The Allure of Ancient Palaces
When architecture is an empire’s most visible legacy
The striking monuments and stone structures of the Vijaynagara empire of the 14th century were defined by their details and nuances, so rare for those times. They express an artistic sensibility and geometric precision that revealed a fund of great knowledge, of both composition and materials, that the builders of the time had access to.
This is best revealed in the architecture that characterized its palaces. These embody a multiplicity of styles and influences attesting to the syncretic nature of the empire’s social culture and the progressive temperament of its rulers.
The Vijaynagara kings welcomed a great variety of perspectives to enrich their architectural vision for their capital city of Hampi and its environs. During its zenith the city received a great number of visitors from all around. Its resident population also had the presence of various minority communities of differing religions and culture. It is quite likely that these brought various influences to subtly bear upon the architectural ambitions of various kings of the dynasty.
The Palaces are the best expressions of these secular influences, which included classical Indian, Islamic and Saracenic design elements. They are also complex in their execution, featuring walls, pillars, passages, stairways, balconies and balustrades along with ornate roofs and intricate jalis. Together they truly endorsed the unique vision of the royal lineage of this kingdom. Additionally, these palaces also featured mantapas, gardens and water tanks, all in a composite mosaic that expressed a very evolved aesthetic vision.
The secular nature of the architecture of this once glorious kingdom says a great deal about the cultural pluralism and inclusiveness that prevailed here, giving it a special place among the great empires of India.