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Vijayanagar Empire – Art and Architecture

Art and Architecture

  • The Vijayanagar rulers were great builders.
  • During this period, palaces, temples, huge halls (mahamantapa), forts, towers, public buildings, dams, tanks and canals were constructed.
  • South Indian art and architecture attained a new fullness.
  • The Vijayanagar rulers produced a new style of architecture called as Dravida style.
  • The chief characteristics of the Vijayanagara architecture were the construction of tall Raya Gopurams or gateways and the Kalyanamandapam.
  • The sculptures on the pillars were carved with distinctive features.
  • The horse was the most common animal to be depicted on the pillars.
  • Large mandapams contain one hundred pillars as well as one thousand pillars in some big temples.
  • Fine examples of kalyana mandapa can be seen at Vellore as also in the Varadharajaswami and Ekamparanatha temples at Kanchipuram and in the Jambukesvara temple at Thiruchirapalli.
  • During the period of the Vijayanagar kings, temples were built in Hampi, Shringeri, Tirupati, Kalahasti, Nandi, Kolar, Srishaila, etc.
  • New elements were introduced in the temple architecture.
  • In addition to the main shrine, a smaller temple was built in the north-west called Amma Shrine where the Lord or main diety’s consort resided.
  • This practice, which began in the late Chola period now became the rule.
  • The palace of the king was the most conspicuous building in the city.
  • Other features included the towering gateways called gopurams and are a unique feature of south Indian temples, particularly those built by the Vijayanagar rulers.
  • The Raya Gopurams at Thiruvannanmalai and Chidambaram speak the glorious epoch of Vijayanagar.
  • They were continued by the Nayak rulers in the later period.
  • The finest temples of Vijayanagara are in Hampi, which has been designated as a World Heritage City.
  • Their capital city, Vijayanagar, stood on the south bank of river Tungabhadra.
  • After the battle of Talikota (1565 CE) this splendid city fell prey to the fury of the victors who wrought untold havoc and destruction.
  • We can form a idea of the architectural achievements of the Vijayanagara rulers and the ruins of Hampi from the accounts of foreign travelers, Nicolo Conti and Abdur Razak.
  • The important features of Vijayanagara style of temple architecture are monolithic pillars, ornate bracelets and decoration on the exterior side of the walls.
  • Krishnadeva Raya was a great builder.
  • He founded a town Nagalapura (near Vijayanagar), in memory of his mother, Nagamba and built tanks, gopurams and temples in various parts of empire.
  • The most famous among these temples are the Vittalaswamy temple and Virupaksha temples.
  • The famous Hazara temple, built during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya, is, as remarked by Longhurst, “one of the most perfect specimens of Hindu temple architecture in existence”.
  • The Vittalaswamy temple is also a fine example of Vijayanagar style.
  • In the opinion of Fergusson, it “shows the extreme limit in florid magnificence to which the style advanced”.
  • The Vittalswamy temple with its saptaswara musical pillars and the Stone Chariot are a few architectural wonders.
  • Paintings at the Virabhadra temple and Lepakshi temple show the excellence of Vijayanagar painters.
  • The Vijayanagar rulers inscribed the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata on the walls of the various temples.
  • The Vijayanagar kings patronized fine arts like music, dance, drama and yakshagana.
  • Artists enjoyed great respect in the palace and temples.
  • The life size portrait statues of the Narasimha and of Krishnadevaraya and his two queens are fine examples of Vijayanagara art.
  • Painting as an art found its expression on the walls of the temples of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • The wall paintings such as Dasavathara and Girijakalyanam in the Virupaksha temple are beautiful specimens of art.

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