How were the Art and Architecture of Vijayanagara special? What were their distinct characteristics? Read the article to know more about Vijayanagara Art and Architecture.
The Vijayanagara emperors presided as Lord Virupaksha’s representatives. They used the immense riches and resources they had amassed, to maintain the old temples as a whole. They also built many new temples, giving the architects, room to try out different designs and ideas.
The fervour to build new temples and add on to the old temples’ existing buildings influenced and inspired the best sculptors, artists, and architects of the Empire, who channelled their creative energy into building monuments of unsurpassed magnificence. Buildings began to take on a distinctive character that was later known as the Vijayanagara Temple architectural style.
Art of the Vijayanagara Empire
- It was not portrait style painting, but mural and fresco paintings that adorned the interiors of structures like palaces and revered temples—was one of the ways the Vijayanagara expressed itself.
- The majority of the motifs, which included gods and goddesses, were from Hindu cosmology.
- Additionally, there were pictures of individuals dancing and playing musical instruments, which showed some of the cultural practises of the empire’s inhabitants.
- Paintings of the Vijayanagara style were characterised by their propensity for detail, graceful lines, and sparing use of vibrant colours.
- From the waist to the feet, figures in Vijayanagara paintings frequently had a little backward tilt, while the torso up to the neck faced forward and the head was depicted in profile.
- The figures had lovely clothing, ornate haircuts, and jewellery accents.
- The majority of paintings were on walls, ceilings, or manuscripts, and they frequently had a flat background that was ochre or possibly red in hue.
- Vijayanagara painting hasn’t been around for very long. Manuscripts, which are made of an even more fragile material than temples, degrade and crumble.
- The excellent painters of the Vijayanagara Empire are still visible in a few temples, like the Virabhadra Temple in Lepakshi, and some museums have fragments of texts that were written and painted on cotton and other materials.
Vijayanagara Style of Architecture
- Throughout its reign, the Vijayanagara Empire constructed numerous temples. Granite was the primary material employed by the empire, while soapstone was used for the reliefs and sculptures that adorned the temples.
- The Hoysala, Chola, and Chalukya empires, as well as other earlier empires, provided the architectural inspiration for the Vijayanagara Empire, which combined these aspects to produce its own distinctive architectural compositions.
- They adopted the Dravidian architectural style and then added certain distinctive elements, giving it the name Vijayanagara style.
- Local firm granite was the preferred building material because of its durability, much as it had been for the Badami Chalukyas.
- Strong fences surround the Vijayanagara temples, which are distinguished by elaborately pillared Kalyana mandapa (marriage halls), tall rayagopurams (carved colossal towers at the entrance of the temple), and life-size statues of gods and goddesses.
- During Krishnadeva Raya’s rule, the Dravida style gained popularity, and during the following two centuries, many South Indian temples were built in this style.
- Mortar combined with other materials is typically used in Vijayanagara’s courtly architecture.
- Typically constructed of mortar and stone shards, Vijayanagara’s courtly architecture frequently features secular designs with Islamic-inspired arches, domes, and vaults.
Distinctive elements of Vijayanagara architecture
- Temples honouring numerous monarchs were built throughout the Vijayanagara Empire, and their entrances were adorned with gigantic gates known as Raya Gopurams. These gates featured intricate carvings that significantly adorned their surface.
- Horses were the most popular theme for the carved pillars in open pavilions with platforms supporting monolithic statues, like Ganesh.
- Elaborately pillared Kalyana mandapa (marriage halls)
- The image of the god to whom the temple was dedicated was kept in the garbhagriha, the most sacred room in the temple, which was situated in the heart of the structure.
- Amman Shrines, which were shrines dedicated to the god’s bride or wives
Architectural Wonders of Vijayanagara
A water pavilion, used for bathing, is a sizable square structure with a simple exterior and a multi-lobed arch doorway, but an elaborate, open-air interior with pointed arches, plaster-decorated domes and vaults, and corridors with projecting balconies that surround an interior pool. Today, this structure is known as the “queen’s bath.” It was possibly used by royal members as a personal bathing chamber or a cool relaxation area.
The two-story pavilion known today as the “Lotus Mahal,” which combines aspects of Islamicate architecture with those of temple architecture (the base, roof, and some stucco ornamentation), likely served as an event space or a meeting area for the emperor and his advisors. It features multi-lobed, recessed arches for its entrances, plastered ornamentation for the vaults and domes, and a stepped, pyramidal roof with finials reminiscent of temples.
While the base, the multi-layered roof design, and the stucco ornamentation display an Indic temple style, the cusped arches, variously designed vaults, and the decoration in geometric and foliated motifs on the walls and ceilings indicate an Islamic character. Additional evidence of a thriving exchange between Turko-Persian and Indic cultures and a great desire to participate in the larger cosmopolitan culture beyond Vijayanagara’s imperial borders.
The elephant stables, which housed the royally utilised ceremonial elephants, are the most impressive of all courtly buildings in the city. The Vijayanagara army would need many more elephants than could fit in the stables (or twenty-two, if two were housed inside). The open area in front might have been used as a parade ground.
A large platform dominates the royal centre. This multi-story stone theatre is surrounded by horizontal bands of low-relief friezes that portray many aspects of courtly life (such as the march of war animals, hunting scenes, soldiers engaged in combat, ladies performing traditional dances with sticks, and musicians).
Near the Mahanavami Dibba, a sizable water tank (pushpakarni) with a square shape is surrounded by a series of steps that descend to a lower level in a semi-pyramidal arrangement of black schist stone. Its design made it simple for individuals to enter and exit the water.
The reservoir was apparently utilised by royal members for ritual bathing and purification before prayers or for the immersion of metal deity incarnations during religious events. It was fed by the neighbouring Tungabhadra River by an aqueduct system.
- The Virupaksha temple is the oldest Hindu shrine within the imperial complex that is still actively used for worship today.
- The Vijayanagara rulers’ patron deity was Virupaksha, a manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva.
- Since many Hindu temples face the rising sun, pilgrims typically enter from the east side of the walled temple complex’s 160-foot-tall entrance tower (gopura).
- The marriage of Virupaksha and his spouse, the regional folk goddess Pampa, after whom the settlement of Hampi gets its name, is commemorated with annual ceremonies at the temple.
The Vittala temple
- The Vittala temple, which is devoted to a form of Vishnu, is the most impressive structure in the capital’s sacred core. The complex, which includes the primary temple and many auxiliary shrines, dates to the fourteenth century. It is located inside a rectangular court.
- The open, multi-pillared “marriage hall” (Kalyana mandapa), which is utilised for events involving the symbolic marriage of the temple’s deity to his wife, is a significant and defining feature of Vijayanagara art.
- The hall features external piers with riders on rearing yalis (mythical beasts) and elaborate brackets. It consists of an elevated platform surrounded by rows of large, artistically carved granite columns.
- Since the fifteenth century, yalis, which represent a hybrid of a horse and a human, have been a prominent motif in south Indian temples.
- The unique aspect of the temple is a stone chariot, or Garuda shrine, which is meant to resemble a wooden chariot used to transport metal representations of gods during religious festivals.
- Garuda is Vishnu’s animal mount (vahana), and as is typical in temples, it stands facing the god who is revered there. In the inner sanctum of the temple, immovable deities are present.
Large monolithic engravings are also present at the location, which made use of the enormous stones that dot the landscape around the city. For instance, Krishnadevaya, regarded as the greatest emperor of the Vijayanagara empire, contributed a magnificent sculpture of Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu, depicting him reclining in a yoga position beneath a seven-hooded serpent (though is sometimes shown with five or ten-heads).
The serpent known as Adisesha, upon which Vishnu is said to sleep, served as a seat for Narasimha in one of his incarnations.
Vijayanagara was the first southern Indian kingdom to encompass the three primary linguistic and cultural regions of this area—Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil—and the greatest and most powerful empire in pre-colonial south Indian history.
The impressively destroyed capital today testifies to the grandeur of an empire that was ruled from that city, as well as to the extent to which Islamic-inspired forms and practises altered Indic courtly life during the Vijayanagara period and its importance as a major population centre and nexus of trade routes.
In 1986, UNESCO declared the remains at Hampi in Karnataka a World Heritage Site in recognition of the importance of Vijayanagara.
Article Written By: Atheena Fathima Riyas