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Architecture and Literature during Vijayanagara Empire

04-SEP-2015 15:22

    The empire of Vijayanagara (named after the capital city) that prospered under the kingship of Harihara 1 who was succeeded by Bukka Raya 1 of Sangama Dynasty, showed great patronage to the literature, fine arts and architecture. The empire’s benefaction towards these creative pursuits enabled an enriched cultural heritage to that era.

    Exemplary literature in languages Kannada, Telgu, Sanskrit and Tamil with an evolving Carnatic music that we cherish in its current form today grew to great prominence. On the other hand, architectural masterpieces in form of Hindu temples and many monuments (influenced by amalgamating cultural prevalence) that spread over the entire region of South India, shown as marveled structures.

    The era of Sangama dynasty (Vijayanagara Empire) can be equated as a golden age of literature growth that involved scholars of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit to write marvelous works on several aspects like religion, biographies, music, and poetics in the traditions like Jain, Virashaiya and Vishnavas.

    The Kannada literature took a strong Hindu bent and saw prominent writers like Kumara Vyasa, Narahari, Singiraja, BhimaKavi, Padmanaka, Chamarasa and Mallanarya. Writings on the developments of society and religion were prominent with a popular emphasis on secularism throughout. The dynasty did not limit itself to patronage, but, made active contribution to the literature along with the nobility, subordinate rulers and rank-holders.

    Devotional folk literature was written and the native meters like shatpadi (six-line verses), tripadi (three-line verses) and the sangatya (compositions sung with a musical instrument) were popularized.

    Kannada literature was dominated by Jain writers, until the Veerashaivas established their influence from the 15th century. The sung and spoken folk traditions became a popular Kannada hallmark with a goal of devotion to god. Political changes accompanied literary shifts and fine arts developed rapidly. The Vaishnava writers had two groups the Brahmin (writing to royal patronage) and Bhakti (devotional poets). Interaction between Kannada and Telugu literatures saw an increase and translation of text followed.

    Some of the secular writings of this era were based on urban life, style of courts, weddings and ceremonies. Information on town planning and activities of Vijayanagara and the merchants dealing with commodities is also mentioned. The general life and description of various professions is given. Genres like romance, fiction, erotica and folk musical compositions with knowledge of subjects like astronomy, astrology, grammar, veterinary science with dictionaries and encyclopedias were written in the era too.

    Similarly the architecture style evolved through centuries to a simplistic and royal form classified into structures of religion, court, civic designs and associated with sculptured and paintings. Granite was majorly used lively colors were used to accentuate and finish the sculptures and designs.

    Temples were enclosed shrines with a sanctum (garbhagriha) and porch, usually having an antechamber (shukanasi ), a hall (mandapa) and a enclosed pillared hall (rangamantapa), a circumambulatory (Pradakshinapatha), ceremonial hall (kalyanamantapa) and a temple tank for annual celebrations. The pillars of the temples had engravings of charging horses or hippigryphys, the bottom supports of which had engravings of gods and goddesses.

    Miniature elephants adorn the stepped entrances of the mantapas and separate shrines for female deities if the temple is large. A separate kitchen and feeding hall for pilgrims is a central feature of all temples. A stepped storage water tank (pushkarni) is located inside the royal center.

    The palaces of Vijayanagara stood in compound of high walls made by stone, the central area of which could be approached through various passageways and doorways in many directions, and the design was east to north. Palaces were made on raised granite platforms with many moldings and decorations on walls (floral, demon faced, elephants or human figures), the entrance spaces and temple mantapas were usually similarly decorated. Copper and ivory decorated the roof made of brick or lime concrete. Stairs connected to multiple levels and the overall architecture can be seen to be influenced by the Islamic traditions and architecture (e.g. domed structures and stone use).

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