Grand entrance, which sure is grand. It would be worth it to go to Vittala temple just to see the sights, but the history and stories behind all the structures are almost even more intriguing than the structures themselves. I would love to visit Vittala myself one day!

  22. sherianne

    This is amazing! I love the grand entrance and the chariot. So much detail in the stones, I would never have the patience for that work!

    • Ami

      And to think they made tons of it. The workmanship is so mindboggling. Thanks for stopping by

  23. Indrani

    Great read Ami. I can never tire of seeing or reading about this place. It is true stones speak and sing here 🙂

    • Ami

      And that is one unique thing about this place. Next time we should go here together. Cheers Indrani

  24. Jitaditya

    Brings back memories from 2011. Somehow I have not been able to visit any major place in South after that!
    I remember the first day we hired bicycles and the second day hired a moped to reach this temple. I also liked the fact that they had electric vehicles for tourists.

  25. Medha

    What a beautiful temple complex! I haven’t been to Hampi but its these kinds of historical temples I’d want to visit if I go. The grand entrance is certainly ‘grand’, I love how intricate the carvings are. Being home to a 15th century UNESCO World Heritage site is definitely the most attractive part about Hampi.

    • Ami

      Trust me Medha. This is a treasure trove that you should not miss. An entire city being excavated.

  26. Jim Whittemore

    I feel like this is one of the biggest places to check out as we end this year. I’ve been reading and seeing so many photos of this complex the past few weeks, it looks just amazing and beautifully historical!

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