Andrew Charles Brisbane Neill

Beejanugger (Vijayanagara) Pavilion in the Palace
Circa 1856
Plate LXXXV from the publication Dharwar & Mysore
Albumen print from a waxed paper negative
26 x 34.9 cm

This outstanding albumen print of the Lotus Mahal, the Pavilion in the Palace at Beejanuggur (Vijayanagara), by the renowned 19th century photographer Andrew Charles Brisbane Neill [1814-1891], the Scottish-born doctor and photographer attached to the Indian Medical Service in Madras, presents one of the great structures at Hampi (Vijayanagara), the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire of the 15th to 17th centuries, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River (present-day Karnataka), surrounded by granite hills.

The remarkable elegance of the pavilion, Lotus Mahal, is captured by Brisbane Neill through the frontal aspect of the building with its multiple lobed and recessed ‘ogee’ arches (where two ogee curves meet at the apex), and with decorated plasterwork, supporting a series of vaults and domes, as well as the dramatic layering of secondary level structures. On the first floor of the pavilion, several individual sections are ornamented with multiple windows, some with ogee arching, and these proceed to the tapering roof structures typical of Dravinian architecture. These rise as stepped pyramidal roofs and are capped with temple-like finials.

The ruins of this vast royal city incorporate distinct zones, and are divided into two main groups, the sacred centre and the royal centre. The royal centre was the residential area of the royal household and included zones associated with the ceremonial, administrative and military functions of the rulers. The Lotus Mahal is a two storeyed pleasure pavilion situated in the zone of the royal performance. It was built in a mixed style with Hindu and Muslim architectural features.

Brisbane Neill utilised an extraordinary balance of light and shadow to capture the dilapidated antiquity of the pavilion and emphasised the abandoned vacuum of its interiors through the dark contrast at the openings of the building; equally, the wild vegetation seen at the front of the image conveys the passage of time and absent human presence, in the process expressing an enigmatic and timeless character on the image of this historical structure.

For comparative reference, another photographic print of this work is in the collections of the British Library, London, [Acc. No. 965185]


The Kanwaldip Gujral Collection;
Private collection, UK.

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