Hampi Hopping, Royal Center: Lotus Mahal Enclosure

The Royal Center of Vijaynagar lies to the south of the Sacred Center, separated by a narrow and shallow irrigated valley. Immediately to the north of valley rise the series of Sacred Center hillocks facing the Tungabhadra River that include Hemakuta, Matanga and Gandhamadana Hills. To the south of the valley rise a lower set of hillocks beyond which spreads the Royal Center. The land in and around the Royal Center is relatively flat compared to the boulder-strewn landscape of the Sacred Center, though not completely devoid of that element.

The Royal Center contained the main palace buildings of the Vijaynagar rulers. These were sectioned off into separate enclosures, each enclosure surrounded by high, thick and tapered stone walls. Fortified double walls surrounded the entire set of enclosures.

The Lotus Mahal enclosure (also named the Zenana enclosure though it probably wasn’t the zenana), is named after a relatively intact palace building within it known as Lotus Mahal. As mentioned before, many of the secular palace structures borrowed freely from Deccan Sultanate architecture, as opposed to temple buildings in Vijaynagar, which strictly followed south Indian traditions of Hindu (and Jain) temple design. Thus we have free use of arches, vaults and domes in palace buildings. However the multiple towers above the many bays of Lotus Mahal represent a unique stylistic element. These towers are a reworking of the horizontally layered tapering towers we see over temple shikhars (towers) at Hemakuta Hill (as an example). These secular structures therefore represent a hybrid style particular to Vijaynagar architecture.

Lotus Mahal

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Water pavilion base

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Palace building base

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Watchtower and enclosure wall

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Elephant stables in the background

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Elephant stables, immediately to the east of the Lotus Mahal enclosure. Note the alternating dome and pyramidal roof

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Structure next to the elephant stables. I have to say that the outside arches of this building are very poorly proportioned

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