(Last Updated on : 03/02/2014)
Vittala temple stands at Hampi
village of the Indian state Karnataka
, flaunting its architectural extravaganza and forming a treat to the eyes of the visitors. A spectacular specimen of art, the temple has an expansive campus having gateway towers and compound wall. Inside the campus a number of temples, pavilions and halls are situated. The temple is dedicated to Vittala, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu
, who is regarded as the cult deity by the cattle herds in this part of India. The ancient temple was erected in 15th century AD by Vijayanagara
rulers; however it has undergone several phases of beautification during the reign of successive kings. Ruins of a township, known as Vittalapura which was once present around the temple campus, can still be witnessed here. The stone chariot
and magnificent pillared halls form the major attractions of Vittala temple. The temple has been declared as a World Heritage Monument by UNESCO.
Stone Chariot of Vittala Temple
A massive entrance tower at the eastern part leads to the campus. A series of compact platforms located along the central axis of the campus snatches the attention at the very first glimpse of the campus. A stone chariot gracefully stands where these platforms end. The stone chariot is in fact a shrine constructed in this form. In its sanctum, an image of Garuda
, the eagle god, was enshrined previously. According to Indian mythology
, Garuda is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu and thus its shrine stands facing the sanctum of the temple.
Although the stone chariot appears to be a monolithic structure, it is actually made with a number of large granite blocks. The joints of the blocks have been neatly hidden with various embellishments and carvings in the chariot. It stands on a feet high stone platform, rectangular in shape, over which mythical battle scenes are carved all around. The chariot is supported by four giant wheels which have a stark resemblance with the real ones and have brakes and axis shafts. The wheels are adorned with concentric floral motifs. The wheels once freely moved around the axis which is proven by the marks on the platform. The chariot was quite protected from natural wearing which is evident from the remains of the exquisite paintings on the carvings. One of the best paintings among them can be spotted in the undercarriage of the chariot. It is said that impressive paintings with minerals once covered all the sculptures of Vittala temple. Two elephants are positioned in the front of the chariot and appear as pulling the chariot. These were placed at a much later stage and two horses were carved here earlier.
Maha-Mantapa of Vittala Temple
The elevated main hall located at front of the temple is presently in a damaged condition but still boasts its architectural splendour. Known as Maha-Mantapa or the great hall, the balustrades on its east and west porch are embellished with giant lion, called Yalis, fighting with dwarf elephants. The ornate platform on which the hall stands has floral motifs carved on it along with a chain of horses, trainers and traders on the lowermost area. There are four open halls within the Maha-Mantapa among which the east, north and south ones are in intact condition. The western hall possibly collapsed owing to the arson following the decline of the capital. The Maha-Mantapa houses giant monolithic pillars having rich carvings. The outermost pillars are short and slender are known as musical pillars as they emit musical tones when their carved pilasters are tapped.
The eastern hall of Maha-Mantapa is referred as musicians hall as it houses numerous sculptures of musicians, drummers and dancers on its pillars. Rampant mythical creatures, also known as Yalis, can be found dominantly in the southern hall. Ornate corbels adorn its pillars with lotus
buds at their ends. Narasimha themes dominate the pillars of northern hall. Lotus like carving can also be found at the centre of the ceilings.
Sanctum of Vittala Temple
The inner sanctum of Vittala temple does not have any idol enshrined. Encircling the sanctum is an unlit and narrow passageway. The outer wall of the sanctum which can be notices from inside the passageway is highly adorned with the motifs of lotus flower flowing out of a pot, called Kumbha-Pankajas.
Other Attractions of Vittala Temple
In the campus of Vittala temple, other attractive features are formed by the Goddess's shrine at the northwest, the ceremonial wedding hall called the Kalayna Mantapa in the southwest and a 100 pillared hall in southwest. Surrounding the enclosure wall are pillared cloisters.