History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2000: Q.5 (a)

Q.5 (a)  Write a short essay on: “Architecture of the Vijayanagara Empire.” 


The establishment of the powerual state of Vijayanagar Empire in 14th century filled the political vacuum in southern India and left a permanent impression in the fields of administration, culture, religion, art and architecture.

Architecture attained a certain fullness and freedom of expression during the Vijayanagar rule. The Vijayanagar style of art and architecture was essentially opulent, ornate and exuberant. The Vijayanagar rulers produced a new style of architecture called as Provida style. Architecture included Constructions of Temples, Monolithic Sculptures, Palace, official buildings, Cities, irrigation works such as Step Wells, Tanks etc.

Vijayanagara had a great advantage as a site for large scale building activity in that it abounds in granite and a dark green chlorite stone, both used extensively as building material. The use of monolithic multiple piers in the temple at Vijayanagar testify this fact.

The basic elements of Vijayanagar style are the followings:

  1. Pillars form an integral part of Vijayanagar architecture. The use of pillars for architectural as well as decorative purpose is on an unprecedented scale.
  2. Almost all pillars have ornamental brackets as their capitals. Usually this bracket is a pendant known as bodegai in local parlance. This pendant, in Vijayanagar style, is elaborated into the volute terminating in an inverted lotus band. The occurrence of this pendant is a index reliable of the building in the Vijayanagar group.
  3. Numerous compositions are used in raising the pillars, but the most striking and also the most frequent is one in which the shaft becomes a central core with which is attached an unpraised animal of a supernatural kind resembling a horse or a  hippogryph.
  4. Another distinguishing feature is the use of huge reverse-curve eaves at the cornice. This feature has been borrowed into the style from the Deccan and gives the pavilions a dignified appearance.

(i) Temples

One can easily observe the harmonious blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture features and convergence of Nagara and Dravida forms of Temples.

Amongst the temple built in Vijaynagara Empire, the Virupaksha temple also known as Pampapati was the most sacred and noted for its architectural values. It is three towered, nine tiered temple with presiding diety Lord Shiva known popularly as Virupaksheshwara. The Temple complex also contains ornate shrines dedicated to Hindu goddesses Bhuvaneshwari and Pampa.

Other notable Temples are Vittalaswamy, Hazara Ramaswamy and Balakrishna temples built by Krishna Deva Raya. The religious zeal of the kings was expressed in the constructions of new temples, renovation of old ones and additions made to a number of temples.

Basic Characteristics of temples:-

  1. Two main traditions of temple buildings, namely the Deccan and the Tamil, merged to form the mature Vijayanagara style of temple architecture. The earlier influence was of the Deccan tradition that had developed in this area from the 10th-11th century AD onwards. Temple architecture in the Deccan, in the centuries prior to the Vijayanagara period, consisted of several closely related styles, using different materials. There were the sandstone monuments of Rashtrakuta dynasty while the later Chalukya-Hoysala temples were constructed entirely of schist.
  2. Other general features like Walls and Pillars adorned with sculptures illustrates the main events from the Ramayana, the Mahabharta and other dieties, aniamls. Horse was the most common animal on the pillars.
  3. The Gopurams were in several storied pyramidal structures. The most magnificent among them being the southern gopuram of Ekambaranatha temple (188 feet high and made up to 10 storeys) built by Krishna Deva Raya.
  4. Another important feature was the Mandapa or open pavilion with a raised platform, meant for seating deities. The ‘mandapas’ have columned interiors, each pillar with a separate base and a double capital.
  5. The fourteenth-century Vijayanagar temples primarily follow Deccan idiom and this mode of temple building survived partially into the fifteenth century as well. By the early fifteenth century the Tamil tradition had earned popularity. During this time, the medium used for the temples built in this idiom was granite.
  6. The sixteenth-century phase definitely witnessed the maximum development in Vijayanagar temple architecture. Unlike in the fourteenth century, when the temples were small or moderate in size, and the fifteenth century with both small and medium-sized temples, the sixteenth century has left behind a rich legacy of large, medium-sized as well as fairly small temples. The century saw the introduction of many new elements, such as the composite pillar, and many new types of structures such as the hundred-pillar hall, chariot-street. It was rather in the nature of a fusion that took place at Vijayanagar, in which the southern elements came to be more dominant than the Deccan features.
  7. Again, Vijayanagar architecture did not merely borrow from either of the existing traditions. In the course of the evolution of temple architecture at Vijayanagar, besides amalgamation, true innovation also took place. Indeed, the style of building that developed at the site can be considered as truly Vijayanagaran.

(ii) Monoliths-Huge monolithic of Ganesha,Hanuman, Narasimha and stone chariot.

(iii) Cities-

The Cities of Vijaynagara was studded with a number of grand palaces, public offices and irrigation works.The most splendid among the secular building was the royal palaces also mentioned by Portuguese traveler Paes. Another building was Lotus Mahal of Indo-Sarcenic architecture and elephant stables. Hampi bazaar displayed a fine example of street architecture. Other features were Markets, Palace, Brothels etc.

Paes gives invaluable information on the Walls, gates, streets, markets, royal palaces. He says city was as extensive as Rome. He says the capital city was the best provided city in the world.

Another traveler Abdul Razzak has praised City of Vijayanagar as the eye has not seen nor the ear has heard of any place in the whole World. He noticed seven rings of ramparts protecting the cities

Russian traveler Nicolo conti mentioned the fortification of the city.

(iv) Tanks ans Wells-

Krishna Deva raya built a huge tank for water supply and beautiful designed Step well in Hampi.

Thus, Vijaynagara architecture forms an important and unavoidable part in the development in the architecture in India.

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