Volume 66 Number 1, September 2014
Rayalaseema, The Royal Realm: Architecture and Art of Southern Andhra Pradesh
|Specifications:||144 pages, 142 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
This volume of Marg is dedicated to the architectural and artistic heritage of Rayalaseema, the Royal Realm, a name given to the region encompassing Kurnool, Anantapur, Cuddapah and Chittoor districts in present-day Andhra Pradesh. This legacy may be traced back more than 2,000 years, as evidenced by the ancient, enigmatic stone figural lingam at Gudimallam. During the 14th–17th centuries Rayalaseema enjoyed unprecedented political and economic importance. Under Vijayanagara patronage the prestigious pilgrimage shrines at Srisailam, Ahobilam, Tirumala, Tirupati and Srikalahasti were much expanded, and new temples were built at Tadpatri, Somapalem and Lepakshi, embellished with magnificent sculptures and ceiling paintings. Imposing fortresses and palaces at Gandikota, Penukonda and Chandragiri also belong to this era. In more recent times Rayalaseema has witnessed the efflorescence of local schools of painting on wood, paper and cloth at Tirupati and Srikalahasti.
These little-known and rarely published sites and artistic traditions are represented in this volume authored by three leading art historians, with specially commissioned photographs by Surendra Kumar.
Anna L. Dallapiccola, formerly professor of Indian Art at Heidelberg University, is Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh.
George Michell is an architectural historian who has conducted research at many sites in India, especially at Hampi-Vijayanagara.
(Sister) Anila Verghese is an historian who has been conducting research on Vijayanagara since 1985, with special focus on art and religion.
Velcheru Narayana Rao
Sculptural Traditions of Gudimallam and Hemavati
Srisailam Wall Reliefs
Anna L. Dallapiccola
Tadpatri and Somapalem Temples
Anna L. Dallapiccola and George Michell
Ceiling Paintings of Lepakshi
Anna L. Dallapiccola
Tirupati Paintings and Srikalahasti Cloths
Anna L. Dallapiccola
Gandikota, Penukonda and Chandragiri Forts
Glossary of Selected Indian Names and Terms
This article introduces the present volume that is dedicated to Rayalaseema’s outstanding temples, forts and palaces, and its sculptural and painting traditions. The region’s name, which means “Royal Realm”, refers to the period when Rayalaseema, together with Hampi formed the core of the Vijayanagara Empire, southern India’s most extensive Hindu state during the 14th–17th centuries. It was from Rayalaseema that the Vijayanagara rulers recruited many of their provincial governors and warrior troops, and these rulers and their representatives supported local Hindu shrines at pilgrimage sites in the forested wilderness of the Eastern Ghats. Even the decline in the political and cultural relevance that Rayalaseema had enjoyed in Vijayanagara times, did not cause the region to lose its religious prestige and vigorous artistic traditions. Sacred Hindu sites that developed under imperial Vijayanagara patronage attract ever growing numbers of pilgrims. And workshops employing skilled artists from all over southern India continue to expand till date.
Five important Shaiva and Vaishnava pilgrimage sites that are of special significance at the pan-Indian level are discussed here. Of these, Srisailam and Ahobilam are located in Kurnool district in central Rayalaseema, while Tirumala, Tirupati and Srikalahasti are in Chittoor district in the southern part of Rayalaseema. Srisailam and Srikalahasti are Shaiva sites while the others are Vaishnava. Of the Shaiva sites, Srisailam is home to one of the 12 jyotirlingams, considered the most sacred svayambhu (“self-manifested”). Srikalahasti is highly revered as the locus of one of the five “elemental” lingams that are considered holy in southern India. Of the Vaishnava sites, Ahobilam and Tirumala are among the 108 divyakshetras, or “celestial sites”, hallowed by Shri-Vaishnavas as places of special sanctity. Tirumala is the second among these sites. Together with Ahobilam, Tirumala is the only divyakshetra located in Andhra. Although Tirupati is not as ancient a Vaishnava holy place as Tirumala and Ahobilam, it was patronized by Ramanuja, the famous Shri-Vaishnava teacher. In addition to their reputation as sacred centres that attracted pilgrims from early times, these five sites are also of interest for their temples, art and architecture.
Apart from the unique Gudimallam lingam, Rayalaseema preserves virtually no representation of the art traditions that flourished elsewhere in Andhra prior to the 9th century. The principal architectural remains and sculptures associated with the Satavahanas and Ikshvakus, like those at Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda and Goli dating from the 3rd–2nd centuries BCE to the 3rd–4th centuries CE, as well as the vestiges of the Vishnukundins at Mogalrajapuram and Undavalli in the 6th–7th centuries, for instance, all lie some distance outside the region. The same is true for the 6th–8th century temples of the Badami Chalukyas at Alampur, Satyavolu and Mahanandi. The most important of these sites, Alampur, overlooks the Tungabhadra from the opposite left bank of the river, which here defines the northern frontier of the region. After a discussion of the Gudimallam lingam, located in the southernmost part of Rayalaseema, this chapter concentrates on the art of the Nolamba rulers, whose capital Hemavati is now an insignificant town in the extreme southwestern corner of Rayalaseema.
Srisailam that translates as the Holy Mountain is located at an altitude of about 500 metres in the Nallamalai hills, high above the right bank of the Krishna river. Surrounded by a chain of mountains with dense forests, Srisailam has been for many centuries one of the most important Shaiva pilgrimage sites of southern India. Shiva is worshipped here as Mallikarjuna, the White Jasmine Lord, in the form of a svayambhu-lingam, one of the 12 jyotirlingams. His consort, Bhramaramba, is one of the 18 principal Shaktis in India. Although the inscriptions on the temple at Srisailam are no earlier than the 14th century, it may be assumed that the site was famous as a place of pilgrimage from the early centuries ce. The Vijayanagara emperors made it a point to visit the Mallikarjuna temple and to make substantial donations.
Three temples in Rayalaseema are renowned for their exceptional architecture and sculpture: The Chintala Venkataramana Temple and Bugga Ramalingeshvara Temple in the town of Tadpatri that lies on the Pennar river, and Chennakeshava Temple at the somewhat remotely located village of Somapalem. These Hindu monuments are built in the mature Vijayanagara style, and have no pre-Vijayanagara period-history or any significant later additions. Although the Vijayanagara capital at first developed its own local style of religious architecture, the three temples dating to the first half of the 16th century, are in a Tamil-influenced style. This idiom presents basements with diverse mouldings; wall surfaces divided into projections and recesses by pairs of pilasters; sanctuaries with pyramidal superstructures; and gopuras. Both the Tadpatri and Somapalem temples conform to this idiom, but are of particular interest for their finely finished details and profuse carvings, virtually unsurpassed in all of the religious architecture of the Vijayanagara period.
Lepakshi, in southwestern Rayalaseema, is famous for its temple dedicated to Virabhadra. The monument extends over a granite outcrop known as Kurmasaila, or Tortoise Hill, for its uneven terrain that has an impact on the layout of the monument. There are several huge natural boulders and seven small shrines dedicated to various deities. While the seven shrines may date back to pre-Vijayanagara times, the temple was expanded to its present dimensions during the first half of the 16th century. Grants dated between 1531 and 1538 mentioning the names of these sponsors and that of the Vijayanagara emperor are inscribed onto the temple’s enclosure walls and the adjacent bedrock. This article glorifies the sculptural tradition of scenes from the epics or as separate decorative elements gracing the temple.
This article documents the ceiling paintings of the Virabhadra temple at Lepakshi, which are celebrated as being among the best preserved examples of southern Indian murals. C. Sivaramamurti (1936) was the first to propose that the Lepakshi paintings be recognized as the finest examples of Vijayanagara pictorial art. After many years of neglect, the Lepakshi paintings are now well restored, illuminated by electric lights, and easily visited. Even so, they have yet to be exhaustively catalogued and fully published. The subjects depicted in the paintings are mostly devotional, being drawn from the popular epics, the Periya Puranam and other puranas. In including depictions of Virupanna and Viranna, the temple donors, together with their retinues, they offer an invaluable visual record of courtly life during Vijayanagara times.
Paintings on wood, paper and cloth produced in Rayalaseema have not received sufficient attention until recently. This chapter looks at a number of key examples – notably painted wooden shrines, dashavatara paintings on cloth mounted on cardboard, and painted paper pages from a dispersed Mahabharata manuscript – all of which were produced in ateliers located at the twin pilgrimage sites of Tirupati-Tirumala in southern Rayalaseema. The paintings described here are executed in an expressionistic and forceful style with simple layouts and vibrant colours that are typical of the Tirupati pictorial idiom. The chapter also discusses the kalamkari cloths manufactured at workshops in or near to the temple town of Srikalahasti.
Rayalaseema is dotted with fortified sites, each reflecting the turbulent history of the region as it was passed from Vijayanagara control to that of the Adil Shahis and Qutb Shahis, to the Marathas and various local Nawabs, to Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, and finally to the British. This change of hands is reflected in the diverse fortification systems, best seen in the ramparts, watchtowers and gateways that guaranteed the survival of these citadels through the ages. Wherever possible, Rayalaseema’s forts exploit the natural defences of the landscape, being built up to the edge of sheer river gorges as at Gandikota or up and over rugged granite outcrops as at Penukonda and Chandragiri. Palaces stand in the more level fortified zones at the base of these hills, the largest and best-preserved examples being those at Chandragiri. Modelled on earlier courtly structures at the Vijayanagara capital on the Tungabhadra, these palaces may be considered stylistic hybrids, since they employ features derived from contrasting architectural traditions. The characteristic Vijayanagara courtly idiom reaches a climax in the Raja Mahal at Chandragiri, the architectural masterpiece of the period.