VIJAYANAGARA ART AND ARCHITECTURE

  • 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.
  • 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.

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.
  • Mandapas:
    • 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.
    • New structure was Kalyan Mandap where union of God and spouse was done on special occasions.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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),
    • Hanuman,
    • Narasimha (in Hampi)
    • stone chariot.

(iii) Tanks and 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 (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.
    • 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.
    • Lotus Mahal:
      • Has two floors.
      • characterised by engrailed arches (Islamic feature) and pyramidal towers (Indian feature).
    • Elephant stable:
      • It had Islamic (dome and arches) and Indian (pyramidal) features.
  • Mosques in Hampi had pillars (like Pillar Mandapas) which shows Indian influences.
  • 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.

ART, LITERATURE AND CULTURE IN THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE

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. 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.

Development in art, literature and culture:

Religion: 

  • 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.

Literature: 

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 Aitareya Aranyaka.
  • 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 sandesa kavya (messenger poem), genre and is very closely modelled upon the Meghaduta of Kalidasa.
  • Krishna Deva Raya himself an accomplished scholar wrote Madalasa Charita, Satyavadu Parinaya 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 Panduranga Mahatyam.
    • 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.

Language:

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.
    • Nachana Somanatha wrote ‘Uttara Harivamsu’,
    • Poets like Alsani Peddana 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:

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.
  • 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.
  • Cities: 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 Nicolo conti 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.

Painting:

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 Kalyana Sundareswara 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.

Music:

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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