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Remains of the capital city of the Vijayanagara empire are spread out over a beautiful, hilly landscape along the Tungabhadra. Founded in the mid-14th century, Vijayanagara became most powerful during the reigns of Krishnadevaraya and Achyutadevaraya. This was also the period of greatest architectural activity, as both these rulers commissioned several buildings in the royal capital and in other parts of their vast empire. Continuous conflict with the Bahmanis, then with Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda, ended in the Battle of Talikota, in which the Vijayanagara forces were defeated and the capital thoroughly sacked and burnt. Ruins of palaces, temple-complexes, monoliths, royal baths, and mosques still lie mostly deserted and dilapidated.

This enclosure is just outside the royal residence. At the far end is a pavilion with an three arches on the entrance facade leading to vaulted bays. Next to it is a two-storeyed octagonal pavilion.

Royal Residence
This area is still being cleared by excavators. The enclosure walls can be seen ahead and to the right. Moulded basements of verandahs lie on either side of a narrow path. Mouldings have sculptures of rearing lions at regular intervals.

Hazara Rama Temple
Five continuous sculpture friezes cover the outside of the enclosure wall. The panels show (from bottom) processions of elephants, horses, attendants, soldiers, and musicians, circumambulating the temple, possibly a depiction of a real ceremony.

Hazara Rama: North Vimana
The walls raised on a moulded basement are divided by pilasters into projections and recesses. The projections contain Ramayana panels while the corner recesses have a single pilaster with a kumbha-panjara base and an elaborate capital. The projection at the centre of this wall has a carved water-spout.

Hazara Rama: South Vimana
Ramayana panels are chronologically arranged on the walls of the temple so that a devotee reads the entire Ramayana during a pradakshina. Panels in the middle section here show (from right to left) Ravana abducting Sita in his chariot, Jatayu attacking Ravana, and Jatayu with Rama and Lakshmana.

Hazara Rama: Columned Mandapa
The brick parapet of the mandapa has images of dieties in niches with kuta roofs. The space between the niches is filled with rows of attendants. The tall columns have three sculpted sections and a moulded base.

Mahanavami Platform
This elaborate ceremonial platform is laid out in ascending levels with east and west staircases leading to the top. At each level, the sides are covered with carvings of elephants, horses, hunting, battle scenes, and music and dance performances.

Lotus Mahal
This unusual two-storeyed building was a reception hall in the royal enclosure. It has eight pyramidal roofs arranged symmetrically around a higher central roof. The open lower storey has high arched openings. Windows on the upper story also have arched outlines.

Towers built into the enclosure wall on each side survey approaches to the royal complex. This one (north wall) has a square tower with balconies at the top on all four sides. Next to it is a stepped, cruciform basement platform of a royal building.

Elephant Stables
These eleven stables have a facade of arched openings and recesses in Bahmani style. The central stable has a ruined brick-built upper story. Five stables on either side have pyramidal or fluted-domed roofs. To the north of the enclosure is an arcaded structure, probably a viewing gallery.

Tiruvengalanatha Temple
This bazaar street leads from the banks of the Tungabhadra to the gopuram of the Tiruvengalanatha temple-complex. On either side are remains of bazaar colonnades and small temples.

Narasimha Temple
This two storeyed gateway overlooks the Narasimha Temple. Temples like this one next to the Tungabhadra, have beautiful views of the river upto Virupaksha Temple.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha