Vijayanagara an Imperial Capital Part 2 notes by Vibha Maam
The Capital and its Environs
1) Water Resources
There is a natural basin formed by the river Tungabhadra. Vijayanagar is surrounded by granite hills. A number of streams flow down to the river from these hills.
Due to an arid zone, water harvesting was essential.
Many reservoirs and tanks had been constructed in the 15th century. KamalaPuram tank was the most important tank which was conducted through a channel to the ‘royal centre’.
Hiriya Canal is one of the most prominent waterworks which was apparently built by kings of the Sangama Dynasty.
2) Fortifications and Roads
- Abdur Razzak was an ambassador of Persia sent to Calcutta (Kozhikode) in the 15th century. He was immensely impressed by the fortification of Vijayanagara and mentioned seven lines of forts.
- First line encircled the agricultural tracts,city,and forests.
- Second line of fortification went round the inner core of the urban complex.
- Third line surrounded the royal centre.
- The outermost wall linked the hills surrounding the city.
- No cementing agent was used anywhere in the construction.
- The fort was entered through well- guarded gates which linked the city to the major roads.
- Gateways were distinctive architectural features. Art historians refer to this style as indo-Islamic.
- Roads generally wound around through the valleys. avoiding Rocky terrain, some of the most important roads extended from temple gateways and linked by bazaars.
3) The Urban Core
- Archaeologists have formed fine Chinese porcelain in some areas of the north-eastern corner of the urban core.
- These areas were occupied by traders.
- These were also Muslim residential quarters.
- The Portuguese traveller Barbosa described the houses of ordinary peoples as thatched but well built and arranged according to occupations.
- Numerous shrines and small temples point to the prevalence of a variety of cults. Wells, rainwater tanks and temple tanks were the sources of water to the ordinary town dwellers.
The Royal Centre
The royal centre was located in the south- western part of the settlement.
It included over 60 temples and about 30 building complexes have been identified as palaces.
One difference between these structures and temples is that the latter were constructed entirely of masonry while the superstructure of the secular buildings was made of perishable materials.
1) The Mahanavami Dibba
- One of the most distinctive structures is the king’s palace.
- It is the largest of the enclosures.
- It has two of the most impressive platforms, usually called the ‘Audience Hall’ and the Mahanavami Dibba.
- The audience hall is a high platform. It had a staircase going up.
- Mahanavami Dibba is located on one of the highest points in the city. It is a massive platform rising from a base of about 11000 sq ft to a height of 40 ft.
- Rituals associated with the structure probably coincided with mahanavami (Dussehra) during the months of September and October.
- The Vijayanagar kings displayed their prestige, power and suzerainty on this occasion.
- The ceremony performed on the occasion included worship of image, worship of the state horse and the sacrifices of buffaloes and other animals.
2) Other Buildings in the Royal Centre
- One of the most beautiful buildings in the royal centre is the Lotus Mahal.
- It may have been a council chamber.
- One of the most spectacular temples is Hazara Rama temple. This was probably used by the king and his family.
- Some scenes from the Ramayana engraved on the inner wall of the shrine.
- While most temples were located in the sacred centre, there were several in the royal centre as well.
The Sacred Centre
1) Choosing a capital
- The Northern end of the Vijayanagar is rocky. According to local tradition, these hills sheltered the monkey Kingdom of Bali and Sugriv (Ramayana).
- Another tradition suggests that Pampadevi, the local goddess,did penance in these hills in order to marry Virupaksha (Shiva),the guardian deity of the kingdom.
- Among these hills, Jaina temples of Pre-Vijayanagar period are found as well.
- Pallavas, Chalukyas, Hoysala and Cholas rulers encouraged temple buildings. temples also functioned as centers of learning.
- Temples develop as significant religious, social, cultural and economic centres.
- It is likely that the very choice of the site of Vijayanagar was inspired by the existence of the shrine of Virupaksha and Pampa Devi.
The Vijayanagar kings claimed to rule on behalf of the God Virupaksha.
All royal orders were signed “Shri Virupaksha” usually in the Kannada script.
Rulers also indicated their close link with the gods by using the title “Hindu Suratrana” (Hindu Sultan).
Royal portrait sculpture was now displayed in temples.
King’s visits to temples were important state occasions.
2) Gopuram and Mandapas
- Raya gopuram or royal gateways , mandapas or pavilions and long pillar corridors are the distinctive features of the temples.
- We take an example of two temples: Virupaksha temple and Vitthala temple.
- It was built in the 9th-10th century.
- It was substantially enlarged with the establishment of the Vijayanagar Empire.
- The hall in front of the main shrine and eastern gopuram was built by krishnadeva Raya to mark his accession.
- The halls in the temple were used for many purposes- like celebrating the marriage of the deities, dance, drama and swing to deities
- Vithala (Vishnu) is the principal deity of this temple.
- Vithala is generally worshiped in Maharashtra then Karnataka.
- This temple has several halls and a unique shrine designed as a chariot.
- Characteristic feature of the temple complexes is the chariot streets extended from the temple gopuram in a straight line.
- These streets were paved with stone slabs and lined with pillars and pavilions in which merchants set up their shops.
- Local merchants continued with an elaborate tradition of fortification and temple buildings as well.
- Through the 20th century, the site was preserved by the archaeological survey of India and the Karnataka department of archaeology and museum.
- In 1976, Hampi was recognised as a site of national heritage.
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