The Lotus Mahal is also known as the “Kamal Mahal” and the “Chitrangini Mahal” and is quite a departure from the temple structures at Hampi. This is located inside the “Zenana Complex” (Zenana – Urdu word for ladies) and protected by walls with watch towers. This is an excellent example of the Indo Islamic type of architecture. The base is typical Vijayanagar style in polygonal geometry and constructed out of stone while the super structure is typical Islamic with arched entrances and a pyramidal top.
Unlike the other major structures in Hampi, the superstructure is constructed out of lime mortar and bricks. The shape of the structure is what gave its name – Lotus Mahal. The archways and the balcony with the domed construction resemble a half opened lotus bud. Also a lotus bud shape is carved on to the center dome. The arched entrances have elaborate and intricate design on them resembling filigree work which exponentially adds to the beauty of the arches and the entire structure.
The entire monument is surrounded by a fortifying wall which is rectangular in plan. The four corners of the fortifications have watch towers that would have been used to keep an eye on the intruders into the Womens’ chambers. While it was a very popular practice to have Eunuchs guarding Queens’ Palaces in the North India, especially during Moghul rule, the existence of such a practice has not come to light in the Vijayanagara kingdom.
One of the interesting features here is that this structure was “air-conditioned” as per the engineering practice in 16th century. Look at the top of the arches and you will find holes thru which a network of pipes is made to run from the top of the arches. These pipes would cascade down a cloth barrier at the periphery of the Lotus Mahal. The incoming air would have to pass thru a water blanket thus bringing down the temperature. This is the same technique used in “Desert Coolers” in North India even to this day.
Surprisingly this is one structure that has not suffered any damage during the Moghul invasion of Hampi and seems to be intact. A simple but an enormously beautiful structure meant for the leisure of the Royal ladies and befitting the charm of the ladies who occupied this place!. Truly beautiful and truly a photographer’s delight.