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  1. INSTRUCTIONS & SAMPLES

    How to use
  2. FREE Samples
    4 Submodules
  3. PAPER I: ANCIENT INDIA
    1. Sources
    9 Submodules
  4. 2. Pre-history and Proto-history
    3 Submodules
  5. 3. Indus Valley Civilization
    8 Submodules
  6. 4. Megalithic Cultures
    3 Submodules
  7. 5. Aryans and Vedic Period
    8 Submodules
  8. 6. Period of Mahajanapadas
    10 Submodules
  9. 7. Mauryan Empire
    7 Submodules
  10. 8. Post – Mauryan Period
    7 Submodules
  11. 9. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India
    9 Submodules
  12. 10. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas
    14 Submodules
  13. 11. The Regional States during the Gupta Era
    18 Submodules
  14. 12. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
    9 Submodules
  15. PAPER 1: MEDIEVAL INDIA
    13. Early Medieval India (750-1200)
    9 Submodules
  16. 14. Cultural Traditions in India (750-1200)
    11 Submodules
  17. 15. The Thirteenth Century
    2 Submodules
  18. 16. The Fourteenth Century
    6 Submodules
  19. 17. Administration, Society, Culture, Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
    13 Submodules
  20. 18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Political Developments and Economy
    14 Submodules
  21. 19. The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture
    3 Submodules
  22. 20. Akbar
    8 Submodules
  23. 21. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century
    7 Submodules
  24. 22. Economy and Society in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    11 Submodules
  25. 23. Culture in the Mughal Empire
    8 Submodules
  26. 24. The Eighteenth Century
    7 Submodules
  27. PAPER-II: MODERN INDIA
    1. European Penetration into India
    6 Submodules
  28. 2. British Expansion in India
    4 Submodules
  29. 3. Early Structure of the British Raj
    7 Submodules
  30. 4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
    12 Submodules
  31. 5. Social and Cultural Developments
    7 Submodules
  32. 6. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas
    8 Submodules
  33. 7. Indian Response to British Rule
    8 Submodules
  34. 8. Indian Nationalism - Part I
    4 Submodules
  35. 9. Indian Nationalism - Part II
  36. 10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  37. 11. Other strands in the National Movement (Revolutionaries & the Left)
  38. 12. Politics of Separatism
  39. 13. Consolidation as a Nation
  40. 14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  41. 15. Economic development and political change
  42. PAPER-II: WORLD HISTORY
    16. Enlightenment and Modern ideas
  43. 17. Origins of Modern Politics
  44. 18. Industrialization
  45. 19. Nation-State System
  46. 20. Imperialism and Colonialism
  47. 21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  48. 22. World Wars
  49. 23. The World after World War II
  50. 24. Liberation from Colonial Rule
  51. 25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  52. 26. Unification of Europe
  53. 27. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World
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Introduction

The establishment of the powerful state of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century filled the political vacuum in southern India and left a permanent impression in the fields of administration, culture, religion, art, and architecture. This article explores the contributions of the Vijayanagara Empire, with a particular focus on promoting Hindu religion and culture. The rulers of the empire, such as Harihar and Bukka, Dev Raya II, and Krishnadeva Raya, were known for their cultural activities and patronage.

Religion

The rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire were devout Hindus, with a strong inclination towards worshiping Vishnu or Shiva. The early rulers, belonging to the Sangama dynasty, were primarily Saivaites, and their family deity was Virupaksha. However, as the empire evolved, the influence of Vaishnava saints became prominent, and the later dynasties embraced Vaishnavism.

Under the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire, Srivaishnavism, the tradition propagated by Ramanuja, gained popularity. The conversion of the Vijayanagara king, Virupaksha, to Vaishnavism is recounted in the Vaishnava work Prapannamritam. Furthermore, Krishnadeva Raya was a devotee of Vithoba, a manifestation of the god Vishnu, as well as Shiva. Sadasivaraya followed a liberal policy and worshiped Siva, Vishnu, and Ganesha.

The rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire played a significant role in promoting Hinduism through various means:

  • Compiling major religious texts.
  • Commissioning commentaries or Bhasyas on religious texts.
  • Constructing a large number of temples that were generously endowed.
  • Celebrating numerous festivals.
  • Making significant grants to Brahmins, who were also granted various privileges and facilities.

It is worth noting that the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire displayed tolerance towards other sects and faiths. The empire offered protection and patronage to religious communities such as Jains, and Muslims were employed in the administration, allowed to build mosques, and practice their faith without interference. The atmosphere of religious freedom in the empire is best illustrated by the observations of Barbosa, who visited Krishnadevaraya’s court and noted the king’s acceptance and respect for individuals of various religious backgrounds.

Architecture

During the Vijayanagara rule, architecture reached a new level of expression and freedom. While often characterized as Dravida style, the architecture of the empire had distinct features that set it apart. This unique style is referred to as the Provida style.

The architectural tradition witnessed a shift from the use of soft stone to hard stone, marking the emergence of a new era. The empire’s architectural achievements encompassed a wide range of structures, including temples, monolithic sculptures, palaces, official buildings, cities, and irrigation works such as step wells and tanks.

Temples

The religious fervor of the Vijayanagara kings found expression in the construction, renovation, and expansion of temples. The temples built during the empire can be classified into different phases:

  1. Early Phase: The first datable shrine in Hampi, dedicated to Jainism, belongs to the first dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire. The architectural style during this period displayed influences from the simpler Deccan style, specifically the style of the Chalukyas of Vatapi. Notable examples include the Vidyashankar temple.
  2. Second Phase: By the early 15th century, the Tamil tradition gained popularity in temple architecture. The core design elements were derived from Tamil country and Chola shrines. Granite became the primary material used for temples built in this style.
  3. Third and Mature Phase: The 16th century witnessed significant advancements in Vijayanagara temple architecture. Temples of this era varied in size, ranging from large to medium-sized and even fairly small ones. Innovative elements, such as the composite pillar, hundred-pillar halls, and chariot streets, were introduced. The dominance of southern elements over Deccan features became evident during this period. The mature Vijayanagara style, which reached its pinnacle under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, showcased the monumental Chola forms blended with elaborate motifs of sculpted animal pillars.
  4. Last Phase: The building of temples continued during the 17th century under the Nayaka period. This phase witnessed even greater monumentality and elaborate motifs of sculpted animal pillars.

The Vijayanagara temples were not confined to borrowing from existing architectural traditions but also showcased true innovation. Some noteworthy features of these temples include:

  • Larger temple complexes.
  • Elaborate structures with continuous horizontal expansion.
  • Rich and heavy ornamentation.
  • Massive compound walls.
  • Introduction of the Amman Shrine, where the spouse of the chief deity was housed.
  • Mandapas, open pavilions with raised platforms for seating deities, characterized by columned interiors with unique pillar designs.
  • Various types of mandapas, such as the Kalyan Mandap, used for special occasions like the union of gods and spouses.
  • Distinctive pillars, often large in size and elaborately carved, featuring sculpted animal motifs. Some pillars produce musical notes when struck, earning them the name “musical pillars.”
  • Walls and pillars adorned with profuse sculptural ornamentation depicting events from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and other mythological stories.
  • Temples characterized by painted murals on walls and ceilings, exemplified by the Virbhadra temple in Lepakshi.
  • Monolithic figures like the Nandi, the largest monolithic Nandi in India located near the Lepakshi temple.
  • Additions to existing temples, including Gopurams (towered gateways), Pillar Mandaps, Kalyan Mandaps, and temple chariots.
  • Magnificent Gopurams, such as the southern gopuram of the Ekambarantha temple, reaching a height of 188 feet and consisting of 10 storeys, built by Krishna Deva Raya.
  • Integration of portrait statues of kings and important patrons into Gopurams, establishing a personal iconographic connection between these figures and the shrines.
  • Prominent temples of the Vijayanagara Empire include the Vittal temple in Vijayanagara, characterized by its temple chariot, Amman Shrine, three Gopurams, and musical pillars, the Hazara Rama temple in Vijayanagara, the Veerupaksha temple in Vijayanagara, and the Veerbhadra temple in Lepakshi, known for its mid-16th-century architecture and preserved cycle of mural paintings.

Monoliths

Monolithic sculptures played a significant role in Vijayanagara architecture. Notable monolithic sculptures include those of Ganesha, Hanuman, Narasimha, and the stone chariot. These sculptures were often grand in scale and added a unique aesthetic dimension to the architectural landscape.

Tanks and Wells

Water management was an essential aspect of Vijayanagara architecture. Krishna Deva Raya, in particular, constructed a massive tank for water supply and beautifully designed step wells in Hampi. The step wells served both utilitarian and aesthetic purposes, showcasing the empire’s mastery in engineering and design.

Cities

The cities of the Vijayanagara Empire were adorned with grand palaces, public offices, and impressive irrigation works. The royal palaces were particularly splendid, as attested by Portuguese traveler Paes. The architectural elements within the royal palace complex included the Royal Audience Hall, the Queen’s Bath (a water pavilion), the Guard’s Quarter, and the Mahanavami Dibba, a massive platform with engravings of humans and animals. The Lotus Mahal, with its Islamic-inspired arches and Indian pyramidal towers, showcased the empire’s ability to merge diverse architectural influences. The Elephant Stable, featuring both Islamic domes and arches along with Indian pyramidal features, further exemplified the architectural fusion of the era. Mosques in Hampi displayed Indian influences through the presence of pillars reminiscent of Pillar Mandapas, while city gates featured Islamic-inspired domes and arches. Hampi Bazaar served as an excellent example of street architecture, and the city’s fortifications were praised by travelers for their grandeur.

The extensive accounts provided by travelers like Barbosa, Abdul Razzak, and Nicolo Conti offer valuable insights into the walls, gates, streets, markets, and royal palaces of the Vijayanagara Empire. These observations collectively testify to the immense scale, architectural beauty, and exceptional provision of the capital city, which was considered one of the best cities in the world during its time.

Nicolo Conti: The Italian Traveler’s Account

Nicolo Conti, an Italian traveler, visited Vijayanagara in 1420, shortly after the accession of Devaraya I. He was the first known foreign traveler to explore Vijayanagara. Conti’s account sheds light on the fortifications of the city and the vast military presence, with thousands of men employed in the army.

Abdur Razzaq: Persian Visitor Impressed by Urban Planning

Abdur Razzaq, a Persian traveler from the first half of the 15th century (1443), was captivated by the urban planning of Vijayanagara. His account emphasizes the massive fortifications surrounding the city, consisting of seven rings of ramparts. The walls, slightly tapering and constructed without the use of mortar, incorporated forest and agricultural lands. Razzaq also provides valuable insights into the streets and houses within the urban complex. He describes the grand processions during the Mahanavami festival.

Domingo Pace: Portuguese Insight into Vijayanagara City

Domingo Pace, a Portuguese traveler who visited Vijayanagara during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya in the first half of the 16th century, offers a detailed description of the city. According to Pace, Vijayanagara was a vast city, comparable in size to Rome. He notes the city’s beauty, with numerous groves of trees and conduits of water. Lakes were also present within the city. Pace highlights significant structures such as the audience hall and Mahanavami Dibba, collectively referred to as the “House of Victory.” The Mahanavami festival was celebrated with elaborate processions, wrestling matches, fireworks, and various other forms of entertainment. The city boasted broad and beautiful streets lined with markets where merchants traded a wide range of goods. These markets were stocked with provisions such as rice, wheat, corn, and pulses, all available at affordable prices. Precious items like diamonds and pearls were also found in the marketplaces. Pace concludes by stating that Vijayanagara was the best-provided city in the world.

Fernao Nuniz: Markets Overflowing with Abundance

Fernao Nuniz, another Portuguese traveler from the first half of the 16th century, provides further insights into the markets of Vijayanagara. Nuniz’s description primarily focuses on provisioning and food materials. He emphasizes the abundance of fruits like grapes, oranges, and mangoes in the markets. The markets were stocked with all kinds of necessities, including mutton, pork, horses, and even sparrows. Food materials were notably affordable in Vijayanagara. Nuniz also mentions the elaborate jewels worn by women during the Mahanavami festival.

Barbosa: A Glimpse into the Rich and Flourishing City

Barbosa, a Portuguese traveler who visited the Vijayanagara Kingdom during Krishnadeva Raya’s reign in the early 16th century, describes the cities of Vijayanagara as rich and well-provided. He notes the large townships and flourishing trade that thrived within the empire.

Cesare Federici: Vijayanagara Partially Destroyed

Cesare Federici, an Italian traveler who visited Vijayanagara in 1567, provides an account of the city following its partial destruction after the Battle of Talikota. Although the Aravidu dynasty attempted to reestablish the Vijayanagara capital, their efforts proved unsuccessful.

Sculpture: Expression in Temples and Monolithic Figures

Sculpture played a significant role in Vijayanagara art. Temples showcased intricate sculptures, and monolithic figures were also prevalent. The art of casting bronze continued from the Chola period, with similar themes and modes of treatment. Noteworthy are the life-size portrait sculptures of kings and queens, such as the one found at Tirumala, depicting Krishnadeva Raya and his queens.

Literature: The Golden Age of South Indian Literature

The Vijayanagara period is regarded as the golden age of literature in South India. The Vijayanagara rulers were patrons of literature and supported the composition of religious and secular books in Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil. Scholars from various traditions, including Jain, Virashaiva, and Vaishnava, contributed to the rich literary landscape. The reign of Krishna Raya, known as “Andhra Bhoja,” marked the peak of literary development.

During this period, hundreds of works covering diverse subjects such as religion, philosophy, literature, history, biographies, music, grammar, poetics, and medicine were composed. Commentaries or Bhasyas on religious texts were also written, including those on the Vedas by Sayanacharya and on the Dharmashastra by Himadri. Vyasarya, the patron saint of the Vijayanagara Empire, wrote a detailed work on Dvaita Philosophy. Vedanta Desika composed an epic titled “Yadavabhyudayam” and a poem called “Hansa Sandesa,” closely modeled after Kalidasa’s “Meghaduta.”

Krishna Deva Raya himself, a renowned scholar, contributed to the literary wealth with works such as “Madalasa Charita,” “Satyavadu Parinaya,” “Rasamanjari,” and “Jambavati Kalyana.” Mohanangi, the wife of Ramraya (prime minister to Sadashiva Raya), penned the famous epic “Marichiparinayam.” The age of the Ashtadiggajas, the eight court-poets of Krishnadeva Raya, witnessed notable contributions to literature, including “Manu Charitra” by Allasani Peddana and “Panduranga Mahatyam.”

Significantly, Gangadevi’s “Madhuravijayam,” a Sanskrit work, stands as an important historical narrative from the period.

Language Development

  • The Vijayanagara Empire witnessed significant growth in language development, particularly in the realm of literature.
  • Telugu emerged as a popular literary medium, reaching its peak under the patronage of Krishnadevaraya.
  • Alongside Telugu, languages such as Kannada, Sanskrit, and Tamil also received great thrust and flourished during this period.
  • The administrative and court languages of the Vijayanagara Empire were Kannada and Telugu.

Kannada

  • Kannada literature was mainly promoted by Jaina saints, although contributions came from other sources as well.
  • Bhim Kavi translated the Bhasyapurana, a significant literary work.
  • Over 7,000 inscriptions (Shilashasana) have been recovered, including 300 copper plate inscriptions (Tamarashasana), with almost half of them in Kannada and the rest in Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit.
  • Narahari composed a popular version of Ramayana called Torve Ramayana.
  • Kumaravyas composed Mahabharata in Kannada.
  • Vithalnath translated the Bhagwat Purana into Kannada.
  • Vaishnav Saints Purandhardas, Kanakdas, and Sripathraja contributed to Kannada literature through Bhakti songs and Kirthans.
  • Bhimakavi wrote Basava Purana, while Virupaksha Pandit wrote Chennabasva Purana.

Telugu

  • Telugu emerged as a court language and gained even more cultural prominence during the reign of the later Vijayanagar kings.
  • Until 1500 AD, most books were written in the form of translations.
  • Famous scholars such as Srinatha, Pothana, Jakkama, and Duggana translated Sanskrit and Prakrit works into Telugu.
  • During Bukka I’s time, Gangadevi wrote Madura Vijayam.
  • Devaraya II, another notable ruler, wrote two Sanskrit works: Mahantaka Sudhanidhi and a commentary on the Brahmasutras of Badrayana.
  • Bommara Pothana translated the Bhagwat Purana into Telugu and also wrote Virbhadra Vijayam.
  • Telugu reached its peak during the period of ashtadiggajas.
  • Krishnadevaraya himself contributed to Telugu literature by writing ‘Amuktamalyada,’ a book on polity, and a Sanskrit drama called ‘Jambavati Kalyanam.’
  • Other prominent Telugu poets and writers include Nachana Somanatha, Alsani Peddana, Nandi Timmana, Tenali Ramakrishna, Achyuta Raya, Ramaraya, Tirumala, Dikshitar, Vemana, and Elugandi Peddana.

Tamil

  • Krishna Deva Raya, the Vijayanagara ruler, patronized the Tamil poet Haridasa.
  • Tirumalainatha and his son Paranjotiyar were well-known scholars of the period.
  • Sewaichch-buduyar translated the Bhagavata Puranam into Tamil.

Sanskrit

  • Many Sanskrit scholars were patronized by the Vijayanagara Empire, including Sayanacharya and Vyasaraya, who dedicated most of their works to Dvaita philosophy.
  • Bhatta Akalankedva, a Jain Pandit, wrote a grammar of Kannada in Sanskrit along with a commentary.
  • Works of Vedanta Desika were also written in Sanskrit.

Music and Dance

  • The rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire encouraged court and temple singing as a specialized art and preserved the traditional music of the South without admitting Iranian influence.
  • The Vijayanagara period is renowned for the origin of Carnatic music under the Purandhar Das period, known for the origin of Rudraveens.
  • A wide variety of musical instruments were used by the artists, including Veena, Venu, Mridanga, and more.
  • Since visual representation of vocal music was impossible in sculptures, contemporary music was represented in sculpture and paintings through musical instruments.
  • Notable works on music were written during this period, such as the Sangita Suryodaya of Lakshmi Narain, Sangitasara of Vidayaranya, a Sanskrit commentary on the famous book Sangeet Ratnakar by Kalinath, and the treatise on South Indian music, Swarmer Kalanidhi, by Ramamatya.

Dance

  • Bharatanatyam, a traditional Indian dance form, was promoted and flourished during the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • The dance drama Yakshagana was popular and closely associated with temple walls.
  • Music and dance played an important role in the cultural life of the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • Both folk songs and classical music were equally popular among the masses and the classes, finding reflection in the paintings of the period.

Painting

  • The paintings of the Vijayanagara Empire provide valuable insights into customs, amusements, religious beliefs, and various aspects of social life.
  • These paintings represent a great revival of Hindu religion and art in South India.
  • Painting developed as an adjunct to architecture, primarily in the form of mural painting, which decorated the inner ceilings and walls of palaces.
  • Although only a few surviving examples of these paintings exist today, we have descriptions provided by foreign visitors who witnessed them.

Mural Paintings in Temples

  • Mural paintings can be found in temples such as:
    • Veerabhadra Lepakshi Temple
    • Virupaksha Temple
    • Kalyana Sundareswara Temple

Themes and Features

  • The paintings depict scenes from epics like Ramayana and the Indian Puranas.
  • Scenes related to Draupadi’s wedding and Kiratarjunya (Arjuna’s penance) are also depicted.
  • Animals and wildlife are also a common subject in these paintings.
  • Some paintings portray foreign visitors to the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • The human faces in most Vijayanagara paintings are usually depicted in profile, and the figures stand with a slight slant.
  • The paintings in Veerabhadra Lepakshi Temple follow a unique style with elegant line-work set against an orange-red background.
  • Rich textile patterns, detailed hairstyles, and exquisite jewelry are highlighted in these paintings.
  • The paintings in Veerabhadra Lepakshi Temple depict the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in a spectacular manner.
  • The paintings in Virupaksha Temple in Hampi portray dynastic history, episodes from Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the exploits of Shiva.

Debate on the Contribution of the Vijayanagara Empire in Art and Architecture

  • Scholars hold differing views regarding the cultural contribution of the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • Some historians argue that the empire’s rulers wrote a glorious chapter in the cultural history of South India.
    • They assert that it was due to their patronage that traditional Hindu culture in the South could preserve its distinct identity free of Islamic influences.
    • Additionally, by providing extensive support to cultural activities, they enriched the cultural life of the region.
  • On the other hand, some scholars contend that the Vijayanagara period was marked by cultural stagnation in the South.
    • They argue that the rulers adhered to conservative cultural patterns and did not encourage new ideas or innovations.
    • The literature of the period, especially religious texts, displayed a repetition of old ideas and a lack of fresh thoughts.
    • In sculpture and painting, signs of decay were evident.

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