Nestled at the banks of Tungbhadra River in Hampi in Karnataka, the Virupaksha Temple or Prasanna Virupaksha Temple is one of the most famous religiously historical sites and a revered temple. Constructed during the 7th century, the stunning architecture of the temple is a site to behold and have made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage. Home to Lord Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva, the temple was once a small shrine in the center of the historic and magnificent Vijayanagara empire, and the proof of its legacy can be seen in the stone inscription on its walls.
The South Indian Dravidian style of architecture can be seen on the temple with gopurams or tall towes acting as a gateway to the sanctums inside and intricate carvings of sculptures on the façade. The gopurams lead to many inner corridors and halls adorned with ornate stoneworkand the sculptures showcase stories of gods and goddesses from several mythological stories. The temple is abode to Lord Virupaksha, but there are idols of some other Hindu gods as well.
The ancient name of river Tungabhadra was ‘Pampa’ and Lord Virupaksha’s consort Goddess Parvathi is also revered here as ‘Pampa’. The town of Hampi was earlier called as Pampakshetra where the majestic capital of Vijayanagara empire once stood. However, the main shrine of the Virupaksha temple is believed to be built even before the establishment of Vijayanagara empire in the region as a simple structure during the Chalukyan and Hoysala periods. It was expanded later, and artistic stonework were further included during the rule of the Vijayanagara empire. What began as a small shrine dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, became larger and bigger under the Vijayanagara rulers with multiple gopurams and pillared halls.
According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the temple was commissioned to be constructed by the queen of Vikramaditya II, named Lokamahadevi, to honor the success of the King in a battle against the Pallavas of Kanchi. The several inscriptions inside the temple also refer to the temple as ‘Lokeshwara Mahasila Prasada’ to bless the queen’s generosity. While successive invasions on Vijayanagara by empires from the north ruined most of the Hampi and the Vijayanagara empire, several parts of the temple are still intact and continue to shed light on its rich heritage and glory.
The main temple of Virupaksha consists of a sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall, and an open pillared hall. Lord Virupaksha’s shrine is presented as a Shiva Linga and ornate decorations beautify the walls of this corridor. Beautiful carved pillars adorn the structure along with a cloister and multiple entrance gateways. Apart from the main deity (Virupaksha), there are smaller shrines and other structures that surround the main part of the temple. The shrines of Goddess Pampa, Goddess Bhuvaneshwari, Nava Graha, and Pataleshwar, another form of Shiva, are also seen in the temple.
The entrance gateway or the gopuram on the east side of the temple is the largest of all – it is 50 meters high,made of brick with a stone base. It gives access to the outer courtyard that contains various other smaller shrines. The other two gopurams are smaller gopurams in the inner east and inner northern sides of the temple complex. All are adorned with stunning sculptures of gods and goddesses. The smaller gopurams can be seen from the outer courtyard through which the inner courtyards and sanctums can be reached.
King Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara empire is considered to have been a major contributor in the development and enhancement of the temple. The central pillared hall with beautiful carvings is constructed by him to celebrate his coronation in 1509-10 AD. Outside the temple, several ruins can be seen which are said to be the ruins of a once flourished market site near the temple. The temple lies along the mighty Tungabhadra River of Karnataka,that flows alongsidethe temple (near the terrace side).
Virupaksha Temple is open to visitors between 9 AM and 1 PM, and between 5 PM to 9 PM every day, on all days of the week.
The entry to this temple (like most temples in India) is free; visitors are not charged any entry fee here. However, any offerings to the deity (like flowers/garland, incense sticks, fruits, and other Pooja items) can be purchased within the temple complex and this isoptionally done by devotees – it isn’t compulsory.
Hampi is well connected to cities across Karnataka as well as other neighboring states The city can be reached by air, rail, or road.
A heritage and architecturally brilliant religious site, Virupaksha Temple is the abode of Lord Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva and showcases its ancient history and existence through the intricate carvings, mixed architectural style, and age-old inscriptions, that is a delight to experience.