Achyuta Raya’s temple in Hampi, which is also known as the Tiruvengalanatha temple is situated in a secluded valley created by the created by the Gandhamadana hills to the east and Matanga hills on the west.

An ariel view of the Achyutaraya temple
Photo By Ssenthilkumaran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

History of the Achyuta Raya’s temple in Hampi

“Tiruvengalanatha” was the original deity of the temple. “Tiruvengalanatha” is a form of Lord Vishnu. This temple is popularly known by the name of King Achyuta Raya- the younger brother of Krishna Devaraya. Contrary to popular belief, it was not King Achyuta Raya built this temple. It was built in 1534 by Hiriya Thirumalaraja, the brother-in-law of Achyuta Raya. This grandiose construction could only stand in its glory for 30 years, until it was destructed during the Delhi Sultanate invasion in 1565.

The first gate of the temple
By Aravindreddy.d (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The temple along with a bustling bazaar in front of it constituted “the Achyutapura” an important quarter of the Hampi's sacred center. The street in front of the temple is curiously known as the courtesan’s street or Soolai Bazaar. It was a common practice for the Kings in Hampi to have numerous consorts apart from the official wives. These consorts – known as courtesans- enjoyed great position of wealth and power in the society and never been looked down upon. The courtesan’s street which also was a thriving jewelry bazaar is in total ruin now.

The courtesan's street 
Photo By Tania Dey (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
At the south end of the courtesan’s street, the main entrance of the Achyutraya temple is located. The plan of Achyutraya temple consists of two enclosures, the outer enclosure has only one entrance gate. The inner enclosure which houses the main sanctum and sub-shrines has three gates.

Multiple entrances of the temple, and Garuda shrine in distance
By Vtanurag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A hidden gem in the Achyuta Raya’s temple in Hampi

The main gateway is of particular interest because it has a carved image of the Vijayanagara emblem, “the boar and the sword with moon and sun” which can rarely be spotted on the Hampi ruins. The emblem of Vijayanagara might have been the prime target of destruction during the invasion in 1565. The emblem main entrance of Achyutaraya temple might have been somehow survived the assault.

Vijayanagara Insignia- Boar, Sword , Moon and Sun
Photo by Pratheep P S, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Architecture of the Achyuta Raya’s temple in Hampi

As we enter through the tower less main entrance, the first attraction is a pillared Mantapa. This originally was the “Kalyana Mantapa” where the annual ritual marriage of the main diety and his consort took place.  It could have been also used for consecrating the marriage ceremony of humans as well. The pillars of the Kalyana Mantapa give a great deal of information about the social setting of ancient india. The pillars are adorned with erotic sculptures. The art of love making was sacred in ancient India, sacred enough to get a place even on  the temple pillars.

Kalyana Mantapa in the Achutaraya temple
By Aravindreddy.d (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
As we enter through a towered entrance into the second enclosure, a small chamber which was earlier the shrine of Garuda- the eagle- is located. Garuda is the sacred vehicle of Lord Vishnu. It is a common practise in Hampi temples(and Hindu temples in general) to place a small shrine in front of the main sanctum for the vehicle of the main deity. It might be just like having a car park right in front of your house, what if the deity wanted to go out urgently? Having the vehicle close by would be handy!

The second gopuram of the temple
"Karnataka Hampi IMG 0817". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Just in front of the Garuda shrine, there is an open Mantapa with finely carved pillars. Just behind this open Mantapa, the inner sanctum is located. On either side of the entrance of the inner sanctum we can find the sculpture of a club holding warriors, which are the security guards of the deity. Around the inner sanctum, there is a narrow and unlit passage, which was the original Pradikshana patha to do ritual walk around the inner sanctum. However, this unlit space is now a home for the bats. It is not recommended to venture into the Pradikshana patha.

On the west side of the inner sanctum, there is a sub shrine of Goddess Pampa. On either sides of the inner courtyard, we can find colonnades with flat roof. The view of the Achyutaraya temple from top of the Matanga hill is particularly striking.

Achutraya Temple Complex 
By ablogger aka albert (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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