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The Past and the Present

Edited by Anila Verghese and Anna L. Dallapiccola
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 326, Rs.1450.00


This book reflects the cumulative results of a remarkable set of research projects that have been going on for several decades, centred on the Vijayanagara empire (14th-16th century). While most scholars would agree that interdisciplinarity and academic collaboration are good things, rarely have they been practised in the manner in which they have in the case of Vijayanagara research. South India Under Vijayanagara: Art and Archaeology, edited by Anila Verghese and Anna L. Dallapiccola, consists of 24 papers on various aspects of the Vijayanagara empire, and includes the work of several scholars who have spent a whole lifetime working on this area as well as that of younger scholars. The papers are arranged in two parts: the first focuses on Hampi (which represents the site of the imperial capital), the second examines themes with a wider geographical focus. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs, line drawings and maps, and the illustrations are happily interwoven with the text. If this review cannot discuss all the contributions to this extremely well-rounded representation of recent Vijayanagara research, it is because it is difficult to do justice to them all within this limited space. Carla M. Sinopoli provides a balanced overview, generous as well as analytical, of both the early contributions as well as the features of the post-1970s approaches in Vijayanagara research. The second phase of research led to new understandings of political networks and ideologies, religious beliefs and practices, subsistence strategies, craft production and various aspects of everyday life in Vijayanagara. It should be emphasized that these new insights emerged largely as a result of the posing of new questions, the utilization of new methodologies, and the discovery of exciting new data through archaeological excavations and meticulous field surveys. One of the notable aspects of Vijayanagara research is the intensive archaeological gaze that the site has been subjected to. Nagaraja Rao gives an overview of 25 years of archaeological work at Hampi, carried out through collaboration and division of labour between the Karnataka Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, the Archaeological Survey of India, and many scholars. The daunting scale of this project should become apparent from the fact that the core area of the city of Vijayanagara extends to 25 sq. km., around which is a much larger metropolitan area. The account of excavations, conservation, and epigraphic survey is accompanied by a review of the resultant publications, and it must be noted ...

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