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Death of an Empire – The Ruins of Hampi
|by Ashish Nangia|
The conquest of the North by the marauding forces of Islam had already sounded the death-knell for most of the Hindu empires, with the exception of a few proud Rajput strongholds. The Sultans of Delhi were now in the process of consolidation and administration, and little by little Muslim rule and the Persian-Saracenic way of life began to permeate throughout the land. The south however was largely ignored, with the rulers of Delhi leaving a governor in Daulatabad who nominally ruled in the name of the Sultan but in reality was a law unto himself. Before long, the inevitable happened with these governors revolting and naming themselves the true rulers.
The Vithala temple was commissioned by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers. Its chief peculiarity lies in the extent of its conception (an area of 500 by 300 feet) and the numerous columns, each an orgy of sculpture in itself.
Like a dying gothic monster, the columns rise from massive pedestals and scream upwards into grotesque brackets of enormous proportions. The large space is completely devoured by the forest of columns, and does not have any pretensions to cohesiveness or concept, becoming instead a maze of intricacy, art rather than architecture.
Hazari Ram Temple
A private chapel of the same ruler has the same suggestion of the grotesque and the fanciful. A combination of forms, including the Buddhist barrel vaulted roof, adds to the repertoire of shapes.
Civic Architecture and the Influence of Islam
Among the most elegant constructions are the so-called 'watch-towers', although in reality most of them may have been built for pleasure, for the nobility to look out over the city. These towers have elements from both Hindu and Islamic vocabulary with typical Islamic arches, an octagonal or square plan, projecting eaves, corbelled brackets under the windows, and a decidedly Hindu finial.
This long, 10-domed structure has mighty arched opening for the animals, very reminiscent of the Lodi tombs in Delhi, and the domes are alternately totally Islamic and with a hint of Hindu influence. The recessed arches in the front elevation as well as the central structure on top (perhaps for drummers and musicians) all combine to make this a must-see.
1. From Persian ambassador Abdu’r-Razzaq’s diaries
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