Religious Cults in Vijayanagara Empire- A Many Splendoured Phenomena

Religious Cults in Vijayanagara Empire- A Many Splendoured Phenomena

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Book Specification

Item Code: UAJ718
Author: Konduri Sarojini Devi
Publisher: Research India Press
Language: English
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788189131418
Pages: 174 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 11.50 X 9.00 inch
Weight 760 gm

Book Description

About The Book

The glory of Vijayanagara Empire has inspired and fascinated many a writer and historian but its significance in terms of the religious ethos has not received due attention it deserves. Particularly the religious cults which profoundly influenced the religious, social and cultural life of the people during the Vijayanagara period have not been taken up for indepth investigation. The present work, it is hoped, may fulfil the longfelt requirement in this direction.

The work is devoted to a study of the popular religious cults of Virupaksa, Virabhadra, Ganesa, Narasimha, Rama, Krsna, Venkatesvara, Vithala and Hanuman in the Vijayanagara Empire. The work highlights the historical perspective, developmental processes, regional trends, iconography of cult deities, evolution of concepts and their impact on socio-cultural groups. All the available sources of information-epigraphical records, literary works and sculptures of the Vijayanagara period have been utilized to present a comprehensive picture of the religious cults.

About the Author

Dr. Konduri Sarojini Devi (born in 1937) is a retired Professor of History, Osmania University, Hyderabad. She was former Head of the Department of History, Osmania University. She did her M.A. in History from Osmania University in 1960. She was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her thesis 'Religion in Vijayanagara Empire A.D. 1336 to A.D. 1565', by Delhi University in 1969.

She is a dedicated researcher and contributed number of research articles on religious and social history of Vijayanagara Empire to various reputed Journals. She is associated with distinguished academic bodies like the South Indian History Congress, Andhra Pradesh History Congress and Indian History Congress. She is a Ph.D., Supervisor and many students have obtained their degrees under her supervision. She is the author of 'Religion in Vijayanagara Empire' published in 1990.


Religious cults played a significant role in moulding the life and institutions of a Hindu in any period of Indian history. In the life of a Hindu there are innumerable Hindu gods each offering protection and fulfilment of desires to the devotee. The devotee entering the temple finds various images in various postures and attributes, evoking his curiosity to know the significance of the images and the reasons for the popularity of some gods. This naturally brings out the importance of the study of cult deities in any period of Indian history. Particularly the study has great significance during the Vijayanagara period as the period was marked by great religious fervour and the remarkable development of Sri Vaisnavism, Madhvaism and Saivism resulting in the emergence of some deities such as Virupaksa, Virabhadra, Ganesa, Narasimha, Rama, Krsna, Venkategvara, Vithala and Hanuman as popular cult deities during the Vijayanagara period. This is a remarkable phenomena in a period well known for its religious splendour. However earlier studies of learned scholars were mostly confined to the identification and description of the divine images. Studies based not only on iconography but also on inscriptions, literature and sculptures are needed as they provide a full fledged account of the cult deities in the socio-religious and cultural context.

The word cult means cultivation, homage or worship and a system of religious beliefs and the ceremonies or rituals of a system of religious beliefs. The Latin word "cultus" means action and honour with worship.' According to Henry Whitehead, the cult consists of "shrines, symbols or images, ministrants (priests and the festivals)". Thus the cult may be interpreted as constituting a set of religious beliefs, symbols, form of worship, performance of rituals and festivals. "The term "icon" (derived from Greek "Eikon") signifies an object of worship or something which is associated with the rituals relating to the cults of different divinities. The English word "image" derived from old French and Latin "imago", on the other hand has got the basic connotations of 'likeness': from this it came to be used in the sense underlying the Greek word mentioned above". The Icon or image, the object of worship is called Arca, Bera and Vigraha (Sanskrit terms); Bimbam or Silay (Tamil terms). A study of these idols is termed iconography and is one of the most fascinating subject as it is the most tangible expression of religious symbolism.

The images of gods and goddesses worshipped by the Hindus are broadly divided into two classes as the Vaisnava and Saiva. In this classification the images of Ganesa and Hanuman are also included since they are related to or associated with Siva and Visnu. Images are divided into 3 classes as cala (moveable), Acala (immoveable) and Calacala (moveable and immoveable). The moveable are the idols made of metals used for daily services like offering of Bali and bathing, processional and ritualistic purposes. The immoveable or acala images are the mula vigrahas or dhruva berams, made of stone or wood and fixed permanently in the temples. The moveable and immoveable varieties i.e., acalacala images are very few. The well known example is that of the image of Krsna at the famous Jagannatha temple at Puri. The huge wooden image of Krsna, his brother Balarama and sister Subhadra installed in the main shrine are taken out only once a year for the car festival!

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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