Last week, the journey to Hospet and Hampi from Bangalore was explored, followed by a pit stop at the Mustard Ganesha temple. See my last blog post here. This week we carry on from the Sasive Kalu Ganesha temple, on one side of the hill, to the Hemakuta hill, found on the other side of the hill. The views from the Hemakuta hill are unlike those you have ever seen before. The atmosphere has a sense of peace and calmness to it. If you are a yogi, this would be a perfect place to sit down and meditate.
Before reaching the hill there is a madapa, which acts as a gateway to Hemakuta hill. The elevation of the mandapa is perfect to capture the scenic views of the Hemakuta group of temples and the hills around Hampi. Instead, you can even use the mandapa as a pedestal to capture your profile picture image for Facebook, like me.
This hill forms a medieval pathway, leading one towards the early Pre-Vijayanagara temples. It contains about 30 temples, which vary in shapes and sizes. Currently, most of the temples don’t have a deity in them, in fear of theft. However, there is an aroma when you walk inside some of these temples, which reminds you of the incense and sandalwood that would have been used to conduct pujas. The temples can be dated back from 9th to 16th century AD.
The temples that look like staircase pyramids, are known as garbagrihas. They have a trikuta (tri means three) structure. These garbagrihas face north, east and west.
As we walked down the hill we saw a temple to our left, which seemed to be open, but we were unsure. As we walked closer to the temple, an old man came out and called us in. He was the priest of the temple. The sculptures of the gods were dressed to perfection and beautiful. Since photographs are not allowed in the temple, it is a sight you should go see for yourself.
The priest told us that he has been working in that temple his entire life, close to 80 years. The history of sacred Hampi can be seen in its temples, monuments as well as its people. They are completely devoted to keeping the heritage site in its best condition.
The biggest temple among the group of hemakuta temples, is the Virupaksha temple. The Virupaksha or Pampapati Temple is the most sacred temple – in all of Hampi. Virupaksha refers to Lord Shiva. The temple houses a Shivalinga to honour Lord Shiva, the guardian deity of the Vijayanagar kings. The temple originated as a small shrine, which expanded into this long rectangular enclosure, during the first half of 16th century AD. The large gopuram at the entrance and pillared ranga mandapa were built by Krishnadevaraya, the greatest emperor of the Vijayanagar empire. It was built on the occasion of his coronation in 1510 AD.
Daily pujas are still conducted inside the temple. As you walk into the temple you will see a baby elephant, named Lakshmi. The elephant was eating its meal, consisting of tree barks and leaves, when we walked in. When you are there, make sure to have the elephant bless you with its trunk. This is considered good luck among Hindus. Elephants are considered sacred due to their numerous positive qualities such as wisdom, strength, boldness, vegetarianism and more. Also, the Hindu God Ganesha has the head of an elephant. A tank filled with water is found north of the temple, called Manmatha tank. Read the legend of the tank below.
That concluded our first day at Hampi, going around the first set of temples and hills. There is a lot more that Hampi has to offer. Read about the great Vitthala temple, where music is produced from the pillars of the mandapas, on my next blog. Until then, Namaste to all of you, have a great weekend!