Temple Destruction and Historical Construction: Rethinking the 'Fall' of Vijayanagara
Abstract: The eponymous capital of Vijayanagara was largely abandoned following the defeat of the imperial army at Talikota in 1565. The city was burned and looted and its monumental temple complexes, gateways, and images left in ruins. Despite the massive and pervasive dismantling of architecture at the city, however, the level and focus of destruction is strikingly variable. In this paper, we draw on the material record of late Vijayanagara temple complexes and other sacral forms to examine these patterns of differentially distributed political violence. We suggest that these patterns may be understood, in part, in terms of the contemporary politics of sovereignty, incorporation, and reconstitution and re-imagination of elite authority. Drawing on these observations, we discuss the role of commemorative destruction as well as post-1565 temple rededications and abandonments in the afterlife of Vijayanagara as a social space. In particular, we examine the potential of monumental violence to act as a symbol or to index social memory through a creative and fluid process of instituting claims about the past, heritage, authenticity, and the nature of the present.
This program is organized by the Center for South Asian Studies with support from the U-M LSA Theme Semester and co-sponsored by the Museum of Anthropology and the Department of Anthropology.