Five centuries back Vijayanagar kingdom and the Gods of Hampi.

Materialistic wealth was perhaps arguably the highest in the world. Now all is lost. What remains is in ruins but the architectural beauty and their greatness in embracing ‘one God many manifestations ‘ philosophy lingers on in the idols of the Gods of Hampi still standing tall, albeit broken and vandalised, defying vagaries of Nature and petty mindedness of the despots. There are innumerable number of idols of various deities but we want to highlight only five of them here which you should never miss when you are visiting Hampi. They are worshipped no longer but are revered all the same.

  1. Sasivekalu Ganesha:

This idol is a monolithic statue of 8 feet carved in the typical style of Vijayanagar times. It is huge and carved out of hard rock but lacks intricate embellishment. The name of Sasivekalu (meaning mustard seed) is supposed to have been given because of the shape of the stomach of the deity. It stands in an open pavilion and looks very cute because of the serpent round its rotund belly. Lord Ganesha is supposed to have used to tuck in his belly after over eating. It is these small details which makes the people love their Gods and make them feel they are one.

  1. Kadalekayi Ganesha:

This Ganesha idol is bigger of the two at 15 feet and is once again a monolithic sculpture. The name obviously emanated from the resemblance of the belly of the idol to that of Ground nut (kadalekayi). As the rock used, granite in the present context, is very hard the idol has no finely chiselled work but is just big and beautiful. The Stapatis (architects with knowledge of temple architecture) however more than made up for this by housing this idol in a mantapa (pavilion)with tall, slender and highly ornate pillars all round. The expertise was there but the material was not very conducive for making it more often.

Both the Ganesha idols rest on the Hemakunta hill that has a mesmerising view of Hampi bazaar down below.

  1. Yeduru Basava:

This is the huge Nandi (bull) sitting right at the end of the road opposite the famous Virupaksha temple. Hence the name Yeduru – meaning in front of. It is a huge monolithic bull enshrined in twin storied Mantapa and is counted among the top ten such idols in South India. It has been carved in a coarse style, thanks to the hardness of granite, but is still awe inspiring as the huge back drop of gigantic boulders add a charm of their own to the overall atmosphere. This makes it look like the true guard and protector of Hampi which people feel it was meant to be.

Gods Hampi Ganesha

Photograph: Neeta Shankar

 

  1. Badavi Linga:

The Shiva Linga goes by this name because it was supposed to have been commissioned by a poor devotee (badavi in Kannada means a poor lady). If a ‘ badavi’ could build such a beautiful temple just give a thought to how rich the society could be. It is 10feet Linga – simple yet beautiful. The icon has three eyes of Shiva depicted on it which is rare feature not found commonly elsewhere. The sanctum here is always filled with water as a channel flows through it. For the devotees and the locals, it represents the eternal flow of Ganga at the feet of Lord Shiva. The roof above the idol is open to sky as a symbol of Shiva’s cosmic energy encompassing the whole world.

Gods Hampi

Photograph: Neeta Shankar

 

  1. Narasimha:

This icon is perhaps the most widely looked upto as the true representative of Vijayanagar architecture next only to the stone chariot. It is variously referred to as Urga Narasimha, Lakshmi Narasimha and Malola Narasimha depending on the perception of the one who looks at it. But what is beyond argument is that this five-century old icon is one of the finest existing representative of Vijayanagar style of architecture. It is a 22 feet statue sitting on the coils of a seven-headed serpent mythological known as Adisesha. It has very well chiselled details of a broad chest and a beautiful mane. The Makara Torana on both sides culminating in the lion mask above the serpent hoods lends the idol beauty and power at the same time. The large protruding eyes, which makes some historians refer it to as Urga (fierce) Narasimha, lends it a menacing look. The small idol of Lakshmi on the lap of the idol was vandalised. The broken and yet very cute Lakshmi is on display at the museum now. However, a small portion of Lakshmi’s hand can be seen embracing the back of Narasimha with its finely chiselled fingers showing to the world the amazing expertise of the bygone era. Malola means; Ma – that is Lakshmi and Lola- that is beloved. Hence some refer it to as Malola Narasimha. Regardless of what you decide to refer it to as the architectural innovation and creativity applied is just breathtaking.

Thus, these five examples show the amount of creative cultural consciousness and architectural awesomeness of the period which transcends time that somehow just goes well beyond its religious fervour.

 

Written by Giridhara Govinda Rao, (Retired Senior Manager, Bank of India), MA in Ancient History