The Virupaksha Temple, located in Hampi is one of the few temples amidst ruins, still in worship. This temple is dedicated to Shiva, known here as Virupaksha or Pampapati. His consort Pampa is often associated with the Tungabhadra River. The Virupaksha or Pampapati temple has been considered throughout centuries to be the most sacred of the temples at Hampi. Pampapati means the lord of Pampa, the daughter of Brahma or the lord of the Pampa-tirtha.
The Tungabhadra here is known as the Pampanadi. The Pampapati temple is situated in picturesque surroundings on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra, immediately to the north of the Hemkuta hill. The various parts of the temple complex are within a long rectangular enclosure divided into two large courts.
There is evidence of additions to the temple made in late Chalukyan and Hoysala period but most of the buildings are attributed to the Vijayanagar period. The eastern gateway, which is the largest, is 50 m high.
Gopuram: The Gateway To The Temple
The lofty eastern gopuram gives access to the outer court, while a smaller inner east gopuram leads to the inner court containing the main 'vimana' with its numerous subsidiary shrines. From the account left by Paes, who visited Vijayanagara in AD 1520, it may be inferred that the temple complex has assumed its present form even by about the time of his visit. The temple faces east and overlooks the long and broad Hampi Bazaar with the dilapidated remains of many ancient 'mandapas' and two-storeyed stone buildings on either side.
The lofty east 'gopuram', the main entrance to the temple, is well-proportioned nine-storeyed structure 52 metres high with the usual two-tiered stone base and a superstructure in brick. In the gopuram-chamber are a few early-type heavy square pillars with bands of scroll decoration at the base and flat carved slabs in place of the corbels. From literary evidences it may be inferred that Proluganti Tippa, an officer of Deva Raya II (AD 1422-46), probably built the 'gopuram'. Krishnadeva Raya later repaired it in AD 1510.
From the east gopuram one enters the large outer court containing many sub-shrines and a large number of 'mandapas' including what are termed the 'phalapuja mandapas'. The so-called old 'phalapuja mandapa' at the southwest corner of the court is in Vijayanagara style with composite pillars, while the new 'phalapuja mandapa' at the northwest, although so named, has earlier styles of pillars.
An interesting feature is that a narrow channel of the Tungabhadra flows along the terrace of the temple then descends to the temple-kitchen and finally flows through the outer court.
The small three-storeyed inner east 'gopuram', named after Krishnadeva Raya forms the entrance to the inner court. It was built by Krishnadeva Raya about AD 1510. The inner court has a pillared cloister along the four sides, with a number of subshrines, while the main sanctum of Virupaksha with its axial 'mandapa' is situated in the central part of the court and faces east.
The sanctum of Virupaksha has in front an 'antarala', an 'ardha-mandapa' and a large 'maha-mandapa', which is referred to in inscriptions as the 'ranga-mandapa'. This 'ranga-mandapa' is a highly ornate Vijayanagara structure built by Krishnadeva Raya in about AD 1510. It is a five-aisled 'mandapa' with various types of composite pillars. The sixteen pillars of the central rectangle have rampant 'yalis' with chains hanging from their mouths, 'makaras' below their feet, and riders, on their backs.
The 'mandapa' is of considerable height with the roof of the central aisle raised up further as a clerestory. On all the four sides along the beams of the clerestory and above there had been originally friezes with many figures in bas relief. But at present they are mostly hidden behind large modern painted stucco groups. The ceiling of the 'ranga mandapas' noted for its numerous panels of Vijayanagara paintings. The figures depicted include sage Vidyaranya going in procession; Arjuna shooting the 'matsya yantra' to win the hand of Draupadi; the Dasavataras; the Dikpalas; Siva as Kamadahanamurti; Tripurari and Kalyanasundara. The panels are in a fair state of preservation and are noteworthy as one of the few remaining original specimens of Vijayanagara painting.
To the west of the 'ranga mandapa' is the 'ardha mandapa', the entrance to which is flanked by a fine pair of huge four-armed 'dvarapalas' of granite, about 2.7 metres high. Stylistically the 'ardha-mandapa' is also a Vijayanagara structure, with its exterior walls decorated with many bas-reliefs as in the Hazara Rama temple and with a multi-petalled lotus motif in the central ceiling.
The 'garbha-griha' is enclosed by a narrow covered 'pradakshina prakara'. The exterior of the 'prakara' walls is finished in a coarse style. The sanctum is a 'tri-tala vimana' with a square domical 'sikhara' and a large central stupi with four smaller stupas at the corners. The walls of the garbha-griha are made of large plain neatly dressed slabs. The sanctum enshrines the well-known Virupaksha linga.
There are a large number of subsidiary shrines in the inner court including those of the 'Mukti Narasimha, 'Patalesvara' and 'Nava Durga'. In the Suryanarayana shrine there is a southern form of the deity. The Mukhi Narasimha shrine nearby has a small seated deity. The image is a fine specimen of Chalukyan sculpture. Next to it is the Tarakesvara shrine with a small figure of Siva with Parvati seated on his lap. Near the southwest corner of the court is a Sarasvati shrine with a small and graceful blackstone image of a two-armed seated Devi playing on a 'Vina'. An ornate 'Prabhavali' with pierced stonework surrounds the figure. The icon is in the Chalukyan style.
The western corridor contains a much worn-out black stone figure of a six-armed Mahishamardini. Behind the west corridor of the temple is a small shrine dedicated to sage Vidyaranya, and said to have been built by Harihara II (AD 1377-1404). The north corridor contains two of the earliest extant structures of the temple, namely, the Parvati and Bhubanesvari shrines. Both have the highly ornate and decorated blackstone pillars of the lathe turned type, carved ceiling and wide door-jambs with elaborate pierced cut-work, characteristic of the later Chalukyan period. On grounds of style, the two shrines may be assigned to about the twelfth century AD.
The tall five-storeyed north 'gopuram', known as the Kangiri Gopuram, is ornamented with many decorative pilasters.
Facing the Virupaksha temple is the broad Hampi bazaar (about 10.6 m wide and 732 m long), one of the important thoroughfares in the ancient city of Vijayanagara. Even in its ruined state it still impresses the visitors. At the eastern end of the bazaar is a large two-storeyed 'mandapa' with twelve well-carved and polished black stone pillars of the later Chalukyan lathe-turned type. Behing the mandapa is a huge but rather coarsely carved Nandi.
The main festivals of the temple are the Car Festival in February and Marriage Festival of Virupaksha & Pampa in December, which are attended by thousands of people each year.