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Postgraduate Research

Amita Kanekar is currently based in Goa, where she teaches architectural history and theory at the Goa College of Architecture, continues to study the work of the Ikkeri Nayakas, and writes on architectural history. She has also written a novel, a work of historical fiction titled 'A Spoke in the Wheel: A novel about the Buddha' (Harper Collins 2005), and is currently working on a second, set in the Mughal period.

The Architecture of the Ikkeri Nayakas

Abstract of MPhil thesis (completed 2009)

This project is an architectural study and documention of two temples of the Ikkeri Nayaka period. The rise of the Nayakas of Keladi, Ikkeri and Bidnur, first as regional viceroys of the Vijayanagara empire which dominated south India in CE 14th–16th centuries, then as one of its successor regimes, saw a new concentration of power in the western region of Karnataka, as well as a new beginning to architectural patronage, the results of which have hardly been studied or documented so far. The heartland of the early viceroyalty lay around the 16th-century citadels of Keladi and Ikkeri, which are also the sites of two temple foundations: the Rameshvara of Keladi and the Aghoreshvara of Ikkeri, the focus of this project. These two temples are of interest because they are very possibly the earliest and largest temples of the period, founded by the Nayakas themselves, and together span the period of the emergence of the Nayakas as local governors to their own independent rule. They are thus likely to reflect the society and political economy, as also the political aspirations of the expanding Nayakadom. Furthermore they are probably among the most stylistically mixed in the whole of south India.

Earlier work on this subject has comprised brief descriptions, in which the heterogeneity of the two temple designs has been widely remarked upon, though not detailed out or explained. There are also some floor and site plans, and one elevation of a minor building – a vahana pavilion – in one of the temples.

The objectives of this MPhil project are: (1) to produce the first complete architectural documentation of these buildings, in the form of detailed drawings including plans, sections, elevations and details; (2) to provide a comprehensive description of form, composition, stylistic emulations, as well as construction; (3) to investigate the meaning and pattern in the designs, including the architectural and other processes which led to the heterogeinity.

The thesis starts with an introduction to the subject of study, followed by a description of the historical backdrop, including the rise of the Nayakas, the history of their regional base, its political economy and social structure, and the nature of architectural patronage. This is followed by an explanation of the architectural and stylistic context, including the building traditions of the region and hinterland. Detailed descriptions of each temple follow, along with an indentification of stylistic leanings and emulations. This part is accompanied by the drawings and photographic documentation. Finally, the conclusion draws together the threads of the documentation and comparisons, and tries to locate the buildings in their political and economic context, in order to identify the possible reasons, methods and meaning of these designs.

The central idea discussed in the conclusion is about the politics of architectural revivalism – seen in the evolution of designs, design sources and heterogeniety from the first temple to the second, also within each – and the relation of this transformation to the Nayakas’ political rise, first within the Vijayanagara empire, then as independent rulers. The earlier period produces a growing synthesis of local building traditions with imperial forms, while the later sees a revival of late Karnata ideas, one which distinctly proclaimed a more ancient imperial inheritance. Other issues discussed in the conclusion are the possibility of a local timber building tradition prior to the Nayakas, the methods by which foreign ideas were imported into the Nayakadom, and the intriguing similarities of the Vidyashankara temple of Shrngeri to Nayaka works.