The Royal enclosure, the nucleus of the capital city of Vijayanagara is the largest extant enclosures in the ancient city occupying an area of 59,000 Sq.Mts and is protected by lofty double walls. The enclosure had housed as many as forty three building during it’s hay days.
After visiting the Vittala temple complex in the morning (Read here blog on Vittala temple complex), we headed to the Royal enclosure which undoubtedly has to be the highlight of our trip. The Royal enclosure is around 7 Kms from the Vittala temple complex and is a 20 minute drive. We reached this place at around 12:00 PM – not an ideal time as the sun could be very harsh during summers.
We were lucky as the skies were overcast (the South-West monsoon was receding) and the weather was perfect for us to explore this monument. The Royal enclosure is a wide area of around 59,000 Sq meters and would take you a good 4-5 hours to explore. The places to visit in and around the Royal enclosure are:
- Queen’s bath
- Royal Enclosure
- Mahanavami Dibba
- Zanana Enclosure, and
- Elephant Stable
Queen’s bath is the first monument that you will find as you reach this complex. It is located to the Southeast of the Royal enclosure, with its own seperate enclosed space, consisting of a complex of changing rooms and a bath. At present only the bath is existent. A strikingly simple facaded structure in the Indo-Islamic style of Vijayanagara architecture, the interior of the bath is in total contrast, with its ornate stucco and plaster work.
The structure is 30 Sq.mts with a 15 Sq.mts bath, which is 1.8 meters deep. Pillared and vaulted corridors run all around with channel to the east and a moat that runs all around the structure that ensured a constant supply of fresh water. There are steps leading down to the floor of the bath to the North and the remnants of four pillars in the center, which probably support a pavilion.
Royal enclosure and Mahanavami Dibba
The Royal enclosure has three entrances, two on the North and one towards the West. The Northern entrance, to the East of the audience hall was the main entrance with well-guarded massive doorways arranged zig-zag on plan. The other Northern entrance with flight of steps near Mahanavami Dibba platform and a doorway with exquisitely carved monolithic temple type door flaps. The Western entrance leads to a passage that connects Hazararama temple on the North.
Entering the enclosure through the Northern main entrance, there is a neatly plastered open courtyard and a pillared hall leading to a well decorated Hall. To the South of this hall is the underground secret council chamber. To the Southwest of this secret chamber was the King’s residence with as many as nice chambers including a Pooja room.
To the West and Northwest of the residence were many structures. It is interesting to note that a flight of steps used to lead from a chamber to the first floor of the King’s audience hall. To the East of the palace complex is the sacred area including a large open courtyard with well plastered floor, accommodating at the center a Homa Kunda and a tank. The two structures with decorative plinth on the South of the sacred area were the residence of Queens.
The long rectangular pillared halls in a row arranged in units of two and separated by a wide avenue on the South of the palace complex were probably the residences of people working in the palace complex. Water was brought to this enclosure from an external source through a main aqueduct running in the middle feeding 23 small and big tanks in the enclosure.
The so called public bath located at the South Eastern corner is the largest tank in the enclosure. However the most ornamental among the tanks is the stepped tank located North of the public bath. Every ornamental member of this tank bears a Mason mark indicating the exact location of the member in the construction. There is another “T” shaped tank in front of the Mahanavami Dibba platform. There is also a well in the enclosure.
This pyramidal, three tired stone platform, rising to a height of 8 Meters is located to the NorthEast of the Royal enclosure. It was one of the most important ceremonial structures of Royal use. Built in granite and subsequently encased in sculptured schist stone, it is dated to Circa, 16th century AD.
The terraced platformis nearly 35 Sq.Mts and has an approach flight of steps on the East, West and South. The Southern flight of steps has a sculptured balustrade that opens on the West. The Western flight of steps are located almost in the centre of the platform. And the two eastern flight of steps have common chamber, which opens on the East. Each Tier of the platform has sculptured mouldings in the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. The lower tier has low relief sculptural friezes depicting the socio-cultural activities of the time.
The extant pillar bases in the centre of the platform indicate the presence of a pavilion. There are references to the use of the platform by the Royal family for important festivals like Mahanavami, by Abdur Razak and Domingo Paes, visitors to this Vijayanagara city in 1520 AD and 1442 AD respectively.
The visit to the Royal enclosure will highlight how beautiful this city would have been during the hay days of Vijayanagara empire. The ruins around this enclosure epitomizes the unique blend of Indo-Islamic style of architecture of Vijayanagara empire. As we left the enclosure, we couldnt help but think, how beautiful this place would have been if all the buildings were intact and not in ruins.
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