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Lotus Mahal
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Lotus Mahal in Zenana enclosure

Lotus Mahal

The best preserved courtly structure in the Royal Centre of Vijayanagara, the Lotus Mahal owes its fanciful name to British visitors in the 19th century. Rather than being a pleasure pavilion, as its name might indicate, the pavilion probably served as a meeting place of the emperor and his closest advisors. Indeed, it is referred to as a “council chamber” on the first map of the site prepared in 1799.

The Lotus Mahal stands near to the middle of a high walled compound in the northeast corner of the Royal Centre. This enclosure also contains a vaulted structure of uncertain purpose and the remains of two palaces and various water features. Octagonal and square watchtowers with balconies are built into the compound walls. A small doorway to the east leads to the elephant stables, suggesting that the Lotus Mahal enclosure was an abode of men rather than a zenana, or women’s quarter, as is sometimes believed.

The Lotus Mahal is symmetrically laid out, with equal projections on four sides. It has two storeys, both with lobed arched openings in multiple planes surrounded by elaborate plaster designs. Curved eaves that run continuously around the building protect the walls from the sun and rain. Eight pyramidal towers rise over the central and corner bays of the building; a ninth tower above the central bay is similar but higher. The staircase tower in one corner is a later addition.

One of the most representative examples of the Vijayanagara courtly style, the Lotus Mahal is a successful fusion of temple-like elements (curved eaves, pyramidal towers) with sultanate elements (lobed arches, plaster designs). Sadly, much of its original decoration has been lost. Recent restoration has also altered the colour and finish of the outer surface.

Section of Lotus Mahal


Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project