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Vitthala Temple
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Stone Charriot
Stone Charriot

Illuminated Interior of Vitthala Temple
Illuminated Interior of Vitthala Temple

Plan of Vitthala Temple Complex

Plan of Vitthala Temple Complex
Though this is the most artistically accomplished religious monument in the sacred centre of Vijayanagara, we know nothing about its original patron. Possibly Vira Narasimha, the first ruler of the Tuluva dynasty, founded it in the first decade of the 16th century. All of his successors made additions. Krishnadevaraya was responsible for the hundred-columned hall built up to the southern enclosure wall, while two of his queens each added a gopura. A third gopura was the work of Achyutaraya. In 1554, during the reign of Sadashiva, a magnificent “swing-pavilion” was added, but its sponsor was a military commander rather than the emperor himself. The temple was ransacked just eleven years later and survives today only as an archaeological monument. Nothing remains of the image of Vitthala once worshipped within the sanctuary

The temple is laid out in a standard fashion for the period, with a sanctuary surrounded by a narrow passageway on three sides, approached from the east through two mandapas, the inner one enclosed with side doorways, the outer one open with access from three sides. The temple stands in the middle of a paved courtyard with gopuras on three sides. Subsidiary shrines and altars are aligned to the east of the courtyard. Beyond the temple compound runs a colonnaded street almost 1 kilometre long. Shrines dedicated to the Vaishnava saints are dotted all around. The twelfth century saint, Ramanuja was probably worshiped in a large temple that faced south onto a branch of the Vitthala bazaar.

The great “swing-pavilion” is one of the technical marvels of Vijayanagara architecture. Its interior is divided into four halls, two of which are aligned with the sanctuary that lies within the temple. Huge granite beams and ceiling slabs, some more than 10 metres long, are raised high on granite piers carved with clusters of colonettes interspersed with figural and animal carvings. Another marvel is the Garuda shrine that stands freely in front. This is delicately fashioned as a chariot, complete with stone wheels. Sadly, its brick tower was demolished. Pierre-Sylvain and Vasundhara Filliozat have studied the temple and its inscriptions (see Bibliography).


Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project