Continued from Part 2
On the banks of Tungabhadra River is the Virupaksha temple, dedicated to God Shiva, known in this area as Virupaksha, the consort of the local goddess Pampadevi.
This is the oldest and the principal temple in Hampi. It is believed to be functioning uninterruptedly ever since the 7th century CE and is perhaps one of the oldest functioning temples in India. (Source).
After laying the foundation for Vijayanagara and with the guidance and blessings of Sri Vidyaranya, the brothers Harihara and Bukka Raya established their own independent kingdom with its capital on the left bank of Tungabhadra River. Following the sage’s counsel, they shifted their capital to the right bank, naming it Vidyanagara as a mark of respect and gratitude to the sage, whom they regarded as their Guru, God and saviour.
Later, the city which came to be popularly known as Vijayanagara or City of Victory was planned in details. As per directions of Sri Vidyaranya, it is in the form of a Sri Chakra, with the Virupaksha temple in the middle and nine gates all around (Reference: Ratnakar Sadasyula, City of Victory: The Rise and Fall of Vijayanagara, ebook, para 7.18)
“The straight way here is not to detach the temple from its surroundings, but to see it in unity with the sky and low-lying landscape or with the sky and hills around and feel the thing common to both, the construction and its environment, the reality in Nature, the reality expressed in the work of art. The oneness to which this Nature aspires in her inconscient self-creation and in which she lives, the oneness to which the soul of man uplifts itself in his conscious spiritual upbuilding, his labour of aspiration here expressed in stone, and in which so upbuilt he and his work live, are the same and the soul-motive is one. Thus seen this work of man seems to be something which has started out and detached itself against the power of the natural world, something of the one common aspiration in both to the same infinite spirit of itself,—the inconscient uplook and against it the strong single relief of the self-conscient effort and success of finding…” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 277-278)
“There is in both a constant, subtle yet pronounced lessening from the base towards the top, but at each stage a repetition of the same form, the same multiplicity of insistence, the same crowded fullness and indented relief, but one maintains its multiple endeavour and indication to the last, the other ends in a single sign. To find the significance we have first to feel the oneness of the infinity in which this nature and this art live, then see this thronged expression as the sign of the infinite multiplicity which fills this oneness, see in the regular lessening ascent of the edifice the subtler and subtler return from the base on earth to the original unity and seize on the symbolic indication of its close at the top. Not absence of unity, but a tremendous unity is revealed.” (ibid)
“Reinterpret intimately what this representation means in the terms of our own spiritual self-existence and cosmic being, and we have what these great builders saw in themselves and reared in stone. All objections, once we have got at this identity in spiritual experience, fall away and show themselves to be what they really are, the utterance and cavil of an impotent misunderstanding, an insufficient apprehension or a complete failure to see. To appreciate the detail of Indian architecture is easy when the whole is thus seen and known; otherwise, it is impossible.” (ibid)
Under the Vijayanagara rulers, in the middle of the 14th century, there began a flowering of native art and culture. When the rulers were defeated by Muslim invaders in the 16th century, most of the wonderful decorative structures and creations were systematically destroyed.
The religious sect of Virupaksha-Pampa did not end with the destruction of the city in 1565. Worship at the majestic Virupaksha temple has persisted throughout the years. At the beginning of the 19th century major renovations and additions were done, which included ceiling paintings and the towers of the north and east gopuram. (source)
The spirit of Vijayanagara, the city of Hampi indeed continues to live…in the collective consciousness of India, in the pujas that continue at Virupaksha temple, in the offerings made to the Lord of Pampa.
To be continued….
Coming up in Part 4 – Vitthala temple