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Hidden Gem of India: an ancient Dravidian masterpiece

When it comes to temples in South India, the state of Karnataka dominates with its ancient towering Dravidian masterpieces. Being a lover of south Indian temples, one that always came into my mind is Vithala Temple, situated on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River.

The Vittala Temple is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an avatar of Lord Vishnu.  The most magnificent of the religious buildings at Hampi, it can be reached from the west by walking on from Hampi Bazaar along the riverbank, or from the east through the Talarigattu Gateway.

Its reputation is well deserved both in the variety of styles that characterize the shrines within the temple courtyard and in the fineness of the carvings that embellish them. It flourished from the 14th to 16th century AD in southern India. It was ruled by a powerful Hindu king, Krishnadeva Raya (early 16th century).

      Abdul Razzak, the Persian ambassador wrote that ‘the eye had never seen a place like it. It was abandoned in 1565 after its fall in the battle of Talikota to the Deccan Sultanates; it was ‘rediscovered’ by Colin Mackenzie around 1800. In 1986, Hampi with its ruins was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site of ‘universal value’.

A captivating feature of Hampi for the visitor is the sheer variety that the site offers, representing not just one or two monuments but a wide array of architectural and cultural remains. From the sacred to the secular, from the royal to every day, the sites are set within the natural landscape of haunting beauty. It’s massive! Most astonishing of all is its many structures around it.

These include urban, royal, and sacred ensembles such as forts, riverside features, temples, shrines, pillared halls or mandapas, pavilions, monumental and memorial structures, gateways, defense check posts, stables, tanks, and water structures. Here is the list of the following small structures around the temple.

GARUDA SHRINE

The structure that catches the eye is the Garuda shrine that stands freely in front. This is delicately fashioned as a chariot, complete with stone wheels. It may appear to you as an immovable structure. In reality, this stone shrine was built with many giant granite blocks. MUSICAL PILLARS            The chariot is built on a rectangular platform of a foot or so high. All around this base platform is carved with mythical battle scenes. Though the chariot is not resting on it, the four giant wheels attached mimic the real-life ones complete with the axis shafts and even the brakes. A series of parallel floral motifs decorate the wheels. It appears from the marks on the platform, where the wheels rest, the wheels were free to move around the axis.

MUSICAL PILLARS            

The musical pillars are the center of attraction for tourists and visitors. There are 56 pillars in the large Mantapa (inner hall of the temple) which consist of main pillars and several minor pillars. Each main pillar is designed as a musical instrument and surrounded by 7 minor pillars. When someone gently tapped these pillars it produces the 7 musical notes therefore these pillars are also known as SAREGAMA pillars. It was a great mystery that how the stone pillars emit seven notes of music and therefore these pillars have fascinated many people since a century ago. There was an interesting story associated with it that one British ruler wants to discover the secret behind these pillars and he ordered to cut two pillars of the Vithal Temple to find whether there is anything inside it that emits the musical notes but he found nothing inside the pillar. The two pillars which were cut by the British ruler were still present inside the temple and can be seen by tourists whoever want to see.

PUSHKARNI WATER TANK

The Pushkaranis in Hampi is a part of the ancient town’s planning and architecture. Many of the Pushkaranis were built during the time of the Vijayanagara Empire. The water tanks related to the temples were used to serve the ritualistic purposes of those temples. The Pushkaranis in Hampi was an integral part of the people’s lives during the time of the Vijayanagara Empire. Since the temples were an important part of the social and cultural lives of the people of ancient Hampi, the water tanks also gained significance among the people. In many cases, the water tanks served as the venue for the annual boat festivals. During such festivals, the images of Gods and Goddesses were taken out of the temples for a coracle ride on the water tanks.

AJNENDRI HILL SHRINE

On the south side of the Vittala temple, we can see a hill and a small temple on top of it. The Anjanedri Hill in Anegundi village, which is on the opposite bank of the Tungabhadra River. The Anjanedri Hill shrine is a famous religious place as it is believed to be the birthplace of Hanuman.

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