Virupaksha temple is located at the foot of Hemakuta hills, along the southern bank of river Tungabhadra, in Hampi, Karnataka. It is one of the oldest shrines that are active to worship to this date. The temple enjoys the status of World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
History & Structure
It is said that the Virupaksha temple came to existence around the 7th century. There are also claims of adding to it during the late Chalukya and Hoysala periods. The Sangamas rulers, Harihara and Bukkaraya (1336- 1485) laid the foundation of Vijayanagar. Harihara became the first king of Vijayanagar. They claimed Lord Virupaksha & Pampadevi as their deities and made contributions to the temple.
Notably, during the reign of Devarya II, under the supervision of commander in service, Proluganti Tippa, the first gopura was built. Later on, it was retouched by Krishna Devarya in 1510. Many additions were also made to the temple to mark his succession to the throne.
The temple stands tall at the height of 52 m amongst the ruins of once-glorious Vijayanagara (1336 to 1565). It includes but is not limited to the Outer courtyard with two mandapas, one in a north-west direction other in the south-west direction. Inner courtyard with Nandi pavilion, Dhwaja stambh, smaller shrines, etc.
The temple also has Rangamandap, Ardhmandap, Antaralya, Garbhgrih, etc. There are hundreds of ornately carved pillars, beautiful ceilings depicting scenes such as Draupadi swayamvar, Sita swayamwar, Dashavatar, Sage Vidyaranya being carried in a palanquin, etc.
Folklore of Virupaksha Temple
Virupaksha is derived from virupa & aksha; the former means ‘no form’ while the later ‘eyes’. Virupaksha stands for the perception that has eyes but no form. It is also one of the many names of Lord Shiva. The temple has many stories behind its existence.
The legend says that after Sati’s demise she was reincarnated many times, one of them being as Pampadevi born to Lord Brahma. When she came of age she vowed that she will only marry Lord Shiva and won’t touch any other man. She dedicated her days to meditation and tapasya for the same.
One fateful day a saint came to the place and asked for food. Pampa was delighted to serve a holy man and agreed. While the saint went to the river, Pampa (now called Tungabhadra) to wash himself. Unfortunately, he was attacked by a crocodile. His plea for help was heard by Pampadevi. Without wasting another moment she went to the river and saved the saint. But by doing so her vow ‘to never touch any other man’ was broken. Belatedly she realized that it was a trick. She was furious and demanded the saint to show his true form.
When she saw who the saint truly was she was ecstatic. The saint was none other than Lord Shiva, himself. He came to test her and she passed with flying colors. Lord Shiva asked for her hand in marriage and married Devi Pampa. At this time, Lord Shiva was in the form of Virupaksha. Lord Brahma blessed the couple. Later on, Pampa and Virupaksha tied the knot.
Every year during the month of December, at Virupaksha temple, betrothal celebrations and marriage festivities are done to commemorate this holy union.
Virupaksha temple attracts lots of devotees and tourists alike all around the year. People come here to relish the history of the temple and the place. It oozes a unique charm that seeps down to the core providing an ethereal experience to last a lifetime.
All images belong to their respective owners.
Do check our blog The Glorious Ramappa Temple