Chapter 7. An Imperial Capital: Vijayanagara

• Vijayanagara or ‘city of victory’ was name of both a city and an empire. empire was founded in 14th century. In its heyday it stretched from river Krishna in north to extreme south of peninsula.
• In 1565 city was sacked and subsequently deserted. Although it fell into ruin in 17th -18th centuries, it lived on in memories of people living in Krishna-Tungabhadra doab. They remembered it as Hampi, a name derived from that of local mother goddess, Pampadevi.
• These oral traditions combined with archaeological finds, monuments & inscriptions and other records helped scholars to rediscover Vijayanagara Empire.

Discovery of Hampi
• ruins at Hampi were brought to light in 1800 by an engineer and antiquarian named Colonel Colin Mackenzie. He prepared first survey map of site. Much of initial information he received was based on memories of priests of Virupaksha temple and shrine of Pampadevi.
• In an effort to reconstruct history of city and empire, historians collated information from these sources with accounts of foreign travellers and other literature written in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil & Sanskrit.

Rayas, Nayakas & Sultans
• According to tradition and epigraphic evidence two brothers, Harihara & Bukka, founded Vijayanagara Empire in 1336.
• On their northern frontier, Vijayanagara kings competed with contemporary rulers – including Sultans of Deccan and Gajapati rulers of Orissa – for control of fertile river valleys and resources generated by lucrative overseas trade.
• rulers of Vijayanagara borrowed concepts and building techniques which they then developed further.
• Some of areas that were incorporated within empire had witnessed development of powerful states such as those of Cholas in Tamil Nadu and Hoysalas in Karnataka.
• Ruling elites in these areas had extended patronage to elaborate temples such as Brihadishvara temple at Thanjavur and Chennakeshava temple at Belur.

Kings & Traders
• This trade was initially controlled by Arab traders. Local communities of merchants called kudirai chettis or horse merchants participated in these exchanges.
• From 1498 other actors appeared on scene. These were Portuguese, who arrived on west coast of subcontinent and attempted to establish trading and military stations.
• Vijayanagara was noted for its markets dealing in spices, textiles & precious stones.

apogee and decline of empire
• first dynasty, called Sangama dynasty, exercised control till 1485. They were supplanted by Saluvas, military commanders, who remained in power till 1503 when they were replaced by Tuluvas. Krishnadeva Raya belonged to Tuluva dynasty.
• Krishnadeva Raya’s rule was characterised by expansion and consolidation. It was time when land between Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers [the Raichur doab] was acquired [1512], rulers of Orissa were subdued [1514] and severe defeats were inflicted on Sultan of Bijapur [1520].
• Krishnadeva Raya is credited with building some fine temples and adding impressive gopurams to many important south Indian temples. He founded a suburban township near Vijayanagara known as Nagalapuram after his mother.
• Strain began to show within imperial structure following Krishnadeva Raya’s death in 1529. His successors were troubled by rebellious nayakas or military chiefs.
• By 1542 control at centre had shifted to another ruling lineage, that of Aravidu, which remained in power till end of 17th century. In 1565 Rama Raya, chief minister of Vijayanagara, led army into battle at Rakshasi-Tangadi [also called Talikota], where his forces were routed by combined armies of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golconda. victorious armies sacked city of Vijayanagara.
• Krishnadeva Raya, for example, supported some claimants to power in Sultanates and took pride in title ‘establisher of Yavana kingdom’. Similarly, Sultan of Bijapur intervened to resolve succession disputes in Vijayanagara following death of Krishnadeva Raya.

Rayas and Nayakas
• These chiefs often moved from one area to another, and in many cases were accompanied by peasants looking for fertile land on which to settle. These chiefs were called nayakas, and they generally spoke Telugu or Kannada.
• amara-nayaka system was a major political innovation of Vijayanagara Empire. This is likely that many features of this system were derived from iqta system of Delhi Sultanate. amara-nayakas were military commanders who were given territories to govern by raya. They collected taxes and other dues from peasants, craftspersons and traders in area.
• amara-nayakas sent tribute to king annually and personally appeared in royal court with gifts to express their loyalty.
• During course of 17th century, many of these nayakas established independent kingdoms. This hastened collapse of central imperial structure.

Vijayanagar- Capital and its Environ
• Vijayanagara, was characterised by a distinctive physical layout and building style.

Fortifications and roads
• Abdur Razzaq, an ambassador sent by ruler of Persia to Calicut in 15th century, was greatly impressed by fortifications, and mentioned seven lines of forts.
• These encircled not only city but its agricultural hinterland and forests.
• outermost wall linked hills surrounding city.
• No mortar or cementing agent was employed anywhere in construction.
• stone blocks were wedge shaped, which held them in place, and inner portion of walls was of earth packed with rubble. Square or rectangular bastions projected outwards.
• was most significant about this is that it enclosed agricultural tracts.
• Abdur Razzaq noted that ‘between first, second & third walls there are cultivated fields, gardens & houses’.
(1) A second line of fortification went round inner core of urban complex, and
(2) A third line surrounded royal centre, within which each set of major buildings was surrounded by its own high walls.
• rulers of Vijayanagara adopted a more expensive and elaborate strategy of protecting agricultural belt itself.
• Art historians refer to this style as Indo-Islamic, as it grew continually through interaction with local building practices in different regions.
• urban core: Tombs and mosques located here have distinctive functions, yet their architecture resembles that of mandapas found in temples of Hampi.

Water resources
• most striking feature about location of Vijayanagara is natural basin formed by river Tungabhadra which flows in a north-easterly direction.
• most important such tank was built in early years of 15th century and is now known as Kamalapuram tank.
• One of most prominent waterworks to be seen among ruins is Hiriya canal.
(1) This canal drew water from a dam across Tungabhadra and irrigated cultivated valley that separated ‘sacred centre’ from ‘urban core’.
(2) It was apparently built by kings of Sangama dynasty.

Royal Centre
• It was located in south-western part of settlement. Although designated as a royal centre, it included over 60 temples.

Mahanavami Dibba
• The ‘king’s palace’ is largest of enclosures but has not yielded definitive evidence of being a royal residence. It has two of most impressive platforms, usually known as ‘audience hall’ and ‘mahanavami dibba’.
• Rituals associated with structure probably coincided with Mahanavami of ten-day Hindu festival during autumn months of September and October, known variously as Dusshera [northern India], Durga Puja [in Bengal] and Navaratri or Mahanavami [in peninsular India].
• Vijayanagara kings displayed their prestige, power & suzerainty on this occasion.

Other Buildings in Royal Centre
• One of most beautiful buildings in royal centre is Lotus Mahal, so named by British travellers in 19th century. It may have been a council chamber, a place where king met his advisers according to Mackenzie.
• One of most spectacular of these is one called Hazara Rama temple.
• images in central shrine are missing; however, sculpted panels on walls survive.
• These include scenes from Ramayana sculpted on inner walls of shrine.
• While many of structures at Vijayanagara were destroyed when city was sacked, traditions of building palatial structures were continued by nayakas.

Sacred Centre
• According to local tradition, these hills sheltered monkey kingdom of Vali and Sugriva mentioned in Ramayana.
• Other traditions suggest that Pampadevi, local mother goddess, did penance in these hills in order to marry Virupaksha, guardian deity of kingdom, recognised as a form of Shiva.
• To this day this marriage is celebrated annually in Virupaksha temple.
• Temple building in region had a long history, going back to dynasties such as Pallavas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas & Cholas.
• Rulers very often encouraged temple building as a means of associating themselves with divine – often, deity was explicitly or implicitly identified with king.
• Temples functioned as centres of learning.
• Besides, rulers & others often granted land and other resources for maintenance of temples. Consequently, temples developed as significant religious, social, cultural & economic centres. This is likely that very choice of site of Vijayanagara was inspired by existence of shrines of Virupaksha and Pampadevi.
• All royal orders were signed ‘Shri Virupaksha’, generally in Kannada script. Rulers indicated their close links with gods by using title ‘Hindu Suratrana’.
• It was a Sanskritisation of Arabic term Sultan, meaning king, so it literally meant Hindu Sultan.

Gopurams and Mandapas
• In terms of temple architecture, by this period certain new features were in evidence. These included structures of immense scale that must have been a mark of imperial authority, best exemplified by raya gopurams or royal gateways that often dwarfed towers on central shrines, and signalled presence of temple from a great distance. They were probably meant as reminders of power of kings, able to command resources, techniques and skills needed to construct these towering gateways.
• Other distinctive features include mandapas or pavilions and long, pillared corridors that often ran around shrines within temple complex.

Vitthala Temple
• principal deity was Vitthala, a form of Vishnu usually worshipped in Maharashtra.
• introduction of worship of deity in Karnataka is another indication of ways in which rulers of Vijayanagara drew on different traditions to create an imperial culture.
• As in case of other temples, this temple too has several halls and a unique shrine designed as a chariot.
• A characteristic feature of temple complexes is chariot streets that extended from temple gopuram in a straight line.
• These streets were paved with stone slabs and lined with pillared pavilions in which merchants set up their shops.
• Just as nayakas continued with and elaborated on traditions of fortification, so they did with traditions of temple building.
• In fact, some of most spectacular gopurams were built by local nayakas.

Virupaksha Temple
• It was built over centuries. Inscriptions suggest that earliest shrine dated to 9th-10th centuries, it was substantially enlarged with establishment of Vijayanagara Empire.
• hall in front of main shrine was built by Krishnadeva Raya to mark his accession.
• It was decorated with delicately carved pillars. He is credited with construction of eastern gopuram.
• These additions meant that central shrine came to occupy a relatively small part of complex.
• halls in temple were used for a variety of purposes.
• Some were spaces in which images of gods were placed to witness special programmes of music, dance, drama.
• Others were used to celebrate marriages of deities, and yet others were meant for deities to swing in.
• Special images, distinct from those kept in small central shrine, were used on these occasions.

Plotting, Places & Bazaars
• site was preserved by Archaeological Survey of India and Karnataka Department of Archaeology and Museums. In 1976, Hampi was recognised as a site of national importance.
• In early 1980s, an important project was launched to document material remains at Vijayanagara in detail, through extensive and intensive surveys, using a variety of recording techniques.
• first step was to divide entire area into a set of 25 squares, each designated by a letter of alphabet.
• John M. Fritz, George Michell and M.S. Nagaraja Rao, who worked for years at site, wrote: ‘In our study of these monuments of Vijayanagara we have to imagine a whole series of vanished wooden elements columns, brackets, beams, ceilings, overhanging eaves, and towers decorated with plaster and painted, perhaps brightly.’

Questions in Search of Answer
• Investigations of architectural features do not tell us what ordinary men, women & children, comprising vast majority of people who lived in city and its outskirts, thought about these impressive buildings.

Timeline: Landmarks in Discovery and Conservation of Vijayanagara

1800 – Colin Mackenzie visits Vijayanagara

1856 – Alexander Green law takes first detailed photographs of archaeological remains at Hampi

1876 – J.F Fleet begins documenting inscriptions on temple walls at site

1902 – Conservation beings under John Marshall

1986 – Hampi Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO

Timeline: Major Political Developments
c. 1200 – 1300 – Establishment of Delhi Sultanate [1206]
c. 1300 – 1400 – Establishment of Vijayanagara Empire [1336]: establishment of Bahmani kingdom [1347]: sultanates in Jaunpur, Kashmir & Madura
c. 1400 – 1500 – Establishment of Gajapati kingdom of Orissa [1435]; establishment of sultanates of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur & Berar [1490]
c. 1500 – 1600 – Conquest of Goa by Portuguese [1510]; collapse of Bahmani kingdom, emergence of sultanate Golconda [1518]; Establishment of Mughal empire by Babur [1526]

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