The cross disciplinary Indian Digital Heritage (IDH) Vijayanagara Murals Project (2011-2015) led by principal investigators Professors Vijay Chandru and Nalini K. Rao at the Centre for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Studies (CHATS) of the International Institute for Art, Culture and Democracy (IIACD) has been supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
This project was conceptualized in 2009 and launched at IIACD in February 2011 under the Heritage Arts Initiative (HAI) of CHATS. Art and cultural scholars at IIACD have been collaborating with technologists, tourism and conservation experts, artists, photographers and designers in the research, documentation and digital archival of the tangible and intangible heritage of Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara mural paintings in South India.
Art and cultural scholars at the International Institute for Art, Culture and Democracy (IIACD) collaborated with technologists, tourism and conservation experts, artists, photographers and designers in this interdisciplinary Indian Digital Heritage (IDH) project to research, digitally capture, analyse, annotate and archive the tangible and intangible heritage of Vijayanagara and post-Vijayanagara ceiling paintings and wall murals in Hampi and Lepakshi. High resolution images of Lepakshi Veerabhadra temple Natyamantapa paintings from the Vijayanagara period captured with Canon Mark II D cameras were stitched with PTGUI software, texture mapped, edited and color corrected with Photoshop by IIACD's expert mural photographer and filmmaker. IIACD's art and cultural scholars analysed and compared the Lepakshi narrative ceiling paintings and wall murals with the ceiling and beam paintings in the Rangamantapa of the Virupaksha temple in Hampi and also with other Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara paintings in Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Scholarly annotations and narratives of the Hampi and Lepakshi narrative paintings were prepared by IIACD's art and folklore researchers with expertise in traditional South Indian visual and performing arts of Vijayanagara period and post-Vijayanagara.
In addition to the high resolution images of the Lepakshi paintings, this project's output includes
An important contribution of this project has been the democratization of the access to the paintings of Hampi and Lepakshi and their tangible and intangible heritage through open source interactive ceiling plans not only to scholars, artists, students in India and other countries, but also to those who are physically challenged or otherwise lack access to these temples. Even those who have visited these monuments are often unable to appreciate the intricate details of these exquisite paintings, their style, religious and secular themes, narratives, other aspects of their intangible heritage. This project, which has provided universal access to the virtual environments with enhanced tangible and intangible experiences of heritage artefacts, is a major contribution to the tangible virtuality of the digital heritage of two important sites of Vijayanagara - Hampi and Lepakshi.
This project has also made significant contributions to the folklore and art historical knowledge of the paintings in these two Vijayanagara temples. Comparison of the styles and themes of the Hampi and Lepakshi paintings with sculpture and stone reliefs in these two sites and with paintings and sculptures from other Vijayanagara and post-Vijayanagara period monuments in Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu as well as manuscript paintings has shown that the Hampi paintings previously identified by Indian scholars as middle phase Vijayanagara paintings are from a later period. While the 16th century ceiling paintings in Lepakshi temple in Andhra portray the Indo-Islamicate cultural influence as seen in the head gear and clothing styles of the Vijayanagara patrons and their retinue, a comparison of the themes and narratives of the ceiling paintings in the Natyamantapa and Mahamantapa and with the narrative stone bas-reliefs in the Ardhamantapa reveals close linkages of Lepakshi medieval period's visual art forms to the visual and performative art forms, folklore and other aspects of the cultural traditions of Thanjavur and Thiruvarur District in Tamil Nadu.