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Virupaksha Temple
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Arial view of Virupaksha temple complex

The oldest shrine still in active worship within the Vijayanagara site, the Virupaksha temple is consecrated to Shiva as the consort of Pampa. Local mythology identifies this local goddess with the Tungabhadra River; indeed Hampi is named in her honour. The Virupaksha-Pampa sanctuary existed well before the foundation of the Vijayanagara capital; inscriptions referring to the god date back to the 9th-10th centuries. At that time, his shrine faced onto a path that led from the Tungabhadra, past Manmatha tank with its pre-Vijayanagara period shrines consecrated to Shiva and the goddess Durga, to the summit of Hemakuta, a hill sacred to Shiva, immediately to the south. The Sangamas transformed the shrine into a major religious monument.

The Tuluvas greatly extended Virupaksha temple. A slab set up in front of the main shrine records Krishnadevaraya’s benefactions on the occasion of his coronation in 1510. This hall is of interest for its piers with delicately carved colonettes and fantastic yalis ridden by warriors. Krishnadevaraya also erected the gopura that stands immediately opposite. The grandly scaled gopura further to the east was probably also begun at this time; the broad colonnaded street that serves today, as it did in the past, as the main bazaar of Hampi, may have been extended.

The cult of Virupaksha-Pampa did not die out after the destruction of the city in 1565. Worship there continued through the years, and at the turn of the 19th century there were major renovations. From this late period, date the paintings on the ceiling of Krishnadevaraya’s mandapa and the towers of the north and great east gopura. The British Collectors of Bellary seem to have been involved in some of these restorations. The temple, the largest Hindu monument in central Karnataka, continues to prosper and attracts huge crowds for the betrothal and marriage festivities of Virupaksha and Pampa.

Aerial View of Virupaksha Temple
Plan of Virupaksha Temple

Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project