Vijayanagar and Bahmani Kingdoms
• To know the circumstances that led to the rise and expansion of Vijayanagar and Bahmani kingdoms
• To familiarise ourselves with the administration, military organisation and the economic life during the time of their reign
• To know the contribution of Vijayanagar and Bahmani rulers to literature art and architecture
The political condition of India in the fourteenth century provided great opportunities for the rise of new kingdoms in the south. The repressive measures of the temperamental Muslim king Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq led to the rise of many new independent states. In the south, Vijayanagar and Gulbarga or Bahmani emerged as two great kingdoms. The Bahmani kingdom spread all over the Maharashtra region and partly over Karnataka. Ruled by 18 monarchs, it lasted for nearly 180 years. Early in the sixteenth century, it collapsed and split into five sultanates – Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golconda, Bidar and Berar. The state of Vijayanagar continued to flourish for nearly 200 years. Ultimately Vijayanagar’s wealth and prosperity induced the Muslim Deccan kingdoms to launch a combined war against it. In 1565, the battle of Talikota, finally they could succeed in crushing Vijayanagar Empire.
Foundation of Vijayanagar Empire
Vijayanagara, the ‘city of victory’, was established in southern Karnataka by two brothers named Harihara and Bukka. According to one tradition, Vidyaranya, head of the Saivite Sringeri mutt, instructed them to abandon their service to the Tughluqs and rescue the country from Muslim authority. The new kingdom was called Vidyanagara for a time in honour of the spiritual teacher Vidyaranya, before it came to be called Vijayanagara. Four dynasties, namely
Sangama (1336–1485), Saluva (1485–1505), Tuluva (1505–1570) and Aravidu (1570–1646), ruled this kingdom.
The fertile regions between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra and the Krishna-Godavari delta were the zones of conflict among the rulers of Vijayanagar, Bahmani and Odisha. The valour of the first two brothers, Harihara and Bukka, of the Sangama dynasty protected the new kingdom from the superior forces of the Bahmani sultanate, which had been established about a decade after the foundation of Vijayanagara.
Bukka I’s son Kumara Kampana ended the sultanate in Madurai and succeeded in establishing Nayak kingdom there. The conquest of the Madurai Sultanate by the Vijayanagara empire is described in detail in the poem Madura Vijayam composed by Kumara Kamapana’s wife Gangadevi.
End of Sangama Dynasty
When King Bukka died, he had left behind a large territory to his son Harihara II to rule. Harihara II’s impressive achievement was securing Belgaum and Goa from the Bahmani kingdom. Harihara’s son Devaraya I defeated Gajapati kings of Odisha. His successor Devaraya II was the greatest ruler of the Sangama dynasty. He began the practice of recruiting Muslim fighters to serve him and to train him in the new methods of warfare.
Rise of Saluva Dynasty
After Devaraya II, the Vijayanagar Empire went through a crisis. The able commander of the Vijayanagar army, Saluva Narasimha, making use of the situation declared himself the emperor, after murdering the last ruler of Sangama dynasty, Virupaksha Raya II. But the Saluva dynasty founded by Saluva Narasimha came to an end with his death. When Naras Nayaka, his able general, seized power, it ushered in the Tuluva dynasty.
Krishnadevaraya who reigned for 20 years was the most illustrious rulers of the Tuluva dynasty. His first step after ascending the throne was to bring under control the independent chieftains in the Tungabhadra river basin. After succeeding in this effort, his next main target was Gulbarga. The Bahmani sultan, Mahmud Shah, had been overthrown and kept in imprisonment by his minister. Krishnadevaraya freed the sultan and restored him to the throne. Similarly, he forced a war on Prataparudra, the Gajapati ruler of Odisha. Prataparudra negotiated for peace and offered to marry off his daughter to him. Accepting the offer, Krishnadevaraya returned the territory he had conquered from Prataparudra. Krishnadevaraya, with the assistance of the Portuguese gunners, could easily defeat the Sultan of Golconda and subsequently take over Raichur from the ruler of Bijapur.
A Great Builder
Krishnadevaraya built huge irrigation tanks and reservoirs for harvesting rainwater. He built the famous temples of Krishnaswamy, Hazara Ramaswamy and Vithalaswamy in the capital city of Hampi. He distributed the wealth he gained in wars to all major temples of South India for the purpose of constructing temple gateways (gopura), called ‘Rayagopuram,’ in his honour.
He recruited a large army and built many strong forts. He imported large number of horses from Arabia and Iran, which came in ships to Vijayanagar ports on the west coast. He had good friendly relationship with the Portuguese and Arabian traders, which increased the Empire’s income through customs.
Patron of Literature, Art and Architecture
Krishnadevaraya patronised art and literature. Eight eminent luminaries in literature known as astadiggajas adorned his court. Alasani Peddana was the greatest of them all. Another notable figure was Tenali Ramakrishna.
Battle of Talikota and the Decline of Vijayanagar
Krishnadevaraya was succeeded by his younger brother Achtyuda Deva Raya. After the uneventful reigns of Achtyuda Deva Raya and his successor Venkata I, Sadasiva Raya, a minor, ascended the throne. His regent Rama Raya, the able general of the kingdom, continued as a de facto ruler, even after Sadashiva Raya attained the age for becoming the king. He relegated Sadasiva Raya to a nominal king. In the meantime, the sultans of Deccan kingdoms succeeded in forming a league to fight the Vijayanagar Empire. The combined forces of the enemies met at Talikota in 1565. In the ensuing battle, known as Rakasa Tangadi (Battle of Talikota), Vijayanagar was defeated. There was terrible human slaughter and pillaging the capital city of Hampi. All the buildings, palaces and temples were destroyed. The beautiful carvings and sculptures were desecrated. The glorious Vijayanagar Empire had ceased to exist.
The site of the city of Vijayanagar on the bank of the river Tungabhadra in eastern Karnataka is now called Hampi. Hampi is in ruins and the UNESCO has declared it a heritage site.
Rama Raya was killed on the battlefield and his brother Tirumaladeva Raya managed to escape along with the king Sadasiva Raya. Tirumaladeva Raya moved to Chandragiri carrying all the treasures and wealth that could be salvaged. There he began the rule of Aravidu dynasty.
The Aravidu dynasty built a new capital at Penukonda and kept the empire intact for a time. Internal dissensions and the intrigues of the sultans of Bijapur and Golconda, however, led to the final collapse of the empire about 1646.
Kingship was hereditary, based on the principle of primo geniture. But in some instances, the reigning rulers, in order to ensure peaceful succession, nominated their successors. There were also instances of usurpation. Saluva Narasimha usurped the throne and it led to the replacement of Sangama dynasty with Saluva dynasty. The practice of appointing a regent to look after the administration, when a minor succeeded the throne, was also prevalent.
Structure of Governance
The empire was divided into different mandalams (provinces), nadus (districts), sthalas (taluks) and finally into gramas (villages). Each province was administered by a governor called Mandalesvara. The lowest unit of the administration was the village. Each village had a grama sabha. Gauda, village headman, looked after the affairs of the village.
The army consisted of the infantry, cavalry and elephant corps. The army was modernised and Vijayanagar army began using firearms. The combination of firearm and cavalry made them one of the most feared armies in India.
The Vijayanagar Empire was one of the richest states then known to the world. Several foreign travellers, who visited the empire during the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries, left behind glowing accounts of its splendour and wealth.The emperors issued a large number of gold coins called Varahas.
It was the policy of its rulers to encourage agriculture in different parts of the empire by following a wise irrigation policy. Apart from the state, there were wealthy landholders and temples that invested in irrigation to promote agriculture. Abdur Razzaq, the visiting Persian emissary to Krishnadevaraya’s Court, records the huge tank built with the help of Portuguese masons. Channels were constructed to supply water from the tank to different parts of the city. The city was well stocked with a variety of agricultural goods.
Vijayanagar’s agricultural production was supplemented by numerous cottage-scale industries. The most important of them were textile, mining and metallurgy. Crafts and industries were regulated by guilds. Abdur Razzaq, the makes a reference to separate guild for each group of tradesmen and craftsmen.
During the Vijayanagar Empire, inland, coastal and overseas trade flourished in goods such as silks from China, spices from the Malabar region and precious stones from Burma (Myanmar). Vijayanagar traded with Persia, South Africa, Portugal, Arabia, China, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
Contribution to Literature
Under the patronage of Vijayanagar rulers, religious as well as secular books were written in different languages such as Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil. Krishnadeva Raya wrote Amuktamalyada, an epic in Telugu and also a Sanskrit drama Jambavati Kalyanam. TenaliRamakrishna authored Pandurangamahatyam. Scholars like Srinatha, Pothana, Jakkama and Duggana translated Sanskrit and Prakrit works into Telugu.
Amuktamalyada is considered a masterpiece in Telugu literature. It relates the story of the daughter of Periazhvar, Goda Devi (Andal), who used to wear the garlands intended for Lord Ranganatha before they were offered to the deity, and hence the name Amuktamalyada who wears and gives away garlands.
Contribution to Architecture
The temple building activity of the Vijayanagar rulers produced a new style called the Vijayanagara style. Prominence of pillars and piers, in large numbers, and the manner in which they were sculptured are hallmarks of the Vijayanagara style. Horse was the most common animal to be depicted on the pillars. The structures have a mandapam (open pavilion) with a raised platform, generally meant for seating the deity on special occasions. These temples also have a marriage hall with elaborately carved pillars.