Vijayanagara architecture

Vijayanagara architecture

The Vijayanagara Architecture ( _kn. ವಿಜಯನಗರ ವಾಸ್ತುಶಿಲ್ಪ) of the period (1336 - 1565CE) was a notable building idiom evolved by the imperial Vijayanagar Empire that ruled the whole of South India from their regal capital at Vijayanagara on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka, India. The empire built a number of temples, monuments, palaces and other structures over South India, with the largest concentration located in its capital. The monuments in and around Hampi, in the Vijayanagara principality, are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In addition to building new temples, the empire also added new structures and made modifications to hundreds of existing temples across South India. Some structures at Vijayanagara are from the pre-Vijayanagara period. The Mahakuta hill temples are from the Western Chalukya era. The region around Hampi had been a popular place of worship for centuries before the Vijayanagara period with earliest records dating from 689 CE when it was known as Pampa Tirtha after the local river Goddess Pampa.

There are hundreds of extant monuments in the core area of the capital city. Of these fifty six are protected by UNESCO, six hundred and fifty-four monuments are protected by the government of Karnataka and another three hundred monuments await protection.An article in Sunday Express [] ]

alient features

Vijayanagara architecture can be broadly classified into religious, courtly and civic architecture, as can the associated sculptures and paintings."Hampi - A Travel Guide", pp 36, Department of Tourism, India] The Vijayanagara style is a combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles which evolved earlier in the centuries when these empires ruled and is characterised by a return to the simplistic and serene art of the past.Art critic, Percy Brown calls Vijayanagara architecture a blossoming of Dravidian style, "A Concise History of Karnataka", pp 182, Dr. S.U. Kamath, "History of Karnataka", Arthikaje]

For the approximately 400 years during the rule of the Western Chalukya and the Hoysalas empires, the most popular material for temple construction was chloritic schist or soapstone. This was also true for sculpture as soapstone is soft and easily carved. During the Vijayanagar period the local hard granite was preferred in the Badami Chalukya style, although soapstone was used for a few reliefs and sculptures.Their style was characterised by a return to the simplistic and serene art of the Badami Chalukya says Dr. S.U. Kamath about the sculptures in Vijayanagar style, "A Concise History of Karnataka", pp 184, Dr. S.U. Kamath] While the use of granite reduced the density of sculptured works, granite was a more durable material for the temple structure. Because granite is prone to flaking, few pieces of individual sculptures reached the high levels of quality seen in previous centuries. In order to cover the unevenness of the stone used in sculptures, artists employed plaster to give the rough surface a smooth finish and then painted it with lively colours."Hampi - A Travel Guide", pp 42-43, Department of Tourism, India]

Temple structures

Vijayanagara temples are usually surrounded by a strong enclosure. Small shrines consist simply of a "garbhagriha" (sanctum) and a porch. Medium sized temples have a "garbhagriha", "shukanasi" (antechamber), a "navaranga" ("antrala") connecting the sanctum and outer "mandapa" (hall), and a "rangamantapa" (enclosed pillared hall). Large temples have tall Rayagopuram built with wood, brick and stucco in Chola style. The term "Raya" is added to indicate a "gopura" built by Vijayanagar Rayas. The top of the "gopuram" has a "shalashikhara" resembling a barrel made to rest on its side. Large life sized figures of men, woman, Gods and Goddesses adorn the "gopuram". This "Tamil dravida" influenced style became popular during the rule of king Krishnadevaraya and is seen in South Indian temples constructed over the next 200 years."New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 9] Examples of "Rayagopuram" are the Chennakesava Temple in Belur, and the temples at Srisailam and Srirangam. In addition to these structures, medium sized temples also have a closed circumambulatory ("Pradakshinapatha") passage around the sanctum, an open "mahamantapa" (large hall), a "kalyanamantapa" (ceremonial hall) and a temple tank to serve the needs of annual celebrations.The elaboration of ceremonial observances produced a corresponding elaboration in the temple system, says art critic Percy Brown, "A Concise History of Karnataka", pp 183, Dr. S.U. Kamath]

Temple pillars often have engravings of charging horses or hippogryphs ("Yali") — horses standing on hind legs with their fore legs lifted and riders on their backs. The horses on some pillars stand seven to eight feet tall. On the other side of the pillar are usually carvings from Hindu mythology.The attached colonnettes and sculptured animals are a significant artistic innovation of the reign of king Krishnadevaraya, "New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 8] Pillars that do not have such hippogryphs are generally rectangular with mythology themed decoration on all sides. Some pillars have a cluster of smaller pillars around a central pillar shaft. The bottom supports of these pillars have engravings of Gods and Goddesses. Carvings of Hippogryphs clearly show the adroitness of the artists who created them. "A Concise History of Karnataka", pp 183, Dr. S.U. Kamath]

The "Mantapas" are built on square or polygonal plinths with carved friezes that are four to five feet high and have ornate stepped entrances on all four sides with miniature elephants or with "Yali" balustrades (parapets).An imaginary beast acting as parapet. These beautifully sculptured supports were used in entrances to temples and as flanks to steps and stairs in royal palace structures, "New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 53] The "Mantapas" are supported by ornate pillars.A regular feature saya Prof. K.A.N. Sastri about the importance of pillars in the Vijayanagara style in "A Concise History of Karnataka", pp 183, Dr. S.U. Kamath] The thousand pillared style with large halls supported by numerous pillars was popular. The 1000 pillared Jain basadi at Mudabidri is an example. Larger temples have a separate shrine for the female deity. Some examples of this are the Hazara Rama , Balakrishna and Vitthala temples at Hampi.

Some shrines in the Vitthalapura area inside Vijayanagara were consecrated specifically for Tamil Alwar saints and for the great Vaishnava saint, Ramanujacharya. Architecturally they are different in that each shrine has an image depicting the saint for whose worship the temple was built. Each shrine has its own enclosure, and a separate kitchen and pilgrim feeding hall."New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 35-36] The water storage tank inside the royal center, the stepped tank called "Pushkarni", is a recent archaeological discovery. The stepped tank is fashioned with finished chlorite schist slabs arranged in a symmetrical formation with steps and landings descending to the water on all four sides. This is clearly a Western Chalukya-Hoysala style tank and is seen in many parts of present day Karnataka.According to Dominic J Davidson-Jenkins in "New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 89] The inscriptions on the slabs indicate the material was brought from outside the Vijayanagara area.


Much of what is known today of Vijayanagara palaces is drawn from archaeological excavations at Hampi as no royal palace structures have survived.According to Channabasappa S. Patil, "New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", pp 51, edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell] Most palaces stand within their own compound defined by high tapering walls made of stone or layered earth. Palaces are approached through a sequence of courts with passageways and doorways requiring multiple changes in direction. All palaces face east or north. The larger palaces have side extensions giving the complex a symmetrical shape. Palaces were built on raised platforms made of granite. The platforms have multiple tiers of mouldings with well decorated friezes. A rectangular decorated panel of stone is called a frieze, " A complete guide to Hoysala Temples", pp 93 Gerard Foekema.] The decorations can be floral, "Kirtimukha" shapes (demon faces), geese, elephants and occasionally human figures. Pillars, beams and rafters inside the palace were made of wood as evidenced by ash discovered in excavations. The roof was made of brick or lime concrete, while copper and ivory were used for finials. Palaces commonly consisted of multiple levels with each flight of stairs decorated by balustrades on either side, with either "yali" (imaginary beast) or elephant sculptures. The entrance steps into palaces and temple "mantapas" were similarly decorated. Water tanks inside the palace complex have decorative water spouts such as the carved torso of the "Nandi" with a gaping mouth to allow water flow into the tank.According to Channabasappa S. Patil, "New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara", pp 57, edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell] Other structures commonly found inside a palace complex are wells and shrines.

The courtly architecture generally show secular styles with Islamic influences. Examples are the Lotus Mahal palace, Elephant stables, and watch towers.New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara, edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, pp 10.] Courtly buildings and domed structures were built with mortar mixed with stone rubble."Hampi - A Travel Guide", pp 36, Department of Tourism, India]

The impact of this style of architecture was seen well into the 17th century when the various successive Nayaka kingdoms continued to encourage pillars with Hippogryphs and granite became the main building material.

Famous Temples outside Vijayanagara

While the empire is well known for its monuments in the regal capital, Vijayanagara, it also built many temples in other areas of South India. Well known among these in Karnataka are Chaturmukha Basadi and Parshwanatheshwara Basadi (15th century) in Gerusoppa, Parshwanatheshwara Basadi, Santappanaik Tirumala Temple, Virupaksha Narayan Temple (1565), Bala Kini Raghunath Temple (1550) and Khetapai Narayan Temple at Bhatkal, Aryadurga Temple (1505) at Ankola, Partakali Jivottam Mutt (1560) at Gokarna, Mahalasa Narayan Temple (1565) atKumta, Mahaganapati Mahamaya Temple (1560) at Shirali, Iswar Temple at Baindur, Balaram Temple at Malpe, Indrani Temple at Manipal, Vidyashankara Temple (1357) at Sringeri, Bhoganandiswara Temple and Yoganandiswara Temple at Nandi Hills, Kanakachalapathi Temple in Koppal district, Someswara Temple at Kolar, Ganesha Temple at Kurudumale, Tyaramalleshwara Temple (1466) at Hiriyur, Nandi Temple at Bangalore and others.

In Andhra Pradesh the empire built the Mallikarjuna Temple at Srisailam, Upper Narasimha Temple and Lower Narasimha Temple at Ahobilam, Veera Bhadra Temple at Lepakshi and Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati and others. In Tamil Nadu the empire built the Vijayaraghava Permal temple modelled after the famous temples at Tirupati with statues of Krishnadevaraya in Thayar Sanithi pillars facing each other.

ee also

* Vijayanagara
* Hampi
* Lepakshi
* Srikalahasti
* Vijayanagar Empire



* Mandapa - pillared hall
* Mahamantapa - Open pillared hall
* Rangamantapa - Closed pillared hall
* Kalyanamantapa - Hall meant for celebrations
* Garbhagriha - Sanctum where the idol of God is placed
* Navaranga or Antrala - passage the connects different Sanctums
* Shukanasi" - Antechamber



* Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore, 2001 (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041
* Hampi, A Travel Guide, Department of Tourism, India, Good Earth publication, New Delhi 2003 ISBN 81-877801-7-7
* New Light on Hampi, Recent research in Vijayanagara, edited by John M. Fritz and George Michell, MARG, 2001, ISBN 81-85026-53-X
* [ History of Karnataka, Arthikaje]
* [ Temples of Karnataka, Dr. Jyotsna Kamat]
* [ Architecture of Indian Subcontinent, Takeyo Kameya]
* [ TempleNet:Temples of India]

* [ A website with photographs, descriptions and the site maps of the Hampi ruins.]

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