When we reached the crest of the hill, we were greeted by our first sight of the ruins of the Achyutaraya temple, which is nestled in a secluded valley between the Matanga and Gandhamadana hills that could almost have come out of the Lost World.
The temple was consecrated in 1534 during the reign of the emperor Achyutaraya and dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu, and was one of the last major projects built in Hampi before the city was destroyed.
Even from a distance, you can see the grandiose scale of the structure, with its two large entrance towers leading to the pavilions housing the shrines and inner sanctorum. Here is a close-up of the intricately carved inner entrance tower, which still retains least a feel of its original sculpted grandeur.
After we had walked down to the temple, our guide was eager to show us the Kalayana Mandapa in the northwest of the compound. This was a marriage hall, he told us, and featured some “interesting” carvings that young men would be shown so that they would know what to do on their wedding nights – though given the reported licentiousness lifestyle that reigned in at least some quarters of the city before its destruction I suspect that such instructions were not particularly necessary.
He led us inside and proudly showed us some us some scenes of people and animals in various positions, some of them wonderfully implausible, carved into the pillars, and regaled us with tales of how in its heyday the temple had its own courtesans. No wonder the city fell so quickly when it was attacked, I decided. The people here were way too busy having a good time to worry about minor issues like national security.
Actually, there were only a small number of such carvings in the pavilion; most of the pillars featured more common scenes and animals from traditional Indian mythology.
After our tour of the Kalayana Mandapa, our guide showed us the quite beautiful statues adorning the interiors of the outer and inner entrance towers, which apparently represent the river goddess Ganga, before leading us to the inner courtyard.
Just ahead of us a was a small stone chamber which once featured a shrine to Garuda, the eagle, a rear view of which is pictured above. Behind the shrine was the main hall, which features some absolutely stunning statues and pillar carvings and leads to the dark and empty inner sanctorum.