Thursday, 7 January 2010

"Pillars" of Vijayanagara Architecture - Kancheepuram

Kancheepuram, a city famed for its multitude of Temples, is a microcosm of different styles of Dravidian Art and Architecture. Every dynasty that held sway over this sacred land seem to have competed with each other in building more elaborate and exquisite structures, the highlight being that they built new without destroying the older ones. Thus each Dynasty left its indelible mark in the form of architectural Splendors.

In my Previous Post I had covered a Masterpiece of the Pallava King Rajasimha, Continuing the emphasis on Kancheepuram, I will be covering an exquisite piece of art gifted to us by the Vijayanagara Dynasty this Time.

It is said that one should not judge a book by it cover and the same holds true for this structure.Sporting a very humble appearance from outside this structure holds a Treasure Chest in terms of Art and Architecture.

A Simple Looking Rusty 100 Pillar Hall from a Distance at Varadaraja swamy temple in Kanchi

"Noor Kaal Mandapam" (Hundred Pillar Hall) in Sri Varadaraja Swami Temple is a lesson in architecture by itself. The ceiling of the hall is supported by some of the most exquisitely carved Pillars one can ever see. In Middle of the hall we have a raised Stage for the Gods to be Kept during Temple Festivals. These Pillars are the epitome of hard work and perfection. Surrounding these Huge pillars.

The love of Horses has resulted in created a unique style of Vijayanagara architecture which is visible in Srirangam also.Mainly Consisting of Different scenes of Horsemen in various Poses from war, each sporting a unique headgear; This hall stands as a testimony to Vijayanagar Empire's Flourishing Trade with Outside World and their Advancement. Many Horses from Arab were brought by Vijayanagar Emperors and also many Arabs and Portuguese were recruited in the army.

Same Diversity is reflected in these pillars also. We see in these pillars , people from different walks of life, be it a native, an Arabian or a Portuguese. Also seen in the same complex are different facets of Vishnu's Avataar and scenes from day to day life.

During my second trip to the temple, I was fortunate enough to see this work of art in detail. I would like to share some of the glimpses of the craftsmanship below for you all to enjoy.
There are many "Easter Eggs" for visitors to find here... So one should be slow and steady when observing this work of art.

I have tried to present some of the gems from this treasure of art below:

The surprises starts at the entrance itself with a life size Beautifully Carved Yaali
(Mythical Creature) on the Outer Side of the Step Support.

On the other side, a Small Beautifully Carved Krishna. Mesmerizing to see.
What a contrast Big Outside and Small inside.

Surprises Everywhere, in Nook and Corner
(A Mother Preparing to Feed her Baby)

Bow of Shiva being brought for Sita's Marriage

Rama getting ready to tie the Bow
(Note the Dance Like Posture and the Holding of Bow.. Artistic ! )

A Lady in thoughtful Mood
(Probably Sita in Ashoka vanam)

An Insider's View

The Human Wheel

The Divine Tank and the Mandapam under which the original Diety (Atti Varadar) is in a silver casket . The deity is taken out every forty years for 45 to 48 days .The last occasion was in 1979 and the next will be around 2019...

The Horse Rider (An Arab) with Coat and Trouser
(We are talking 15th Century here)

A Vijayanagar Style  Hunting Scene in Progress
(A Well Coordinated Attack)

Other Side of the Above Image

Musical Weapon - Xylophone in Stone
(Vijayanagar Sculptors had mastered the art of creating musical instruments out of Stone)

Another instance of Xylophone in Stone

A Lady getting ready for an Outing?
(So it seems.....)

Actually she is getting ready to feed her baby and is covering the Baby

A Conjoined Triplets

A Native Riding a Horse with his Support Person
(Notice the attire of the Support Staff, It is a trouser and Coat probably a Portuguese)

As in all the Pillars here , The above is also sculpted out of Single Stone !
(Simply Marvelous)

Notice the Attire Posture and Expression of the Horse !

Chain made of Single piece of Stone are at all corners of Hall
(This particular chain was broken and mended with a steel link)

At the End of the Chain there are parrots having a fest on a flower
(What a Masterstroke from the Sculptor, Just can't imagine the effort involved)

A Life Size like figure of Rathi riding on her Parrot

Monkey Business: A Sculptor's Imagination (Of the same stone as Rooftop)
(A Monkey Playing Spoilsport among Pigeons)

A Cat on the Prowl
(Carved out of Roof Top, Just Incredible)

Love is Blind, So is the Spectator !
(Two Pigeons Embracing & A Pigeon busy viewing even though there is a vicious cat on charge literally on their Back)

I Hope that I have created enough Curiosity in all of you to visit the place with Lots of Time in hand.

As you can see in many pictures, the sands of time have literally put a layer on these sculptures but when i visited the site there was a restoration process was in progress. Hope that this will bring out the original beauty of these Sculptures to the forefront.
As always, request you to give your valuable feedback !

Note Of Thanks: I would like to thank my friend Vijay and Mr. Vinayagamurthy for making my visit a grand Success.

About the Place: Being one of the Most revered Site esp. of Vaishnavite, the main shrine of temple is built on a small hillock known as Hastagiri. Adding to the sanctity of this temple is the Ancient and Original Idol of the Temple which is made up Atthi Maram (Fig Tree Wood).
There is a unique custom associated with this idol; the Idol is safely stored in a silver Casket in the Temple Tank and Taken out only once in 40 years. The place was frequented by Vedanta Vaishnavite Guru Sri Ramanujan and his search for his eternal guru got fulfilled here.


Vijay said...

hi swami

Wonderful post. The stone chain you feature was broken and mended with a steel link !! But the piece de resistance is the end of the chain. take a look

Nice ones on the roof top. had missed to feature.

great read


Karthik said...

Very good article. Keep up the good work Swamiji.

Inderpreet said...

Good work swami!! Seems like an awesome place. Would love to go there in future!

Lakshmi said...

did go to kanchipuram recently, but yr post is sending me there again..

Rajesh said...

You articles is very impressive.

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Ramjee Nagarajan said...

amazing work Swami. Nice lucid style of writing and lovely clicks as well. TFS ;)

srajendrappa said...

The vijayanagara pillars massive in size, although of granite, are made to bend to the requirement of the sculptors. Hence variety could be explored in their creations. New experiments could be seen in their architectural activity, and pillar is one suce arena, where we find innovation and improvement .

VarahaMihira Gopu said...

Good job exposing the details of sculptures that most people miss with a casual glance.

Here is my blog on similar rooftop sculptures in SriVaikuntam temple -