Indian temple architecture has always been a source of pride for India. Especially the stone antiquities of the South are imprinted with the craftsmanship of ancient artisans. They have been a source of awe and mystery for centuries. The Vijayanagara kingdom, once the richest empire in the world, produced outstanding architecture. This is when many mysterious marvels of Southern Indian temples were created.
One such structure that has been fascinating people from time immemorial is the mysterious Vittala Temple in Hampi. Believed to be built in the 16th century, The Vittala Temple houses one of the biggest mysteries of Indian Temples. The sprawling compound of this temple houses pavilions, halls and many other temples.
The highlight of Vittala temple is its impressive pillared halls and the stone chariot. The halls are carved with an overwhelming array of sculptures on the giant granite pillars.
The Musical Pillars of Vittala Temple
The Ranga Mantapa is one of the main attractions of the Vittala Temple. The large mantapa is renowned for its 56 musical pillars. These have been attributed to the musical notes rising out of them. One can actually hear the musical notes if they tap the pillars gently.
There are a set of main pillars and several sets of minor pillars inside the Mantapa. Each main pillar provides support to the ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa. The main pillars are designed as musical instruments.
Every main pillar is surrounded by 7 minor pillars. These 7 pillars emit 7 different musical notes from the representative musical instruments. The notes emanating from these pillars vary in sound quality depending on whether the instrument is a percussion, string or wind instrument.
The Britishers, being amazed by this archaeological wonder, wanted to know the reason behind the same. As a result, they cut two pillars to check their insides but found nothing.
The cluster of musical pillars inside the Vittala Temple complex was carved out of huge single pieces of resonant stone. The reason behind the pillars producing rhythmic sound is not known yet, but they still continue to intrigue the visitors.
Unmindful curiosity of the visitors has damaged many of these pilasters and tapping on it is banned for the sake of preservation.
History of Vittala Temple
The structure was built in the 15th century during the rule of Devaraya II, who was one amongst the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Several portions of the temple were expanded and enhanced during the reign of Krishnadevaraya (1509 – 1529 A.D.), the most famous ruler of the Vijayanagara dynasty. He played a significant role in giving the monument its present look.
The temple is also called Vijaya Vittala Temple and is dedicated to Vittala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to legends, the temple was built as an abode for Lord Vishnu in his Vittala form, but he found the temple to be a very grand one for him and hence he is said to have returned to live in his own humble home at Pandharpur.
The temple is located in the northeastern part of Hampi near the banks of the river Tungabhadra.
The architectural wonder of Vijaynagar Empire
The Vittala Temple is one of the most magnificent and the grandest temple in Hampi. When you enter the complex, the very first thing that will amaze you will be the craftsmanship of the artisans of Vijayanagara Empire. Dravidian style adorns the built of the complex, which is further enhanced with elaborate carvings.
The temple has some gorgeous stone structures, such as the stone chariot and the musical pillars. Both these structure speaks a ton about the unmatched craftsmanship of that period. It is believed that the main shrine of the temple originally had one enclosed Mantapa. An open Mantapa was added to it in the year 1554 A.D.
The temple complex is a sprawling area that is surrounded by high compound walls and three towering gateways. The temple complex has many halls, shrines and pavilions located inside it. Each of these structures is made of stone and each structure is a beauty in itself.
Among the several structures, the main hall or Maha Mandapa, Devi Shrine, Kalyana Mantapa, Ranga Mantapa, Utsava Mantapa and the very famous stone chariot are the notable ones.
Stone Chariot at Vittala Temple
The Vittala Temple Complex has the richly sculpted Stone Chariot, which is considered to be the most stunning architecture of the Vijayanagara kingdom. The Stone Chariot or Ratha stands in the courtyard of temple. It is one of the three famous stone chariots in India. The other two chariots are situated in Konark (Odissa) and Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu).
The Stone Chariot of Vittala Temple is actually a shrine that has been designed in the shape of an ornamental chariot. The shrine is dedicated to Garuda and had an image of Garuda enshrined into the sanctum. As per Hindu mythology, Garuda is the carrier of Lord Vishnu.
Today, the Vittala Temple is in a partially ruined. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple once contained an idol of Lord Vittala. However, now the sanctum is devoid of any idol. The central western hall of the temple was ruined long ago during the attack of the Mughals that led to the downfall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 A.D.
The wheels of the chariot were once functional and could be rotated by the people. But some years ago the government cemented the wheels in order to avoid causing damage to them any further. Even tapping the musical pillars to emit musical notes is prohibited, as tapping over the years have caused some damage to the musical pillars of the Ranga Mantapa.
The ruins of Hampi, as it is known today, is a vast open museum of history, architecture and religion. It is spread over an area of more than 25 square km, and is packed with temples, palaces, market streets, fortifications, aquatic structures and an abundance of ancient monuments. The giant boulders strewn hills and the river that bisects, make the landscape beautiful. It is a perfect tourist spot, and is on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.