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Friday 28 June 2024

Travel Throwbacks - Glorious heritage of the glorious Vijayanagara Empire

Heritage in pictures : 3 - A brief revisit to some more of Incredible India's splendid heritage.

A view of Shri Virupaksha Temple complex with its gopura towers
A view of Shri Virupaksha Temple complex from over the Hemakuta hill, at World Heritage site Hampi in Karnataka.

In this episode of heritage in pictures, we'll revisit a few of the splendid heritage sites that were a part of the glorious Vijayanagara Empire that had spanned across the entire southern part of India.

In Hampi, Karnataka

Shri Virupaksha Temple of world heritage site Hampi in Karnataka is most well known, with its colossal temple gopura (entrance tower) towering and giving an iconic look for this region.

There are totally three major towered gateways (gopura) for this temple enclosure. Two main ones on eastern sides, and another one on the northern side, leading towards the tank and the river.

A view of entrance towers of Shri Virupaksha Temple of Hampi
The two main entrance towers (gopura) of Shri Virupaksha Temple of world heritage site of Hampi in Karnataka.

The smaller inner gopura was built by Shri Krishnadevaraya, the then king of the empire. The larger outer gopura was built later on and was destroyed during the tragic destruction of Hampi. It was later rebuilt in the 20th century, which is what you see standing tall today.

Read more about Shri Virupaksha Temple and surrounding monuments in Hampi >


Stone Chariot of Shri Vitthala Temple in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara
The famed Stone Chariot of Shri Vitthala Temple in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara

The famed Stone Chariot of World Heritage site Hampi may need no introduction, as it is a well known icon of this world famous world heritage site. It also adorns the current INR 50 Rupees currency note of India.

Stone Chariot standing before Shri Vitthala Temple in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara
Another view of the Stone Chariot.

This stone chariot is actually a shrine of Garuda, a large bird deity on whom the Hindu god Shri Vishnu travels on. This shrine is modelled like a chariot so intricately carved from granite that originally the wheels could be turned. These wheels are now fixed to avoid people damaging it by turning it.

A side view of the Stone Chariot of Shri Vitthala Temple in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara
A side view of the Stone Chariot.

But did you know, this isn't exactly how it originally looked. This stone chariot once had an ornate brick and plaster shikhara superstructure above it, which you can see clearly in Alexander Greenlaw’s 1856 pictures of this, as well as in others’ who photographed it in that century.

Splendidly sculpted pillars of Shri Vitthala Temple of Hampi - Vijayanagara
Splendidly sculpted columns of a mandapa (pavillion) of Shri Vitthala Temple.

And it's not just the stone chariot, but the beautifully sculpted stone pillars of Shri Vitthala Temple and its mandapas are a testimony to the glorious era of this glorious empire and its glorious capital city Vijayanagara and the glorious gems of its glorious art and architecture. Sadly, many parts of this magnificent temple lies in ruins today.

Read more about the Stone Chariot and Shri Vithala Temple of Hampi >


Lakshmi Narasimha monolith in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara
Lakshmi Narasimha monolith near Shri Krishna Temple in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara.

The famous Shri Lakshmi Narasimha monolithic sculpture stands 6.7 meters tall (~ 21 feet) in a small open shrine near Shri Krishna Temple of Hampi. This beautiful iconic monolith was consecrated by Krishna Bhatta during Shri Krishnadevaraya’s reign in 1528 CE, according to nearby inscriptions.

This kind of Lakshmi Narasimha sculptures or idols are seen in various Hoysala temples, which obviously inspired this one at Hampi in Vijayanagara, the capital city of this empire. However, this image of Lakshmi Narasimha is much larger than the ones that you may see in Hoysala temples.

This beautiful monolith was partially ruined with a damaged face with broken nose and upper lip, some pieces chipped off from chest, broken arms and legs, a partially ruined kirthimukha, which are evident from John Gollings’ photograph of the statue in around 1984. What you see today is the result of later restorations.

Read More about Shri Lakshmi Narasimha monolith and Shri Krishna Temple of Hampi >


A view of Lotus Mahal in world heritage site Hampi Vijayanagara
Lotus Mahal in world heritage site Hampi - Vijayanagara.

A rare remnant and a beautiful example of Vijayanagara courtly architecture, the Lotus Mahal stands today majestically in the so called Zenana enclosure in World Heritage site Hampi.

Nobody knows what was the original name or purpose of this building, and the name Lotus Mahal was given based on its appearance. The actual role or purpose of this enclosure and the structures within it is also not known; and the names they're currently called as, were named so during the British Raj.

A view of elephant stables in world heritage site Hampi
Elephant Stables, World Heritage site Hampi.

Another noteworthy monument just outside this enclosure is the Elephant Stables. A long and large structure made of carved granite, and possibly brick and mortar superstructures, this is one of the few courtly structures of Vijayanagara to survive the terrible destruction of the once glorious city of victory.

Read More about Zenana enclosure, Lotus Mahal, etc. >


An ornate shrine beside Shri Hazara Rama temple in Hampi Vijayanagara
An ornate Devi shrine by Shri Hazara Raama Temple of Vijayanagara - the world heritage site Hampi in Karnataka.

The Hazara Rama temple is found close to the Royal Enclosure in world heritage Hampi, and it stands right opposite to the remnants of the pan-supari bazaar. This is a very beautiful temple, even though it is partially ruined in places.

Relief sculptures on enclosure walls of Hazara Rama temple complex in Hampi, Ballari district, Karnataka, India
Relief sculptures on north enclosure wall of Shri Hazara rama Temple, World Heritage site Hampi.

Read more about Hazara Rama Temple and other monuments in royal enclosure or the urban core >

The Vijayanagara empire was named after the capital city Vijayanagara by foreign travellers and visitors to this place, which is what people usually refer to it these days as. However, the actual name of this empire was called Karnata Samrajya, which is mentioned in the inscriptions which were found.

View More in World Heritage Site Hampi Vijayanagara >


In Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh

Splendidly sculpted columns of the unfinshed hall of Lepakshi Veerabhadra Swami temple
The spectacular unfinished hall of Shri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple in Lepakshi, Andhra Pradesh.

And speaking of the glorious Vijayanagara empire or Karnata Samrajya, its marvellous temples aren't limited only to Vijayanagara - the glorious capital city itself, but are also found in many other places that were within the empire's span.

The magnificent monolithic Nandi in Lepakshi
The large magnificent monolith of Nandi, in Lepakshi.

Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh is one such place which houses a Vijayanagara era marvel - above 490 years old Shri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple. Even though being in the state of Andhra Pradesh, Lepakshi is just about 120 kilometres from Bengaluru the capital city of Karnataka.

The magnificent monolithic Nagalinga in Lepakshi
The large magnificent monolith of Nagalinga, in Lepakshi.
>A three-dimensional Yali figure carved out of a single column in Shri Veerabhadra Swamy temple of Lepakshi
A three-dimensional Yali figure carved out of a single column in Shri Veerabhadra Swamy temple of Lepakshi.

However, there is a tragic tale associated with this temple in Lepakshi, which is the reason why certain portions of the temple remained unfinished.

Read More about the wonders and the history of Lepakshi >


In Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh

Towering gopura - entrance tower of Shri Madhavaraya Temple of Gandikota
The towering gopura - entrance tower of Shri Madhavaraya Temple of Gandikota, in Andhra Pradesh.

Gandikota fort existed since the ancient times, and has been ruled by several regimes over the centuries. This temple within this fort, Shri Madhavaraya Temple, is contemporary of Shri Krishnadevaraya's reign in Vijayanagara.

A relief sculpture of an archer riding on a Yali, on a column of Shri Madhavaraya Temple of Gandikota
A relief sculpture of an archer riding on a Yali, carved on a column this temple in Gandikota.

A French gem merchant and traveller named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who visited it in the 17th century, was so impressed that he said that Gandikota was like a second Hampi.

Read more about Gandikota and its rich heritage >


Now, while the above were just a few unmistakable examples of what's called the Vijayanagara style of architecture, there were other temples of different or variant styles which were built within the span of this empire during its glorious period of reign during 1336 to 1565 CE. Let us briefly see a few of those below.


In Sringeri, Karnataka

A view of front side of Shri Vidyashankar Temple of Sringeri
A view of front side of Shri Vidyashankar Temple of Sringeri, in Karnataka.

Shri Vidyashankara temple at Sringeri, in Chikkamagalur district of Karnataka, is a magnificent architecture, beautifully built entirely out of carved stone in around 1338 CE, in the memory of Guru Vidyashankara, by Vidyaranya who headed the Sringeri Sharada peetha from 1331 CE to 1386 CE.

Guru Vidyaranya of Sringeri played an important role in establishing the glorious Vijayanagara Empire. This magnificent temple was built with the aid of the Vijayanagara rulers, combining different styles of temple architectures such as the Hoysala, Chalukya, and Dravida or Vijayanagara styles.

A view of rear side of Shri Vidyashankar Temple of Sringeri
A view of rear side of Shri Vidyashankara Temple of Sringeri.

It is one of the temples from the earliest period of Vijayanagara empire which was established just a few years ago, and this temple incorporates several elements from their predecessor Hoysala style and also other styles prevalent in further southern regions, such as the rounded corners, for example.

Read More about Temples of Sringeri >


In Moodabidri, Karnataka

A view of the front side mandapa of Savira Kambada Basadi - Thousand Pillared Jain Temple in Moodabidri
Savira Kambada Basadi - Thousand Pillared Jain Temple in Moodabidri, Karnataka.

Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani basadi, well known as the Savira Kambada Basadi - Thousand Pillared Jain Temple, the largest and finest of its kind in coastal Karnataka, was originally built in 1430 CE by the Chowta ruler Devaraya Wodeyar, and completed in three stages. The land to construct this temple was donated by the king of Vijayanagara empire.

A view of the rear side of Savira Kambada Basadi - Thousand Pillared Jain Temple in Moodabidri
A view of the rear side of Savira Kambada Basadi.

This is largest and the most famous among the 18 Jain Temples of Moodabidri, the town which is well knows as Jain Kashi.

Read More about Thousand Pillars Temple of Moodabidri >


In Barkur, Karnataka

A temple pond with a remnant pillar in Barkur
A temple pond with a remnant column in Barkur, Karnataka.

Barkur, the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom, is today just a small town in Udupi district of Karnataka. It was known as Barakanur, and was once a major trade and commercial centre around 2nd century CE.

It was a capital of the Alupa Kings and was also a provincial headquarters during the Vijayanagara empire. Although it was a capital since the ancient times, much before Mangalore and Udupi were prominent cities, only a very few remnants and monuments of it remain now in Barkur.

A fort in Barkur was built by Harihara I (also known as Hakka), who was the co-founder of the Vijayanagara Empire. Unfortunately, nothing much of this fort remains today.

Read More about Barkur >


These aren't all of the glorious heritage of the glorious Vijayanagara empire, as there are many monuments and temples from that period. However, that's all for this episode of Heritage in Pictures.

See you in our upcoming post where we bring you an all new travel story. All the in pictures series and episodes can be found in the new In Pictures section.

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