A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar| by Robert Sewell Preface|Chapter 1|Chapter 2|Chapter 3|Chapter 4|Chapter 5|Chapter 6|Chapter 7|Chapter 8|Chapter 9|Chapter 10|Chapter 11|Chapter 12|Chapter 13|Chapter 14|Chapter 15|Chapter 16|Chapter 17
The Buildings, Works, and Inscriptions of Krishna Deva
Temples ~~ Irrigation works ~~ Statue of Narasimha ~~ Kamalapuram ~~ Inscriptions. Were it not that the description given us by Nuniz and Paes of the condition of the great city of Vijayanagar at this period is so graphic, so picturesque, and so detailed as positively to require no addition, I should have deemed it my duty to attempt to supply the want; but with their narrative before us in all its original freshness, it would be useless to attempt anything further. Both of these writers were on the spot at the time of the city's greatest grandeur and prosperity, though in the time of Nuniz the period of its political decay had set in. With their descriptions I shall not venture to interfere.
I cannot, however, pass on to the reign of Achyuta without calling attention to some of the works carried out at the capital by Krishna Deva, and to a few of the inscribed records of his reign.
At the beginning of his reign Krishna built a GOPURA or tower, and repaired another, at the Hampe temple, which had been built by the first kings in honour of Madhavacharya, the founder of the fortunes of Vijayanagar. The great KRISHNASVAMI temple was built by him in 1513, after his return from the successful campaign in the east. In the same year he commenced the temple of HAZARA RAMASVAMI at the palace, the architecture of which leads Mr. Rea to think that it was not finished till a later period.
Later in his reign the king busied himself in improving the irrigation of the dry lands about Vijayanagar. He constructed in 1521 the great dam and channel at Korragal, and the Basavanna channel, both of which are still in use and of great value to the country.
Another great work of his was the construction of an enormous tank or dammed-up lake at the capital, which he carried out with the aid of Joao de la Ponte, a Portuguese engineer, whose services were lent to him by the governor-general of Goa. Both Paes and Nuniz mention this lake, and as the former actually saw it under construction it may have been begun in A.D. 1520. I think that this is the large lake, now dry, to be seen at the north-western mouth of the valley entering into the Sandur hills south-west of Hospett, the huge bank of which has been utilised for the conveyance of the highroad from Hospett to the southern taluqs. If so, the fact of its original failure is interesting to us, because for many years past this vast work has been entirely useless. The description given by Nuniz accords with the position of this tank, which was doubtless intended partly for irrigation purposes, and partly for the supply of water to the "new city," Nagalapura, the king's favourite residence, now known as Hospett. The chronicler mentions the existence of lofty ridges on each side, strong gates and towers guarding the entrance, and states that this was the principal approach to the capital from the south; all which data coincide with the position of the tank and road in question. It is through these gates that the Portuguese travellers entered Vijayanagar. This view is supported by the account given by Paes. Writing of the approach to Vijayanagar from the western coast, and describing the "first range," I.E. the first that is seen on passing upwards from the plains, he states that in these hills was the principal entrance from that side. He alludes to the gates and wall, and the city, Nagalapur, constructed by King Krishna. Then he writes, "the king made a tank THERE," I.E. close to Hospett, at the mouth of two hills, and in order to this end "broke down a hill." He saw innumerable people at work on the tank. He confirms the story of Nuniz as to the sixty human beings offered in sacrifice to ensure the security of the dam. Both writers are therefore describing the same tank, and, taking the chronicles together, I can have no doubt as to the soundness of my identification.
Prior to 1520, Krishna Deva built the outlying town of Nagalapur, to which allusion has just been made. It was constructed in honour of his favourite wife, the quondam courtesan, Nagala Devi, and the king made it his favourite residence.
He also appears to have begun the construction of the temple of Vitthalasvami on the river-bank, the most ornate of an the religious edifices of the kingdom. "It shows," writes Mr. Rea in the article already referred to, "the extreme limit in florid magnificence to which the style advanced." The work was continued during the reign of Krishna Deva's successors, Achyuta and Sadasiva, and was probably stopped only by the destruction of the city in 1565. An inscription records a grant to the temple in 1561.
In 1528 was constructed one of the most curious and interesting monuments to be seen in the city. This is an enormous statue of the god Vishnu in his AVATARA as Narasimha, the man-lion. It was hewn out of a single boulder of granite, which lay near the south-western angle of the Krishnasvami temple, and the king bestowed a grant of lands for its maintenance. Though it has been grievously injured, probably by the iconoclastic Muhammadans in or after the year 1565, it is still a most striking object.
I have already alluded to the grants made by Krishna Deva to the great Virupaksha temple at Hampe, on the occasion of the festival of his coronation. There is an inscription of his reign on the base of the inner side of the front tower (GOPURA) of the temple at Virinchipuram, dated in the year A.D. 1513 ~~ 14; and one dated Tuesday, September 20, 1513, at Sankalapura, close to the capital, recording a grant of the lands of that village to the temple of Ganapati in the palace enclosure. Mr. Fleet mentions others of his reign in A.D. 1509 ~~ 10, 1512 ~~ 13, 1514 ~~ 15, 1522 ~~ 23, and 1527 ~~ 28.
The last inscription of the reign at present known is one which bears a date corresponding to Friday, April 23, A.D. 1529. It stands in front of the great statue of Ugra Narasimha, described above.