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Hampi’s Virupaksha Temple: The oldest functioning temple of India since 7th Century

aviary-image-1484161984785aAdmist huge boulders and crumbling ruins and rocks one can find this beautiful Lord Shiva temple at Hampi. Hampi earlier was called Pampa. Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagar Kingdom. Hampi, gave rise to art and culture, the renaissance of Karnataka’s art & culture is deeply rooted out here.
This Virupaksha Temple with his consort, Pampa, daughter of Lord Brahma is supposed to be the oldest functioning temple in India which was incepted in the 7th century. Ancient carved inscriptions dating back to 9th century can be found today at this temple premises. This temple complex had individual small shrines of individual worship, they were all grouped into one huge temple complex and monuments were built only between 1336 & 1570 A.D. by the late.Vijayanagar Kings, the Hoysala and Chalukyas. Krishnadevaraya, the Tulva Dynasty King built the mantapas and the temple tower – a 52 metre high 9 tier Gopura. Stone with beautiful carved sculpted edifice of 2 tiers and later the tower progresses  to brick and mortar. The top of the temple tower or gopura has bovine shaped horns adding to the belief of the holy cow in Hinduism – temple architecture beliefs and vastu designs of those times. The temple complex has 3 towers, But the east tower is the tallest and the most beautiful one. It’s surprising that this temple complex laid buried in the ruins for 400 years and was excavated and resorted only in 1980s! It takes about an hour to visit this temple complex including a visit to the Tungabhandra River bank. A beautiful sight is the temple elephant, Lakshmi blessing pilgrims in exchange of a coin.
A boat takes one across the Tungabhandra river to other side of settlement, which is preferred by the foreign tourists. The view from there is spectacular, especially at dusk and dawn.
The temple complex today has pillared halls, lamposts, flag posts and a temple kitchen catering to the temple pilgrims. It’s believed, it’s auspicious to get married here, the sanctified blessed place, where Lord Shiva married Bhrama’s daughter after her penance. The Tungabhadra River enters the sanctum santorum of the temple and flows out, this is a divine note, during monsoon the temple’s sanctum santorum lies submerged in the waters of Tungabhadra. At times this temple is called the underground temple. There are several manifestations of Lord Shiva carved and sculpted on display. The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are too present along with scenes of the epic Mahabharata displayed. The best time to visit this Hampi Virupaksheswara Pampapathi temple is November to February.
One can see pilgrims involved in a lot of rituals at this place. This Archeological Society of India (ASI) protected property today is a worshiping temple, daily poojas take place each day. This temple complex is open from 6 AM to 6 PM to tourists. Photography is allowed and there’s a small entry fee to enter the complex and an additional fee for your camera. ASI property does not permit tripods or film or videography. It’s a UNESCO heritage site, one sees a lot of foreign backpacking tourists here, they come here for it’s solitude and reasonable cost of staying from Goa.
This temple complex is standing free, intact, perfect without the vandalization of the invaders who plundered India in the conquest of wealth, power and religion. This huge temple complex lies on the south bank of Karnataka’s famous river Tungabhadra and at the foothills of Hemakutta hills. It’s picturesque. Access to this temple is through a straight one km road called the ‘Hampi Bazaar’, earlier in the beginning of 14th century, pearls and rubies were sold on this street welcoming foreign traders, today it’s just temple souvenirs, eats and local tourist traders. November to February are the best months to visit,  summers are unbearably hot! The chariot festival of this temple is in the month of February. And, the divine marriage of Virupaksha and Pampapathi is celebrated during December. The Karnataka government’s Tourist department does conducts the Hampi Festival – a dance extravaganza which is an event to look forward to. Aerial views by helicopter rides of Hampi are a beautiful sight.
Hampi, is a town in Bellary district of Karnataka, India. Virupaksheswara temple is one of the main temple. Touring around the ruins of Hampi may take you two – three days, around Hampi there are other tourist spots like – Aihole, Patadakal, Badami etc.,  A little further down is Bijapur. The 16th century battle of Talikota, which destroyed the Vijayanagar Kingdom was fought by the Bijapur Sultans and Vijayanagar Kingdom. Talikota battle ended the Vijayanagar Kingdom rule and gave rise to a lot of small independent kingdoms in Karnataka.
Around Hampi, there are a lot of luxury resorts and also the KSTDC Mayura group of hotels. Hospet is another town 13 kms from Hampi and has a lot of hotels to stay and eat out here. The railway station is here, so do the state bus stand. It makes sense to stay here. Bangalore to Hospet or Hampi is 350 kms and a 5 hour drive. Nearest airport is Bellary, the flights to this place are infrequent. Visit this place to understand our rich heritage and past. It’s better to have your own transport out here. Local transportation are autos, buses and taxis. Here’s to happy historic travel. These places attract, photographer’s, artists and historians. You need to be fit to walk a lot during these regions. An inexpensive holiday place.

Jagdeesh Laxman Singh
aka Jugie Singh
Text & Photography
[email protected]

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