Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Vijaya Vittala Temple And The Musical Pillars Of Hampi

Last Updated on May 15, 2019 by Soumya

Going to Hampi was my dream ever since I read about it in my middle-school history books. One picture of Hampi had stuck to me for my life. The picture of a stone chariot standing in an open courtyard. It vaguely reminded me of the temple of Konark but not exactly. This November, I was lucky enough to be able to fulfill my dream. I caught not only a glimpse of the exclusive chariot but also posed with it. And it all happened at the Vijaya Vittala Temple of Hampi.

Here’s an account of my memorable trip to this remarkable temple – The Temple of Vijaya Vittala

THE STONE CHARIOT OF HAMPI \ Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in India located in east-central Karnataka. Hampi was a prosperous city and the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Vijayanagara was a rich kingdom and was frequented by traders from all over the world. As you read on, you will see evidence (in stone) substantiating this claim.

The Kingdom of Vijayanagara was defeated by Muslim Sultanates in the 16th century. The capital of Hampi was left in ruins after that. Ancient temples, royal enclosures, watch-towers, and remains of a palace dot the landscape of Hampi today. And the Vijaya Vittala Temple stands tall among all of them. It is one of the most iconic remains of the Vijayanagara legacy. Let’s see what makes Vijaya Vittala special.

Why Is Vijaya Vittala Temple Unique?

Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Vijaya Vittala is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu of the Hindu Trinity (Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva). It is built in the Dravidian architectural style.  No worship is offered at the temple now and there is no deity inside the inner sanctum. There are no written records on when and how the figure of Vishnu was removed from the temple. So, that aspect still remains a mystery.

The Entrance Gate | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi
The Gopura of the Temple – A Typical Component of Dravidian Architecture

The temple stands apart from the other temples in the complex of Hampi ruins. And I believe this is so because of three important factors that I list below. We took a guide inside the temple complex and I feel that was a very good thing to do. Lately, I have started appreciating the services of local tour guides. They may not always know everything but they do know some interesting bits and pieces that I will never figure out when I am on my own. Our guide was kind enough to point out a number of details that I will talk about below.

Chariot Temple

Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Vijaya Vittala is the only temple in Hampi that possesses a stone chariot in the front courtyard. In fact, it is one of the three temples in India that have stone chariots. The other two are in Konark and Mahabalipuram.  The stone chariot is a big attraction at the temple and draws tourists from near and far.

The chariot appears like a monolith but it actually isn’t. It is built out of multiple stone slabs, carved and stacked on each other. The links are cleverly hidden. This is something your tour guide will point out the first thing as you enter the complex.

Stone Chariot Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

To understand better the importance of this chariot, let’s take a small walk in history!

Persistent animosity between the Rayas of Vijayanagara and the Gajapatis of Kalinga (present state of Odisha) led to a war that was fought on the Kalinga soil. The Rayas came, fought, and left but not before being dazzled by the beauty of the Sun Temple at Konark. That is when Krishnadevaraya came back and decided to build a similar chariot-styled temple in Hampi. The chariot is actually a small shrine dedicated to the carrier bird of Lord Vishnu – Garuda. It is believed that there was a big statue of Garuda atop the chariot but it no longer exists.

An image of Garuda complete with wings stands inside the inner sanctum. Presence of this image confirms the fact that it was indeed a Vishnu temple and not a Shiva one. A stone ladder, that stands in front of the shrine, was used to climb up and offer worship to Garuda.

Murals from the 15th century | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of HampiCarvings on the chariot are carved out of stone. They are intricate and beautiful. In the olden days, they were painted beautiful hues of red, yellow, and green. However, much of the color has been lost to the forces of nature. But if you have a tour guide or if you have read my travel guide, you will know where to still find some of the colors – after a whopping 500 years! Closely look underneath the hood of the chariot and you will see some beautifully colored patterns still visible. Look for any area that has not been affected by sun, wind, and rains and you will find exquisite colors from centuries ago.

Colors from the 15th century | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Musical Pillars

Musical Pillars | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

The Musical Pillars of Vijaya Vittala Temple are the next most famous thing inside the complex. I had heard quite a bit about them before traveling here. And I was excited to see them. The very fact that a set of pillars could produce music without any other instrument had perked my interests a great deal. But when I arrived at the temple, I was aghast to see the main temple closed to visitors for renovation. We could admire the pillars from outside as much as we wanted but we were not allowed to touch them or climb into the premises! I was disappointed. I was so looking forward to listening to some ancient music.

Obviously, our guide came to the rescue. He took us to another temple (mandapa) on the side and gave us a live music show at the pillars there. The guide knew exactly where to tap and out came the most appealing music I had ever heard. I was suddenly taken back 500 years when the all the pillars came to life together! Felt like a garden in springtime.

Musical Pillars | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Vijaya Vittala Temple has 56 musical pillars and they are often called the Saregama Pillars. These pillars can be tapped with your thumb to generate music similar to the notes of Saregama. The concept of musical pillars is not new in South Indian architecture. They have been found in a number of other temples including the Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli and Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Research suggests that these pillars produce music because of the presence of metallic ore and large amounts of silica in the rocks used to carve the pillars.

Exquisite Carvings

Exquisite Carvings | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

No temple in Hampi is as exquisitely carved as the Vittala temple. In fact, this temple is one of the finest examples of an ornately-carved-pillared Kalyanamantapa. Kalyanamantapa is a pillared hall used for weddings.

Chinese trader | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

You will also find a number of carvings in the bottom part of the mantapa that depict life from 500 years ago. There are images of people buying the right kind of horses, traders coming in to trade their goods, and people going about their daily lives. You can see Chinese, Portuguese, and other European traders depicted in these friezes. This gives a clear indication of prosperous times and burgeoning trade relations of the Vijayanagara Empire with the rest of the world.

Tickets & Other Logistics

Us at Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

The majestic temple of Vijaya Vittala is open from 8:30 am – 5 pm every day of the week. Indians need to pay an entry fee of INR 40 while the amount is for foreigners is $8.5. Vehicles are not allowed to travel on the last one kilometer of the road leading to the temple which is why you either need to walk or take a ride in the golf cart provided at the front gate. That costs another INR 10 per person. Kids ride free.

Hampi Market | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi
A View of The Hampi Market

The walk is a pleasant one if your legs are good and the sun is not high up in the sky. It can really hot during the day and it is usually advisable to ride the golf cart if you are planning a midday visit. The road is dusty too. But the views are amazing. While walking on the path, you will notice many smaller temples and mantapas precariously balanced on huge boulders. You will also get a chance to see the remains of a Hampi market that used to congregate hundreds of years ago. Nearby is also a stepped well or Pushkarini that provided water for ablutions and other religious ceremonies.

Read more about Hampi’s Pushkarinis here.

On the dusty road | Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi
View from the dusty road

How To Get To Hampi

You can get to Hampi from Mumbai or Bangalore. We took a flight from Mumbai to Bangalore and then boarded the Hampi Express from Yelahanka Junction – Railway Station in Bangalore. That got us till Hospet and we stayed in Hospet a couple of days and explored Hampi. Hampi is about an hour’s ride from Hospet. And Hospet provides better accommodation and eating options.

Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Best Time To Go

The best time to visit Hampi or anywhere close by is between November – February. December and January are the peak traffic months. It gets exceptionally hot in the summers and therefore, summer is definitely not a good time to visit. Even during winters, the sun can be harsh. Hampi is an open museum and there is not much cover from the heat. So, always carry sufficient water, sunscreen, and your hat if you wish to.

Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Hampi was a trip down the memory lane for me. And Vijaya Vittala Temple was the cherry on top. I would definitely want to go back there one day. Till then, the stone chariot and the musical pillars will be cherished memories.

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Vijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of HampiVijaya Vittala Temple and The Musical Pillars of Hampi

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

21 thoughts on “Vijaya Vittala Temple And The Musical Pillars Of Hampi

  1. Thanks for sharing about Vijaya Vittala Temple And The Musical Pillars Of Hampi, I was actually looking for same !!!

  2. What an incredible set of temples!!! So much history, art, architecture, music. I can only imagine what it would have been like in its hay day when the place was rolling in riches with traders and visitors coming here from around the world. It reminds me of ancient Roman cities.

  3. Woah! This place is amazing. I have always been fascinated with ancient ruins and temples and this is definitely a must-visit.

    The intricate and beautiful designs are just magnificent and learning more about their history makes me appreciate them more.

  4. This is a great post! I love all the details you’ve included about the UNESCO site. I also agree with you 100% that a local tour guide is the way to go when touring UNESCO sites. You’ll learn some fables and tales of the site that you wouldn’t otherwise. Beautiful place!

  5. I have to agree. Hampi was my dream destination since I saw it in a postal stamp ages ago…
    Vittala Temple is an epitome of beauty.
    Very true, when I spotted those painted portions of the chariot, I couldn’t help but wonder how stunning it would have been ages ago!!!

  6. Vittala temple is one of my favorites in Hampi. It is a scientific wonder. Like you, when the guide tapped those pillars, I was astounded. To think that the sounds were heard miles away – or at least that is what they say. One visit here is just not enouch

  7. What a grand piece of architecture and one I would love to visit one day. Posts like these show us more than just the over promoted parts of India. I love the visual of the Grand Charriott and one of the most striking aspects of the temple.
    Its quite easily accessible as well which makes it more appealing I must say. Thanks for sharing yet another grand destination.

  8. Great post with lots of information about the history of the temples. The carvings are truly amazing. I enjoyed your photos. Never heard of this place before reading this post but it looks like a great place to visit.

  9. Ah! India is on my ever long bucket list! I had no idea there were temples like this there! I do not know much about Indian history, but these temples make me want to dig into the research. The faded paint on them remind me of some of the old sculptures in the Acropolis museum in Athens! It is so amazing to see color in them after so many years. I would love to visit this beautiful place!

  10. I love that stone chariot! How unique. I’ve never seen something like that before, it’s like out of a movie. It would have been really cool to see if a big statue of Garuda actually DID sit atop the chariot. What a site that would be!

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