ampi sits on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in the ruins of the ancient city of Vijayanagar (“Town of Victory”), capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. As you travel from the west over Hemakuta Hill, the road will lead you to Hampi Bazaar and the Sacred Centre of Vijayanagar. At the centre of Hampi Bazaar stands the ancient Virupaksha Temple, one of the city’s oldest structures.
Virupaksha Temple is the main centre of pilgrimage at Hampi and has been considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. The temple is fully intact among the surrounding ruins and is still in use; this is the principal place of worship in Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known here as Virupaksha, as the consort of the local goddess Pampa who is associated with the Tungabhadra River.
Virupaksha Temple is dominated by a 53-m (174-ft) high gopuram which was built in 1442, with a smaller one added in 1510.
The main temple consists of a sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall. A pillared cloister, entrance gateways, courtyards, smaller shrines and other structures surround the temple.
The nine-tiered eastern gateway, which is the largest at 50 meters, is well-proportioned and incorporates some earlier structures. It has a brick superstructure and a stone base. It gives access to the outer court containing many sub-shrines. The smaller eastern gateway leads to the inner court with its numerous smaller shrines.
A narrow channel of the Tungabhadra River flows along the temple’s terrace and then descends to the temple-kitchen and out through the outer court.
As you walk around the Virupaksha Temple note the interesting paintings on the mandapam ceiling (see below).
Sculptures of various gods and goddesses as well as yalis, the mythological leonine beasts, can be seen around the temple.
Look out for the monkeys that are attracted to the food offerings made inside the temple complex. They are cute with their antics but they can also be quite a nuisance.
Virupaksha Temple is also home to Lakshmi (the temple elephant) who gets her morning bath at 8:30am down by the river ghats. Following that, she gets her face painted by her attendant and then makes her way to the temple where she blesses pilgrims for a coin donation.
The temple continues to prosper and attracts huge crowds for the betrothal and marriage festivities of Virupaksha and Pampa in December. The temple is a also a popular place for Hindu marriages ceremonies.
In the month of February the annual chariot festival is celebrated here.