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Medieval History / Regional Dynasties

Notes on Vijayanagara Empire

The founders of Vijayanagara empire were two brothers Harihara and Bukka Raya of Sangama Dynasty. It was also known as Karnata Empire and was established in 1336 on the banks of River Tungabhadra. Harihara I was first the king. Four dynasties ruled over Vijayanagar kingdom. By 1565, the glory of the kingdom almost came to an end. The capital of Vijayanagara was the city itself (it is now the modern Hampi).

Dynasties of Vijayanagara Empire

Ibn Battuta was the first traveller to Vijayanagar kingdom. He was sent to China by Muhammad bin Tughlaq as an envoy. While on his way, he gave lot of information about Vijayanagara empire. The four dynasties who ruled Vijayanagara empire are Sangama Dynasty (1336 - 1485), Saluva Dynasty (1485 - 1505), Tuluva Dynasty (1505 - 1570) and Aravidu or Araveeti Dynasty (1570 - 1680).

Sangama Dynasty

There were around 12 rulers from Sangama dynasty. Harihara I and Bukkaraya I founded this dynasty. They are the sons of Sangama.

  • Harihara I - He ruled between 1336 and 1356. He conquered Hoysala kingdom in 1343. He fought a battle with Hasan Bahman Shah, founder of Bahmani kingdom. After this, there were continuous wars between Vijayanagar and Bahmani kingdom.

  • Bukkaraya I - He ruled between 1356 and 1377. He conquered Madurai Sultanate entirely and it came to an end. The victory was achieved by prince Kampana.

    Wife of Kampana, Gangadevi was a great Sanskrit scholar and wrote Madura Vijayam, also called Vira Kamparaya Charitham, telling about the victory of her husband over Madurai.

  • Devaraya I - He ruled between 1406 and 1422. He fought two battles with Firuz Shah Bahmani. In the first war, Devaraya I was defeated and gave his daughter in marriage to Sultan's prince. Bankapura was given as dowry. In the second battle, he defeated Firoz Shah and brought back Bankapura.

  • Devaraya II -

    • He ruled between 1424 and 1446. He was the greatest among all the Sangama rulers. He employed large number of Muslim archers in his army. He had titles Gajabetakara (Elephant Hunter), Immadi Devaraya and Prauda Devaraya.

    • He wrote a Sanskrit book called Mahanataka Sudhanidhi. He defeated Bahmani king Ahmed Shah. According to Ferishta, Devaraya II was defeated. Immediately after the war, Ahmed Shah shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar.

    • In 1446, Devaraya II died. After his death, there was political confusion. Bahmanis took this as advantage and occupied up to Konkan in West and up to Kanchi in East. Even the Gajapati rulers with Cuttack as capital occupied the Krishna Godavari Doab.

  • Praudha Raya - He was the last ruler of Sangama dynasty. Governor of Chandragiri named Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, killed Praudha Raya and captured the throne.

Saluva Dynasty

Only three rulers are there in Saluva dynasty.

  • Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya -

    • He was entitled as Maha Mandaleshwara of Chandragiri during the period of Sangama king Mallikarjuna Raya. During the reign of last Sangama king Praudha Raya, the empire plunged into anarchy.

    • In 1485, in order to save the Vijayanagara kingdom from the anarchy and from the raids of Bahmani Sultanate, Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya led a military coup against Praudha Raya and ended Sangama dynastic rule.

    • He was a patron of Kannada poet Kavi Linga and Madhva saint Sripadaraya.

  • Immadi Narasimha Raya - He was the last king of Saluva dynasty. His commander-in-chief Vira Narasimha Raya assassinated him. Vira Narasimha Raya belongs to Tuluva Dynasty.

Tuluva Dynasty

The founder of tuluva dynasty was Tuluva Narasa Nayaka, who acted as a regent to Saluva king Immadi Narasimha Raya. Vira Narasimha Raya was the son of Tuluva Narasa Nayaka. Tuluva Dynasty ruled for about 60 years. There are 6 kings from this dynasty.

  • Sri Krishnadevaraya - He is the half-brother of Viranarasimha Raya. During his reign, Vijayanagara kingdom saw its glorious period.

    Krishnadevaraya is the greatest among all the Vijayanagara rulers. He had the titles Andhra Bhoja, Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana and Mooru Rayara Ganda.

  • Achyuta Deva Raya - Sri Krishnadevaraya was succeeded by his younger brother Achyuta Deva Raya. He patronized the great musician Purandaradasa (Father of the Carnatic music), Kannada poet Chatu Vittalanatha and a Sanskrit scholar Rajanatha Dindima II.

    During his reign, he had to deal a lot with the powerful Aliya Rama Raya, the son-in-law of Sri Krishnadevaraya. Aliya Rama Raya was continuously vying for the throne.

  • Sadasiva Raya -

    • He was the nephew of Achyuta Deva Raya and the last ruler of Tuluva dynasty. He ruled from 1543 to 1570. During his reign, Aliya Rama Raya became the de facto ruler.

    • Aliya Rama Raya created conspiracy among 5 Bahmani states. Ahmadnagar, Bidar, Golconda and Bijapur Sultans formed an alliance (except Berar) against Vijayanagara and in 1565, a battle was fought between the alliance and Sadasiva Raya (and of course Aliya Rama Raya) at the battle of Talikota or battle of Bannihatti or battle of Rakshasi Tangadi.

    • This battle ended the glory and led to the fall of Vijayanagara empire. In this battle Aliya Rama Raya was killed. Sadasiva Raya ran away from the capital and the capital was destroyed. He reached Penukonda and ruled from there for some time.

Aravidu Dynasty

It is the last dynasty to rule over Vijayanagara kingdom.

  • Tirumala Deva Raya - After the death of Sadasiva Raya, an officer named Tirumala Deva Raya (brother of Aliya Rama Raya) of Aravidu dynasty captured the power.

    The capital was shifted from Penukonda to Chandragiri. The later rulers of Aravidu dynasty continued to rule until 1680 with the further disintegrated kingdom.

Military Achievements of Krishnadevaraya

  • By the time Sri Krishnadevaraya ascended the throne, there was no Bahmani kingdom. Five independent kingdoms emerged out of Bahmani kingdom over a period of time.

  • Sri Krishnadevaraya fought two battles with Bijapur Sultans.

    • The first battle took place in 1510 at Kovilkonda. Bijapur Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah (Founder of Adil Shahi dynasty) was brutally killed in the battlefield. Raichur doab was captured.

    • In 1520, in the battle of Raichur, Ismail Adil Shah was defeated and Sri Krishna Devaraya recaptured Raichur. Previously, Ismail Adil Shah captured Raichur when Sri Krishnadevaraya was fighting with Odisha.

  • In the battle with Odisha, Prataparudra Gajapati was defeated and Sri Krishnadevaraya took the title Gajapati Saptangaharana.

    In a treaty, up to Rajahmundry was given to Sri Krishna Devaraya along with the daughter of Prataparudra Gajapati. At a place called Simhadri (Simhachalam), he erected a victory pillar in commemoration of the victory.

  • Ganga Raja, a Samantha of Sri Krishnadevaraya and who was ruling Ummattur (Mysore region) with Sivasamudram as capital, revolted against Sri Krishnadevaraya.

    Sri Krishnadevaraya invaded Ummattur, Ganga Raja was killed and entire Mysore kingdom was annexed. Mysore was created as a province with Srirangapatnam as its capital.

  • He also captured Penukonda, which later became the second capital of Vijayanagara.

Art and Architecture of Vijayanagara Empire

Vijayanagara kings built both religious as well as secular structures. For secular monuments, they have used Indo-Persian style of architecture. During their reign, Dravida style of temple architecture reached to the celestial heights.

  • Secular Monuments

    • Lotus Mahal at Hampi - It has full of Domes and Arches. It is the residence of queens.

    • Stables of Elephants (Gajasalas) - These are also having Arches and Domes.

    • Queen's bath - It is a big swimming pool, constructed in Indo-Persian style.
  • Temples built by Vijayanagara Rulers

    • At Hampi - Virupaksha Temple, Kodandarama Temple, Hazara Rama Temple, Padmavathi Temple, Vitthala Swamy Temple, etc. In the courtyard of Vittala Swamy Temple, a huge monolithic chariot is found, the wheels of which can be revolved. The temple has got musical pillars.

    • In Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh -

      • Veerabhadra Swamy Temple (Shiva Temple) at Lepakshi, Anantapur. It was built by Sri Krishna Devaraya's Governors. It has got beautiful Fresco or Mural paintings on its ceiling. A huge monolithic Nandi (one of the biggest in the country) is found outside the temple.

      • Chintala Ramaswamy Temple at Tadipatri, Anantapur. It can be compared with Hoysala's Halebidu and Belur sculptures.

      • Chenna Keshava Temple at Pushpagiri, Kadapa.

    • In Tamil Nadu - Varadaraja Swamy Temple at Kanchi and Ranganatha Swamy Temple at Srirangam.

Extra Information

Foreign Travellers during Vijayanagara Empire

The following foreign travellers visited the Vijayanagara kingdom during the reign of different kings.

Traveller Name Country King Observation
Nicolo de Conti Italy Devaraya I Circumference of the city is 90 KM, which is being guarded by 90,000 soldiers. King has got 12000 wives of which 2000-3000 committed suicide (Sati)
Abdul Razzak Persian from Herat (Afghanistan) Devaraya II Praises Vijayanagara as bigger than Herat. City was divided into 7 parts and each part has got separate fortification. Diamonds, gems, jewellery are sold in heaps in the markets. 300 port cities were there. The cost of entire police administration was met by the money that was paid by prostitutes as tax
Nikitin (Horse merchant) Russia Virupaksha II Economic disparity between rich and poor was mentioned
Domingo Paes Portugal Sri Krishna Devaraya Describes personality of Sri Krishna Devaraya
Barbosa Portugal Sri Krishna Devaraya Talks about social evils in the kingdom
Nuniz Portugal Achyutaraya Talks about food habits of people and social evils

A British scholar Robert Sewell translated the accounts of Nuniz and Paes into English as "The Forgotten Empire".

Krishnadevaraya Contribution to Telugu Literature

  • Krishnadevaraya was a great scholar in Telugu and Sanskrit languages. He wrote Amuktamalyada, also called Vishnu Chittiyam (story of Vishnuchitta Rishi) in Telugu.

    He wrote Jambavati Parinayam (Marriage of Jambavati with Sri Krishna) in Sanskrit. His reign is called "Golden Age of Telugu Literature".

  • Court of Sri Krishnadevaraya was called Bhuvana Vijayam and according to a tradition it was adorned by eight great poets of Telugu literature popularly known as "Ashtadiggajas".

    • Allasani Peddana - He is known as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (father of Telugu literature). He wrote Manu Charitra, dedicated to Sri Krishnadevaraya. He also wrote Hari Katha Saramsam.

    • Nandi Timmana - He wrote a book Parijathapaharanam dedicated to Sri Krishnadevaraya

    • Madayyagari Mallana - He wrote Rajasekhara Charitra

    • Dhurjati - He wrote Kalahasti Mahathmyam

    • Tenali Ramalinga - He wrote Panduranga Mahatmyam

    • Bhattumurthy or Rama Raja Bhushana - He wrote Vasu Charitra

    • Pingali Suranna - He wrote Raghava Pandaveeyam, Prabhavathi Pradyumna and Kala Poornodayam

    • Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra - He wrote Sakala Neethisara Sangraham and Ramabhyudayam.