Cultural Contribution of VIJAYANAGARA empire

Social Conditions:

  • The fourfold caste division of society into Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras continued during this period.
  • Kings considered themselves as protectors of this social system.
  • But, many other social groups attained importance during this period and were accorded special privileges.
  • Though social harmony was maintained with occasional conflicts, each group tried to maintain its distinctiveness.
  • The Brahmins were given a respectable position in the society for their learning and righteous life.
  • Foreign travellers invariably make mention of this caste we know from other sources that they were learned in Hindu scriptures and were granted Agraharas or tax-free villages for their own maintenance and for that of their students. Some of them were priests in the temples
  • The Kings were given a high status, whether they were Kshatriyas or not.
  • The foreign traveller of the period visited royal courts, and hence, noted the pomp of the kings. They described the person of the king and their dress and ornaments. The way the king interviews the people, and the costmary salam or respect made by persons, are all described in the accounts of the foreigners.
  • Kings like Krishnadevraya had a regulated programme described in the account of the contemporary traveller Paes. The king used to get up early, applied gingelly oil, and used to do exercises. ‘After finishing his bath, he used to give audience to people. He used to discuss the state affairs with ministers and subordinate officers. In the afternoon, he spent time with scholars well versed in Dharma; and after dinner with musicians.
  • The third caste, the Vaisyas confined their attention to trade and commerce. They were one of the most wealthy castes in society.
  • The fourth caste, the Sudras were large in numbers. They cultivated land and attended to cattle rearing. Some of the communities like the Balajas attained prominences and took the trade as their profession.
  • In addition to these castes in the Vijayanagara period, there were others like the Right – hand and Left-hand castes, each of which is said to have been divided into 98 sects.
  • There are also references to Kaikkolas (weavers), Vipravinodins (Jugglers), barbers etc.
  • The barber community received a number of exemptions from taxes in the time of Aliya Ramaraya.

Habitations, Food and Dress:

  • The capital city Hampi consisted of king’s palace and a number of big and multi-storeyed houses.
  • Every foreign traveller refers to the city, and how it was well – protected by 7 fortified walls, Middle class lived in flat-roofed houses while the lower classes in thatched houses.
  • Rice, millets and grains formed the articles of food. Kings took a vegetarian, as well as the flesh of all animals, except that of cows and oxen.
  • The kings spent large sums of money on their clothing.
  • They wore silk cloths, worked with gold.
  • Ordinary people wore dhoti and a shirt and had small turban or cap.
  • Though a majority walked barefooted people used shoes.

The position of Women:

  • Women were accorded a good position in society.
  • Some of them were educated and known to be writers, e.g., Gangadevi, the wife of Kumara Kampana, wrote Maduravijayam; and Tirumalamba authored Vardambi Ka-parinaya.
  • Foreign visitors mention the family women, and women who were connected with the temples (Devadasis).
  • The latter used to possess good houses in line streets at the capital city.
  • They were dancers in the temples and were remunerated by the temple administration, by granting lands in villages owned by the temples.
  • The custom of Sati, was popular in Karnataka which attracted the attention of foreign travelers.

Religion and Art:

  • Among the religions popular in the Vijayanagara period and patronized by the Rayas, Saivism and Vaishnavism are significant.
  • No doubt, Jainism also had a number of followers; and at the capital city Hampi itself, there are a few Jain monuments.
  • There is only one instance of a conflict between the Jains and the Vaishnavas, which was set right by Bukka Otherwise, there was harmony among the religions.
  • There were complaints that, Hindus destroyed mosques, and the Muslims razed to the ground Hindu temples, but these are mostly things that happened in the course of the campaigns.
  • Devaraya – II and Aliya Ramaraya are stated to be tolerant to Islam; both employed a number of Muslims in their armies, and the former is said to have placed a copy of the Quran near him so that the Muslims could pay respect to it when they met him.

Saivism:

  • There are two important sects of Saivism viz., Kalamukha and Pasupata, of which the former was patronized by the early Vijayanagar kings.
  • The Kalamukhas believed in the supremacy of Rudra and observance of the Vedic ritual, while the Pasupatas attach more importance to Saiva agamas than the Vedas, though they do not reject the latter. Kriyasakti Pandita was the Kulaguru of early Vijayanagar rulers.
  • It may be mentioned that the deity of the Vijayanagar kings of the first three dynasties was God Virupaksha of Hampi, Vidyarayana, who is credited as the mentor of Harithra I and Bukka I, was a Saivite preacher.
  • Vira Saivism, the extreme form of Saivism, which preaches extreme devotion to Siva for salvation was also popular in the Kannada area of the empire.
  • It has broken the caste barriers for admission of individuals into its fold.
  • It rejected the Vedic ceremonies and supremacy of the Brahmana caste in social and religious life. Sakti worship was also common and it was attended with animal sacrifice.
  • All foreign travelers refer to the Mahanavami celebration which were celebrated on a grand scale.

Vaishnavism:

  • The followers of Ramanuja were now divided into two sects viz, Vadagalai and Tengalai.
  • Vedanta Desikar was the leader of the former and Manavala Muni was the leader of the latter.
  • These flourished in 14th-15th century. Though both the sects stress on devotion that would lead to one’s salvation, there are differences on social and religious questions.
  • The Vadagalai sect believed in the Vedas; in the self- effort of a person before self- surrender to the God; and in the caste system for governing persons of each caste, etc.,
  • The Tengalai sect, on the other hand, used Tamil Prabandhas as their sources; believed that no self effort was necessary for divine grace, and did not recognize caste.
  • Among the votaries of Vishnu can be mentioned persons of the Vallabha sect. Vallabacharya, who seems to be contemporary of Krishnadevaraya, preached the worship of Krishna and Radha. He is said to have defeated Vyasatirtha, the celebrated Madhva teacher of the period of Krishnadevaraya.
  • There were a number of followers of the Madhava school of thought, which started in 13th century.
  • The message of the Madhva philosophy was spread in the form of Kirtanas by Haridasa in Kannada.
  • Vaishnavism attained importance in the Saluva period.
  • The Saluvas were devotees of Venkatesa of Tirupathi and Narsimha of Ahobilam.
  • The Tuluvas also- patronized many Vaishnavite temples.
  • But, during, the Saluva and Tuluva periods, the tutelary deity continued to be Virupaksha.
  • Rulers like Krishnadevaraya gave as many gifts to Saivite temples as to Vaishnavite temples.
  • In the Aravidu dynasty, however, there was the change of the family deity from Virupaksha of Hampi to Venkatesa of Tirupathi.

Temple and Matha

  • These two institutions played a notable role in the religious and cultural life of the people.
  • Regular performance of the rituals in the temples was ensured by grant of tax- free lands to the temples of grant of taxes and tolls etc., that were otherwise due to the state, or to persons who were successful bidders in the auctions of these tools.
  • The rituals in the temples increased.
  • The Kalyanotsavas of Gods were popular, and much business was transacted at the time of such temple festivals.
  • The temple, created employment to many people.
  • Architects, sculptors, astrologers, priests, potters, goldsmiths, scholars in Vedic, epic and sectarian learning, and blacksmiths, musicians, dancers instrumentalists – all found a place in the temple establishments
  • They were allotted a piece of land belonging to the temples, as remuneration for their service. The affairs of the temple were managed by the Sthanikas or trustees, who must have wielded much influence.
  • They could appoint and dismiss temple servants.
  • They got the temple lands cultivated, and could dispose of the yield in a suitable manner.
  • The cash donations made to the temple must have been given as loans for the needy.
  • Some of the temples undertook humanitarian works like the maintenance of a hospital.
  • Thus, the temple had a role in the socio- cultural spheres, in addition to the propagation of religion.
  • The Mathas’s duty was to preach the sectarian learning and spread its message to the people. It was a place where the monks of that sect lived.
  • A number of mathas were powerful during the Vijayanagar period: Sringeri matha, Kanchi Kamakoti pitha, Pushpagiri matha, Vyasaraya matha, etc.
  • They received the munificence of the State for their maintenance

Architecture and Sculpture:

Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi
  • During the Vijayanagar period, there were some developments in architecture over the earlier features.
  • The earlier practice of concentration on the Vimana or the structure raised over the Sanctum Sanctorum has given place now to the Gopuras or towers erected at the entrance gates of the temples. This became a regular feature, even though it started and evolved during the Pandyan period.
  • In addition to the main deity, a number of subordinate deities also figure in the temple now, the shrine of Goddess (Amman shrine) being the most important.
  • Again, owing to the performance of the marriage of the God-Goddess, a separate pillared hall, (Mandapa) used to be constructed for the performance of this ritual.
  • The constructions or additions of the Vijayanagar period can be noticed in the temples of Madura, Srirangam, Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Tadipatri, Tiruvannamalai, etc
  • At Hampi a number of temples were constructed, the most important of them being the Vithala temples and the Hazara Rama temple.
  • The lower portions of some secular buildings at Hampi, known as the King’s Audience Hall, and the throne platform, are available now.
  • The former was a hall of hundred pillars. The latter was decorated, and the figures of animals were carved in the lower stages.
  • In respect of sculpture, the figure of Narasimha is found in most of the Vaishnavite temples.
  • Two feminine Dwarapalikas at the entrance of the temple gates are figured. They represent Ganga and Yamuna. :
  • The Vijayanagar period is also famous for specimens of painting.
  • The temples of Virabhadra at Lepakshi, and Brihadisvara temple at Tanjore are noted examples.
  • The earlier practice of applying: water — missed pigments to the wet plaster gave place to pigments which were mixed with lime water and applied to the dry plaster on the wall.
  • At Lepakshi, were depicted scenes from the Ramayana, and figures of incarnations of Vishnu.

Literature:

  • For the spread of education, the Vijayanagar rulers, like the earlier kings, granted Agraharas or tax- free villages, and lands to learned scholars for their own maintenance as well as that of the students who were to be provided free education, boarding and lodging.
  • Temples also attracted scholars as well as expounders of Puranas and Philosophical issues; so that, students could be trained in various fields of study.

Sanskrit

  • The Vijayanagar kings patronized Sanskrit in general and also the Vernacularas in different regions of their kingdom
  • Like the development in other fields, Vijayanagar rule witnessed enormous growth in Rpterary works.
  • During the reign of Bukka I, the Samhitas of all the four Vedas, and many of the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas were commented upon by a group of scholars under the leadership of Sayana.
  • The epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were also commented upon during the period.
  • Among the Advaita works, or commentaries, may be mentioned Vidyaraya’s Vivaranaprameya- Sangraha, Panchadasi etc., and Sayana – Madhava’s Saravadarsana- Sangraha.
  • The Dvaita philosophy founded champions in Jayatirtha, a contemporary of Vidyaranya, and author of a commentary; Nyaya — sudha on the Brahmasutra — Bhashya of Madhava; and in Vyasaraya (1477-1539) who wrote Bhedojjivcina, Tatparya – Chandrika etc., reiterating the dualistic theory
  • In legal literature, mention should be made of Parasara Madhaviya, a commentary on Parasara Smriti.
  • There are a number of works written by the kings and queens of Vijayanagar that have literary merit.
  • Gangadevi, the wife of Kumara Kampana, and daughter – in – law of Bukka I related her husband’s conquest of Madura from the Sultans in her Madhuravijayam, Krishnadevaraya wrote Jambavati Kalyana;
  • Tirumalamba wrote Varadambikaparinaya relating the marriage of Achyutaraya with Varadambika

Vernaculars

  • Telugu, Kannada and Tamil literature received much encouragement from the kings.
  • Bukka 1 was the patron of the work, Uttara- Harivamsam written by Nachana Somana; under Tuluva Narasa, who was the regent to lmmadi Narasimha.
  • Flourished Nandi Malayya and Ghante Singayya who wrote Varahapuranam and Narasimha Puranam, and translated Krishna Misra’s Prabodhchandrodayam
  • It is however the reign of Krishnadevaraya that attained celebrity in Telugu literature.
  • It is generally believed that eight great poets “Ashtadiggjas” lived in his court.
  • Himself the author of Amnktamalyada, he patronized a number of scholars though some of the poets are chronologically far removed from the king. Peddana, the author of Manucharitra, Timmana, the author of Parijatapaharamam and Dhurjati, the author of Kalahastimahatmyam, were definitely his contemporaries.
  • Others like Ramarajabhushana, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra, Pingali Surana and Tenali RamaKrishna, received recognition only after the time of Krishnadevaraya.
  • Most of the Kannada literature relates to jain and Vira saiva religious thought at a later stage, Brahmanical literature was produced.
  • Bhimakavi was a scholar in Telugu and Kannada, and translated Somnatha’s Basavapurana into Kannada.
  • Madhura wrote Dharmnathapurana on the fifteenth jai nTirthankara. Chamarasa’s Prabhulinga-lila, Mahalingadeva’s Ekoltara Shalsthala, Jakkana’s Nurondusthala, are the works on Vira ‘Saivism. Kumaravyasa was the author of ten Paravas of the Bharata in Kannada. Kuinara Valmiki author Ramajaya in Kannada.
  • Among the Vaishnava writers, mention must be made of Purandaradasa, a contemporary of Krishnadevaraya.
  • In Tamil literature, we have a number of works belonging to the Vijayanagar period. Svarupananda Desikar’s Sivaprakasa Perundirattu, and his pupils Taltuvarayar’s Knrundirattu are anthologies relating to Saivite Philosophies. Arunagirinath’s Thiruppugal praises Muraga (Kartikeya), and his seats particularly, Palani.
  • Manavalamahamuni wrote commentaries on Ramanuja’s wroks.
  • The Bharatam of Viluputturar gives the entire story of Mahabharata.
  • There are a number of lexicons produced during this period, viz., Niganduchudamni, by Manadalapurusha, a jain; Agaradinigandu by Chidambararevana Siddar, a Virasaiva; and Kayadaram by Kayadara a Brahmin

Thus, the Vijayanagar empire during its existence for three centuries, united the whole of South India politically, while giving due weight to local customs and local culture. It was the last Hindu empire that protected the Hindu interests in the South. South Indian History would have been different, had the Southern Nayaks rendered their wholehearted support to their overlord in troublous times in the seventeenth century.