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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Hampi Part 7 - Vitthala Temple

The Vitthala temple is probably the most beautiful structure in Hampi. The gopuram is practically all gone, but inside, its another story altogether!

Even the gopuram, or what is left of it, shows us some interesting things…..

The figure in the centre looks more like Shiva, doesnt it? and the one on the left is really interesting...

A closer view doesnt really tell me anything... but it is interesting to see something like this on a gopuram, right? 

Look at the left.. there are two figures, which sort of disturbs the symmetry... more interestingly, that extra figure seems to be one of Shiva again, since he is holding a 'damru'

Here is our first view of the temple…

This is a Tulsi Matham – indicating that this is a temple to Lord Vishnu. We were told that this one had been re-assembled by the ASI from the pieces scattered all over!

And here is the stone chariot which is possibly the most famous and most photographed structure in all of Hampi…

Look at the amazing work on this chariot!

The stone wheels could move earlier, but thanks to people trying to push it all the time, the wheels have been rendered immobile!

These stone elephants are not pulling the chariot. They have been placed there to replace the horses which once stood there.. there is no sign of the horses now, except a portion of a hind leg still attached to the chariot, if you look closely….

And this portion of hind leg and tail on this side…..

Here is a front view…. The stones have been placed on the ladder to discourage tourists from climbing in!

Inside is an icon of Garuda – the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. I have no idea whether the icon was always there or not – while our guide told us that it was found on the premises and placed inside by the ASI, we heard another guide explaining that the chariot was built to house the idol of Garuda instead of the usual shrine!

The chariot must have been beautifully painted by natural colours at one time… all that remains today are these few traces of colour – which have survived the wear and tear of the centuries simply because they are on the under-side of the chariot, and thus haven’t been exposed to the elements, or to the destroyers!

Moving on to the main temple, here is a portion of the front façade…. We were told that this was a small model of the temple itself…interesting, wouldn’t you say? I wonder… did the idol of the Lord inside look like this? Or did he look like the traditional idol of Vitthala – with his arms at his waist?

And now we come to one of the most beautiful works of art here….. the pillars…. These are monolithic pillars, with 16 or 25 smaller pillars in each one!

And among these are the musical pillars – which not only give out notes when struck, but are also said to reproduce the sound of various musical instruments… such as this one, which would give out the sound of the drum, as shown by this figure beating a drum!

I was most disappointed to hear that we could not hear or even venture near any of these pillars – and even more angered by the fact that the reason was not just the delicate condition of the pillars (which I can understand) but the rough handling by tourists! Till recently, people were allowed to enter and touch the pillars, even strike them to hear the notes (my in-laws visited Hampi some years back, and they returned raving about this), but then, Indian tourists being what they are, they soon started damaging what had been left untouched by the marauders all those centuries back! And hence, today, we are only allowed to walk outside the mandapam, peeking to see what we can of the fabulous sculptures inside! and there is much to see, if only we could get any nearer! While the musical pillars have figures with musical instruments, there are stories from tales of Lord Vishnu etched on the others….

There is so much to see here that I could happily spend hours just in this one temple…. Such as these stone chains which are part of the roof, and used to hang lamps from, during festivals….

And this tiny figure at one corner, which shows different figures from different angles…..

The attention to detail is simply mindboggling! Look at these holes and grooves designed to allow water to flow from the roof to the ground….

………And the tapering ends allowing the water to drip slowly onto the floor!

The amazing patterns depicted on the base range from decorative ones….

To figures of horses, elephants, and travellers from other countries too….

The Kalyana Mandapa is another work of art… again with beautiful pillars….

To figures telling us stories of Lord Vishnu….as usual, Samhith and I looked out for the Kalki in the Dashavatar, and were thrilled to see him shown riding a horse, instead of being depicted as horse-faced!

Here is a depiction of Krishna stealing the clothes of the gopis…

Traces of the green colour on the tree still linger..... 

Here he is again, this time shown killing the demoness Putana! I wonder about the smile on her face – is it her happiness at being killed by Krishna, or is it the pleasure of feeding the Lord?

and thats not all..…

A couple in love....

Ravana in great detail!

Ah, an interesting story here - can anyone help with this? seem to have forgotten this one! 
Thanks to Dr. Sri Harsha Tg for suggesting that this might be part of the episode
of Hanuman destroying Ashoka vana..
he is throwing a couple of rakshashas with his tail and grabbing hold of another by his hair!

A man giving water to another.... the donor looks like a Muslim, or at least a foreigner..

Look at the detail even on the simpler pillars…

I was amazed to see even small things so beautifully done!

After this surfeit of beauty, it was really sad to see the empty sanctum. Even here, the pillars show stories of Lord Krishna, but the destruction was so apparent here, simply by the absence of the deity for whom all this was built, that I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

The Utsava mandapa on the other side of the temple is also the same type as the Kalyana mandapa. Unfortunately, the structure has begun to tilt, and has been supported by brick pillars….

The base of this mandapa is covered with scenes from the palace – I especially loved the kolattam dance figures – for those of you who didn’t get that, kolattam is a folk dance of the south, performed holding sticks, similar to the garbha or dandiya of Gujarat.

Now that I am through with the temple tour, there is something I must mention. I have ranted enough about the ignorance and carelessness of tourists (mostly Indian, I must add… the foreign visitors appreciate the beauty much more than we do), and seriously wish we wouldn’t bring schoolchildren in hordes to such beautiful places on picnics! I wish the ASI would do something to reduce the influx of disinterested visitors to such wonderful places, such as increasing the entry rates, for one!

On the other hand, there is much to be said about the place earning World Heritage Status. The sites are well maintained and clean, and a pleasure to walk through! I must especially mention the new initiative begun here, which not only promotes eco-friendly practices, but also provides employment to a whole lot of women. Private vehicles are stopped at a car park on the main road leading to the temple. From here to the temple is a short and easy walk of about 10 minutes, and for this, they have introduced battery operated vehicles to ferry tourists to and fro, at the rate of Rs.10 per person. What I liked most about this was that ALL these vehicles were being driven by women! When we asked for more details, we were told that this was on a trial basis, and if it worked out, the same system would be implemented all over Hampi. Now, that would be a big step ahead! Wouldn’t you agree?

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  1. the sculpture seems to be of hanuman ,depicting his ransacking of ashoka vana . we see  his tail holding couple of people and his hand grabbing one's head. correct me if am wrong.  wonderful blog , by the way.  am visiting hampi this december and following ur well charted path.

  2. ah! now that seems probable! thanks so much! I will update the blog with ur suggestion too! I hope you have a great trip to Hampi!

  3. hey  thanks for the credit! what was your iterinary for your hampi trip? how many days did you spend there?  i have planned for 3 days at hampi and two days at badami ,pattadkal and aihole. hope its sufficient time.

    1. u can try visiting lakhundi also has lot of amazing temples beautifully carved.

  4. I am the one who should be thanking you for the suggestion!
    We spent just one day sightseeing at Hampi, and half a day for Anegundi... in three days u can cover quite a lot.. take a list and make sure u go to as many as u can... and spend one full day at anegundi... its a beautiful place too, but in a different sense from Hampi.... and two days for badami, pattadakal and aihole seems to be ok.... u can also add mahakuta and banashankari to the list... also, there are lots of other temples and caves at these places which i wasnt able to visit due to lack of time.. if u are interested, u can visit all of them... there are quite a lot of blogs about these places too..check some out and try to visit what u can.... provided of course u are interested in temple architecture, sculptures, or archaeology//

  5. thanks a lot. am very interested in old temple architecture . the stories the sculptures depict and the stories and history  associated with the place intrigue me. hence this first trip. recently visited somnathpur on my own and marvelled at the architecture. have posted it at

  6. a exceptional work done by you in your i am in 8th but i still remember the significance of this was built by krishnadevaraya after winning a war but he wished have the original idol of lord vittala as in pandharpur. so the idol of pandharpur was claimed and installed here bedecked with flowers and jewellery.this temple was painted at that time so you can find traces.after few decades.the warkaari people reclaimed the idol and to it in a palkhi to pandharpur .hence the sanctum sanctorum is empty-hitesh


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