VIJAYANAGARA RESEARCH PROJECT
out along the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River, the Sacred Centre of Vijayanagara is made up of distinct temple districts, partly defined
by fort walls. Shaivite
shrines are located primarily to the west and Vaishnavite
shrines are primarily to the east of the Kodandarama
Temple. Dominating the Shaivite area is temple district known as Hampi,
the village that today gives its name to the whole site. Here is situated
The Virupaksha is surrounded by lesser shrines. To the north of the temple, on the bank of Manmatha tank, is a cluster of small temples, many of them dating back to pre-Vijayanagara times. Other early shrines are seen on the sloping ledge of Hemakuta hill, immediately to the south. Here, too, are monolithic sculptures of Ganesha, one set within a constructed shrine. The great colonnaded street that extends eastwards from the Virupaksha Temple serves today as a temple bazaar, as it did in the past. Chariot festivals are still held here.
About 1 kilometre south of Hampi is the district known as Krishnapura, after the 16th century Balakrishna temple complex. A great colonnaded bazaar street with a ceremonial tank also precedes the abandoned temple. Nearby to the south, are monolithic sculptures of a lingam and of Lakshmi-Narasimha, which at almost 7 meters high, is the largest at the site.
Achyutaraya’s temple, about 1 kilometre east of Hampi and a
short distance from the Tungabhadra, comprises the focus of Achyutapura,
another district of the Sacred Centre. The north-facing sixteenth
century complex is consecrated to Tiruvengalanatha,
a form of Vishnu. Hemmed in by a double set of concentric enclosure
walls, the temple is approached along a colonnaded street with a ceremonial
tank that leads directly from the Tungabhadra.
Probably the most artistic temple is that dedicated to Vitthala, a form of Krishna. This serves as the nucleus of the temple district known as Vitthalapura, near to the south bank of the Tungabhadra, some 3 kilometres downstream from Hampi. Though damaged and no longer in worship, the sixteenth century Vitthala Temple preserves columns with remarkable figural and animal carvings. A unique Garuda shrine, fashioned as a chariot with stone wheels, stands in front of the temple. A large walled compound, with entrance gopuras on three sides, surrounds the temple and subsidiary shrines and pavilions. Colonnaded bazaar streets running east and north from the temple lead to shrines dedicated to Vaishnavite saints, including the largest, dedicated to Ramanuja. The district abounds in minor shrines, service structures, feeding houses, wells and a large tank.
A valley hemmed in by granite ridges running parallel to the Tungabhadra lies immediately south of the Sacred Centre. Restored channels and aqueducts bring water to fields of rice, sugarcane and banana trees, as in Vijayanagara times. They include the Turutha canal that runs along the south side of the valley; a road on top of its earthern embankment gives access to fields below. A massive bund once cut across the valley at its narrowest spot, impounding a small lake to the west into which projected the embankment on which the car street the Balakrishna temple was constructed. Three massive granite staircases climb Matanga hill, which rises to the south of the bund above this irrigated valley. Superb views over the entire Vijayanagara site may be had from the roof of the small Virabhadra shrine that crowns its summit.
For a description of monuments, see Michell and Wagoner 2001, Vijayanagara: Architecture of the Sacred Centre, in Project Publications. For an analysis of temple building, link to Marsh 2006, ''Construction Techniques in an Unfinished Temple'’.
Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project