UnImazinable Architecture of Vijaya Nagara Empire

Vijayanagara architecture, according to art critic Percy Brown is a vibrant combination and blossoming of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries.

Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end. Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillared Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower).

Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. An open-air theatre of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century, the kings continued to build vesara or Deccan-style monuments but later incorporated Dravida-style gopuras to meet their ritualistic needs. The Prasanna Virupaksha temple (underground temple) of Bukka and the Hazare Rama temple of Deva Raya are examples of Deccan architecture.

The varied and intricate ornamentation of the pillars is a mark of their work. At Hampi, the Vitthala and Hazara Ramaswamy temples are examples of their pillared Kalyanamantapa style.

A visible aspect of their style is their return to the simplistic and serene art developed by the Chalukya dynasty. The Vitthala temple took several decades to complete during the reign of the Tuluva kings. Meenakshi Temple, Madurai If Look at the Ariel view of the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai.

The temple was rebuilt by the Nayak rulers under the Vijayanagar Empire. Another element of the Vijayanagara style is the carving and consecration of large monoliths such as the Sasivekaalu (mustard) Ganesha and Kadalekaalu (groundnut) Ganesha at Hampi, the Gommateshwara (Bahubali) monoliths in Karkala and Venur, and the Nandi bull in Lepakshi.

The Vijayanagara temples of Kolar, Kanakagiri, Sringeri and other towns of Karnataka; the temples of Tadpatri, Lepakshi, Ahobilam, Tirumala Venkateswara Temple and Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh; and the temples of Vellore, Kumbakonam, Kanchi and Srirangam in Tamil Nadu are examples of this style.

Vijayanagara art includes wall paintings such as the Dashavatara and Girijakalyana (marriage of Parvati, Shiva's consort) in the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi, the Shivapurana murals (tales of Shiva) at the Virabhadra temple at Lepakshi, and those at the Kamakshi and Varadaraja temples at Kanchi.

This mingling of the South Indian styles resulted in a new idiom of art not seen in earlier centuries, a focus on reliefs in addition to sculpture differing from that previously in India.

An aspect of Vijayanagara architecture that shows the cosmopolitanism of the great city is the presence of many secular structures bearing Islamic features.

While political history concentrates on the ongoing conflict between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Deccan Sultanates, the architectural record reflects a more creative interaction. There are many arches, domes and vaults that show these influences.

The concentration of structures like pavilions, stables and towers suggests they were for use by royalty.

The decorative details of these structures may have been absorbed into Vijayanagara architecture during the early 15th century, coinciding with the rule of Deva Raya I and Deva Raya II.

These kings are known to have employed many Muslims in their army and court, some of whom may have been Muslim architects. This harmonious exchange of architectural ideas must have happened during rare periods of peace between the Hindu and Muslim kingdoms.

The "Great Platform" (Mahanavami Dibba) has relief carvings in which the figures seem to have the facial features of central Asian Turks who were known to have been employed as royal attendants.

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