Ugra Narasimha, Hampi - a majestic monolithic statue in the sea of ruins, Hampi, Karnataka

 The Hampi group of monuments (14th -15 century) of Karnataka,  though in ruins,  are world famous and the site may look forlorn and, poignant, each one of the monuments on the banks of the Tungabhadra river is a fine example of Vijayanagara architecture, culture and ethos. Their glorious past come right before our eyes. No doubt,  The New York Times  in  2019 ranked it second, among the 52 global destinations, one must visit. Hampi has some of the amazing temples, unique architectural features, remarkable musical pillars as in Vittala temple, hanging pillar of  Virupaksha etc. Among them there are many monolithic sculptures one being the huge Nandi (bull) at Virupaksha temple. 

Narasimha statue, Hampi.
The huge Lakshmi Narasimha sculpture never fails to get the attention of the visitors. Located on the southern part of the Hemakunda Hills,  just beside the Badavilinga temple, Lakshmi Narasimha sculpture is made with meticulous care by the skilled  sculptors of the past era . Narasimha (means half-man, half-lion; Nara meaning Human and Simha meaning Lion), is the 4th  avatar of god Vishnu who emerged from a pillar and killed  demon king Hiranyakashipu. Narasimha is fierce looking, hence he is called Ugra Narasimha

Above image: Ugra Narasimha, Hampi- Lord Narasimha in a terrifying or angry form

.Narasimha statue, Hampi,

Above image: Narasimha statue, Hampi, KA - Damaged statue  Left pic taken by Thomas Biggs in 1855 and right- restore one in 1980;  pic taken  in 2023..................


Above image: Ugra Narasimha statue: This 16th century monolithic sculpture made of granite is very large  6.75  (22ft) meters tall with popped up bulging eyes, mouth wide open showing the sharp canine teeth The builder was King Krishnadevaraya.  The hands in the statue  are damaged and the seated goddess Lakshmi is missing. The missing damaged statue of Goddess Lakshmi can now be seen in Kamalapura ASI Museum, The vandalism was  caused by the combined  Deccan Sultanate  armies in 1565 when the Vijayanagara empire was defeated by them. Because of plundering much of the Hampi monuments are in ruins. The strap connecting the two legs  added in 1980 as part of restoration invited a lot criticism............. 

Fearsome narasimha, Hampi. KA

This huge statue  was commissioned in 1528 CE by king sri  Krishnadevaraya  of the Tuluva Dynasty of Vijayanagara (present-day Hampi, Karnataka).  Prior to  the battle of Talikota in 1565, it was a composite Lakshmi Narasimha statue. Seated in a frontal posture with bulging eyes and a gaping mouth the statue once had the image of Lakshmi seated on the god’s knees, The statue had a remarkable arched frame - prabhavali arch with a kirtimukha (face of glory) atop.

What is so striking here is  Narasimha with his consort is depicted  as sitting atop the 7 hooded  coiled  snake Adishesha - thus carrying the   iconographic attributes of  Vishnu.

Perhaps we may be wondering about the purpose of this colossal fierce-looking Narasimha sculpture. What is the use of this statue?   The statue’s colossal proportions, fearsome  eyes and gaping mouth with protruding teeth  imply the huge image acted as a sentinel,fearsome guard of the entire city.It implies that Vijayanagara rulers of the Tuluva Dynasty were ardent devotees of Narasimha (Vishnu) and the Narasimha cult was popular during the rule of Krishnadevaraya and his successors Achyutaraya, and Sadashiva

Two early Vijayanagara temples dedicated Narasimha are at Anegondi  on the south bank of Tungabhadra. The worship of Narasimha gained importance between 14 to 17th CE because of  Madhava Brahmins. They held key positions in  the military administration of Krishnadevaraya.

An attempt was made 1980 to restore the damage image of Narasimha that brought the figure back to a cross-legged position by adding in a pair of knees. The restoration became a subject of debate because of the addition of a yogapatta band  strapping the knees together.