Of fine lines and rich colours

Intricate work: The caves and  temples depict scenes from mythology.

The glory of the Vijayanagar empire is best reflected in the art and architecture of Hampi, the capital of the empire. In fact, Hampi is known as an open-air museum.

Several relief works and paintings in the caves in the region are still intact. Also, the exquisite carvings and sculptures in the Vijayanagar style, an amalgamation of various schools of art and architecture, including that of Hoysalas and Chalukyas have all stood the test of time.

Enough work has gone into the maintenance of relief paintings and sculptures.

 In order to retain their lustre for a long time, it is important that new technologies are brought in. The Department of Archaeology has been working towards this.

One can see Vijayanagar-style paintings in places such as Lepakshi, Somapalli, Hampi and Hucchappaiyyana Math near Anegundi even today.

In the famed Virupaksha temple constructed in Hampi in 1509-10, you can still see the paintings depicting the coronation of Vijayanagar king Krishnadeva Raya on the ceilings. Also, there are several paintings that depict scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana including Seetha Swayamwavar, Seetha Kalyana Mahotsava,  Manmatha-Vijaya etc.

Still, some of the colours have faded, including black, red and green, though one can see some tinges here and there. Also, some of the strong lines on the paintings have faded. Chances are some of them might have also been corrected over centuries. History has it that when Chatrapathi Shivaji visited Hampi, he is said to have expressed anguish over the ruins.

In fact, it is said that he indicated to the then Anegundi princes to make arrangements to ensure that regular prayers were offered at the Virupaksha temple. Later, even Chitradurga'’ Bharamanna Nayak is said to have visited Hampi.

It is possible that the fading paintings might have been corrected during such visits by local artisans.

In more recent times, as recent as 2007-08, a Tamil Nadu organisation conducted a sandblasting operation and cleaned up the Ranga Mantapa (the pavilion) to bring it to its present condition. Centuries of dirt on the sculptures was cleaned up at that point in time. Also, the paintings on the ceilings were also cleaned.

It is important that such steps are taken to ensure the immortality of this great school of art.

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