The almost unknown “Ananthashayana Gudi” of Hampi

It was my last day in Hampi and I had a long ride to Bangalore before the end of the day. But, the temptation to revisit the temples of Hampi was irresistible. Especially early in the morning when I can avoid the crowds and get some good pictures. I got up early, got ready to go to the nearby Virupaksha Temple. After a few shots, I discovered that I had forgotten to charge my camera! 😦 A few seconds of sulking and I started walking around soaking in the morning chill of the air and the colours of the sky. Virupaksha is the only major temple in Hampi that sees daily pooja and so the vibes here are much different than the other temples. Unlike the ruined temples, people visit this temple from early in the morning till late in the evening.

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The gopuram over the sanctum of the Virupaksha Temple

One of the mantapas in the temple complex has it’s ceiling filled with paintings.

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I stopped at the Krishna temple and the Ganesha temples as I hesitantly made my way out of the town. And also at the Queen’s bath which I had ignored before.

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Just when I was about to leave, it hit me that I have totally forgotten the huge statue of Ugra Narashimha, one of the icons of Hampi! I quickly turned around and got a good look at it.

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I made a rough calculation on how much time I need to ride back to Bangalore and how much more time I can afford to spend in Hampi. And that, barely, allowed me to visit the Vijaya Vittala temple once again, in the peace of the early morning. I was the first to enter the temple gates and I didn’t wait a minute to start taking photographs, although only on my phone. This time I was able to take my time with the many mantapas of the temple.

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Now I was finally ready to leave the forest of temples and hit the highway back home. But little did I know that I’ll stumble on a huge temple that is virtually unknown to the tourists and visited by a tiny fraction of the people who visit Hampi. It is the colossal “Ananthashayana Gudi” just outside Hosapete. It’s huge dome was visible from the highway and it was very hard to just ignore it. When I entered, I was surprised both by the size of the temple and how there was no visitors at all!

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As I slowly walked in, in awe, the caretakers of the temple showed up and started talking with me. The temple has a huge and densely pillared mantapa and a large rectangular sanctum. The sanctum or the garbhagriha was meant for the reclining image of Lord Vishnu, known as the Anantashayana Padmanabha (the one who is resting on the ananta or endless snake, Shesha, and who has a padma or lotus, from his navel – nabha, the lotus on which Bhramha is seated). This is the same image you would find in the temples of Thiruvantanthapuram or Srirangapattana. But sadly for various reasons the idol was never installed and the temple never came to be used.

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The sanctum has three doors as all Anantha Padmanabha temples do and a long rectangular pedestal intended for the idol of Vishnu. The vaulted dome over the sanctum is also very unique and I haven’t seen anything like that in any other temples.

The caretakers showed me around and even took me inside the dark sanctum. It was littered with bat and pigeon droppings, which now inhabit the higher parts of the dome. A kid from the village followed us and collected a pet, a young pigeon which hadn’t yet learned to fly! The dome looks huge even from the inside.

The area behind the temple is use by the local kids as a playground to play cricket. I spoke to one of them and asked them if there was a way to get to the top of the temple and he did know, as they need to fetch the ball sometimes. But it was a precarious ladder of stones along one of the walls. The little fellow lead me and I could take a very close look at the figures on the dome.

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I was happy to have found this temple and explored it in peace. I think this is the ultimate reward for being curious and traveling independently with an open mind. I was also sad that a huge temple of this magnificence never got to be used and is virtually unknown to most people.

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