Temple Tales: God Missing In The Ruined City?

It was beautiful, it was absolutely clean but it did not seem to be pleasant. It was huge, it was quiet but it was not calm. It was well crafted and scientifically built very old temple yet there was no sacred feeling, no emotion!

vithal temple hampiUnlike the narrow crowded streets surrounding most of the temples, it had a beautiful peach coloured path. In fact this temple is located in a perfect setup, along the banks of river Tungabhadra, amidst a piece of green land surrounded by boulders. A perfect setup, clean and well maintained building, no crowd … it had almost everything that was on my wishlist for an ideal temple visit …but then still there was some unrest and my mind was trying to investigate whats wrong with the temple? or probably what was wrong with me?

entrance gate vithal temple hampiWe were a group of 7 looking out for clues from the past for design, architecture and iconography. In the quest we were getting some insights from the motifs, carvings, different images of Dashavatara carved on the walls. We were discussing every detail that met the eye….however there was something hidden …something missing and something beyond the 5 senses and it could be felt but could not figure out exactly what it was and  why?


While all of us were discussing the Chariot, my brain started racing to find out if something was wrong with me? While others were figuring out the carvings I was trying to comprehend their emotions at that time, when suddenly one of us exclaimed, “its different… it seems gloomy”; everyone else agreed and I was relived…. I was ok!

And the investigation started

1.We entered the temple campus through massive gate …we entered with our shoes on, and so did everyone.

2. No flowers, no diyas (lamps) no prasad (sweets and coconut as part of offerings to the temple deity).

3. No panditji (priest) to be seen around.

Hampi  Ruins  Vijaya Vittal Temple  3We moved past the chariot towards the main temple and to my surprise ..err..shock

4. There was no deity, no idol!!

The temple we were studying was the Vithal Temple or Vijay Vithal Temple of Hampi, the ruined city of Vijayanagar empire.

(The Hampi temple is a World Heritage site and the most important of Vitthala’s temples outside Maharashtra. Constructed in the 15th century, the temple is believed to have housed the central image from Pandharpur, which the Vijayanagara king Krishnadevaraya took “to enhance his own status” or to save the image from plunder by Muslim invaders. It was later returned to Pandharpur by Bhanudas (1448–1513) the great grand father of poet saint Eknath*. Today, the temple stands without a central image).

Oh! the mystery is solved..’god is missing’ I thought for a second…but suddenly a sea of questions started flooding my mind… is it the scientific design and construction of the temple that makes the place placid? OR is it the diyas and flowers that add to the serenity of the temple? OR is it the image or the idol that gives the sanctity to the temple? or is it simply our emotions? So does it mean that the God is missing in the ruined city?

P.S. : “Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature as the Supreme Lord of all that be.”  (Bhagvad Gita Chapter 9 verse 11). We usually associate god with the idol (his human form) and miss the most important aspect that the supreme power is everywhere (in every single person around, in every living being and also in the stones that make the idol as well as the temple structure). As for the diyas, flowers and sweets,they are just the initial means to focus our mind onto the supreme. The ancient Indian philosophy says that one has to keep aside his/her ego to focus on the divine, so it wasn’t unnatural to think that ‘god is missing’ as we were wearing our shoes (of engineers, architects, art historians and critics) when we went in!

* Reference – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vithoba and Religion and Public

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2 Responses to Temple Tales: God Missing In The Ruined City?

  1. piyush mulay says:

    wow thanks for such a valuable information kalyani can you also tell us about how the idol was taken back to pandharpur.

  2. It was brought back by Shri Bhanudas (1448-1513), great grandfather of Sant Eknath. When the idol of Pandurang was taken to Vijaynagar by then king Krishna Devraya, gloom spread over Pandharpur and the devotees could not find way to bring him back. It was then that Bhanu Das went to Vijaynagar temple (Vithal temple of Hampi) at mid night and like a strong and sincere devotee requested the lord to return to Pandharpur with him. It is said that the lord placed his navratna har (9 jewel necklace) around Bhandas’s neck. In the morning the guards arrested him as a thief and took him to the king and the king ordered Bhanudas be hanged till death in public. But the power of bhakti (devotion) is such that the rope turned into a beautiful garland of flowers. This made Krishna Devraya realize his mistake, power of bhakti and love of lord cannot be gained through forcibly taking the idol away but by having strong bhakti like Bhanudas and other varkaris.

    Thus the king returned the idol to Bhanudas and Pandurang came back to Pandharpur on Kartiki Ekadashi. Hence the significance of Kartiki Ekadashi.

    For more details you may refer to “Indian Saints and Sages” a book by Prof. Shrikant Prasoon.

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