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Chapter 13. The Vijayanagar Empire (Indian History Notes)



One of the important kingdoms in the medieval Indian history, Vijayanagara is in today’s Bellary District of northern Karnataka. The historic kingdom was extended over South India and included the territories of Mysore, Trichinopally, Kanara, Pondicherry, Chingalpet and Kanchivaram. Two brothers (also known as Sangama brothers) Harihara (Hakka) I and Bukka Raya, in A.D. 1336, laid the foundation of the Vijaynagar city, which was on the South bank of Tungabhadra River near Anegudi Fortress. This empire consolidated under Harihara I and began to expand under Bukka Raya. It is said that a sage Madhav Vidyaranya and his brother Sayana were the inspirational source for this empire. The rulers were strict worshipers of the Hindu Gods and Goddess, but also tolerant towards the other religions. The emperors were great patrons of art and culture. The region influenced development in the streams of music, literature and architecture. Many temples built in the south represent the Vijaynagar architecture. The economy of the region flourished and several coins were introduced during the reign of the rulers of the Vijaynagar Empire.
Introduction Vijaynagara Dynasties Water resource fortifications and urban core Sangama Dynasty The Royal centre Saluva Dynasty The Sacred centre Aravidu Dynasty Architecture of the city of Vijaynagara Amara-nayaka System The Vijayanagara Empire Tuluva Dynasty Contribution of Krishnadeva Raya the Shambuvaraya Kingdom of Arcot and the Reddis of Kondavidu by 1360. He defeated the Sultanate of Madurai in 1371 and extended his territory into the south all the way to Rameswaram. His son, Kumara Kamapna campaigned with him and their efforts were recorded in the Sanskrit work Madhuravijayam written by his wife Gangambika. During his reign Bukka had clashes with the Bahmani Sultans. The first was during the time of Mohammed Shah I and the other during the time of Mujahid. It is said that Bukka also sent a mission to China during his reign. Under Bukka Raya’s reign the capital of the empire was established at Vijayanagara which was more secure and defensive than their previous capital at Anegondi.
Harihara Raya II (1377-1404)
Harihara II continued to extend the kingdom’s territory through fighting against the Reddis of Kondavidu for control of the coastal Andhra between Nellore and Kalinga. Harihara II took advantage of the death of Mujahid Bahmani in 1378 and extended his control into the northwest, controlling such ports as Goa, Chaul, and Dabhol. Harihara ruled from the capital Vijayanagara now more popularly known as Hampi.
He patronised Kannada poet Madhura, a Jaina. He earned the titles Vaidikamarga Sthapanacharya and Vedamarga Pravartaka.
Bukka Raya II (1405-1406)
After the death of Harihara II the succession of the thrown was disputed among Harihara II’s sons. Virupaksha Raya managed to rule for a few months before he was murdered by his own sons. After Virupaksha’s death, Bukka Raya II succeeded him as emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire. However, similar to his brother before him, Bukka Raya II only reigned for a short time period before he too would be overthrown by his brother, Deva Raya I.
Deva Raya I (1406-1422)
Deva Raya was continually fought against the Velamas of Telangana, the Bahmani Sultan of Gulbarga, and the Reddis of Kondavidu and the Gajaptis of Kalinga. Even so, Deva Raya was capable of managing the vast territory that he controlled.
After his death, he was succeeded by his sons Ramachandra Raya and Vijaya Raya.
Mallikarjuna Raya (1446-1465)
Mallikarjuna Raya brought prosperity throughout the Vijayanagara Empire as well as a golden age for the Sangama Dynasty. At the beginning of his reign he defended the kingdom from the attacks of the Bahamani Sultan and the Raja of the Hindu kingdom of Orissa, but thereafter it was marked by a string of defeats while at the same time the Portuguese arrived in southern India, seizing many of the ports on the western coast that the Vijayanagara Empire had once controlled. These events eventually led to the decline of the Sangama Dynasty.
Praudha Raya (1485)
He was an unpopular king of Vijayanagara Empire who ruled for a very short period of time being driven out of the capital by his able commander Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya in 1485.
Saluva Dynasty (1485- 1505)
The Saluva Dynasty was created by the Saluvas. The Gorantla
inscription traces their origins to Karnataka region from the time of the Western Chalukyas and Kalachuris of Karnataka.
The earliest known Saluva was Mangaldeva, the great grandfather of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya. His descendents founded the Saluva Dynasty and were one of the ruling lines of the Vijayanagara Empire of Southern India.
• The amara-nayaka system was a major political innovation. Many features of this system were derived from the iqta system of the Delhi Sultanate.
• The amara-nayakas were military commanders who were given territories to govern by the Rayas.
• They collected taxes and other dues from peasants, crafts persons and traders in the area.
• They retained part of the revenue for personal use and for maintaining a stipulated contingent of horses and elephants.
• Some revenue was also used for the maintenance of temples and irrigation works.
• The amara-nayakas sent tribute to the king annually and personally appeared in the royal court with gifts to express their loyalty.
• Kings occasionally asserted their control over them by transferring them from one place to another.
Saluva Kings
Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya (1485-1491)
After the death of Virupaksha Raya II and arrival of Prauda Deva Raya as the new monarch of Vijayanagar, the empire plunged into neglicency and anarchy. Seeing that a military coup was the only hope to save the kingdom, he despatched the son of Tuluva Isvara, Tuluva Narasa Nayaka to the imperial capital of Vijayanagara. The incumbent king Prauda Raya fled thus starting the rule of Saluva Narasimha. He was successful at conquering the western ports of Kannada country of Mangalore, Bhatkal, Honnavar and Bakanur. This success enabled him to trade for swift horses with the Arabs. Saluva Narashima eventually died in 1491.
Thimma Bhupala (1491)
He was the elder son of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya. During the reign of his father, he was holding the office of Yuvaraja.
Prince Thimma succeeded his father in 1491 but was soon murdered by an army commander during a period of political unrest in Vijayanagara. He was succeeded by his younger brother Narasimha Raya II.
Narasimha Raya II (1491-1505)
Narasimha Raya II succeeded by his elder brother Thimma Bhupala. Though he was a crowned king of Vijayanagara Empire, the real power lay in the hands of the empire’s able commander Tuluva Narasa Nayaka till his death in 1503. In 1505, Narasimha Raya II was murdered in Penukonda and Viranarasimha Raya proclaimed himself king.
Tuluva Dynasty (1491 – 1570)
The dynasty was named “Tuluva” because they belonged to the Tulu speaking region called “Tulunad” and their mother tounge was “Tulu” language. They were originally from Karnataka.
Krishna Deva Raya was the most famous ruler of their period.
The empire attained it greatest glory of time.
Tuluva kings
Tuluva Narasa Nayaka (1491-1503)
He was commander of the Vijayanagar army under the rule of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya. After the death of King Saluva Narasimha, crown prince Thimma Bhupala was murdered by an army commander. The faithful Narasa Nayaka then crowned the other prince, Narasimha Raya II but retained all administrative powers in order to bring stability to the kingdom.
Viranarasimha Raya (1503-1509)
Viranarasimha Raya was crowned in 1505 and spent all his years fighting rebel warlords. When on his death bed, legend has it that Viranarasimha Raya requested his minister Saluva Thimma (Thimmarasa) to blind Krishnadevaraya so that his own eight year old son could become king of Vijayanagar.
However there is no record to prove anything.
Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529)
Sri Krishna Deva Raya was the most famous king of Vijayanagara Empire. Emperor Krishna Deva Raya also earned the titles Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana, Mooru Rayara Ganda (meaning King of three kings) and Andhra Bhoja.
Krishna Deva Raya was assisted in administration by the very able Prime Minister Timmarusu, who was revered by the king as a father figure and was responsible for his corronation.
The king’s corronation took place on the birthday of Lord Krishna and his earliest inscription is from July 26, 1509.
Contributions of Krishnadeva Raya:
• His rule was characterised by expansion and consolidation.
• In his time, the land between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers was acquired.
• He subdued the rulers of Orissa and severe defeats were inflicted on the Sultan of Bijapur.
• He is credited with building fine temples and adding impressive Gopurams to many important south Indian temples.
• He founded a township near Vijayanagara, named Nagalapuram after his mother.
Achyuta Raya (1529-1542)
He was the younger brother of Krishna Deva Raya, whom he succeeded in 1529. Upon his death, the succession was disputed. His nephew, Sadashiva, finally became king while yet a child, under the regency of Aliya Rama Raya, a sonin- law of Krishnadevaraya. The Tiruvengalanatha Temple was built at Vijayanagara during his reign. It has become popularly known by his name as Achyutaraya Temple, rather than by the name of the deity Lord Venkateshwara to whom the temple was dedicated.
Sadashiva Raya (1542-1570)
Sadasiva Raya was controlled by his minister Rama Raya, the de facto king, who restored the Vijayanagara empire’s power.
Rama Raya’s strategy was to play the Deccan Sultanates against each other by first allying with one and then another.
Aravidu Dynasty (1542 – 1586): This was the fourth and last Hindu dynasty which ruled Vijaynagar Kingdom in South India.Rama Raya was the regent of Tuluva kingdom’s last king. Tirumala was the founder of Aravidu kingdom.
Aravidu Kings
Aliya Rama Raya or Rama Raya, (1542-1565)
Popularly known as “Aliya” Rama Raya, was the progenitor of the “Aravidu” dynasty. This dynasty, the fourth and last to hold, is often not counted as a ruling dynasty of that empire.
Rama Raya patronised the Sanskrit scholar Rama Amatya.
Tirumala Deva Raya (1565-1572)
He was the first Crowned King of the Vijayanagara Empire from the Aravidu Dynasty. He was the brother of the Aliya Rama Raya and son-in-law of Krishna Deva Raya.
Sriranga I/Sriranga Deva Raya (1572-1586)
He carried the restoration of the Vijayanagara Empire, but his reign was marred with repeated attacks and loss of territories from his Muslim neighbours. In 1576, Ali Adil Shah laid siege to his fort in Penukonda for three months, but he was defeated.
Venkata II/Venkatapati Deva Raya (1586-1614)
His reign of three decades saw a revival of strength and prosperity of the empire. He brought rebelling Nayaks of Tamil Nadu and parts of present day Andhra Pradesh under control.
Sriranga III (1642-1646)
He was the last ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, who came to power in 1642 following the death of his uncle Venkata III. He was also a great grandson of Aliya Rama Raya.


1. Management of water resources
Since the city was located near the natural basin formed by the river Tungabhadra, embankments were built along river streams to create reservoirs. Also, arrangements were made to store rainwater, one such tank was Kamalapuram tank. Water was also conducted through a channel to the “royal centre”. One of the most prominent waterworks was the Hiriya canal.
2. Fortifications
Fortifications encircled the city as well as its agricultural hinterland and forests. No mortar or cementing agent was employed in the construction. The stone blocks were wedge shaped which held them in place, and the inner portion of the walls was of earth packed with rubble.
The most significant feature of this fortification is that it enclosed agricultural tracts.
Abdur Razzaq an ambassador of king of Persia noted that between the first, second and the third walls there were cultivated fields, gardens and houses.
3. The urban core
Archaeologists have found fine Chinese porcelain in some areas, which suggest that these areas may have been occupied by rich traders. Architecture of tombs and mosques located here resembles that of the mandapas found in the temples of Hampi. The entire area was dotted with numerous shrines and small temples, pointing to the prevalence of a variety of cults, perhaps supported by different communities. Surveys also indicate that wells, rainwater tanks as well as temple tanks may have served as sources of water to the ordinary town dwellers.
The Royal Centre in the Vijayanagara
The king’s palace has two most impressive platforms – the “audience hall” and the “mahanavamidibba”.
Mahanavamidibba was a massive platform rising from a base of about 11,000 sq. ft to a height of 40 ft. There is evidence that it supported a wooden structure.
A beautiful building in the royal centre is the Lotus Mahal.
According to Mackenzie this may have been a council chamber, a place where the king met his advisors.
Also, there is a beautiful temple in the royal centre known as the Hazara Rama temple.
The Sacred Centre in the Vijayanagara
• Temples functioned as centres of learning. Rulers granted land and other resources for the maintenance of temples.
• The Vijayanagara kings claimed to rule on behalf of the god Virupaksha. All royal orders were signed “Shri Virupaksha”, usually in the Kannada script. Rulers also used the title “Hindu Suratrana” which meant Hindu Sultan.
• The rayagopurams or royal gateways which signalled the presence of the temple from a great distance.
• The Virupaksha temple was built in the ninth-tenth centuries by Krishnadeva Raya to mark his accession.
He is also credited with the construction of the eastern gopuram.
• In the famous Vitthala temple, principal deity was Vitthala, a form of Vishnu generally worshipped in Maharashtra. The introduction of the worship of the deity in Karnataka is indication of the ways in which the rulers of Vijayanagara accepted different traditions.


Sufism was a religious movement which arose from Islam in the 8th-9th centuries AD. Its followers seek to find truth and love through direct encounters with God. The name ‘Sufism’ is associated with the coarse wool garments that sufi saints wore as a mark of their rejection of worldly things.The method of their realizing God was the renunciation of the World and Worldly pleasures.
The Sufi movement consists of fraternal orders in which mentors train disciples in the Sufism’s philosophical principles and practices. Such practices include writing and reciting poetry and hymns; some of the most famous literature of the Islamic world has been written by Sufis. Sufis engage in distinct forms of ritual prayer ‘dhikr, i.e. Zikr
meaning‘remembrance’, as well as bodily rituals such as those practices by ‘Whirling Dervishes’, a Turkish Sufi order that practices meditation and contemplation of God through spinning.
Sufism in India
Islam came in the early medieval period which in spite of principle of universal brotherhood could not associate itself with Hinduism. Antagonism between the two different sects of people continued to grow day by day. At this time of mutual hatred and hostility, there appeared a group of religious thinkers who awakened the people about God and religion.
Kabir Guru Nanak Introduction The Sufi Movement Sufi Features Orders Sufism in India Role of Language Importance of Sufi Movements Saints Vaishanavite Movement The Bhakti Movement Non-dualism philosophy Sufi and Bhakti Movement

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