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Glory of Vijayanagar Empire

Vijayanagar Empire

Sangama dynasty Harihara – I 1336–1356, Bukka Raya – I 1356–1377, Harihara Raya – II 1377–1404, Virupaksha Raya 1404–1405, Bukka Raya- II 1405–1406, Deva Raya -I 1406–1422, Ramachandra Raya1422, Vira Vijaya Bukka Raya 1422–1424, Deva Raya- II 1424–1446, Mallikarjuna Raya 1446–1465, Virupaksha Raya- II 1465–1485, Praudha Raya 1485

Saluva dynasty Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya 1485–1491, Thimma Bhupala 1491, Narasimha Raya- II


Tuluva dynasty Tuluva Narasa Nayaka 1491–1503, Vira Narasimha Raya 1503–1509, Krishna Deva Raya 1509–1529, Achyuta Deva Raya 1529–1542, Venkata- I 1542, Sadasiva Raya 1542–1570

Aravidu dynasty Aliya Rama Raya 1542–1565, Tirumala Deva Raya 1565–1572, Sriranga I 1572–1586, Venkata -II 1586–1614, Sriranga- II 1614, Rama Deva Raya 1617–1632, Venkata – III 1632–1642 Sriranga – III 1642–1646

The Vijayanagar Empire (also called Karnataka Empire), was based in the Deccan Plateau region in South India. It was established in 1336 by the brothers Harihara- I and Bukka Raya- I of Sangama Dynasty, members of a pastoralist cowherd community that claimed Yadava lineage. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. At its peak it had subjugated almost all of South India’s ruling families and the Sultans of the Deccan region thus becoming a notable power. It lasted until 1646, although its power declined after a major military defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the combined armies of the Deccan sultanates. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagar, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India. The writings of medieval European travelers such as Domingo Paes, Fernão Nunes, and Niccolò Da Conti, and the literature in local languages provide crucial information about its history. Archaeological excavations at Vijayanagar have revealed the empire’s power and wealth.


Differing theories have been proposed regarding the origins of the Vijayanagar empire. Many historians propose that Harihara- I and Bukka- I, the founders of the empire, were Kannadigas and commanders in the army of the Hoysala Empire stationed in the Tungabhadra region to ward off Muslim invasions from the Northern India. Others claim that they were Telugu people, first associated with the Kakatiya Kingdom, who took control of the northern parts of the Hoysala Empire during its decline. Irrespective of their origin, historians agree the founders were supported and inspired by Vidyaranya, a saint at the Sringeri monastery to fight the Muslim invasion of South India. Writings by foreign travelers during the late medieval era combined with recent excavations in the Vijayanagar principality have uncovered much-needed information about the empire’s history, fortifications, scientific developments and architectural innovations. Before the early 14th-century rise of the Vijayanagar Empire, the Hindu states of the Deccan – the Yadava Empire of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal, the Pandyan Empire of Madurai had been repeatedly raided and attacked by Muslims from the north, and by 1336 these upper Deccan region (modern day Maharashtra, Telangana) had all been defeated by armies of Sultan Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughluq of the Delhi Sultanate.

Further south in the Deccan region, a Hoysala commander, Singeya Nayaka-III (1280–1300 AD) declared independence after the Muslim forces of the Delhi Sultanate defeated and captured the territories of the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri in 1294 CE. He created the Kampili kingdom, but this was a short lived kingdom during this period of wars.Kampili existed near Gulbarga and Tungabhadra river in northeastern parts of the present-day Karnataka state. It ended after a defeat by the armies of Delhi Sultanate. The triumphant army led by Malik Zada sent the news of its victory, over Kampili kingdom, to Muhammad bin Tughluq in Delhi by sending a straw-stuffed severed head of the dead Hindu king. Within Kampili, on the day of certain defeat, the populace committed a jauhar (ritual mass suicide) in 1327/28 CE.Eight years later, from the ruins of the Kampili kingdom emerged the Vijayanagar Kingdom in 1336 CE.

In the first two decades after the founding of the empire, Harihara I gained control over most of the area south of the Tungabhadra river and earned the title of Purvapaschima Samudradhishavara (“master of the eastern and western seas”). By 1374 Bukka Raya- I, successor to Harihara -I, had defeated the chiefdom of Arcot, the Reddys of Kondavidu, and the Sultan of Madurai and had gained control over Goa in the west and the Tungabhadra-Krishna River doab in the north.The original capital was in the principality of Anegondi on the northern banks of the Tungabhadra River in today’s Karnataka. It was later moved to nearby Vijayanagara on the river’s southern banks during the reign of Bukka Raya I, because it was easier to defend against the Muslim armies persistently attacking it from the northern lands.

With the Vijayanagar Kingdom now imperial in stature, Harihara- II, the second son of Bukka Raya- I, further consolidated the kingdom beyond the Krishna River and brought the whole of South India under the Vijayanagar umbrella.The next ruler, Deva Raya -I, emerged successful against the Gajapatis of Odisha and undertook important works of fortification and irrigation.Italian traveler Niccolo de Conti wrote of him as the most powerful ruler of India. Deva Raya -II (called Gajabetekara) succeeded to the throne in 1424 and was possibly the most capable of the Sangama Dynasty rulers.He quelled rebelling feudal lords as well as the Zamorin of Calicut and Quilon in the south. He invaded the island of Sri Lanka and became overlord of the kings of Burma at Pegu and Tanasserim.

Firuz Bahmani of Bahmani Sultanate entered into a treaty with Deva Raya I of Vijayanagar in 1407 that required the latter to pay Bahmani an annual tribute of “100,000 huns, five maunds of pearls and fifty elephants”. The Sultanate invaded Vijayanagar in 1417 when the latter defaulted in paying the tribute. Such wars for tribute payment by Vijayanagara repeated in the 15th century, such as in 1436 when Sultan Ahmad I launched a war to collect the unpaid tribute.

The ensuing Sultanates – Vijayanagar wars expanded the Vijayanagar military, its power and disputes between its military commanders. In 1485, Saluva Narasimha led a coup and ended the dynastic rule, while continuing to defend the Empire from raids by the Sultanates created from the continuing disintegration of the Bahmani Sultanate in its north. In 1505, another commander Tuluva Narasa Nayaka took over the Vijayanagar rule from the Saluva descendant in a coup. The empire came under the rule of Krishna Deva Raya in 1509, the son of Tuluva Narasa Nayaka.[43] He strengthened and consolidated the reach of the empire, by hiring both Hindus and Muslims into his army. In the following decades, it covered Southern India and successfully defeated invasions from the five established Deccan Sultanates to its north.The empire reached its peak during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya when Vijayanagar armies were consistently victorious.The empire gained territory formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, in addition to the already established presence in the south.[49] Many important monuments were either completed or commissioned during the time of Krishna Deva Raya.Krishna Deva Raya was followed by his younger half-brother Achyuta Deva Raya in 1529. When Achyuta Deva Raya died in 1542, Sadashiva Raya, the teenage nephew of Achyuta Raya was appointed king with the caretaker being Aliya Rama Raya, Krishna Deva Raya’s son-in-law and someone who had previously served Sultan Quli Qutb al-Mulk from 1512 when al-Mulk was assigned to Golkonda sultanate. Aliya Rama Raya left the Golconda Sultanate, married Deva Raya’s daughter, and thus rose to power. When Sadashiva Raya – Deva Raya’s son – was old enough, Aliya Rama Raya imprisoned him and allowed his uncle Achyuta Raya to publicly appear once a year. Further Aliya Rama Raya hired Muslim generals in his army from his previous Sultanate connections, and called himself “Sultan of the World”.

The Sultanates to the north of Vijayanagar united and attacked Aliya Rama Raya’s army, in January 1565, in a war known as the Battle of Talikota. The Vijayanagar side was winning the war, state Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, but suddenly two Muslim generals of the Vijayanagara army switched sides and turned their loyalty to the Sultanates. The generals captured Aliya Rama Raya and beheaded him on the spot, with Sultan Hussain on the Sultanates side joining them for the execution and stuffing of severed head with straw for display. The beheading of Aliya Rama Raya created confusion and havoc in the still loyal portions of the Vijayanagar army, which were then completely routed. The Sultanates’ army plundered Hampi and reduced it to the ruinous state in which it remains; it was never re-occupied. After the death of Aliya Rama Raya in the Battle of Talikota, Tirumala Deva Raya started the Aravidu dynasty, moved and founded a new capital of Penukonda to replace the destroyed Hampi, and attempted to reconstitute the remains of Vijayanagara Empire.[58] Tirumala abdicated in 1572, dividing the remains of his kingdom to his three sons, and pursued a religious life until his death in 1578. The Aravidu dynasty successors ruled the region but the empire collapsed in 1614, and the final remains ended in 1646, from continued wars with the Bijapur sultanate and others. During this period, more kingdoms in South India became independent and separate from Vijayanagar. These include the Mysore Kingdom, Keladi Nayaka, Nayaks of Madurai, Nayaks of Tanjore, Nayakas of Chitradurga and Nayak Kingdom of Gingee – all of which declared independence and went on to have a significant impact on the history of South India in the coming centuries.


Vijayanagar Architecture, Vijayanagar, Hampi, and List of Vijayanagar era temples in Karnataka Vijayanagar architecture is a vibrant combination of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles, idioms that prospered in previous centuries. Its legacy of sculpture, architecture and painting influenced the development of the arts long after the empire came to an end. Its stylistic hallmark is the ornate pillared Kalyanamantapa (marriage hall), Vasanthamantapa (open pillared halls) and the Rayagopura (tower). Artisans used the locally available hard granite because of its durability since the kingdom was under constant threat of invasion. While the empire’s monuments are spread over the whole of Southern India, nothing surpasses the vast open-air theatre of monuments at its capital at Vijayanagar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the 14th century the kings continued to build vesara or Deccan-style monuments but later incorporated Dravida-style gopuras to meet their ritualistic needs. The Prasanna Virupaksha temple (underground temple) of Bukka and the Hazare Rama temple of Deva Raya are examples of Deccan architecture. The varied and intricate ornamentation of the pillars is a mark of their work. At Hampi, though the Vitthala temple is the best example of their pillared Kalyanamantapa style, the Hazara Ramaswamy temple is a modest but perfectly finished example. A visible aspect of their style is their return to the simplistic and serene art developed by the Chalukya dynasty. A grand specimen of Vijayanagar art, the Vitthala temple, took several decades to complete during the reign of the Tuluva kings.

Another element of the Vijayanagar style is the carving and consecration of large monoliths such as the Sasivekaalu (mustard) Ganesha and Kadalekaalu (ground nut) Ganesha at Hampi, the Gommateshwara (Bahubali) monoliths in Karkala and Venur, and the Nandi bull in Lepakshi. The Vijayanagara temples of Kolar, Kanakagiri, Sringeri and other towns of Karnataka; the temples of Tadpatri, Lepakshi, Ahobilam, Tirumala Venkateswara Temple and Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh; and the temples of Vellore, Kumbakonam, Kanchi and Srirangam in Tamil Nadu are examples of this style. Vijayanagara art includes wall-paintings such as the Dashavatara and Girijakalyana (marriage of Parvati, Shiva’s consort) in the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi, the Shivapurana murals (tales of Shiva) at the Virabhadra temple at Lepakshi, and those at the Kamaakshi and Varadaraja temples at Kanchi. This mingling of the South Indian styles resulted in a richness not seen in earlier centuries, a focus on reliefs in addition to sculpture that surpasses that previously in India.

An aspect of Vijayanagar architecture that shows the cosmopolitanism of the great city is the presence of many secular structures bearing Islamic features. While political history concentrates on the ongoing conflict between the Vijayanagar empire and the Deccan Sultanates, the architectural record reflects a more creative interaction. There are many arches, domes and vaults that show these influences. The concentration of structures like pavilions, stables and towers suggests they were for use by royalty. The decorative details of these structures may have been absorbed into Vijayanagar architecture during the early 15th century, coinciding with the rule of Deva Raya I and Deva Raya II. These kings are known to have employed many Muslims in their army and court, some of whom may have been Muslim architects. This harmonious exchange of architectural ideas must have happened during rare periods of peace between the Hindu and Muslim kingdoms. The “Great Platform” (Mahanavami Dibba) has relief carvings in which the figures seem to have the facial features of central Asian Turks who were known to have been employed as royal attendants.