Continued from Part 4
Sri Krishna Temple
After a tour of the remarkable Vittala temple in previous part, we now move on to another masterpiece, the Krishna temple of Hampi.
The Krishna temple at Hampi — which is now in ruins, though some renovations were underway when we visited — was built by King Krishnadevaraya in 1513 BCE to commemorate the success of his Orissa campaign. Balakrishna, Lord Krishna as an infant, was the main vigraha installed here.
“Image after image in the great temples or saved from the wreck of time shows the same grand traditional art and the genius which worked in that tradition and its many styles, the profound and firmly grasped spiritual idea, the consistent expression of it in every curve, line and mass, in hand and limb, in suggestive pose, in expressive rhythm,—it is an art which, understood in its own spirit, need fear no comparison with any other, ancient or modern, Hellenic or Egyptian, of the near or the far East or of the West in any of its creative ages.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 287)
At the entrance is a sculpture depicting the warriors being led by Shri Krishnadevaraya to the victory. The temple Gopuram also has very intricate carvings. In fact, the entire temple complex is very beautiful though much of it is in ruins. The good news is that it is being renovated, as the pictures below suggest.
Let us take a closer look at some of the great sculptural beauty of this temple. The dancing woman sculpture seen below is one of the several found at the entrance of the temple.
The mukhamandapa is a graceful structure with 32 pillars with entrances at north, south, and east. These tall and lean pillars have fine sculptures of Vaishnava deities. All the pillars have beautiful carvings of gods, goddesses and also dancing women.
The temple also includes a Garuda Mandapa of Dravidian architectural style with a deepastambha (lamp pillar) in its front.
At the four corners of this temple once stood four small shrines for different deities, but these are in complete ruins now. The pillars with carvings of horses and yalis add great exquisiteness to the temple.
The square garbhagriha is bare now, as the original murti of Krishna has been removed. This murti is now displayed in the state museum at Chennai. It is made out of greenish black granite showing Krishna as a child seated on a pedestal.
This temple was and remains famous for the huge gateways at north, south, and east. The eastern gateway or the mahadvara is enormous and graceful and perhaps one of the best specimens of that type in Hampi. Most of these structures are in ruins.
The main road to Hampi passes through the temple complex. Right across this road is a small pavilion with a rectangular stone container situated in front of the temple.
This was used to store grains for the rituals and ceremonies to be performed during the temple festivals. The position and design of the vessel suggests that devotees used to donate food grain as offerings at the temple. On the right (in the above photo) we can also see the ruins of what was once a great market place.
“India has not only had the long roll of her great saints, sages, thinkers, religious founders, poets, creators, scientists, scholars, legists; she has had her great rulers, administrators, soldiers, conquerors, heroes, men with the strong active will, the mind that plans and the seeing force that builds. She has warred and ruled, traded and colonised and spread her civilisation, built polities and organised communities and societies, done all that makes the outward activity of great peoples.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, p. 246)
Opposite the temple is a huge clearing, lined with covered pathways. This is said to be one of the ancient bazaars, where traders from across the country sold their wares. One is amazed to see how well planned this marketplace was, and how much of it survives after centuries! Walking further ahead, one sees open spaces with remnants of stone walls, which might have been the residences of the traders.
In the middle of the bazaar, there is a water tank which was used to supply water to the bazaar, residents and visitors. There is even a water channel bringing water from the aqueduct that brought water from the river to the city.
The Krishna temple and its adjacent bazaar are lasting reminders that wars might bring victory and defeat, but it is good architectural and civic planning which reflect thoughtful administration and governance that survive the test of time and bring glory! The Vijayanagar rulers certainly knew this, gave the importance to building well-planned cities with imposing structures.
“The administration of these urban governments included all works contributing to the material or other welfare of the citizens, police, judicial cases, public works and the charge of sacred and public places, registration, the collection of municipal taxes and all matters relating to trade, industry and commerce.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 419-420)
Boulders upon smaller or larger boulders and a pillared structure on top of some of these boulders is a common sight at Hampi, and leaves one wondering how did they manage these pillared structures on top of these boulders!
Coming up in next part…Malyavantha Raghunatha temple