The cross disciplinary Indian Digital Heritage (IDH) Vijayanagara Murals Project (2011-2015) led by principal investigators Professors Vijay Chandru and Nalini K. Rao at the Centre for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Studies (CHATS) of the International Institute for Art, Culture and Democracy (IIACD) has been supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.
This project was conceptualized in 2009 and launched at IIACD in February 2011 under the Heritage Arts Initiative (HAI) of CHATS. Art and cultural scholars at IIACD have been collaborating with technologists, tourism and conservation experts, artists, photographers and designers in the research, documentation and digital archival of the tangible and intangible heritage of Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara mural paintings in South India.
Lepakshi and Hampi are some of the key sites of Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara mural paintings that have been the focus of this project. Lepakshi Veerabhadraswamy Natya Mandapa temple murals were researched and captured in high resolution with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and stitched by IIACD's expert photographer Vinod Raja. Stylistic and thematic features and various other aspects of the tangible and intangible heritage of the rich narrative paintings in the Natya Mandapa such as the Girija Kalyana, Draupadi Swayamvara, etc in this temple were analyzed and compared with paintings in the the Virupaksha temple Rangamantapa in Hampi, which were shot by the NID IDH team with a Hasselblad camera and with mural paintings at other important sites in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Digital archival of mural paintings is an important aspect of digital conservation since a large number of these painting have been damaged, destroyed or repainted and many have been lost forever. Restorations, when performed, have sometimes led to serious distortions, affecting the very historicity and character of these artifacts. CHATS art and cultural scholars have hence, collaborated with a designer and open source software technologists in co-creating an interactive digital archive demo of the high resolution Rangamantapa ceiling murals in Hampi, with annotations and rich narratives. They are also co-creating an interactive digital archive of the Lepakshi Natya Mandapa ceiling murals.