Written By Niyati Narasimhan (Grade 10)
The Vijayanagara empire, established in the year 1336 by the Raya brothers, Harihara and Bukka was one of India’s most mighty and magnificent empires. The empire rose to prominence under the rule of the famed king Krishnadevaraya and witnessed great success, wealth and prosperity, attracting tourists and travellers from all over the world.
As an enthusiast of Indian culture, I have always been enthralled by the eminence of our country’s empires, but the Vijayanagara kingdom stands apart from most of them, primarily due to its resplendent architecture, which was the empire’s glory.
The architecture of the kingdom was so spectacular and well thought-out that their designs were far ahead of their time. A small hole on the wall in the main complex of the Virupaksha temple, allows observers to determine the precise time of day or night, as the sun’s light shines through the hole and reflects on the opposite wall, producing a mirror image of the gopuram of the temple, depicting the time of the day correctly (Obscura effect). Surprisingly, the shadow which falls through has a pinch of golden colour that is breathtaking.
What is really interesting about the architecture is that the builders did not use mortar or cementing agents to hold the monuments, which were primarily made of local granite, burnt bricks and lime mortar. Instead, they utilised egg shells as binding materials and to produce paint binders, protecting the structures from any undesirable calamity. Many monuments and temples in the empire were mostly built on hilly terrains using granite boulders as they promised better durability.
My favourite aspect of the architecture was its incorporation of different religious structures. As a highly developed multi-religious and multi-ethnic civilisation, the empire’s architecture was renowned for its integration of Indo-Islamic and Buddhist architecture in secular buildings such as the Queen’s bath, Lotus mahal and elephant stables. All these buildings creatively combined the different architectural and decorative components such as arches (Islamic) and medhis (Buddhist). What was really fascinating about the adaptation of such architectural techniques was its portrayal of the secularism present during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, who respected all practices.
Interestingly, music has had a significant influence on certain structures. An example includes the musical pillars present in the Vittala temple, Hampi. These pillars produce musical tones when struck with the thumb and are also called the SaReGaMa pillars. They make rhythmic sounds similar to the SaReGaMa notations in Carnatic music when struck with sticks made of sandalwood.
In conclusion, the glory of the Vijayanagara period clearly depicts the rich inclusive culture, architecture, governance and art which has become an example of true Indian values and a reminder of the tremendous wealth and power of the kingdom.
Featured Image Courtesy – Khan Academy