I visited the Vittala temple right after the Hampi riverside ruins. Despite being awed by the riverside ruins, the magnificence of the Vittala temple complex was such that I spent an entire evening there, being rooted to the spot. Dedicated to Vittala, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, the complex was truly mind-blowing. It was Hampi’s epicenter of glory and totally deserved the title of being its crown jewel. The magnificent Stone Chariot, which once graced an Indian postage stamp stood in the middle of the sprawling complex.

stone chariot of hampi is in vittala temple complex

One of the elephants of the Stone Chariot of Hampi

The iconic Stone Chariot of the Vittala Temple complex

Now, that was an exquisite piece of art. Made from intricately carved painted granite blocks, the Stone Chariot was larger than life and as close to reality as possible. Its embellishments were very detailed with spokes, axles, a seating area, and two stone elephants were positioned in front of it. Surrounded by colonnaded halls which too were covered with detailed carvings, the chariots had remnants of two stone horses as well. Though now mostly ruined, the horses were originally positioned as a team with the elephants. Numerous lovely towers, pavilions, temples, and halls filled the complex and it was more expansive than I imagined.

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Beautiful carvings of the Vittala temple complex

The beautiful Musical Pillars and elaborate carvings

The gorgeous monolithic Musical Pillars on the elaborately detailed Maha Mandap platform were stunning. Even though I was not able to produce notes by tapping them, their beauty made up for the lack of music. Exquisite carvings of musicians covered every inch of the pillars and dancers, musicians, and other royal entertainers remained frozen on them for eternity. They provided a significant peep into the lavish lifestyle of the Vijayanagar empire before it was sacked and plundered. The Vittala temple complex branched out into several other halls and several stone statues of Narasimhan (half man and half lion figures), blooming lotuses, and beautiful women surrounded the visitors from all sides. The crowded effect was simply gorgeous and their reflections on small patches of mirror-like calm rainwater puddles heightened the magic.

mahamandapa is in vittala temple complex

The elephants and pillars of Mahamandapa

Now toss in classical dancers and a twilight rain washed sky

The puddles reflected the glory of the ruins against a violet cloudy twilight sky and creamy frangipani blossoms, tossed about by the wet wind floated on their surface. A group of little Bharatnatyam (classical south Indian dance using elaborate costumes and gestures) dancers, who were filming a show inside the Vittala temple complex completed the atmospheric picture and they revived Vijayanagar’s unbelievable long lost magnificence in a very time travel like way. What can I say? I simply got lucky or the travel gods simply favoured me that day.

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the stone chariot of vittala temple in hampi

The iconic Stone Chariot of Hampi

Recreating Vijayanagar at Vittala Temple complex

Vijayanagar means “City of Victory” and it is believed to have been famous far and wide for its beauty, wealth and power. Foreign travelers like the Portuguese explorer Domingo Paez, who visited the area after 1520 chronicled Vijayanagar’s beauty in superb praises. He was astonished by its size, glory, and prosperity. According to Paez, its markets were full of silk and precious stones, and the city had many bejeweled magnificent courtesans, ornate sandalwood palaces, and lavish festivities. Although dead and gone, the expressive Hampi ruins confirm Paez’s story and the lovely dancing crew of Vittala temple complex brought the glory back to life, albeit momentarily. With so much of beauty scattered like gems, leaving Vittala temple was very hard. So I stayed there longer than expected. That is not unusual, because Hampi has the tendency to waylay people and entrance them for life.

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Rainwater mirroring the sky at Vittala temple complex

Vittala Temple Trail Not to be Missed Spots

  • Vittala Temple – This exquisite UNESCO World Heritage monument is an architectural jewel and the starting point of this trail. You can either dedicate a day or two to this trail or rush through it in half a day. My tip is to take it slow, absorb the details and enjoy it to the fullest.
  • The Temple tank – The square stone stepped temple tank or Pushkarini was originally built for bathing idols. It has a few temples in various conditions scattered around the pool.
  • Vittala Temple Market – This is similar to the row of squat buildings of the Hampi Bazaar and leads straight to the beautifully adorned main entrance of the Vittala Temple.
  • The Stone Chariot – Dedicated to Garuda, the sidekick of Lord Vishnu, this exquisitely carved Stone Chariot is a visual feast. Though seemingly monolithic, it is made up of numerous carved pieces of stone.
  • Mahamandapa – This is yet another architectural beauty of the Vittala Temple complex. Famous for its array of musical pillars, this grand hall is also known as Rangamandapa. Divided into four parts, the eastern side of the hall which faces the Stone Chariot has the rows of musical pillars. These stone pillars are known to resonate when tapped, though this is now prohibited to protect the monument from getting destroyed.
  • Carvings on the Southern and Northern ends of the hall – The grand hall or Mahamandapa was obviously an important site even at the time of Vijayanagar empire. That is why it is richly decorated and the northern and southern halls have carvings of stone lions and Narasimham (half lion-half man avatar of Lord Vishnu).
  • Inner Sanctum of Vittala Temple – Explore the inner sanctum in a clockwise manner and see the rich details on the walls. It is a pity because this part was worst affected by the invader’s plunder and loot. The stone lotus flowers blooming in a pot are especially very pretty.
  • Marriage Hall or Kalyana Mandapa – This hall was used for marriage and other auspicious ceremonies. It has the richly carved hundred pillared halls.
  • King’s Balance – This imposing stone frame was used as the King’s balance. On celebration days, the King used to sit on one side of the balance while the other end was piled high with grains and gold according to his weight. These were later distributed among his subjects.
  • Sugriva Cave – Though steeped in mythology, I found the Sugriva Cave to be more enchanting because of the natural beauty. The cave is hidden amidst Hampi’s famous boulders and has gorgeous natural light. It is believed that this is where Sita, wife of Lord Rama had dropped her jewels when she was getting abducted by Ravana. Sugriva had collected them and hidden them in the cave. The rock patterns of Sugriva cave is supposedly created by Sita’s sari when she was being dragged away by Ravana.

    Little dancers taking a break at Vittala temple complex

You can combine the Vittala Temple trail either by beginning or ending it with the Hampi riverside ruins. This trail was inspired by Ami Bhat of Thrilling Travel and you can check out here excellent guide here.

Recreating Vijayanagar empire at Hampi

In a magical place filled with marvelous ruins

The Vittala temple complex stand apart.

All around it ruins of Vijayanagar empire

Lie scattered like tantalizing clues

And it is only at the Vittala temple

That the erstwhile powerful kingdom’s glory

Can be keenly felt.

Though much of it is ruined and the glorious moment is fleeting,

The magnificence of the Vittala Temple complex is unparalleled.