The Connoisseurial Climate of Krishnadevaraya: Dimensions, Attitudes and Lifestyle

Read the first part of this series

The scope, scale and expanse of enjoyment of both worldly life and that of the realm of emotions can be seen in the fabled descriptions, for example, by foreign travelers to Vijayanagara. Apart from the familiar descriptions of the bazaars of Hampi which sold precious stones and metals by the heap, we can turn to some enriching details about how they constructed their houses to begin with.

Epicurean Homes

Even if we ignore the gem-studded walls and diamond-encrusted pillars of the houses of the period, we still have an impressive picture of constructions built to suit all seasons. A perron each at the entrance of the house; carvings on pillars; paintings on walls; storeys at great height and openings therein to enjoy the cool moonlight[i] ; shrines, and multi-hued flags atop the house; a large flower garden with a pond full of red lotuses; those who could afford it also had an artificial hillock built next to it complete with small caverns bored into it and steps built to reach its summit; fountains. Given how severe summers were in Vijayanagara, there were separate air-conditioned rooms cooled by water continually splashing on the outer walls. Parrots, swans, peacocks, pigeons, deer, all formed part of the family. As a pastime, womenfolk of the house taught parrots how to speak, and coached peacocks in playing sports.

But of the most astonishing of all was the construction of the “Anger Chamber.” Any family member who was angry—specifically, if the woman of the house was angry with her man, she’d lock herself up in that room till her anger subsided. There’s no historical record to trace the name of the genius in whom originated this brainwave. But this is a truly great custom: thanks to this, the rest of the family could carry on their regular work unimpeded by such temper tantrums. Those who wished to calm down the angry person would anyway do visit the room and do the needful. Perhaps this was originally Dasharatha’s brainwave to mollify a periodically-upset Kaikeyi. Krishnadevaraya and Peddanna had no need for it but Timmanna was forced to build it for the sake of Satyabhama[ii].

The Bathing Ritual

Taking a bath formed a key pre-dressing element of the people of Krishnadevaraya’s period. When we examine some details of the method and procedure of bathing, it’ll be clear why it was regarded so highly.

Very simply, bathing meant “Abhyanga” or inunction[iii]. It appears that inunction was part of their everyday bathing ritual. Indeed, daily oil massage is consonant with the prescriptions of Ayurveda. A devout Vaishnava named Vishnu Chitta had organized in his house Abhyanga for Vaishnava devotees visiting from different lands. These devotees would be given the Abhyanga oil served in a bowl made from the shell of banana flowers. The actual bath was had in the river. But Vishnu Chitta was a poor man and thus could afford only this luxury.

But the standard of the Abhyanga of the wealthy was truly a class apart. First, fragrant oils like that derived from the Champaka (or Champa) flower would be massaged on the head. Then someone would gently part the strands of the hair with their fingernails to ease away any tangles. This process also included patting the head by sprinkling rosewater and then applying a paste made of sandalwood and gooseberry. And further, “even as the flood of the rosewater mixed with the scent of the Javvaji from the Goa country spread their surfeit of fragrance,” hot water would be poured on the head in a never ending stream. After the closure of this process, someone would wipe the water off the body with a fine, soft cloth meant for the purpose.

Sri Vaishnava Procession of Lord Vishnu. Pic Courtesy: Google Image Search

Ayurveda falls short of words to extol the benefits of Abhyanga. But it’s clear that these enormous benefits form one of the reasons our elders prescribed Abhyanga as an essential part of all auspicious occasions like festivals, weddings, and so on.

And so, the connoisseurs of Krishnadevaraya’s period who also appreciated the lasting value of good health, heightened their epicurean experience by adding fragrant oils to their Abhyanga routine. Besides, both women and men sported long, thick tresses, a physical attribute highly prized as an ornamental value. We haven’t still[iv] completely forgotten the fact that a woman endowed with long and luxuriant hair is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But the perception that long hair on men is not decorative but rather looks perverse has gained strong currency of late. And, the Crop—that singular labarum of cultural slavery to Western colonialism, has implanted itself upon the heads of our men everywhere, thus bolstering this perception. And not only just our men. Our women too, have fallen prey to this curiosity and have succumbed to chopping off their hair.

We can count Peddanna as the foremost among those who genuinely appreciated the beauty and a sense of striking personality that men endowed with bounteous tresses possess. He ignores the fact that Bhagiratha—grandson of Emperor Sagara—who undertook harsh penance[v] for a thousand years had become completely frail but laments the fact that his “long and brimming hair” had become horribly matted.

And Abhyanga was the main aid to the growth of long and thick hair. Which is why it was highly prized among the people of Krishnadevaraya’s days.

Dress, Jewelry, and Personal Adornment

We can turn to their dressing now. Typically, people of that era wore colourful clothes. Although men wore all-white on rare occasions, women found no use for that colour. Indeed, when Satyabhama sulked, she did it by wearing all-white! At all other times, she wore, with great pride, clothes coloured with a reddish or saffron tint. She was especially fond of clothes that were adorned by a gold border.

Yet others wore clothes made of “three colours.” These clothes were apparently made of material that was as delicate as the scales of a snake, and which would “fly away when blown by the force of the wind emitted by one’s mouth.” Indeed, there was great demand for such gossamer clothing, which is why it was possible to manufacture such subtle yarns.

Today’s Khadi-wearing warriors think that thicker the Khadi they wear stronger is their display of patriotism and closer they inch towards swarajya or freedom. This is why despite constant and prolonged effort, it is still difficult to find fine and delicate Khadi clothes. But we digress.

In the matter of jewelry, it appears that there was little or no difference in what men and women wore. Although there might’ve been differences in type, shape, form, and application, both men and women were equal in their desire for wearing jewelry.

Our Shastras prescribe the wearing of jewelry to women. But Krishnadevaraya’s state policy prescribed that even men be decked in jewelry from head to toe! Necklaces, shoulder-braces, finger-rings, jewel-bedecked belts, bangles on wrists and ankles…these were worn both by women and men in his time. The differences seem to be in the crown or jeweled headgear worn by men, and noserings worn by women respectively. Thus, it appears that a husband and wife, united in equal desire for jewelry, results in peace in a marriage. Either both could afford and wore jewelry, or they had no jewelry at all. This additionally eliminated the tension resulting from a feeling that the husband would work hard to earn all these riches while the wife simply spent it away on her adornments.

But when we think about it deeply, it’s strange why men’s interest in wearing jewelry and decking up has dwindled. We can’t claim that this ornamental interest has been completely destroyed in the present time but it’s true that the condition is really pitiable among today’s men. The interest among the men in Krishnadevaraya’s era for wearing jewel-studded crowns, necklaces and so on has vanished and has given way to buttons, watch-chains, and finger rings: in rare cases. The spread of this interest also appears to be tinged with fear and cringing. The essence of this new phenomenon is clear: we no longer have the courage to wear ornaments bequeathed to us by our own culture and tradition, to savour them for our own joy but have become mentally and culturally enslaved such that we wear alien trinkets to appease foreigners.

And what applies to ornaments applies to dress. We cower to dress up in an exquisite Salem dhoti—spun with a fine yarn, delicate like a flower—but show no shame in showing up wearing a Surge Suit. We are ashamed to drape ourselves in an elegant Kacche[vi] and dag around confidently in public. But we strut around proudly like walking sticks in suit, uncomfortable and afraid of spoiling the crease.

Our ancients were free men and women; they were true connoisseurs. They fearlessly displayed their love for jewelry by wearing it unabashedly; they decked up for their own joy. Not for them today’s sorry task of putting on a sheepish grin to appease others.

To be continued


[i]Technically known as a Chandrashaale

[ii] An allusion to an episode in Timmanna’s poem “Paarijataapaharanamu” where he recounts the quarrel between Sri Krishna and his wife, Satyabhama.

[iii] Known as “Abhyanga” or oil massage.

[iv] This essay was written more than sixty years ago.

[v] The fabled tale of Bhagiratha, an ancestor of Rama, undertook a 1000-year long penance to bring down river Ganga from the heavens so that her waters could expiate the sins of his deceased ancestors.

[vi] A dhoti wrapped around the legs in a fashion that forms a neat partition between the legs, almost like a trouser.



Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...