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The "Fall" of Vijayanagara Reconsidered: Political Destruction and Historical Construction in South Indian History 1


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The eponymous capital of Vijayanagara was largely abandoned following the defeat of the imperial army at Talikota in 1565. The city was burned and looted and its monumental temple complexes, gateways, and images left in ruins. Despite large-scale damage to architecture in the city, however, the level and focus of destruction was strikingly variable. In this paper, we draw on the material record of late Vijayanagara temple complexes and other archaeological evidence to examine patterns of differentially distributed political violence. We suggest that these patterns may be understood, in part, in terms of the contemporary politics of sovereignty, incorporation, and reconstitution of elite authority. Drawing on these observations, we discuss the role of commemorative destruction as well as post-1565 temple rededications and abandonments in the afterlife of Vijayanagara as a social space. In particular, we examine the potential of monumental violence to act as a symbol or to index social memory through a creative and fluid process of instituting claims about the past, heritage, authenticity, and the nature of the present.
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© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2013 DOI: 10.1163/15685209-12341314
Journal of the Economic and
Social History of the Orient 56 (2013) 433-470
e “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered:
Political Destruction and Historical Construction
in South Indian History1
Mark T. Lycett and Kathleen D. Morrison2
e eponymous capital of Vijayanagara was largely abandoned following the defeat of the
imperial army at Talikota in 1565. e city was burned and looted and its monumental
temple complexes, gateways, and images left in ruins. Despite large-scale damage to archi-
tecture in the city, however, the level and focus of destruction was strikingly variable. In
this paper, we draw on the material record of late Vijayanagara temple complexes and other
archaeological evidence to examine patterns of differentially distributed political violence.
We suggest that these patterns may be understood, in part, in terms of the contemporary
politics of sovereignty, incorporation, and reconstitution of elite authority. Drawing on
1) is article builds on nearly 30 years of research by the authors both in the city of
Vijayanagara and its surrounding region. For the former, the support and published work
of the Vijayanagara Research Project directed by John Fritz and George Michell has been
essential; we thank John in particular for his useful comments as we were preparing this
paper and for the use of VRP maps. Similarly, excavations by both the Archaeological Sur-
vey of India and our long-time collaborators at the Karnataka Directorate of Archaeology
and Museums provided important windows into the occupational history of the city. e
Vijayanagara Metropolitan Survey, co-directed by Kathleen Morrison and Carla Sinopoli,
provided a regional perspective, while observations of the axial destruction of certain large
temple complexes by Mark Lycett in the context of his annual course on ‘Landscape and
Place in South India,’ prompted us to look back to historic photographs which show these
patterns prior to recent reconstruction work. Permission to use historic photos was gra-
ciously given by the British Library. Special thanks to Daud Ali and other participants in
the seminar “Monastery, Mosque, and Temple: Jains, Muslims and Hindus in the Medieval
Deccan (c. 700-1700),” held at the University of Pennsylvania, for comments, questions,
and encouragement. Comments by Phillip Wagoner and an anonymous reviewer were
extremely helpful in making revisions; of course, any remaining errors are ours alone.
2) Mark T. Lycett, University of Chicago, Department of Anthropology 1126 E. 59th
St. University of Chicago Chicago, IL 60637 USA; Kathleen D. Morrison, University of
Chicago, Department of Anthropology, 1126 E. 59th St. University of Chicago, Chicago,
IL 60637 USA.
434 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
these observations, we discuss the role of commemorative destruction as well as post-1565
temple rededications and abandonments in the afterlife of Vijayanagara as a social space. In
particular, we examine the potential of monumental violence to act as a symbol or to index
social memory through a creative and fluid process of instituting claims about the past,
heritage, authenticity, and the nature of the present.
Vijayanagara, temple destruction, commemoration, political violence, Medieval South India
During the course of twenty days that they remained at the seat of war, the Sul-
tans took their ease and nursed the wounded and sick. en they turned toward
Vijayanagar where they razed the lofty building and temples to the ground. e work
of destruction was carried out with a vengeance. Vijayanagar was an extensive city,
flourishing and well-populated. It had never experienced any foreign invasion for ages.
e nobility, the wealthy, the soldiery, the peasants and the artisans all drove a roaring
trade. During the confusion and disorder following the Muslim invasion, the citizens
out of fear lurked in their houses, cellars, wells, and reservoirs. ose that were well-
to-do betook themselves to the neighboring mountains and caverns with their family
and chattels. . . . e Muslim army remained at Vijayanagar for about six months. To a
distance of twenty leagues round the city everything was burnt and reduced to ashes.
(Basu 2000:254, translation of the Basatin al-Salatin of Mirza Ibrahim al-Zubairi)
Ruled over by four successive dynasties of kings, the Vijayanagara polity
transformed itself from a small regional kingdom to the major political and
military power in southern India within the space of about two hundred
years. e eponymous capital city of this empire was largely abandoned
following the defeat of the Tuluva dynasty’s imperial army at Talikota in
1565. Areas of the city were burned and looted and many of its monumen-
tal temple complexes, gateways, and images were left in ruins. However—
and despite an historical tradition emphasizing the total destruction of
the city—the level and focus of destruction was strikingly variable. In this
paper, we draw on the material record to examine these patterns of differ-
entially distributed violence as experience, politics, and symbol.
e events of 1565 took place in an already extant, meaningful, and
contested landscape, and the city of Vijayanagara, as a social space, can be
seen as a complex and contingent product of both its prior and subsequent
history of inhabitation and meaningful associations. e settings of social
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 435
action are themselves material forms of history that provide repertoires
for the continued construction and reworking of place, landscape, and
social geographies. Indeed, it is the continued salience of the city that
provides the raw material for its historical reconstitution in both material
and symbolic forms. Enough standing architecture still exists to merit a
UNESCO World Heritage designation and to draw thousands of tour-
ists and pilgrims a year, visitors mostly unaware of the vast size or even
the existence of the unexcavated parts of the city. Indeed, its UNESCO
designation, “group of monuments at Hampi,” erases the urban character
of this abandoned but remarkably well-preserved city almost as effectively
as its historical reputation as a place destroyed. e tiny modern village
of Hampi, along with several other villages, was at one time encompassed
within the sprawling city, but both pre- and post-dates the urban occupa-
tion. e name of this village, Hampi, is the most common name for the
city as destination, especially among tourists, erasing even its historical
place-name as a location of contemporary relevance. One of the earliest
historical studies of Vijayanagara (Sewell 1900) famously referred to it as
a “forgotten empire,” something that may have been true outside South
Asia, but never within it, where the “fall” of the city is often employed as
an historical watershed. Vijayanagara here does exist as a toponym, one
present only in its absence, a place relegated entirely to the past. Narra-
tives of continuity and loss; torches passed and sovereignties vanquished;
new orders and timeless essentials build on the (incompletely) scorched
earth of Vijayanagara. In this article, we examine four closely interrelated
aspects of the ongoing historical construction of Vijayanagara in relation
to the fall of the city and its associated patterns of destruction: the con-
temporary politics of sovereignty; destructive acts as social production and
commemorative claim; the ongoing experience of the region’s inhabitants;
and finally, the construction of social memory as a relationship between
history and place.
Statements about rule, whether enshrined or erased, may be understood
within a broader politics of commemoration and claims on the authorita-
tive understanding of history. ere is no doubt that the forms of violence
visited on the temple districts and elite precincts of the city in 1565 were
designed to be symbolic as well as instrumental. e choice of targets and
their pattern of destruction were neither random nor indiscriminate, but
remarkably focused and strategic. e desecration of some temples followed
a logic of the displacement and reconstitution of elite authority consistent
436 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
with the contemporary political milieu of precolonial South Asia.3 Other
politically important temples were left relatively intact. Even in areas tar-
geted for destruction, devastation was remarkably selective, specific, and
regular. is specificity, along with the organization of labor, material,
and time entailed in its enactment, suggests that these material acts were
themselves durable and transcendent attempts to invoke understandings
of history, society, and posterity (Lefebvre 1991:220-226). at is, pat-
terns of destruction are not simply reflections of realized power relations,
but claims about authority, sovereignty, and the outcome of history. Even
without subsequent construction or appropriation of elements, these mate-
rial claims have a politics; they require active production and they enter
into networks of social and historical relationships as symbolically preg-
nant statements.4 Such claims are never totalizing, but always ambiguous
and situational, open to contest and negotiation. At Vijayanagara, these
negotiations play out in both political and historiographic time scales.
Vijayanagara as Experience and Symbol
In the historical imagination, the Vijayanagara state is closely identified
with the capital city, so much so that the eventual “fall” and abandon-
ment of elite precincts of the city is taken as an index for the demise
of the polity—and all it came to stand for. e temporal framing of
K.A. Nilankanta Sastri’s (1955) influential history of South India: “from
prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar” makes it clear that the “fall”
marks the end of an era, quite literally. Although most scholars take care to
note that the empire continued after 1565, historiographic traditions con-
tinue to employ the city as synecdoche, with the elite abandonment and
3) We explain this more fully below, but here we are indexing aspects of the contemporary
politics of sovereignty in premodern South Asia wherein claims of legitimate rule and forms
of elite positioning consistently involved gift-giving and patronage, often (though not
solely) religious patronage. As its inverse, politics and self-fashioning also involved destruc-
tive acts as forms of both social and political statements and commemorative claims.
4) Much of the thinking about political destruction in South Asia has centered on the topic
of temple destruction, with scholars such as Eaton (2000) cogently pointing to the political
processes at work when Muslim armies dismantled Hindu temples and reused parts of
them in subsequent constructions. (and see Asher 2006; Guha-akurta 2004) e appro-
priation and reuse of older structures is not, of course, limited to Muslim use of Hindu
architecture, but can be seen across time, as discussed by Morrison (2009) for the Vijayana-
gara region from the Neolithic onward. See also Wagoner. (2007, 2011)
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 437
presumed destruction of the city a decisive event. (e.g. Sastri 1955; Kulke
and Rothermund 1986:193) Against this, one might argue that although
the capital was indeed abandoned by many of its elite residents, the realm
did contain other cities and, in the end, only a small chunk of imperial
territory was lost. Closer to the ground, it is clear from archaeological
evidence that the great majority of the rural population continued to live
and work in the region, and even that the extensive irrigation features and
lands watered by the Tungabhadra River—lands inside and near the city—
continued to be maintained and used. (Morrison 2009, 2010; Sinopoli
and Morrison 2007)
Despite the importance accorded to the sacking of Vijayanagara—in
a world in which conquest and plunder were not rare—there is almost
nothing written about patterns of abandonment and destruction in and
around the city after 1565. Certainly there are no systematic discussions of
damage outside either sweeping generalizations such as ‘not a stone was left
standing,’ or observations on individual structures or groups of structures.5
(e.g. Fritz, Michell, and Nagaraja Rao 1985; Dallapiccola, et al. 1992)
In this paper, we begin to address this lacuna by considering differential
patterns of damage and their implications, setting these within the larger
context of the life histories of places, structures, and regions.
Commemoration and Social Memory
Conventional understandings of the Vijayanagara state emphasize the
“Hindu” nature of the polity and its role in “holding back” the “tideof Islam
in the south. (e.g. Kulke and Rothermund 1986: 188-189; see discussions of
Vijayanagara historiography by Guha 2009 and Stein 1989) Indeed, there
are only a handful of similarly potent symbols of inter-religious conflict,
5) is often-repeated phrase comes from Sewell (1900:67): “In the central enclosure are
the remains of great structures that must have once been remarkable for their grandeur and
dignity. ese immediately surrounded the king’s palace; but in 1565 the Muhammadans
worked their savage will upon them with such effect that only the crumbling ruins of the
more massive edifices amongst them still stand. e site of the palace itself is marked by a
large area of ground covered with heaps of broken blocks, crushed masonry, and fragments
of sculpture, not one stone being left upon another in its original position.” Suryanarain
Row, who spent several years in the region around the turn of the century, notes (1993
[1908]:330) that as a consequence of funds allocated following Viceroy Curzon’s visit to the
site around 1900, excavations had yielded, “Many underground structures . . . in the palace
precincts which are in very good state of preservation.”
438 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
with both recent historiographic tradition and popular imagination stress-
ing the essential religious identity of both the Vijayanagara polity and the
Deccani Sultanates, the Muslim-ruled polities to the north who eventually
came together to defeat the imperial armies at Talikota in 1565. Although
all of these polities included diverse populations, Vijayanagara is consis-
tently cast as the valiant last defender of Hinduism against Islam, a south-
ern refugium of this seemingly imperiled faith.6 (Krishnaswami Aiyangar
1921; Sastri 1955:9-10) Indeed, the word almost universally selected—
Vijayanagara as a bulwark against Muslim invasions—evokes the language
of walls and fortifications, seemingly indexing the solid walls of the city
itself. City and state are here interchangeable. If the state, itself imagined as
essentially Hindu, is a bulwark against aggressive Islam, then its material-
ization creates an essentially Hindu urban space. By any measure, however,
the actual physical city of Vijayanagara was a multi-religious, multi-ethnic,
and multi-linguistic place, containing Hindus of all persuasions, Jains,
Muslims, and even Christians. Idioms of elite, non-religious architecture
and modes of royal dress and comportment established claims and connec-
tions to the contemporaneous cosmopolitan elite of South Asia, including
the sultanates of the north. In spite of energetic scholarly challenges to the
communal stereotype (Stein 1989; Verghese 1995; Wagoner 1996, 2007)
and demonstrations of the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the notion of
the city’s basic Hinduness has persisted, only slightly modified in response
to suggest that its cosmopolitanism represented a sort of island of toler-
ance in a sea of (Muslim) bigotry and danger. (Narasimhaiah 1992:2-3;
Suryanarain Row 1993[1908]:286-7)
In discussing the “fall” of the city, it is oddly difficult to avoid consid-
eration of the city’s initial founding. Scholarly attention to urban origins
vastly overshadows attention to the “fall,” a rather surprising situation given
the latter’s use, after Sastri, as a marker for the end of an era, the medieval
giving way to the early modern. Here, however, we need to understand
both the persistent characterization of Vijayanagara as a Hindu wall or
dam blocking the “flow” of Muslim expansion, and also the easy confla-
tion of polity and city. A breached dam allows water to flow through. Once
6) B. Narasimaiah, one of the archaeologists in charge of excavations in the central part of
the city during the 1980s, expresses this sentiment clearly (1992:2-3): “e Muhammadan
invaders were particular in looting the temples which were repositories not only of wealth
but also of knowledge and culture. ey mercilessly killed those who resisted and forcibly
converted those who submitted to their fate.”
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 439
the walls of the city were breached (though this is purely metaphorical as
there is no evidence for damage to fortification walls), dangerous floods
spread across the land. A narrative structure emphasizing closure—a basic
and compelling narrative form in which the themes of the introduction
recur in the conclusion—thus requires that the end of the city be under-
stood in terms of the conditions of its founding. Said to be founded in the
first place because of Muslim incursions, the city fell to Muslims in the end
(Venkata Ramanayya 2007 [1933]). us, narratives of destruction seem
almost always linked to accounts of founding. Where one might expect to
read long accounts of what, precisely happened in and after 1565, in fact
much more energy has been placed on working out what happened around
1336, the traditional founding date of the city.7 Although we resist this
basic symmetry—our concern is with the period during and after 1565—
some account of the city and it occupational history is necessary here.
e Vijayanagara Urban Landscape
e capital city lay at the northern frontier of the empire, along the south-
ern edge of the Raichur doab, a fertile tract of dry land which passed in
and out of Vijayanagara control. In contrast to the rich alluvial deltas with
their intensive agriculture that supported other south Indian capitals, the
Vijayanagara region contains only the very limited alluvial soils of the
Tungabhadra River. Outside this narrow alluvial strip, the landscape is
dominated by granitic outcrops with limited soil development and agri-
cultural potential.
e landscape in which the city sits is defined by two sets of sacred
associations that predate the founding of the city: the cult of Pampa, and
the identification of the Hampi-Daroji hills with Kishkindha, the mon-
key kingdom of the Ramayana and birthplace of the hero Hanuman.8
7) Of course, there is a linear as well as circular temporality at work here. From whom did
the Vijayanagara polity inherit its “Hindu mantle” and to whom did it go? e Marathas
and the Mysore state, for example, are both mentioned by Sastri (1955:26) as “inheri-
tors” of empire and indeed later rulers often claimed such connections (Wagoner 1993;
Narayana Rao, Shulman and Subrahmanyam 1992; cf. Guha 2009).
8) e local river goddess, Pampa, had already been Sanskritized by the 12th c. (Verghese
1995), incorporated by marriage to the cult of Virupaksha of Hemakuta, a form of Shiva.
e expansion of the Virupaksha cult is associated with the spread of Virashaivism prior
to the founding of Vijayanagara and Virupaksha drew royal patronage during the Hoysala
period. It was during the early Vijayanagara period, however, that Virupaksha became the
440 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
(Dallapiccola 1994) Although the Pampa tirtha, or sacred river-crossing,
was a culturally important place in the five or six hundred years before the
founding of Vijayanagara, it was not a major locus of settlement prior to
1300, with settlement concentrated instead both east and west of the even-
tual location of the city. (Morrison 2009) Later Vijayanagara settlement
would center on the Pampa tirtha in an appropriation of an existing sacred
place which was an important strategy of legitimation and positioning vis-
a-vis the past and the local sacred power.
e Ramayana, the great epic of rajadharma is, as Richman (1991)
points out, a potent and varied body of signifiers built on the scaffolding of
a single narrative. Within the city, there is a parallel deployment of author-
itative versions of Ramayana tradition and popular or folk versions that
create a politics of particular readings and their points of emphasis. Several
locations in and around the city came to be associated with Ramayana
scenes from at least the 11th century, with Ramayana associations appear-
ing in the local sthalapuranas, and informal Ramayana carvings appearing
on boulders. By the 15th century, however, Rama came to figure centrally
in royal patronage and ritual, followed in the 15th and 16th century by
the cults of Vitthala, Krishna, and Tiruvengalanatha, all of which figured
prominently in the imperial politics of the Tuluva dynasty. (Dallapiccola
1994; Verghese 1995)
Both Vijayanagara historiography and traditional founding stories often
mention the de novo character of the city and the empire, a claim of nov-
elty not entirely supported by the material record. Archaeological research
shows that the region which would become the Vijayanagara urban land-
scape contained a long history of settlement and agriculture, a landscape
already known, named, and memorialized, with cleared fields, temples,
and occupied places. But this historiographic focus is correct in the sense
that there was, in part and in conjunction with a deliberate appropria-
tion of the past, including the Pampa tirtha, a deliberate divorce with the
past, a statement of founding and establishment of something new. (Mor-
rison 2009) e city of Vijayanagara, along with the empire bearing its
name, did grow extraordinarily rapidly, assuming an unprecedented size
and form. is ambiguous relationship between continuity and change,
rupture and residence, is also true of the “abandonment” of the city, in
tutelary deity of empire and the great temple complex and pilgrimage center at Hampi was
first developed (Verghese 1995; Wagoner 1991).
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 441
which historical imagination of total destruction is at odds with the mate-
rial record of continued, albeit significantly restructured, occupation.
Divisions of the City
Both long-term connections and innovations of the Vijayanagara period
can be discerned in the regional landscape itself. As noted, the city grew
up around an important pilgrimage spot on the Tungabhadra River. e
earliest architectural remains in this area are on and near Hemakuta Hill,
which contains several small pre-Vijayanagara and early Vijayanagara tem-
ples, the oldest perhaps built in the ninth century. (Wagoner 1991) e
core of the great Virupaksha temple of Hampi, adjacent to Hemakuta,
also dates back this far although most of the structure was built during the
Vijayanagara period itself. is area near the river is referred to by Fritz,
Michell, and Nagaraja Rao (1985) as the Sacred Center, in recognition of
the many massive temple complexes found here (Figure 1).
Further south is what Fritz et al. term the Urban Core, a walled area
of settlement some 20km2, separated from the Sacred Center by a
line of granite outcrops and by the irrigated valley, an intensive agricultural
zone watered by river-fed canals. e Urban Core contains both residen-
tial and commercial areas. Here there is clear evidence of religious diver-
sity, including Jain temples, both Vaisnavite and Saivite temples, and the
“Muslim Quarter,” an area containing a mosque, dharmsala (rest house),
and a distinctive ceramic assemblage. (Michell 1990; Nagaraja Rao 1983;
Sinopoli 1993)
Within the Urban Core is the Royal Center, an area containing numer-
ous walled enclosures protecting monumental structures and areas of
elite residence and work (Figure 2). Contained within the Royal Center
are the elephant stables, numerous audience halls and platforms, water
tanks, “palaces,which can be both residential and administrative, tem-
ples (including the large Ramachandra temple complex), and examples of
the secular architecture that Michell (1992) has named the Vijayanagara
“courtly style.” is style, once known as “Indo-Saracenic, was widely
shared across the Deccan and integrates design elements from temple
architecture with forms from Islamicate structures. ese structures index
a shared courtly and cosmopolitan culture that transcended religious divi-
sions. Here we employ Fritz, Michell, and Nagaraja Raos (1985) numeri-
cal designations for the many internal divisions of the Royal Center, when
442 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
Figure 1: City of Vijayanagara, showing major areas mentioned in text.
Modified from map provided courtesy the Vijayanagara Research Project.
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 443
possible also indicating the more popular names for these areas (e.g. “the
zenana” or “womens’ quarters” vs. Enclosure XIV).
Survey work by the Vijayanagara Metropolitan Survey (VMS) project
shows that, in addition to these three zones, there is a densely settled area
beyond the Urban Core, inside the outer ring of the city walls. (Morrison
2005, 2010; Sinopoli and Morrison 1995, 2007) Most of this appears
to date to the sixteenth century. Further out are named suburbs, many
still inhabited. Although these categories do overstate the spatial separa-
tion of the city (there are temples in the royal center, palaces in the urban
core, residences and shops in the sacred center, and gardens throughout
the city), they provide convenient labels for discussing the layout of this
large city and its hinterland.
Figure 2: e Royal Center. Located in the southwestern part of the Urban
Core, this area is divided into numerous walled enclosures. Map courtesy
the Vijayanagara Research project.
444 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
is dense urban concentration is situated within a rural landscape con-
taining numerous small towns and villages and characterized by a diverse
repertoire of agricultural strategies. Beyond the walled city lies a large yet
loosely fortified area of more than 350 km2 that constitutes much of the
immediate agricultural sustaining area of the city. (Morrison 1995; Sinop-
oli and Morrison 2007) Here small and large villages, many adjacent to
the radial roadways leading into the city, populate the countryside. While
some of these settlements have longer occupational histories, a significant
number, especially in the areas south and west of the city, were founded in
the early sixteenth century. (Morrison 2009)
Very few of these were ever abandoned and most rural settlements, as
well as several of the city’s suburbs, continue to be occupied today.
Two major periods of settlement expansion and agricultural intensifi-
cation occurred in and around the city. (Morrison 1995) e first major
expansion of population and construction came in the early fourteenth
century, with the formal establishment of the city and the construction of
the Urban Core walls. ere is a distinctive pattern of fourteenth-century
settlement that focuses on irrigated land, with urban settlement as well
as smaller villages and towns located near the Tungabhadra River. At this
time there was only a scattering of walled towns further inland.
During the beginning of the sixteenth century, both urban and rural
population grew dramatically. Within the city itself, now a sprawling meg-
alopolis whose suburbs had swallowed up several pre-existing villages, pop-
ulation levels may have reached as many as 300,000 people. Whatever the
precise number, this was clearly one of the largest cities of the era. Inside
the city walls, an active building program created new monumental archi-
tecture, including many of the vast temple complexes of the Sacred Center.
Outlying suburban centers, one of which lives on as the city of Hospet,
also received considerable royal attention. e impact of this dense popu-
lation aggregation on the surrounding landscape was considerable; agricul-
ture was greatly expanded to accommodate expanded demand, and scores
of new villages were established.
Late Vijayanagara Temple Complexes
e sixteenth century witnessed well-documented shifts in the form,
scale, and elaboration of temple complexes within the city. is has been
described as a shift from simpler and smaller scale “Deccani” styles to larger
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 445
and more elaborate Tamil” styles featuring walled complexes set off by
monumental gateway towers or gopura. (Verghese 2000, 2011) While not
all late Vijayanagara temples are elaborated in these ways, the great temple
complexes of the Tuluva period share a series of architectural characteris-
tics: formally enclosed complexes entered through massive gateways with
elaborate gopura; standardized layouts leading from gateway to garbagriha
(sanctuary); associated subsidiary shrines and columned halls or mandapa;
elaborate column forms with stereotypic images; new iconographies asso-
ciated with the foundation myths of important pilgrimage centers as well
as royal images and donor portraits; and associated bazaar streets extending
as much as a kilometer from the temple gates. In some cases (the Krishna,
Tiruvengalanatha, and Pattabhirama temples, for example) these com-
plexes were constructed in a single well-planned episode, while in others
(Virupaksha and Vitthala), already important sacred centers were elabo-
rated in a way that conformed to this template. Either through accretional
reworking or planned construction, a series of large, elaborate, and heavily
inscribed temple complexes came into being in the city during a period of
about 25 years.
In each case, these temple complexes centered on or formed the ker-
nel of a substantial suburban settlement. Many had store rooms and vast
kitchens and were referred to as towns in their own right, supporting large
populations of retainers and specialists. More than sites of devotional
practice, these temples constituted symbolically and economically power-
ful loci for the consumption and distribution as well as, less directly, the
production of foodstuffs. ey were intimately enmeshed in the emergent
political economy of differentiated agricultural production and inequality
of the late Vijayanagara period. (Appadurai and Breckenridge 1976; Fil-
liozat and Filliozat 1988; Morrison 2009; Stein 1960) e political ecol-
ogy of the temple also made it an instrument of elite domination of the
Vijayanagara countryside.9 Temple donations were particularly important
for political legitimation, competition, and alliance building; agricultural
investment was key to all of these strategies. (Morrison 1995; Morrison
and Lycett 1994, 1997; Stein 1960, 1980)
9) Here we refer to the way in which the politics of resource definition and use, from fields
to forests, was partially defined by religious establishments and enmeshed in their opera-
tion. is is a political ecology insofar as it engages the making and remaking of ‘nature’ in
the form of the rural landscape. See Morrison (2009) for more detail.
446 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
e elaboration of the temple, thus, has to be understood in the context
of prestation and patronage and as both an idiom of and arena for elite
claims, status calculations, and practice. e close connection between
temple architecture and political ambition is no coincidence, as claims
of authority were intimately connected to the dharmic role of kings and
other leaders. e mobilization of resources by temples also made them
attractive partners for aspiring elites. Kings, royal family members, royal
officers and high-ranking elites are disproportionately represented in the
establishment, elaboration, and maintenance of these temple complexes.
Being and becoming elite was tied to these practices. In a striking pattern
(Figure 3), temple donations within the city and its immediate environs
peaked early in the career of the two most prominent Tuluva kings, falling
off as their reign wore on. Overall, the well-documented peak in sixteenth
century inscriptions (Morrison 1995) was driven by the politics of temple
Inscriptions are both records of donations and part of the symbolic
technology of an elite culture of status, rank, language, ritual, and title.
(Morrison and Lycett 1994, 1997) Stone inscriptions—large, prominently
placed, and enduring—are themselves commemorative claims, making
sacred establishment and pious transaction a public and permanent act.
ey draw on common pools of symbols and precedents that help estab-
lish legitimacy, sovereignty, and claims to power recognized across broad
regions of the subcontinent. e symbolic import of these inscriptions
and the temples to which they refer is, however, neither exhausted by their
originary circumstances nor by the intended claims of their founders.
Instead, these complexes came to have associations through their history
of inhabitation, donation, and reconstitution as their standing as symbols
was appropriated, reworked, interpreted, and extended by successive gen-
erations. Temple complexes thus draw on existing sacred and political asso-
ciations while themselves constituting material repertoires for subsequent
manipulation of meanings and claims to authority. Temples, in general,
and these complexes in particular, were especially potent symbolic sites,
embodying claims to and about society, posterity, and history.
It is not surprising, then, that these great temples should be con-
tested spaces in the politics of precolonial sovereignty. Indeed, the first of
these 16th century complexes to be built as a fully-formed plan was the
Krishna temple (Rajasekhara 2011:91), designed to house the Udayagiri
Balakrishna, Davis’ (1997) paradigmatic case of looting and ritual incor-
poration as a politics of royal appropriation and symbolic subordination.
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 447
Figure 3: Upper: number of inscriptional records of temple donations by
year, sixteenth century, city of Vijayanagara. Lower: number of inscriptional
records of temple donations by ruler, Tuluva period, city of Vijayanagara.
(database from Morrison 1995; Morrison and Lycett 1994, 1997)
448 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
Captured from a rival Hindu king, the Udayagiri image as rehoused in the
imperial capital, celebrating the power and position of the most well-known
Tuluva king, Krishnadevaraya. In the mid-sixteenth century, following the
reigns of the expansive Krishnadevaraya and his brother, Achyutadevaraya,
Tuluva royal sovereignty was challenged when the youthful Sadashivaraya
took the throne. e boy king was largely controlled by the Regent Rama-
raya, an ambitious leader bent on establishing the legitimacy of his own
lineage, the post-Talikota fourth dynasty, the Arividus. Eaton (2005:90-2)
argues, in fact, that by 1542 Ramaraya’s usurpation had been effectively
achieved, despite the continued existence of Sadashivaraya. us, the locus
of royal sovereignty in 1565 was, to some extent, two-fold, with both the
well-known and established power of the Tuluvas and the emergent claims
of the Arividus both potential targets for outside powers.
Just as their construction embodied the logic of rajadharma, the destruc-
tion of these large temple complexes also can be understood in the context
of a contemporary politics of sovereignty, incorporation, and the re-
imagination of elite authority. Royal temples were, in Eaton’s (2000:267)
words, “politically active,” and the site-specific, shared sovereignty of Medi-
eval Hindu kings and state deities (Eaton 2000:255) ensured the latter’s
political vulnerability. Destruction of royal temples follows longstanding
precedents in royal establishment and elite competition. Following Eaton,
apar, Davis, and Flood (Kumar, ed. 2008), we should expect selective
destruction of these sites in the aftermath of the conquest, delegitimation,
and replacement of prior sovereignties attendant on the “fall” of Vijayana-
gara. As Eaton explains (2000:254-5):
Equally important [to ‘injecting a legitimizing substance into a new body politic’] to
this process was its negative counterpart: the sweeping away of all prior political author-
ity in the newly conquered and annexed territories. When such authority was vested
in a ruler whose own legitimacy was associated with a royal temple—typically one
that housed an image of a ruling dynasty’s state deity or rastra-devatā (usually Vishnu
or Śiva)—that temple was normally desecrated, redefined, or destroyed, any of which
have had the effect of detaching a defeated raja from the most prominent manifesta-
tion of his former legitimacy. Temples that were not so identified, or temples formerly
so identified but abandoned by their royal patrons and thereby rendered politically
irrelevant, were normally left unharmed.
Indeed, the treatment of temples at Vijayanagara is consistent with this
thesis; with divergent levels of desecration or destruction cross-cutting the
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 449
varieties of form, scale, and situation of sacred topography. Here we draw
attention to that variation and to the relationship between selectivity and
the potential political salience of specific sites.
e Fall of Vijayanagara: Narrative and Process
It is against the backdrop of this large and differentiated urban and rural
landscape that the events of 1565 need to be understood. Historical
accounts of the sacking of the city tend to be quite vague, using terms such
as “destruction,and “fall” rather than precise assessments of the degree
of damage. Clearly, this imprecision reflects the rather limited historical
sources—as Zubairi (Basu 2000:254) claimed, “To a distance of twenty
leagues round the city everything was burnt and reduced to ashes.” e
notion of indiscriminate and total destruction has proven remarkably
tenacious in both scholarly and popular literature:
With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their
work of destruction. Never, perhaps, in the history of the world has such havoc been
wrought, and wrought suddenly, on so splendid a city, teeming with a wealthy and
industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next
seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beg-
garing description (Sastri 1955:283).
e notion of “ruins,” is, of course, itself a critical ingredient in the Euro-
pean romantic imaginary, and European scholars were instrumental in
constructing the image of Hampi Ruins (title of Longhurst’s influential
1914 guide book), part of an ongoing justification for colonial rule that
construed the British as ending a brutal historical chapter—ending an era.
In addition to colonial connections, we must contend with perspectival
histories, in which both “sides”—Muslim and Hindu—stressed the anni-
hilation of the city, but for different ends. us, chroniclers such as Ferishta
and Zubairi brag about the total destruction of the city, aggrandizing their
sultanate patrons. Twentieth-century historians used these same historical
sources for the most part (but see Guha 2009), but turned triumph into
tragedy, stressing what Krishnaswami Aiyangar (2000:23) called, “. . . the
sad tale of the end of Vijayanagar, the actual ending of which is marked by
the beginning of the Mahratta power in the South.” Here the investment
in understanding Vijayanagara as keeper of the Hindu dharma makes total
450 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
destruction rather than a slow ebbing of power and influence (more like
the actual history of the post-Tuluva state) necessary in order to cleanly
pass on this responsibility. As noted above, the easy slippage between city
and state makes it possible to see 1565 as the end, despite the continued
salience of the polity for more than a hundred years.
It might seem self-evident that damage in which ‘no stone was left stand-
ing’ would make the present existence of a World Heritage Monument and
major center for tourism and pilgrimage impossible, but the presence of
so much standing architecture, even today, has done nothing to dispel this
idea. From an archaeological point of view, the city is in remarkably good
condition. So, what exactly happened in and around the city in 1565 and
how did this influence subsequent occupational history? It is clear that
there was significant burning in parts of the city and that some structures
were deliberately damaged. However, this damage was far from indiscrimi-
nate. In the following discussion, we draw from a range of archaeologi-
cal and art-historical research on the physical structures and landscapes
of the city itself. is information provides a material testament both to
the damage done in and around 1565 and, equally important, to the ways
in which structures and places were either abandoned, re-configured, or
maintained over the centuries since Talikota. As we discuss below, patterns
of damage are highly patterned, with structures and locations most closely
allied to royal power—in its specific mid-16th century configuration—
preferentially targeted.
Elite Precincts
In the areas inside the walled city, the Royal Center and the enclosing
Urban Core, evidence for damage comes from excavations by both the
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Karnataka Directorate of
Archaeology and Museums (Nagaraja Rao 1985; Devaraj and Patil 1991,
1996). Some of the ASI work was conducted prior to the 1980s; for this
we have only short published notices. After the 1980s, in addition to pub-
lished information, personal observations of ongoing excavations provide
additional detail. In excavated contexts, it is clear not only that burning
has taken place, but in both ongoing excavations and in the remaining
profiles or sections left behind after work is complete, we can also poten-
tially track post-damage histories. at is, did a building burn down and
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 451
then get re-built, or did a large area of structures burn, never to be rebuilt
or reused? Both patterns are evident in excavated contexts and we draw on
our understandings of these diverse histories in this discussion.
Even where we do not have access to freshly-excavated contexts, how-
ever, the effects of fire on the coarse-grained granite used almost every-
where in construction provides an enduring record of the history of past
burning. One suspects that sections of the city had burned many times
before, as did all preindustrial cities with wood and thatch structures, espe-
cially where fire was used for cooking and illumination, so this evidence
needs to be used cautiously. Smaller and less hot fires, however, would not
have been as damaging to stone as larger, hotter blazes, and the effects of
fire on stone are well-understood. e coarse-grained granite of this region
typically spalls and exfoliates when burned, in extreme cases giving the
stone a ‘melted’ look (Figure 4). Exfoliation or “onion skin weathering” is
caused by differential thermal expansion between outer and inner layers
of stone. e severe stresses on lithic structure caused by fire lead to much
more significant spalling and exfoliation than any other cause, including
the slow process of weathering. (e.g. Ryan, et al. 2012)
In this discussion we draw on the detailed and systematic documen-
tation of surface architecture in the city carried out by the Vijayanagara
Research Project (VRP). In this work, each structure and architectural ele-
ment in the Royal Center and much of the Urban Core was documented,
including systematic, structure-by-structure observations of lithic exfolia-
tion and other damage, as well as discussion of exposed sediment sections
(from past excavations) which provide additional evidence for burning in
the form of charcoal and ash and shed some light on post-occupational
histories. is rich body of evidence reveals the patterned and specific
effects of fire on individual structures and sculptures across the entire city.
We use these detailed and unpublished observations here to explore pat-
terns of damage in the Royal Center and Urban Core.
In the parts of the city that lie areas outside the Urban Core, including
both the sixteenth-century urban sprawl that spills out from the second
ring of walls as well as the more extensive zones of the urban hinterland,
all visible archaeological remains were documented by the VMS, provid-
ing a larger spatial context for VRP work within the city. In these areas,
too, we have systematic observations on structures, sculptures, and other
features, documentation which includes assessments of damage, rework-
ing, and reuse.
452 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
Figure 4: Fire-damaged column at the Vitthala temple. is column is
located along the main axis of the central shrine. Now under active recon-
struction, the column is supported by masonry pillars built by the ASI in
the early 20th century. Note the less-damaged column to the left. Photo-
graph by Mark Lycett.
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 453
What are the patterns of damage in and around the city? Outside the
elite heart of the city, the Royal Center, there is little evidence for late
sixteenth-century damage. It may well be the case that the large residential
and commercial neighborhoods of the east and northeast valleys of the
Urban Core were burned (and looted), but this is not evident from either
surface remains or the very limited subsurface exposures. (Morrison 1990;
Sinopoli 1993) None of the stone structures, including temples, manda-
pas, and step-wells, show any sign of burning or exfoliation. On the other
hand, there is also no good evidence for residential re-use of the Urban
Core after the sixteenth century, though this could be difficult to discern.
Here, however, a critical point of continuity is the continued maintenance
and use of the entire Vijayanagara canal system, an intricate network of
channels running through and around the city, essential support for the
production of wet rice and other water-intensive crops. (Morrison 1995,
2009) is critical agrarian infrastructure shows no signs of damage inside
or outside the city, in spite of the fact that medieval armies were well
aware of the destructive possibilities of breaching reservoirs and deliber-
ately damaging irrigation works. All of the pre-existing agricultural vil-
lages swallowed up by the 16th century expansion of the city continued
to be occupied after 1565, even as some of the areas of newer settlement
were abandoned; a pattern both of continuity and change as residents took
advantage of the capital-intensive canal irrigation infrastructure made pos-
sible largely through earlier royal largesse (Morrison 2009).
In the Royal Center, it is clear that there was widespread burning,
though this is focused in specific areas (Figure 5). For the most part, super-
structures of wood and other flammable material burned and collapsed, in
many cases causing cracking and exfoliation of the stone basements and
platforms that supported them. Indeed, the areas of most intense granite
exfoliation would have been those in direct contact with burning mate-
rial. In only a few locations do we have evidence for deliberate destruction
of images other than that affected by fire. Gate IX b-c, for example, is
decorated with images of mythical creatures—carved yalis in the round
which stand on hind legs above a makara emerging from the stone below
and spouting floral ornaments which extend up the underbelly of the yali.
Here two of the original eight yalis are almost completely chipped away
and some of the mouldings have been broken. A few other sculptures in
the Royal Center, too, show signs of damage. e Mahanavami platform,
a central location the performance of state power (Dallapiccola 2010,
2011; Stein 1989), may have been looted as well as burned. is massive
454 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
platform, which supported a modest wooden superstructure that clearly
burned and fell toward the southern side of the structure, has a complex
and layered construction history which includes a late (sixteenth-century)
addition of schist elements, materially and stylistically distinctive stone
panels wallpapered over the existing granitic structure. ese schist panels
are now present only on part of the western face of the platform; John Fritz
speculates (pers. comm.) that they may have been deliberately removed.
e areas damaged by fire, most likely though not definitively at the
time of the city’s conquest, are concentrated in a few specific areas. e
largest enclosure of the Royal Center, Enclosure IV or the ‘royal’ enclosure,
contains both the Mahanavami platform and the large 100-columned
audience hall. Both had wooden superstructures that burned. ere is also
an area of concentrated burning south of the 100-columned hall which
includes some structures and a small courtyard (feature 21), an area also
marked by the presence of schist building elements. Unfortunately, we do
not know the function of this area, which was excavated some years ago, but
it is located near the below-ground structure Fritz, Michell, and Gollings
describe as (2003:89) “. . . an underground chamber lined with chloritic
Figure 5: Overview map showing areas of intensive burning in the Royal
Center. 1=Ramachandra temple; 2=the ‘100-pillared hall;’ 3=Mahanavami
or ‘great’ platform; 7=palaces; 9=Prasanna Virupaksha temple. Modified
from map provided courtesy the Vijayanagara Research Project.
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 455
schist columns and wall slabs taken from a dismantled 11th or 12th cen-
tury temple; this may have functioned as a subterranean treasury.10
Enclosure II, just south of the Ramachandra temple, also saw heavy
burning, as did Enclosures IX and V, west and southwest of this temple.11
Remarkably, there is no fire damage or defacement of images within the
Ramachandra complex itself, a richly detailed temple and possible royal
chapel built in the early fifteenth century and associated with the earlier
Sangama dynasty.12 (Dallapiccola et al. 1992; Rajasekhara 2011:89) e
large palace and associated structures in Enclosure V, south and west of the
Ramachandra temple, burned decisively, but those in nearby Enclosures VI
and VIII did not. e area known as the “Noblemen’s Quarter” or NMQ is
a cluster of palaces and small temples used both for residence and adminis-
tration (Devaraj and Patil 1991, 1996; Sinopoli 1993). More legible exca-
vation practices here have clearly shown levels of burned structural debris
atop the stone basements of the NMQ palaces, clear evidence these build-
ings were burned down and not rebuilt. Further, this pattern is limited to
those structures in use during the sixteenth century, supporting the idea
that this conflagration represents the events of 1565. Burning here seems
to have extended south as far as the Prasanna Virupksha or “underground”
10) e fact that this structure was built from reused chlorite schist elements is unlikely to
be a coincidence. Wagoner (2007) discusses the way in which emergent Arividu claims to
royal descent were constructed beginning in the mid-sixteenth century, in part through
claims of descent from the 11th to 12th century Kalyana Chalukyas. Such claims were
materially instantiated in rebuilt forms such as the Bhuvanesvari shrine in the Virupkasha
temple, and most strikingly, through the wholesale removal of a Chalukyan chlorite stepped
tank from some 50 km or more to the west (Wagoner 2011; Morrison 2009). ASI archae-
ologist Narasimaiah (1992:70) argues that both this stepped tank and a large rectangular
tank in front of the Mahanavami platform were deliberately filled in—neither shows any
damage. us, destruction of the underground chamber and perhaps the great platform
itself seems to index Arividu power directly.
11) Enclosure II and, more broadly, structures to the south in Enclosures III and IV, appears
to be what Sewell referred to as the “palace” (1900:63).
12) e Ramachandra temple was by no means ignored by sixteenth-century kings. Inscrip-
tions on the temple walls record a donation of the income from six villages for the service
of the god by Tuluva king Krishnadevaraya in 1513 (ARSIE 1889, No. 24; Patil and Patil
1995:98). Eight years later, in 1521, Timmaraja, the son of a government official, paid to
have a reservoir in one of those villages repaired. (ARSIE 1889, No. 21). A nearby undated
sixteenth-century inscription notes that Timmaraja gave a grant and built a mandapa,
presumably the mid-sixteenth century porch on the Ramachandra temple attributed by
Michell (2008) to the time of Krishnadevaraya.
456 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
temple, where exposed sections clearly reveal charcoal layers. e temple
itself was not damaged, however, and this charred material seems to have
washed in from upslope near NMQ. us, across the Royal Center, some
palaces (a category including both residence and administration) seem to
have been targeted over others, perhaps a function of their specific occu-
pants and associations.
Overall patterns of destruction within the Royal Center thus show, in
addition to the chipping away of some sculptures, three zones of burning.
e first is in the entrance to and within the so-called “royal enclosure”
(Enclosure IV, Fritz, Michell, and Nagaraja Rao 1985), where two massive
structures associated with royal activity, the Mahanavami platform and the
100-columned hall, were located. e third structure targeted within this
enclosure was the tightly-controlled and densely built-up area that may
perhaps have been a treasury. It is not clear if burning in Enclosure II, to
the immediate north, followed from the fact that the path into the “royal
enclosures” runs this way, through narrow gateways, or if there was some-
thing of interest here as well. e Ramachandra temple is right in this area
but, as noted, it was untouched, suggesting perhaps that the burning of
the flammable superstructures of the gate platforms here may have been
associated with their role in protecting the area to the south. e second
locus of burning was the large palace in Enclosure V, south and west of the
Ramachandra complex, as well as its outbuildings and the gateways leading
to it from the north. e third area of burning was among the occupied
structures of the “‘Noblemen’s Quarters,” an extensive conflagration that
lead to collapsed superstructures, spalled and exfoliated granite basements,
and later, the erosion of charcoal-rich sediment toward the south.
Sacred Spaces
It would be misleading to suggest that only politically important temples
were targeted in the “fall” of Vijayanagara. ere appears instead to be
widespread desecration or displacement of images as well as structural
damage to balustrades, dvarpalas, and detached column elements at tem-
ples throughout the city, though many images do remain intact. What is
more remarkable, however, is difference: difference in what was destroyed;
difference in the level and means of devastation; and difference in what was
ignored or left in a condition capable of rehabilitation. ese contrasts play
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 457
out at several scales. Within the class of late large-scale and monumental
temple complexes, there is strong patterning both in the forms of destruc-
tion and the continuation (or cessation) of ritual practice.
Historically, the most important sacred marker and the conceptual ori-
gin point of the city was the Pampa tirtha, especially in its reconfigured
and appropriated guise as the Virupaksha temple. It was during the
Vijayanagara period that Virupaksha became the tutelary deity of empire
and the great temple complex and pilgrimage center at Hampi developed.
e first dynasty, the Sangamas, adopted Virupaksha as their sign manual
and tutelary deity, established royal grants in the presence of this god, and
maintained an elaborate and likely private shrine to Virupaksha within the
most elite precinct of the city. (Verghese 2000:94-114) Successive kings
built upon both the pilgrimage center and the private shrine throughout
the life of the city, creating an historically marked and heavily inscribed
nexus of political and sacral authority clearly associated with Vijayanagara
rule. Yet, this temple complex was the only one of its size, complexity, and
importance to escape destruction and remain in worship. Its Vijayanagara-
era central and subsidiary shrines remain intact. Whatever damage it may
have suffered in 1565, it was insufficient to displace or perhaps even inter-
rupt ritual practice at this site.
By contrast, the temple which evinces the greatest and most patterned
level of destruction is the Vitthala temple complex. Associated with the
growth of Srivaishnava cults in the city as well as the famous pilgrimage
center at Pandharpur, the Vitthala is among the largest, most elaborate,
and politically central temples of the 16th century. While it is today per-
haps the most famous exemplar of Vijayanagara temple architecture, this
complex began as a relatively modest 15th century shrine, elaborated to
monumental proportions through heavy royal and elite patronage between
1513 and 1554. (Filliozat and Filliozat 1988; Rajasekhara 2011:94-5;
Verghese 1995, 2011) By the mid-16th century, it had become the most
important center of royal prestation and witness, eclipsing the Virupaksha
temple as the most heavily inscribed site in the city. us, while the site of
Virupaksha of Hemakuta might be expected to be central to the situated
sovereignty of Vijayanagara, the temple to Vitthala, a god more closely
identified with a distant pilgrimage center, was more politically salient to
the political milieu of the mid-16th century Deccan. Here, the damage
was not incidental or random (Figure 6), but an intensive and orches-
trated system of massive destruction to the central axis of the temple complex
458 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
Figure 6: Photograph of the Mahamandapa of the Vitthala temple taken
by Henry Hardy Cole, 1885. © British Library Board. Photo 1003/(2207).
Item number: 10032207.
(Figure 7) through the use of fire to weaken the granitic columns and
ceiling elements. Masses of fuel and possibly repeated episodes of burning
would have been necessary to create this level and pattern of destruction
(Figure 8). Nor is it likely incidental that the destruction was most pro-
found along the sight line of the god. Darshan, the seeing and being seen
so integral to Hindu worship and godly power relies upon lines of sight for
its efficacy. (Eck 1998; Nandagopal 2011:297) Despite their proximity to
the main shrine and wealth of iconographic imagery, subsidiary mandapas
are largely untouched in this complex.13
13) ese patterns were easier to observe prior to the program of reconstruction undertaken
by the ASI beginning in the 1990s. is work goes well beyond stabilization, inserting
newly-cut elements and rebuilding entire structures. For this reason, we add to our own
pre-reconstruction observations evidence from 19th and early 20th century photography;
the history of this documentation is discussed in Michell (2008).
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 459
Figure 7: Upper: plan view of the Vitthala temple, showing the location
of axial damage. Modified from plan provided courtesy the Vijayanagara
Research Project. Lower: overview of the Vitthala temple, showing pattern
of damage in relation to intact subsidiary shrines. Photograph by Edmund
David Lyon, 1868. © British Library Board. Photo 212/7(18). Item num-
ber: 212718.
460 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
Figure 8: Interior detail of damage, Vitthala temple main shrine. Photo-
graph by Henry Hardy Cole, 1885. © British Library Board. Photo 1003/
(2202). Item number: 10032202.
Of the remaining large temple complexes, only the Tiruvengalanatha tem-
ple of Achyutapura, named after the Tuluva king Achyutadevaraya, evinces
the same pattern of axial destruction (Figure 9). Among the latest and
largest of these complexes to be built, this temple indexes another impor-
tant pilgrimage center associated with a high level of Vijayanagara royal
patronage. (Rajasekhara 2011:93) e remaining 16th century complexes
show varying levels of localized breakage, but none approach the profound
structural damage of the Vitthala or the Tiruvengalanatha. Elsewhere in
the city, politically important temples including the Ramachandra and
Prasanna Virupaksha temples lack any pattern of systematic structural
damage. eir current state owes more to gravity and sedimentation than
deliberate dismantling.
Another class of temples, ranging in size and elaboration from small
shrines to major complexes, is built around non-portable images carved
in the granitic boulders that form the substrate of the city. In many cases,
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 461
these shrines may be architectural elaborations of older and more informal
rock carved images of the sort that are relatively common in the region.
While most rock carvings are not set off by temple enclosure (prakara)
walls or nested progressions of mandapas, some images with Ramayana
associations, especially those related to the Kishkindha narrative, are
especially elaborated. Two of these, the Kodandarama temple at Chakrat-
irtha and the Rama temple on Malyavanta hill, are presently in worship.
Another small temple constructed around a carved Virabhadra image in
1545 remains in worship today.
Perhaps the most well-known example of deliberate damage to sculpted
images is the monolithic Lakshmi Narasimha located outside the Urban
Core walls on the southwest edge of the Sacred Center within the zone of
the Krishna temple (Figure 10). Consecrated in 1528 under the patron-
age of the king Krishnadevaraya (Rajasekhara 2011:92-3), this is the larg-
est of the monolithic sculptures in the city. Recently (and controversially)
Figure 9: Photograph showing pattern of axial damage to the main shrine
of the Tiruvengalanatha temple, taken by Henry Hardy Cole, 1885.
© British Library Board.
462 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
reconstructed, this image, closely identified with Tuluva rulers, was severely
damaged by both fire and axe. Not only has fire caused spalling and exfolia-
tion, but some damaged areas such as the right lower arm and leg of the main
image were cleanly cut off. In striking contrast, the monumental Ganesha (a
Shaivite deity), which sits within sight of Narasimha has been undisturbed.
It is evident that patterns of temple destruction within the city are highly
variable and that patterns of destruction are organized and targeted rather
than random or indiscriminate. Politically active temples closely associated
with the ruling dynasty show a pattern of axial damage to the main shrine,
locus of the deity whose shared sovereignty with the Tuluva rulers posed
an existential threat to alternative locations of authority. What are the
constraints and opportunities that arise from the ashes? Why have some
Vijayanagara era temples remained in worship or been recovered while
others have not? What are the conditions of the city’s destruction that
prefigure its subsequent possibilities? In order to address these issues, we
turn now to the afterlife of Vijayanagara, both city and empire.
Figure 10: Left: heavily damaged monolithic Narasimha image. Right:
undamaged Ganesh image, in worship. Both photographs by omas
Biggs, 1885. © British Library Board. Left: Photo 208/(5). Item number:
2086. Right: Photo 208/(6). Item number: 2085.
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 463
e Afterlife of Vijayanagara
Following the battle of Talikota, much of the urban population fled, never
to return. e king and court shifted further south toward the center
of the empire, and this northern border region was never again firmly
under Vijayanagara imperial control. Nevertheless, the city and its hin-
terland remained both habitable and inhabited. e Venetian traveler,
Cesare Federici, who spent seven months in the city in 1567, noted an
unsuccessful attempt to restore the capital by the Arividu claimant to the
throne. (Filliozat 1999:324) Successional disputes associated with this
brief reoccupation may have led to further deterioration of the elite resi-
dential districts.14 Many of the smaller rural settlements in the area, how-
ever, were never abandoned. Vijayanagara reservoirs, canals, and roadways
continued to define the routes and rhythms of regional production and
settlement, though the structure of production and marketing must have
shifted as the once-substantial urban demand for foodstuffs evaporated.
(Morrison 2009)
In addition to continued yet reorganized forms of settlement and land
use, forms and structures of worship were remade in a complex interplay
of deliberate discontinuities and equally deliberate continuities. It is strik-
ing that the great Vaishnavite temple complexes of imperial Vijayanagara
stand empty, absent any attempt at recovery, or even maintenance. Indeed
it is this history of abandonment that makes them “monuments” today,
archaeological sites rather than ongoing temples. Only Virupaksha, the
single large Shaivite complex, remained a living temple, probably more or
less continuously, following the fall of the city. Both literary and inscrip-
tional sources indicate continued elite, and eventually colonial, patronage
14) Sastri (1955:283) comments that Tirumala actively resisted efforts to reoccupy the
city. According to Sastri, Tirumala was brother of the powerful regent Ramaraya, killed at
Talikota. Assuming his brother’s role after the battle, Tirumala fled south to the fortified
city of Penukonda along with the puppet king, Sadashivaraya. Sastri suggests that Tiru-
mala, “. . . gave up Vijayanagara partly because, in his opinion that city favored the claims
of Rāma Rāya’s son Peda Tirumala, alias Timma, for the regency.” To illustrate how foolish
Timma was, Sastri notes that in 1567 he enlisted the aid of Ali Adil Shah (one of the leaders
of the Sultanate coalition), who marched to Vijayanagara before unsuccessfully attacking
Penukonda. Clearly, the city must have been somewhat habitable two years after Talikota,
containing a population whose presumed preference for Timma could concern Tirumala.
Federici, on the other hand, writes that it was Rama Raya’s brother Tirumala, and not his
son Tirumala (Timma), who led the effort to revive the city in 1567 (Kerr 1824).
464 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
from the 1570s onward. It remained an important pilgrimage center,
drawing crowds as large as 100,000 in the mid-19th century.
Within the Urban Core, smaller temples now in worship fall into three
broad categories; temples to goddesses such as Yellamma, Shaivite images
such as Virabhadra, and Vaishnavite images with Ramayana associations.
In some cases, these temples may have been revived or reinvested. e
community of worship at the Malyavanta temple is relatively recent, for
example. Indeed, many small sacred sites may have come in and out of
both institutional and informal forms of worship in the centuries after
1565. What is remarkable about each of these categories is the lack of elite
investment in the sacred spaces of the erstwhile city.
Even within the symbolic set of Ramayana images, it is Kishkindha,
not Ramachandra that has been reconstituted. e elite Ramachandra
temple, with its elaborate narrative panels and critical place in state cer-
emony, stands undamaged but empty, while Ram-Sita-Lakshman images
carved on boulders and even unmodified natural features like “Sugriva’s
cave,” “Sita Sarovar,” and Anjenadri (the birthplace of Hanuman) remain
salient to a broad community of worshipers. e social construction of
Kishkindha remains profoundly open, not under the control of any one
constituency, but fluid, multi-centered, and associated with small shrines
as well as unmodified landscape features.
Outside the city, temples were also differentially abandoned, remade,
and kept in use. For example, in the Daroji Valley, a large dry-farmed
region that saw major settlement expansion in the early sixteenth cen-
tury, the majority of shrines with identifiable deities are dedicated either to
some form of Shiva or to goddesses—there is only one temple dedicated to
Vishnu (Morrison 2009). e latter sits near a gateway in a massive fortifi-
cation wall that divides the valley and is arguably an “official” installation.
While a great many of the other Vijayanagara-period shrines in the valley
are still in worship, this lone Vaishnava shrine is completely abandoned, a
pattern echoing that of the great urban temple complexes.
Elsewhere in the urban hinterland, we have documented a marked pref-
erence for forms of Shiva, goddesses, and local heros such as Hanuman,
a reworking of older temples and shrines no less significant in the long
term than the events of 1565. Here, too, we see a pattern in which temples
were rededicated, sometimes in unorthodox ways, quietly but forcefully
“destroyingtemples to Vishnu to create Shaivite and Goddess shrines.
Regionally, patterns of change are complex, with evidence for creative re-
use and rededication—the formation of composite shrines and even of
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 465
non-normative arrangements such as Nandi facing Rama and Sita, or a
broken Nandi head being set up as a lingam.15
Discussion: Violence and Social Memory
e legacy of Vijayanagara as a place is not simply an understanding based
on experience or event, but a socialized and historicized understanding of
the meanings encoded and embodied in its settings, pathways, and monu-
ments. Its meaning is reflected in both authoritative and popular frame-
works and contexts for redeploying the past. To contemporary observers,
the material negation of royal authority, sovereignty, and power embodied
in the invasion of the city would have been evident. e intensive and
orchestrated pattern of axial destruction to the Vitthala and Tiruvengalna-
tha temple complexes were political postures set in granite. Despite the loss
of most of its great temples, elite precincts, and urban populace, Vijayana-
gara, as both empire and place, continued into the succeeding centuries.
Rural populations continued to thrive, irrigation systems continued to be
maintained, and worship continued to be practiced in both institutional
and informal settings. Patterns of temple maintenance and rededication
suggest a loss of elite patronage and a reconfiguration of sacred landscapes
in terms of popular associations and traditions. e empire, forgotten or
never-forgotten, may have moved on, but the active constitution of social
space as both experience and symbol never stopped.
e city has also entered into a succession of historiographic construc-
tions, both popular and scholarly. Narratives of indiscriminate and total
destruction, “the fall,” have worked their way through a variety of historio-
graphic designs, including those with essentialist, communalist, national-
ist, and colonial valences. Vijayanagara has come to stand for something
outside of its own experience—as a potent symbol of conflict, of identity,
of essential tradition and resistance, or of artistic and cultural achievement.
Continuously reinvented, city and empire live on in a variety of guises from
communal trope to exemplar of heritage at a grand, even global scale.
Just as its materiality and symbolic power retain their effective claim on
history, in the centuries after 1565, Vijayanagara hegemony continued to
15) A lingam is a mark of the god Shiva in phallic form. e transformation of Nandi, the
bull (vehicle of Shiva) into an entirely different image is quite irregular. Normatively, too,
broken images should not be in worship (Davis 1997), but in the countryside, such prohi-
bitions are not necessarily observed.
466 M.T. Lycett, K.D. Morrison / JESHO 56 (2013) 433-470
circulate as a powerful, but potentially dangerous substance in narratives
of South Indian sovereignty. (Branfoot 2008; Narayana Rao, Shulman,
and Subrahmanyam 1992; Wagoner 1993) At least part of this involves a
concern for lineal relations. e Marathas and the Mysore state, for exam-
ple, are both mentioned by Sastri (1955:26) as ‘inheritors’ of empire and
indeed later rulers often claimed such connections. Historiographic con-
structions of Vijayanagara as an essentially religious polity formed in oppo-
sition to Muslim expansion lend themselves to essentialism; from whom
did the Vijayanagara polity inherit its “Hindu mantle”—and to whom did
this essence go? While claims on history as strategic elements of politi-
cal legitimation are not novel—early Vijayanagara kings reached back to
previous rulers in various ways—the reduction of this city and empire to a
religious, communal icon by twentieth century historians falsely simplified
this complex polity, creating a cartoonish yet clearly appealing and persis-
tent story in which both the “rise” and “fall” of Vijayanagara were linked
to the threat of violent Islam. (Nilakanta Sastri 1955; Venkata Ramanayya
2007 [1933]) Without its golden age associations, perhaps narratives of
the “fall” of Vijayanagara would not have had such tenacity and appeal.
Both historical and material evidence, however, suggest that the politics
of destruction were considerably more complex, not easily reduced to reli-
gion. Eatons (2000:259) description of a post-Talikota conflict among the
Sultanates is germane here:
. . . in 1579, when Golconda’s army, led by Muhari Rao, was campaigning south of
the Krishna River, Rao annexed the entire region of the Qutb Shahi domains and
sacked the popular Ahobilam temple, whose ruby-studded image he brought back
to Golconda and presented to the Sultan as a war trophy . . . Although the Ahobilam
temple had only local appeal, it had close associations with prior sovereign authority,
since it had been patronized and even visited by the powerful and most famous king
of Vijayanagara, Krishna Deva Raya.
Even after the abandonment of the city and in the context of a conflict
between Muslim rulers, this temple was an active site of political contes-
tation. Verghese (2008:33, and see Verghese 2000:113) reports that the
nineteenth-century Mackenzie manuscripts make passing reference to
further destruction in the Vitthala complex by both the Marathas and Tipu
Sultan as well as looting of the Virupaksha by Tipus armies. at these
references are almost certainly apocryphal is beside the point. e contin-
ued symbolic salience of Vijayanagara hegemony, as embodied especially
The “Fall” of Vijayanagara Reconsidered 467
in the Vitthala temple, played a sufficiently powerful role in the colonial
imagination that it could be vulnerable more than a century after its actual
destruction and perhaps in perpetuity. e social memory of 1565 remains
contested, an open forum for the uses of the past, its representation, and
its import for the present.
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... The drive to stack up time periods into orderly sequences tends to obviate any sense that past peoples themselves had pasts with which they may have been engaged. Given the contested nature of contemporary engagements with history in India, a place where, in 1992, hundreds lost their lives in a conflict ostensibly about the destruction of a temple in the sixteenth century, and in light of scholarship on the politics of temple destruction (Eaton 2000;Gilmartin & Lawrence 2000;Lycett & Morrison 2013;Mandal 1993), it is surprising that so little effort (but see Johansen 2014;Johansen & Bauer 2011;Morrison 2009) has been made to extend understanding of the contested nature of places and structures to more distant pasts. ...
... The very materiality of particular places, then, makes them not only durable records of past action (the very basis of archaeology), but also resources for the representations of other presents. Whether places are memorialized or abandoned, subsequent memories and forgettings ought not be ignored (Lycett & Morrison 2013). ...
... Sugriva is ably assisted by his lieutenant Hanuman, the monkey warrior who rescues Sita from Lanka as Rama waits on Matanga Hill, now the site of a middle period Hindu temple. Material instantiations of Ramayana events abound across this landscape (Dallapiccola 1994;Lycett & Morrison 2013), most associated with the sixteenth century and later. ...
The work of time-making is always a work of the present, and even in its driest form, the archaeological chronology, is a political process. Archaeological practices which make time from space necessarily dissect unified material landscapes into temporal slices, ‘cuts’ of time and space that can either mute or give voice to past interactions with material landscapes, engagements sometimes called ‘the past in the past.’ Despite the fact that historical and archaeological remains in India are often central to political contestation, the structures and objects studied by archaeologists and art historians are typically viewed as straightforward exemplars of past periods, dynasties, or cultures, disappearing from gaze as they leave the period to which they ‘belong’. This article considers some forms of interaction between people and places in southern India—from ashmounds to megaliths to temples—interactions ‘out of time’ according to traditional archaeological practice, but which reveal past contestations and concerns. Such forms of landscape history require both analytical techniques such as chronologies which divide time, as well as landscape-based approaches which can heal those divisions by allowing past action ‘out of place’ to be made visible.
... Temples of this city are noted for their large dimensions, florid ornamentation, bold and delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions, and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions which include subjects from the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Hampi is famous for its group of monuments under UNESCO World Heritage list and the ornate pavilion called "Lotus-Mahal" (Figure 1) is one of the grandiose remains with beautiful plaster works. Among other secular edifices, massive stone basement of the Queen's palace, Jal Mahal, the corner towers of arresting elevation and the Dhananayaka's enclosure (treasury) are located in Zenana Complex (Hardy 1995;Michell 1977;Lycett, Morrison, and Kathleen 2013). The Virupaksha temple's chronicle is unremitting from around the 7 th century. ...
... The carbonation of lime plaster depends mostly on temperature, moisture present in the porous materials, and concentration of CO 2 in the surroundings atmosphere. Besides, during the carbonation, water is formed as a byproduct that also contributes to the humidity in the plaster (Michell 1977;Lycett, Morrison, and Kathleen 2013). The CO 2 diffusion in water is 10 times slower than in the air in humid condition causing formation of metastable phase of calcite, slow carbonation, and slow increase in strength of the plaster (Bida et al. 1992(Bida et al. , 2001Lawrence 2006;Macchi 1998;Pesce 2014). ...
Full-text available
The historical lime plasters of World Heritage Site of Hampi were analyzed using X-ray fluorescence (XRF), petrological microscope, granulometric analysis, X-ray Diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). The studies indicated presence of aragonite and vaterite, i.e., the polymorphs of calcite in the lime platers of Hampi. The crystallization of calcite has significantly been influenced by self-healing of lime due to wet and dry cycle in the presence of magnesium that promoted formation of calcite polymorphs. The increasing solubility of metastable calcite led to loss of plaster by water dissolution. Granulometric analysis revealed inclusion of sub-angular to sub-rounded medium-sized aggregate grains of granitic origin and the sediments were medium transported before its deposition in fluvial river basin. The cementation index and mineralogical composition point use of air lime/sub-hydraulic lime admixed with non-hydraulic components sourced differently for Hampi plaster. Petrological analysis confirmed the plaster rich in essential minerals like quartz, orthoclase, plagioclase, and other clay components. The presence of chlorite and cristobalite revealed from SEM studies may be resultant minerals from the river sand of Tungabhadra. The scientific studies yielded information about the mineralogical, micro-structural, and chemical composition of the Hampi plasters useful to tailor compatible lime plaster for future conservation works.
... Here we have the benefit of long-term archaeological, historical, and paleoenvironmental research on changing urban and rural landscapes both before and after the occupation of this huge city. Although much of my earlier work (1996,2006) focused on the courses of agricultural intensification and expansion associated with the establishment and growth of the city, more recently (Morrison 2009;Lycett and Morrison 2013) my colleagues and I have focused on the longer-term use, reuse, and reimagination associated with durable landscape features in this region, not only from the Vijayanagara period, but across the last 5,000 years. In this longer-term history, we can see some interesting continuities and shifts in se<:tlement and agricultural production that followed urban abandonment, patterns reliant upon the prior construction of new irrigation features, soils and slopes, and sacred places. ...
... What may be most surprising, especially in light of the dominant historiographic tradition that the "fall" of Vijayanagara in 1565 represented utter abandonment and an historical watershed (Lycett and Morrison 2013) is the fact that all the middle period canals and the one canal-fed reservoir operational in the sixteenth century continued in use right until the present. Most of these facilities had been patronized by kings and operated in support of urban elites, but in the absence of the political world that created them, they were reworked to produce rice for newly emergent elites and regional markets. ...
... Thus, the Kadebakele water-retention feature would ultimately necessitate more intensive "desilting" to sustain its water storage functionality. It appears to have completely silted up by the end of the 16th century, shortly after the Battle of Talikota in 1565 and the ostensible abandonment of the area (e.g., Lycett & Morrison, 2013;Sinopoli & Morrison, 2007). In contrast, the Chikka Benakal feature still occasionally pools surface water-though not as regularly as it did in the first millennium BCE. ...
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Archaeologists and historians of South Asia have long emphasized the significance of large-scale irrigation reservoirs to historical developments and precolonial land use. However, comparatively little attention has been directed at an extensive corpus of small-scale water-retention features, such as culturally modified weathering pans and rock pools. In this contribution, we provide the first geoarchaeolo-gical evidence from such features in southern India. Geochronological assessments, depositional models, and sediment and micromorphological analyses from two sites in northern Karnataka indicate that inhabitants used and modified these features in at least the first millennium BCE. Throughout later historical periods, even after the development of large-scale, primarily elite-sponsored, irrigation reservoirs, inhabitants continued to rely on small, dispersed water-retention features. Our findings have implications for current debates concerning the introduction of water-management practices in southern India, which appear to begin in association with dispersed land-use practices rather than intensive irrigated agriculture, and also corroborate the importance of decentralized water management to historical processes more globally. K E Y W O R D S micromorphology, reservoirs, rock pools, South Asia, water management
... A considerable population remained and destruction of the city was far from complete. A recent study by Mark Lycett and Kathleen Morrison (2013) of damage to monuments and remains at Hampi found that the patterning of destruction was highly differential. They noted that it, "is evident that patterns of temple destruction within the city are highly variable and that patterns of destruction are organized and targeted rather than random or indiscriminate. ...
The Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka kings (c. 1499-1763 C.E.), emerge in the historical record first as regional rulers under the Vijayanagara Empire. They later parlayed their authority into independent statehood during the long process of imperial decline. Among the methods of governance deployed by Vijayanagara throughout its imperial regions was the creation of nayaka ruler positions, a contract for leadership rights based on military and financial obligations to the central authority. The degree to which nayakas were independent or subordinate is debated in the historical literature, as are the means by which nayakas established and maintained local sovereignty. I argue that Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka sovereignty was constituted through a political process which consolidated authority at the regional level, selectively managed vertical integration with higher order political contemporaries and their subject population, and advantageously cultivated horizontal integration with individuals and corporate groups. This research incorporates archaeological and historical sources and is grounded in anthropological perspectives on the political dynamics of pre-modern states and empires. It addresses the dynamics of political process, investigating relationships between imperial regions and cores, and long-term processes of regional governance under higher level political change. The Keladi-Ikkeri Nayakas ruled over a territory in what is today northern Karnataka state in south India, occupying a sequence of three capitals at Keladi, Ikkeri, and Bidnur. This work presents an analysis of the political process of regional governance through discussion of the contribution of archaeological data to discussion of the following themes: territorial sovereignty and military control as evidenced by fortification (or lack thereof); the role of courtly culture in establishing and legitimating regional governance as evidenced by a palace area and other material culture of elite consumption; elite patronage of religious institutions and elite patronage as evidenced by temple architecture and Keladi-Ikkeri donor inscriptions; aspects of participation in local and long-distance economy as evidenced by local production (e.g., goods such as earthenware ceramics, agricultural products, and processing areas) and by participation in long distance trade (e.g. Chinese porcelain, East Asian glaze wares); and an exploration of autonomy in local custom which would illuminate relations of subjection versus freedom.
... This complex sixteenth-century agricultural landscape did not, however, last long. With the defeat of the imperial armies in 1565 and abandonment of the capital city, most elite consumers disappeared and many pre-existing arrangements around the control of land, water, labor, and produce were suddenly disrupted ( Lycett and Morrison 2013). Relatively quickly, most outlying reservoirs, many already choked with silt, were either abandoned or allowed to grow smaller and less effective each season. ...
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This chapter outlines some aspects of agrarian change in the semi-arid interior of peninsular India, a large region that consists of parts of the present-day states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Seemandhra (formerly Andhra Pradesh), and Tamil Nadu. In broad strokes, I outline some of the major transformations in agriculture with a focus on the conscious planning and desiring that has animated the construction of agricultural facilities, settlement locations, and the organization of labor in rural life, plans and desires that, over the course of five thousand years, created the highly transformed contemporary landscapes of this region. Later residents always live with the outcome of past decisions, decisions that have here reshaped hillsides, hydrologies, soils, sacred landscapes, transport networks, and flora and fauna as well as expectations about the ‘good life’ in respect to food. In particular, the development of elite rice-based cuisines led to radical shifts in biophysical landscapes as well as social and ritual practice and human bodies.
... Filled by means of a special elevated aqueduct, the blocks of this structure are carved with re-assembly instructions. Wagoner (2007) notes the association of this structure with the earlier Chalukyan empire; its political importance is also suggested by its deliberate infilling at the time of the capital's military loss in A.D. 1565 (Lycett and Morrison 2013). ...
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he present and future landscapes and waterscapes of South Asia consist, in part, of many residues of the past—soils, slopes, and a range of water-related infrastructure. As such, many problems related to irrigation and rural water use are directly linked to the embodied histories of this region. Beyond lineal connections, many contemporary problems such as watershed protection, erosion, reservoir siltation, and falling water tables, were also faced by agriculturalists in the past. Archaeologies of flow thus may have some bearing on the present and future as well as the past. This paper provides a review of the evidence for changes in water use over the last 5,000 years in southern India, focusing on the semi-arid interior region of Karnataka state from the Southern Neolithic (c. 3000–1200 b.c.) to the present.
This article briefly reviews historical archaeologies of South Asia. In 1996 Charles Orser argued that historical archaeology needs to consider its own definition more broadly and internationalize its scope (Orser 1996). Such an approach would define the contours of the modern world more concretely. This program of research has been widely adopted, yet it has been hampered, to a certain extent, by its hemispheric focus on the Atlantic World. South Asia, as a key constituent of the Indian Ocean, troubles this approach to historical archaeology and demands consideration of other circulations, epicenters, and agendas in the development of the modern world. This article considers that trade, landscapes, and material culture all point to a modern world in which the Atlantic World is not the only epicenter.
Although today Appayya Dīkṣīta enjoys a reputation as the preeminent Śaiva polemicist of the sixteenth century, it must be remembered that he also wrote works from a distinctively Vaiṣṇava perspective, in which Viṣṇu is extolled as the paramount god rather than Śiva. This paper examines one of those works, the Varadarājastava and its autocommentary. It places special emphasis on how the poem is patterned on the Varadarājapañcāśat of the fourteenth-century Śrīvaiṣṇava poet and philosopher, Vedānta Deśika, with close attention to the Varadarājastava’s use of the Vaiṣṇava imagery of the dahara-vidyā or meditation on brahman as the small space within the lotus-shaped heart. While this meditation was the central devotional practice for Appayya Dīkṣita and for his Śaiva predecessor Śrīkaṇṭha, in the Varadarājastava, Appayya is able to develop a more overtly Advaita dahara-vidyā, unfettered by hermeneutic fidelity to Śrīkaṇṭha’s Śaiva approach. The paper also considers the anomaly of Appayya writing as a Vaiṣṇava in the context of the institutional conflicts that took place between Śaivas and Vaiṣṇavas at sites close to where Appayya received patronage.
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The economic importance of Hindu temples in medieval South India has been commented upon by most students of South Indian history. Without exception, the temple is seen to have had a central place in the dominantly agrarian economy of South India prior to the extension of British control in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. However, beyond recognition of the significant economic functions of medieval South Indian temples, little attention has been given to the matter.
For many centures, Hindus have believed that the religious images they place in temples and shrines for purposes of worship are alive. Hindu priests bring them to life through a complex ritual "establishment" that invokes the god or goddess into material support. Priests and devotees then maintain the enlivened image as divine person through ongoing liturgical activity. In this linked series of case studies of Hindu religious objects, this book argues that in some sense these believers are correct: through ongoing interactions with humans, religious objects are brought to life. Davis draws largely on reader-response literary theory and anthropological approaches to the study of objects in society in order to trace the biographies of Indian religious images over many centuries. He shows that Hindu priests and worshippers are not the only ones to enliven images: bringing with them differing religious assumptions, political agendas and economic motivations, others may animate the very same objects as icons of sovereignty, as polytheistic "idols", as "devils", as potentially lucrative commodities, as objects of sculptural art, or as symbols for a whole range of new meanings never forseen by the images' makers or original worshippers.
Phillip B. Wagoner challenges the enduring stereotype of the Vijayanagara empire of early modern South India as "a Hindu state" that preserved itself in the face of a growing Islamic presence in the subcontinent. Through a careful consideration of both visual and textual evidence, he shows that the culture of Vijayanagara was deeply influenced by its interaction with Islamic culture. He focuses particularly on secular culture, specifically men's court dress-the long tunic called kabāyi and the conical cap known as the kulqayi-which he demonstrates was altered by "Islamic-inspired forms and practices." By adopting modes of dress and titles, he argues, Vijayanagara's rulers opted to present themselves as "Sultans among Hindu Kings," a choice that enabled them to participate in the wider world of "Islamicate" political culture even as they retained much of their own culture and remained beyond the pale of Muslim political control. The author proposes a theoretical model of Islamicization to account for changes that occur in cultural and material forms and practices but not in religious doctrines and practices, a model that fuses together the "Islamicate" idea of Marshall Hodgson and the "Sanskritization" concept of M. N. Srinivas.