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Architecture, Culture, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire: Part I

Architecture, Culture, literature and the arts in Vijayanagara Empire: Part I

  • The establishment of the powerful state of Vijayanagara 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. selfstudyhistory.com
  • These contributions are more focused on promoting Hindu Religion and Culture. The rulers like Harihar and Bukka, Dev Raya II and Krishnadeva Raya are well-known for their cultural activities.

Religion

  • The rulers of Vijayanagar were devout Hindus. Most of them worshiped Vishnu or Shiva.
  • The early rulers of Vijayanagar (Sangama dynasty) were chiefly Saivaites and Virupaksha was their family deity. Later Vijayanagar dynasties came under the influence of Vaishnava saints.
  • Srivaishnavism of Ramanuja was very popular. The Vaishnava work Prapannamritam gives the legendary account of the conversion of the Vijayanagar king, Virupaksha to Vaishnavism.
  • Krishnadeva Raya was a devotee of Vithoba, a manifestation of the god Vishnu but also to Shiva.
  • Sadasivaraya followed liberal policy and worshiped Siva, Vishnu and Ganesa.
  • The devotional cult or Bhakti movement made considerable progress under their rule.
  • These rulers promoted Hinduism:
    • by getting compiled the major religious texts.
    • by getting commentaries or Bhasyas composed on religious texts.
    • by getting a large number of temples built which were richly endowed.
    • by celebrating numerous festivals.
    • by making magnificent grants to the Brahmins. They were also granted various other privileges and facilities.
  • The rulers of Vijayanagar were tolerance towards other sects and faiths.
    • Besides Vedic religion there were also other religious sects like the Jains who enjoyed protection and patronage of the Vijayanagar kings.
    • Muslims were employed in the administration and they were freely allowed to build mosques and worship.
    • Barbosa, who visited Krishnadevaraya’s court observes, “The king allows such freedom that every man may come and go and live according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance and without enquiries whether he is a Christian, Jew, Moor or Hindu”.

Architecture

  • Architecture attained a certain fullness and freedom of expression during the Vijaynagara rule.
  • Though often characterized as Dravida Style, it had its own distinct features. This new style of architecture called as Provida style.
  • Beginning of a new tradition: Soft stone tradition came to an end and Hard stone tradition began to emerge.
  • Architecture included constructions of Temples, Monolithic Sculptures, Palace, Official buildings, Cities, irrigation works such as Step Wells, Tanks etc.
  • There was harmonious blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture features and convergence of Nagara and Dravida forms of Temples.

(i) Temples

  • 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.
  • Early Phase:
    • First datable shrine has been found in Hampi built during the first dynasty and was devoted to Jainism.
    • Earlier style was influenced by simpler Deccan style i.e. style of Chalukyas of Vatapi was discernible to some extent. E.g. Vidyashankar temple.
    • Hence, the fourteenth-century Vijayanagara temples primarily follow Deccan idiom.
  • Second Phase:
    • By the early fifteenth century the Tamil tradition had earned popularity.
      • Core design derived from Tamil country and Chola shrines. For e.g. Ramchandra temple and Shiva temple.
      • During this time, the medium used for the temples built in this idiom was granite.
  • Third and Mature Phase:
    • The sixteenth-century phase definitely witnessed the maximum development in Vijayanagara 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 Vijayanagara, in which the southern elements came to be more dominant than the Deccan features.
    • Development of Mature Vijayanagara Style during the period of Krishna Dev Raya, Chola forms continued but Chola elements raised to great monumentality and more elaborate motif of sculpted animal pillars.
  • Last Phase:
    • Last phase of building of temples was during 17th century (Nayaka period).
    • Temples displayed even greater monumentality and more elaborate motif of sculpted animal pillars.
  • Vijayanagara architecture did not merely borrow from either of the existing traditions. In the course of the evolution of temple architecture at Vijayanagara, besides amalgamation, true innovation also took place.

Features of temples:-

  • Larger temple complex.
  • Temples were elaborate structures and process of horizontal elaboration continued.
  • Ornamentation became rich and heavy.
  • Huge compound wall.
  • Modest structure of low size generally.
  • A new structure known as Amman Shrine appeared. Here spouse of chief deity was kept.
    • Amman Shrine of Hazara temple:
    • Amman Shrine Hazara Temple
  • Mandapas:
    • Important feature was the Mandapa or open pavilion with a raised platform, meant for seating deities. (below pic is of open Mandapa at Vittal temple)
    • An open mantapa with yali columns at the Vittala temple in Hampi
    • The ‘mandapas’ have columned interiors, each pillar with a separate base and a double capital.
    • New structure was Kalyan Mandap where union of God and spouse was done on special occasions.
      • Kalyan Mandapa
    • Thousand pillar mandap became popular. It was huge hall having numerous rows of pillars.
    • Structures representing mandaps were given different names like Rangmandap, Uttarmandap.
  • Pillars:
    • Unique pillars which are highly carved and characterised by various kinds of designs.
    • Pillar hall at Lepakshi temple:
    • Pillered Hall Lepakshi temple
    • Pillars became quite huge and elaborated also.
    • Central part of the shaft is cut and animal figures engraved.
    • Horse was the most common animal on the pillars.
    • Some pillars are so richly carved that when hit with a stick it produces musical notes. these pillars are known as musical pillars. For e.g. pillars in the mandap of Vittal Temple.
    • An open mantapa with yali columns at the Vittala temple in Hampi
  • Walls and Pillars adorned with profused sculptural ornamentation which illustrates the main events from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other deities, humans, animals.
  • Some temples are characterised by paintings on walls and ceilings. For e.g. Virbhadra temple- Lepakshi
  • Large monolithic figures like Nandi, located near Lepakshi temple is 4 metres in height, 8 meters long and this is considered as the largest monolithic Nandi in India.
  • Monolithic Nandi Lepakshi
  • Besides construction of new temples, additions to existing temples also. Additions like Gopurams, Pillar Mandaps, Kalyan Mandaps, Temple chariot.
  • Gopurams:
    • Most Gopurams added by most famous king of Vijayanagara kingdom- Krishna Deo Raya.
    • The Gopurams were in several storied pyramidal structures.
    • The most magnificent among them being the southern gopuram of Ekambarantha temple (188 feet high and made up to 10 storeys) built by Krishna Deva Raya.
    • Larger and taller Gopurams are known as Raya Gopuram.
    • Most of these have portraits statues of kings and another important patrons. This shows personal iconographic connection established between shrines of great figures like king and patrons.
    • Raya Gopuram of Virupaksha temple:
    • Virupaksha temple raya gopuram
  • Important temples of this phase:
    • Vittal temple, Vijayanagara- Karnataka
      • finest
      • characterised by temple chariot, Amman, Kalyan Mandap
      • 3 Gopurams
      • Musical pillars
    • Hazara Rama temple, Vijayanagara- Karnataka
    • Veerupaksha temple, Vijayanagara- Karnataka
    • Veerbhadra temple- Lepakshi- Andhra Pradesh:
      • It was built in the mid-16th century in the regime of King Achuta Deva Raya, by Viranna and Virupanna, Vijayanagara governors of Penukonda.
      • The temple is made up of three sections:
        • Mukha Mandapa for dance and other cultural activities.
        • Artha Mandapa for worship and the Garbha Griha housing the deity.
        • Kalyana Mandapa , or Wedding Hall made from grey sandstone with 38 carved monolithic pillars.
      • It contains the earliest preserved cycle of mural paintings in the Vijayanagara style.
    • Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh

(ii) Monoliths:

  • Huge monolithic of:
    • Ganesha (in Hampi),
  • Ganesha Hampi
    • Hanuman,
    • Narasimha (in Hampi)
  • Narsimha Hampi
    • stone chariot.
  • Stone Chariot Virupaksha

(iii) Tanks and Wells:

  • Krishna Deva Raya built a huge tank for water supply and beautiful designed Step well in Hampi.
  • Step well:
  • step well
  • Thus, Vijaynagara architecture forms an important and unavoidable part in the development in the architecture (religious as well as secular) in India.

(iv) 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 traveller Paes.
  • Within royal palace, structures known as:
    • Royal Audience Hall:
      • a high platform with some wooden pillars.
    • Queens bath:
      • It was water pavilion served as great bath in Hampi.
      • Queen Bath Hampi
    • Guard’s quarter
    • Mahanavami Dibba:
      • Huge platform and a huge tank nearby.
      • massive and high platform, sides having engravings of both human and other animals.
      • Mahanavami Dibba
    • Lotus Mahal:
      • Has two floors.
      • characterised by engrailed arches (Islamic feature) and pyramidal towers (Indian feature).
      • Lotus Mahal [Lotus Palace] at Hampi
    • Elephant stable:
      • It had Islamic (dome and arches) and Indian (pyramidal) features.
      • Elephant Stable
  • Mosques in Hampi had pillars (like Pillar Mandapas) which shows Indian influences.
  • Mosque Hampi
  • Gate of the city had Dome and Arch which shows Islamic influences.
  • 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 traveller Abdul Razzak has praised City of Vijayangara 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 traveller Nicolo conti mentioned the fortification of the city.

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