Q. “Cultural achievements of the Vijayanagar empire made it the cultural capital of the south.” Discuss. [20 Marks]
The establishment of the powerful state of Vijayanagara Empire in 14th century filled the political vacuum in southern India and made a significant contribution to the enrichment of cultural life. The rulers like Harihar and Bukka, Dev Raya II and Krishnadeva Raya are well-known for their cultural activities which made Vijayanagara Empire becoming cultural capital of the south.
Culture during Vijayanagara Empire:
- The rulers of Vijayanagar were devout Hindus. Most of them worshipped Vishnu or Shiva. Krishnadeva Raya was a devotee of Vithoba, a manifestation of the god Vishnu.
- The rulers of Vijayanagar were tolerance towards other sects and faiths.
- 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 making magnificent grants to the brahmins. They were also granted various other privileges and facilities.
This period is considered to the golden age of literature in South India. The rulers patronised Telugu, Kannada,Sanskrit and Tamil scholars who wrote in the Jain, Virashaiva and Vaishnava traditions.
- The period produced hundreds of works on all aspects of Indian culture, religion, philosophical, literary and historical, biographies, Prabhandas (stories), music, grammar, poetics and medicine.
- Among the religious works, a number of commentaries or bhasyas were written. Sayanacharya (pantronized by Bukka Raya I) wrote commentaries of the Vedas and Himadri wrote commentaries on the Dharmashastra. Other important commentaries included these of the Satpatha Brahmana and AitareyaAranyaka.
- Vyasarya, patron saint of the Vijayanagara Empire (Patronised by Krishnadeva) wrote a detailed work on the Dvaita Philosophy.
- Vedanta Desika wrote
- an epic on Krishna entitles, Yadav abhyudayarn.
- the ‘Hansa Sandesa‘, poem belongs to the sandesakavya (messenger poem), genre and is very closely modelled upon the Meghaduta of Kalidasa.
- Krishna Deva Raya himself an accomplished scholar wrote Madalasa Charita, SatyavaduParinaya and Rasamanjari and Jambavati Kalyana.
- Mohanangi, the wife of Ramraya (prime minister to Sadashiva Raya), wrote the famous live-epic ‘Marichiparinayam’.
- Ashtadiggajas, the eight court-poets of Krishnadeva Raya, also made significant contribution. e.g. Manu Charitra and PandurangaMahatyam.
- The age of Ashtadiggajas is known as Prabandha Period,because of the quality of the prabandha literature produced during this time
- The Maduravijayam of Gangadevi (a sanskrit poet) is a significant works on history.
Large scale literary works resulted in growth on language development. Telugu was a popular literary medium, reaching its peak under the patronage of Krishnadevaraya. Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit, and also regional languages such as Tamil received great thrust. The administrative and court languages of the Empire were Kannada and Telugu.
- Kannada: It was mainly promoted by Jaina saints but other also contributed.
- Bhim Kavi translated Bhasyapurana.
- Over 7000 inscriptions (Shilashasana) including 300 copper plate inscriptions (Tamarashasana) have been recovered, almost half of which are in Kannada, the remaining in Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit.
- Telugu: It was a court language and gained even more cultural prominence during the reign of the last Vijayanagar kings. It reached its peak during period of ashtadiggajas.
- Krishnadevaraya himself wrote a work on prosody entitled ‘Amuktamalyada.
- NachanaSomanatha wrote ‘UttaraHarivamsu’,
- Poets like AlsaniPeddana and Nandi Timmana flourished.
- Tamil: Krishnadevaraya also patronised Tamil poet. Tirumalainatha and his son Paranjotiyar were well-known scholars of the period. Sewaichch-buduyar translated Bhagavata Puranam into Tamil.
- Sanskrit: Many sanskrit scholars were patronized e.g. Sayanacharya, Vyasaraya. Most of his works were devoted to Dvaita philosophy.
- Bhatta Akalankedva, a Jain pandit wrote a grammar of Kannada in Sanskrit along with a commentary.
- Works of Vedanta Desika is also in Sanskrit.
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.
- One can easily observe the harmonious blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture features and convergence of Nagara and Dravida forms of Temples.
- Their period is considered to constitute a golden age of temple architecture in South India. Two of the great examples of temple architecture from Vijayanagar come in the form of the Hazara temple and the Vithalswami temple.
- 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. In its fundamental features, to Vijayanagar. style is based on the Draviada style under the Cholas, but it is more secretive and elaborate in its details.
- The emphasis on decoration is a reflection of the material prosperity of the ruling class. Sometime, since the Vijayanagar style was conservative in character, there was very little scope for experimenting with new techniques and designs.
- As such, the creative urge of the masons and builders found expression in the use of decorative motifs alone.
- Monolithic Sculptures:
- Some of the finest specimens of statues are to be found on the temple walls and pillars. At the same time independent works-in sculpture, both in stone and bronze, were also produced.
- These mainly include statues of rulers and their consorts built for commemorative purposes. The bronze sculpture, however lack the artistic merit and sophistication of the Chola images.
- The Cities of Vijayanagar 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 maintained by Portuguese traveller 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. Other travellers like Abdul Razzak and Nicoloconti has also praised cities of Vijayanagar.
- Tanks and Wells: Krishna Deva raya built a huge tank for water supply and beautiful designed Step well in Hampi.
It developed as an adjunct to architecture. These were employed to decorate the inner ceilings and walls of palaces. The paintings of the Vijayanagar represent the great revival of Hindu religion and art in South India. In most of the Vijayanagar paintings, human faces usually appear in the profile and the figures stand with a slight slant.
- Some of these Vijayanagar paintings depict the scenes related to Draupadi’s wedding and Kiratarjunya (Arjuna’s penance).
- Some of the South Indian Temples are known to be adorned with Vijayanagar paintings. They are the Veerabhadra Temple, Virupaksha Temple and KalyanaSundareswara Temple.
- Paintings also deal with animals and wild life. In some cases, foreigner visiting Vijayanagar empire are also portrayed. But no example or specimen of these paintings has survived and our information about them is based on the description given by some of the foreign visitors who saw these paintings.
The rulers of Vijayanagar encouraged court and temple singing as a specialised art and preserved the traditional music of the South, not admitting Iranian influence. Important works on music were also written. These included the Sangita suryodaya of Lakshmi Narain and the Sangitasara of Vidayaranya.
Scholars differ in their estimate of the cultural contribution of the Vijayanagar empire.
- Some historians maintain that the rulers of Vijayanagar wrote a glorious chapter in the cultural history of South India and it was entirely because of them that the traditional Hindu Cultural in the South could preserve its distinct identity free of Islamic influences. Moreover, by extending elaborate patronage to cultural activities, they enriched cultural life in the South.
- Others however maintain that the Vijayanagar period was a phase of cultural stagnation on the South. Its rulers clung to the conservative pattern of cultural life and did not in any way encourage new ideas or innovations. The literature of the period especially the religious texts, display an attitude of repeating old ideas and lack freshness of thoughts. In the arts too, the earlier pattern was retained and while in architecture some embellishments were added. In sculpture and painting there were unmistakable signs to decay.
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