Etymology of Vitthala Temple
The temple is named after one of the many avatars or forms of Lord Vishnu, ‘Vitthala’ who is worshipped widely in this region. It is considered to be the most ornate of the Vijayanagar temples.
History of Vitthala Temple
Vitthala Temple was constructed in the 15th century AD and the structure of the present temple has got the perfect setting because of the patronization of different kings who ruled for several years in Hampi. The remnants of the township of Vitthalapura are extant in and around this temple.
Architecture of Vitthala Temple
The major attractions of Vitthala Temple are the pillared halls and the stone chariot which itself is a temple. The halls of Vitthala temple are decorated with architectural excellence and display a gamut of beautiful sculptural styles that are projected on granite stones.
Stone Chariot of Vitthala Temple: The stone chariot of Vitthala temple is located at the end of a series of platforms and within the sanctum of it, an image of Garuda is enshrined. The Stone chariot was constructed with a number of granite blocks and the artistically carved chariot displays the scenes of mythical battles. The wheels of the chariot are decked with floral motifs. In front of the chariot there are two elephants. The sculpture, carved out of stone, depicts an elephant pulling a chariot so perfectly proportioned and carved with such superior engineering technology that the wheels actually rotate.
Musical Pillars of Vitthala Temple: 56 ornate monolithic pillars, known as the ‘Musical Pillars’, dominate the temple. The pillars are superbly carved and when tapped, the sound reverberate emitting different musical notes. A ‘Maha Mandapa’ is located in the temple on a platform that is finely decked with four open halls within. The monolithic pillars of the Maha Mandapa are delicately carved with the furthest of the pillars namely the Musical Pillars. Lord Vitthala is enshrined in this temple. The base of the Maha Mandapa is chiselled with friezes of the swan, the horse and the warrior. At intervals, there are projections with bas reliefs portraying the deification of the ten Avataras of Lord Vishnu. There are several mythical themes beautifully decorated on the walls.
Halls of Vitthala Temple: The musician’s hall, which is the eastern hall of the temple is constructed with beautiful sculptural work as they were sculpted with musicians, drummers and dancers. The mythical creatures named as ‘Yalis’ are observed in the southern hall of the temple and the northern hall is dominated with the themes of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Narasimha. The carvings, basically of lotus, bedeck the ceilings of the hall and the west part is occupied with two porches on either side. The sanctum lies in front of it. The sanctum is also another part of the temple that displays the excelled architectural work that manifests Kumbha-Pankajas.
One of the more unusual structures is the so-called King’s Balance. Legend has it that the wealthy kings would be weighed on a giant scale against grain or gold, which was later distributed to the poor.