The Vijayanagara Empire: Emergence and Decline

On In
Hampi Stone Chariot
"The city of Vijayanagar is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and ear of intelligence has never been informed that existed anything to equal it in the World.....Roses are sold everywhere......The jewelers sell publicly in the bazaars pearls, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds".
(Abdur Razzak)

Hampi (in Bellary, Karnataka). the erstwhile capital of the mighty Hindu Kingdom, the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565), is one of the World Heritage Sites in India. Vijayanagara, the City of Victory, is now totally in ruins and uninhabited. What had happened to the magnificent city?

The Vijayanagara Empire of Hampi (1336-1565):

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, HampiThe Vijayanagara Kingdom emerged during the later years of the reign of Sultan Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq, and dominated Southern India for more than two-hundred years. There are many stories and traditions regarding the origin of the Empire: According to the popular tradition, "two brothers named Harihara and Bukka, who had been in the service of the king of Warangal, at the time of the destruction of that kingdom by the Muslims in 1323, fled to Anegundi and took service under the Raja of Anegundi. The brothers rose to be minister and treasurer respectively at Anegundi. In 1334, the Raja gave shelter to Baha-ud-din, nephew of Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq, and was attacked by the Sultan. After the fall of Anegundi, the Sultan left Mallik as its governor. Mallik found the people too strong for him, and eventually the Sultan raised the two brothers to be Raja and minister respectively". The rulers of the Vijayanagara empire were known as Rayas. There were four dynasties ruled over Vijayanagar and they are: Sangama Dynasty (1336-1490), Saluva Dynasty (1490-1509), Tuluva Dynasty (1503-1570) and Aravidu Dynasty (1565-1646).

Sangama Dynasty (1336-1490): Harihara Raya (1336-1343) was the first ruler of the Sangama dynasty. Harihara was succeeded by his brother Bukka Raya (1343-1379) in 1343. He conquered almost all kingdoms of the Southern India. During his reign, in 1347, the Bahmani Kingdom emerged on the other side of the river (and they were frequently at war with each other). According to Ferishta, "the Bahmani Kings maintained their superiority by valour only; for in power, wealth, and extent of country, the Rayas of Vijayanagar greatly exceeded them". Bukka was succeeded by his son Harihara II (1379-1399), who assumed the title Maharajadhiraja. Harihara II was succeeded by his son, Bukka Raya II (1399-1406) and then by Deva Raya I (1406-1412), Bukka's brother. During his reign, Firuz Shah Bahmani invaded Vijayanagar and he had to sign a treaty by giving his daughter in marriage to Firuz. Deva Raya was succeeded by Vira Vijaya (1413-1419) and then by Deva Raya II (1419-1444). During his reign, the Persian ambassador Abdur Razzak visited Vijayanagar. There is no satisfactory records after Deva Raya II's reign; it is supposed that Virupaksha Raya was the last ruler of Sangama Dynasty.

Saluva Dynasty (1490-1509): Saluva Narasimha (1490-1491), the vassal of Vijayanagara usurped the throne after the death of Virupaksha Raya in 1490. Narasimha died entrusting his two infant sons to his minister, Tuluva Narasa Nayaka (1491-1503). He seized the throne after murdering the two Princes. Vasco Da Gama landed in Calicut during his reign in 1498. After the death of Narasa Nayaka, his son Vira Narasimha (1503-1509) proclaimed himself as the ruler of Vijayanagar and established the Tuluva dynasty.

Tuluva Dynasty (1503-1570): Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1530) succeeded his brother Vira Narasimha in 1509. The empire reached its peaks of glory during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya. He was an able and brave King and all Southern India was under his sway. He established good trade relations with the Portuguese of Goa. He defeated Sultan Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur in the battle of Raichur in 1520 and also defeated Prataparudra Gajapathi of Orissa. He was a great scholar, a musician and a poet. He wrote the famous Amuktamalyada in Telugu. His court was adorned by eight distinguished poets who were known as the Ashtadiggajas. (Allasani Peddana, Nandi Timmana, Dhurjati, Tenali Ramakrishna, Mallana, Ramarajabhushana, Pingali Surana and Rudra) He built a beautiful town near Vijayanagara called Nagalapura in memory of his favorite wife, Nagala Devi. The famous Hazara Ramaswamy temple and the great Krishnasvami temple were built by him. Krishna Deva Raya was followed by his younger brother Achyuta Raya (1530-1542), and then by Sadashiva Raya (1542-1567). Sadashiva was only nominally king while the whole power of the kingdom was in the hands of Rama Raya (1542-1565) and his two brothers, Tirumala and Venkatadri.

Decline of the Vijayanagara Empire: The Battle of Talikota (1565):

During his rule, Rama Raya interfered in the conflicts among the Deccan Sultanates, first, in alliance with one, and then with another. In the beginning he joined with Ahmednagar, Bidar and Golconda and fought with Bijapur. In 1558, he invaded Ahmednagar, joining with Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur and during this march, his army committed great outrages; they insulted the Muslim women, destructed Mosques and disrespected the holy Quran. This incensed the followers of Islam, even the allied troops of Bijapur. Meanwhile the Sultanates lost many of their dominions to Rama Raya. Ferishta tells us that Rama Raya daily continuing to encroach on the dominions of the Sultans, Ali Adil Shah resolved to curb his insolence and reduce his power by a league of the faithful against him; for which purpose he convened an assembly of his friends and confidential advisers. According to them the number of Rama's forces was too vast, against which no single Muhammadan monarch could hope to contend with the smallest prospect of success. Therefore, the Sultans decided to unite to reduce the power of Rama Raya. The political treaties and marriage agreements (Hussein Nizam Shah gave his daughter Chand Bibi in marriage to Ali Adil Shah and Huddeea Sultana, Ali's sister, was married to Murtaza Shah, son of Hussein Nizam Shah) were drawn out, and mutually confirmed by the most solemn oaths.

The Battle of Talikotta was fought between Rama Raya and the combined armies of the four Deccan Sultans, Hussein Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar, Ibrahim Qutub Shah of Golconda, Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur and Ali Barid Shah of Bidar, on the banks of the river Krishna on 26 Jan 1565. Rama Raya entrusted his right wing to Tirumala, to oppose Qutb Shah, and his left wing to Venkatadry, against Ali Adil Shah, while Rama Raya, an old but energetic man in his seventy's, himself commanded the center. Rama Raya was seated himself on a rich throne set with jewels, under a canopy of crimson velvet, embroidered with gold and adorned with fringes of pearls, caused his treasurer to place heaps of money around him, that he might confer rewards on such of his soldiers as merited the distinction; rich ornaments of gold and jewels were also placed before him for the same purpose. Unfortunately, an elephant belonging to Nizam Shah, became wild and dashed towards him and he fell down from the palanquin. Before he could recover, he was bounded by ropes and taken to Nizam Shah and finally, he was beheaded. The Muslim army looted the city; people were slaughtered; temples and houses were burnt; the sacred Hindu idols were destroyed and the wealthy empire was plundered. The plunder was so great, that every private man in the allied army became rich in gold, jewels, tents, arms, horses, and slaves. The kingdom of Vijayanagara never recovered its ancient splendor!

Aravidu Dynasty (1565-1646): Although Vijayanagara was destroyed, Tirumala along with Sadashiva escaped to Penukonda where they tried to rebuild the empire. In 1568, Tirumala murdered Sadasiva, and seized the throne for himself (1568-1575). Tirumala was succeeded by his son Sri Ranga Raya (1575-1586) and later followed by his brother, Venkatapati Raya I (1586-1614) who shifted the capital from Penukonda to Chandragiri. During that time, the largest feudatories of the Vijayanagar empire; the Wodeyars of Mysore and the Nayakas of Ikkeri declared their independence. Venkatapati was succeeded by Sri Ranga Raya II in 1614 and later by Ramadeva (1617-1632). Venkata III (1632-1642) again shifted the capital to Vellore. Sri Ranga III (1642-1646) was the last ruler of the Vijayanagara empire.

The Vijayanagara kings celebrated Dasara on a grand scale which was then revived by the Wodeyars in 1610.

Reference:

A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar By Robert Sewell
History of the Rise of Mahommedan Power in India By Ferishta

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