Restoration of the Gagan Mahal Pavilion, Anegundi (Karnataka)

Completed in 2022
 
The Gagan Mahal in the village of Anegundi, on the opposite side of the Tungabhadra river to the ruins of the medieval city of Hampi Vijayanagara, is a rare example of a complete pavilion from the 16th century Vijayanagara period. It is structurally intact, including charming balconies surveying the adjacent village plaza and fanciful towers that emerge from the upper storey.

 The specific objectives of the Gagan Mahal project were to:

  • Restore the historic monument in an authentic manner;
  • Highlight the building as an example of the finest Vijayanagara architecture;
  • Showcase the monument as a center of art, history, pluralism, tolerance and women’s empowerment for which the Vijayanagara dynasty was known;
  • Revive the palace as the locus of village life and as a space for local women to showcase and sell their wares;
  • Implement the standards of conservation set for the preservation of world heritage sites as per the World Heritage Convention.
Conducted under the direction of the Bengaluru office of the Deccan Heritage Foundation (DHF), the restoration of the Gagan Mahal was completed in the summer of 2022. Now rehabilitated, the Gagan Mahal represents not only an outstanding example of 16th century Vijayanagara palace architecture, but also the centre of village economic and social activity. The restored building will be available to the women of Anegundi as an attractive historical venue to sell their woven products made of banana fibre and hyacinth, establishing the plaza as the commericial hub of the village once again.

 Several hidden architectural details of the monument were uncovered during the course of its restoration. A large wall painting of an elephant, hidden beneath several layers of lime coating, was brought to light. The basement of the monument was excavated to the original ground level revealing the probability that Gagan Mahal had once been an elaborate gateway into an important district of the settlement. A staircase leading up the tower of Gagan Mahal was also unearthed.