Splendour in ruins

Glimpses; Of a glorious past.

Glimpses; Of a glorious past.   | Photo Credit: Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy


Thanks to the photographs of Alexander Greenlaw, we can now see the remains of the famed Vijayanagara empire.

The Prakriti Foundation and Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, presented an exhibition of rare, historic photographs from the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, titled Vijayanagara Splendour in Ruins. It might seem like a bit of your history book in pictures. The Hampi ruins are all that is left of the famed Vijayanagara empire that we read about in such detail at school. Hari Har and Bukka Rao, the founders of this empire, that history has hailed among the greatest, may seem shadowy ghosts flitting among the buildings left standing bearing testimony to their architectural excellence.

But as the carefully taken pictures will show there is no denying the political and social acumen of its residents. “The city of Vijayanagar is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it,” declared Abdul Razzaq, an envoy of the Persian court after a visit to Vijayanagara in 1443.

Well displayed

Most of the pictures have been taken by Alexander Greenlaw. An amateur photographer, he was a solider who is known for the vast number of pictures he took of Hampi. Check out the shots of the Vitthala Temple, Chariot-shrine and Mandapas. “Waxed-paper Negative” is mentioned often. A part of a rather obsolete method of photography, Greenlaw used this to protect the photos from heat.

The frames, displayed carefully, show that though much of Hampi may seem like rubble, it’s still exciting enough to warrant exploration. The Talarighat gateway, the flowing Tungabhadra, the boulder in front of the Virupakshi temple and especially the Narasimha Monolith are some of the grand aspects documented for posterity.

A few colour photos are juxtaposed cleverly with the black and white pictures. A visual treat, the small info placards may seem too detailed to read and remember all at once, but write down the details for later reference if you must. Stand in front of each carefully framed composition and understand why the Vijayanagara empire is still so important.

Venue: Lalit Kala Akademi

Timings: 10.30 am - 7.30 pm; including Sundays. The exhibition is on till April 4.

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