Vijaynagar Empire

Foundation of Vijaynagar empire is certainly the most significant event in the history of medieval India. It lasted for 3 centuries and successfully prevented the extension of Muslim sultanetes in south. History of Vijaynagar empire is truly an unbroken era of bloody wars with Bahamani and other Muslim rulers. Two brothers Harihara and Bukka laid the foundation of the Vijaynagar city on the southern bank of Tungabhadra river near Anegundi fortress. A sage Madhav Vidyaranya and his brother Sayana (his commentry on Vedas is famous) were the inspirational source for the foundation of this Hindu empire. Bukka sent an embassy to China in 1374 and after his death was succeded by Harihara II. Harihara II extended this newly founded kingdom by conquoering almost whole of southern India, including Mysore, Kanara, Chingalpet, Trichinopally and Kanchivaram. Harihara II was devotee of Virupaksha (Shiva) but was tolerant to all other religions. He was the first King of Vijaynagar empire who assumed the title of Maharajadhiraj Rajaparmeshwara.

In 1486, Vir Narasimha of Chandragiri, who had rose into promienance, took control of the Vijaynagar empire. This led to the direct rule of the Tuluva dynasty over Vijaynagar empire. His younger son Krishanadev Raya is certainly the greatest ruler of Vijaynagar and one of the most famous kings in the history of India. He was gallant warrior and like Vikramaditya, he was always successful in the wars which he waged throughout his reign. He was a fine statesman and treated the defeated enemy with honour. First, in 1511-1512 AD, he captured southern Mysore, Shivasamudram fortress and Raichur. In 1513 AD, he humbled the king of Orissa Gajapati and in 1514 AD he captured Udaigiri. Eventually he captured Vishakapatnam and completely abolished the authority of King of Orissa. His greatest and most celebrated military achievement was crushing defeat of Ismail Adil Shah on 19th March 1520. This ended the muslim dominance in south and made him master of whole of south India.

During his last days, Krishanadev Raya devoted all his attention in organization of his empire and improving the administration. He maintained friendly relationship with Portugese and granted some concessions to governer Albuquerque. Reign of Krishanadev Raya reached to its zenith not only in terms of expanse of the empire, but also in terms of growth and development of literature, music, art and culture. Raya himself was an accomplished poet, musician, scholar and was fluent in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada (and perhaps Tamil too!). He wrote a immensely important (both historically and religiously) book Amuktamalyada in Telugu. He patronized many poets which includes Ashtadigajas (eight elephants, the great poets of Telugu) and scholars like Tenalirama. His reign also saw the remarkable development in art and architecture. The famous Hazara temple built during his reign is one of the most perfect example of Hindu Temple architecture. Vithalswami temple is another fine example of the Vijaynagar style of architecture. Krishandev Raya and all other rulers of this empire were pious Hidus and were devoted to Dharma, but they had very liberal outlook for other religions. According to Barbosa, a historian and many contemporary travellers, `the Kings allows such freedom that every man would live without suffering and annoyance, whether he is a Christian, Jew, Moor or Hindu'.

Achyut Raya succeeded as the ruler of empire but soon lost control to his brother-in-law Tirumala. Eventually, the power was trasferred to prime minister Ram Raya who seized the throne for himself. Finally, three muslim sultanetes of Deccan, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golkonda formed a coalition and met the massive Vijaynagar Army near village Tagdi on 23rd January 1565 AD. Vijaynagar lost the war to the allied forces. A group of muslim soldiers separated the elephant of Ram Raya from his army in a swift move. He was at once beheaded by Husain Nizam Shah. What followed was one of the greatest plunder and destruction in the history of India. According to historian, Sewell `After victory, muslims reached capital and for next five month they destroyed and plundered relentlessly. Nothing seemed to escape them. They burned magnificent buildings, pavillions and finally the beautiful Vithalswami temple near the river. With swords, crowbars and axes they smashed exquisite stone sculptures. Never perhaps in history of the world such havoc has been wrought on so splendid city, teeming with a wealthy and industrious population. City was seized, pillages and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description'.

The ruins of Vijaynagar city can be seen today near Hampi in Karnataka which realisticly reflects the splendour and opulance during the reigns of Rayas of Vijaynagar.This so called battle of Talikota was one of the decisive battles in the history of India. It destroyed the Hindu supremacy in southern India till rise of Marathas in seventeen century. In spite of the tremendous damage, Vijaynagar did survive but the old grandeur was lost. Coalition muslim forces did not gain much in spite of all out victory. Alliance was soon dissolved and brother of Rama Raya took this opportunity and tried to bring back the old glory to the kingdom.