Vijayanagar Architecture- Overview, Features, Palaces, and Temples

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Vijayanagar Empire: The Vijayanagar Empire was a Hindu empire in Southern India founded in 1336 by Harihara I (ruler from 1336 to 1356 CE), and it flourished politically and culturally under Emperor Krishna Deva Raya (ruler from 1509 to 1529 CE) until it was conquered by the Muslim Sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda in 1646.

Vijayanagar Architecture: Overview

Vijayanagara architecture, which flourished from 1336 to 1565 CE, was a notable architectural style that arose during the reign of the imperial Hindu Vijayanagara Empire. From their regal capital at Vijayanagara, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in modern-day Karnataka, India, the empire ruled South India. Temples, monuments, palaces, and other structures were built all over South India, with the greatest concentration in the capital. UNESCO has designated the monuments in and around Hampi, in the Vijayanagara principality, as a World Heritage Site.

The empire added new structures and made modifications to hundreds of temples throughout South India, and built new temples. Some structures in Vijayanagara date back to the pre-Vijayanagara era. The Mahakuta hill temples represent the Western Chalukya era. Visitors can find numerous monuments in the capital city’s central district, out of which 66 are under UNESCO protection., 654 are under the Karnataka government, and  300 are in the process of being protected.

Features Of Vijayanagar Architecture

The architecture of Vijayanagara, as well as the sculptures and paintings that accompany it, can be divided into three categories, namely:

  • Religious 
  • Courtly
  • Civic

The Vijayanagara style is a blend of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya, and Chola styles that emerged earlier in the centuries when these empires ruled.

Chloritic schist or soapstone was the most famous material for constructing temples during the rule of the Western Chalukya and Hoysala empires. As soapstone is soft and easily carved, this was also suitable for sculpture. Local Granite was a more durable material for the temple structure, despite it reducing the density of sculptured works.  Granite can be easily chipped off, so only a few sculptures arts of that time are worth remembering. To hide the irregular texture of the stone used in sculptures, artists used plaster to smooth out the rough surface before painting it with vibrant colors. 


A strong enclosure usually encircles Temples in Vijayanagara. These temples were further classified into small temples, medium temples, and large temples.

Small Temples:

 Small temples in Vijayanagara comprise of:

  • Porch 
  • Garbhagriha (sanctum)

Medium Temples:

Medium Temples in Vijayanagara comprise of:

  • Garbhagriha
  • Shukanasi (antechamber), and 
  • Navaranga (antrala)

Antrala connected the sanctum with an outer mandapa, i.e. a hall, and a rangamandapa, i.e. an enclosed pillar hall. To accommodate annual celebrations, medium-sized temples also have:

  • A closed circumambulatory (Pradakshinapatha) passage around the sanctum, 
  • An open maha mandapa (large hall)
  • A Kalyana mandapa (ceremony hall)
  • A temple tank

Large Temples:

Large temples in Vijayanagara have tall Rayagopurams made of :

  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Stucco (in Chola Style)

The term Raya is used to refer to a Vijayanagar Raya-built gopura. The gopuram is adorned with large life-size figures of men, women, Gods, and Goddesses. A shalashikhara resembling a barrel resting on its side adorns the top of the gopuram. During the reign of King Krishnadevaraya, this Tamil Dravida-influenced style became popular, and it can be seen in South Indian temples built over the next 200 years. The examples of Rayagopuram are:

  • Chennakesava Temple in Belur
  • The temples in Srisailam and Srirangam

Larger temples have separate shrines for the female Goddesses. Famous examples of such shrines are:

  • The Hazara Rama
  • Balakrishna 
  • Vitthala temples at Hampi.

Temple Pillars:

  • Charging horses or hippogryphs (Yali), i.e. horses standing on their hind legs with their forelegs lifted and riders on their backs, are frequently engraved on temple pillars. Some of the pillars have horses that are seven to eight feet tall.
  • Carvings from Hindu mythology are usually found on the other side of the pillar. Without hippogryphs, pillars are usually rectangular with mythology-themed decorations on all sides.
  • A cluster of smaller pillars surrounds a central pillar shaft on some pillars. Engravings of Gods and Goddesses can be found on the bottom supports of these pillars.
  • Hippogryph carvings demonstrate the skill of the artists who created them.


The Mandapas are built on square or polygonal pedestals with four to five-foot-high carved wall paintings and embellished entrances with small elephants or Yali railing on all sides.

The decorated pillars supported the Mantapas from all four sides. The 1,000-pillared style with large halls supported by numerous pillars was popular whose famous example is the 1,000-pillared Jain basadi at Mudabidri.


Some shrines in Vijayanagara’s Vitthalapura area were dedicated to Tamil Alwar saints and the great Vaishnava saint Ramanujacharya. They are architecturally distinct in that each shrine contains an image of the saint for whose worship the temple was built. Each shrine has its enclosure, as well as a separate kitchen and feeding hall for pilgrims.

Water Storage Tank:

The stepwell stepped tank called “Pushkarni,” a water storage tank inside the royal centre, is a recent archaeological discovery. This structure is a Western Chalukya-Hoysala style tank that you can find throughout modern-day Karnataka. The finished chlorite schist slabs are arranged in a symmetrical formation with steps and landings descending to the water on all four sides of the stepped tank. The inscriptions on the slabs indicate that the material came from somewhere other than Vijayanagara.


As no royal palace structures have survived, much of what we know about Vijayanagara palaces comes from archaeological excavations at Hampi. Most palaces are enclosed within their compound, defined by high tapering stone or layered earth walls. Palaces are approached via a series of courts, each with its own set of passageways and doorways, necessitating multiple direction changes. All of the palaces face either east or north. Side extensions to the larger palaces give the complex asymmetrical shape.

Palaces were constructed on granite platforms that were raised above the ground. As evidenced by ash discovered during excavations, the palace’s pillars, beams, and rafters were made of wood. Multiple tiers of mouldings with well-decorated architrave adorn the platforms. They also used floral decorations, Kirtimukha shapes (demon faces), geese, elephants, and human figures.

The finials were made of copper and ivory, and the roof was made of brick or lime concrete. Railings on either side of each flight of stairs, with either yali or elephant sculptures, were common in palaces. Wells and shrines are two other structures that are commonly found inside a palace complex.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Vijayanagar Architecture flourish?

Vijayanagara architecture flourished from 1336 to 1565 CE.

Specify the categories of Vijayanagara architecture.

The architecture of Vijayanagara can be divided into three categories which are – Religious, Courtly, and Civic


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