Vijayanagara architecture developed from a combination from different styles like the Chola, Pallava and Chalukya styles. Although influenced by the aforementioned styles, it evolved and emerged as a distinct style on its own in due time. As the entire region was very rocky, granite was used heavily in Vijayanagara architecture.
Most of the Vijayanagara temples comprised a Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum with a porch and a mandapa outside. Larger or medium sized temples had a chamber called Sukanashi which connected the Garbhagriha with the outer mandapa. There was also a large hall outside the Garbhagriha, called the Ranga Mandapa. This Ranga Mandapa was a huge covered hall with pillars and was used for dances and meetings. Another major feature of the Vijayanagara style was the Raya Gopuram, which was very tall and richly decorated with intricate carvings of gods, goddesses, men and women. These gopurams were so huge they could be seen from miles around. The term ‘Raya’ indicated that these gopurams were built by Vijayanagara kings.
Another feature of the Vijayanagara temple complex was the Pradakshina Path or the circumambulatory path around the temple. This path had pillars decorated with elaborate Yali balustrades with carvings of charging horses, standing on their hind legs with their fore legs lifted in the air and their riders on their back. Certain other features common to Vijayanagara architecture included mandapas built on square plinths with different friezes and entrances on all sides and elaborate, symmetrical, stepped water tanks called Pushkarnis for devotees to bathe in.
The huge palaces of Vijayanagara consisted of an intricate system of courts, passages, doorways and secret passages, leading into each other. Palaces often had beautifully decorated side extensions giving the complex a symmetrical shape. They also had water tanks with decoratively carved spouts, often in the shape of elaborately carved elephants or Yali sculptures of horses.
The two most famous Vijayanagara sculptures are the Kadalekalu Ganesha at Hampi in Karnataka and the huge Nandi at Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh. These famous motifs, along with the ruins of Hampi tell the story of the brilliance of Vijayanagara architecture even today.
Ratnakar Sadasyula describes the unique features of the acclaimed Vijayanagara style of architecture in his Srijan Talk on “Vijayanagara: The City Of Victory”, a relevant snippet of which is presented here.
To watch the full Srijan Talk by Ratnakar Sadasyula, click on the following link: https://srijantalks.org/2018/06/18/vijayanagara-the-city-of-victory-a-talk-by-ratnakar-sadasyula/