• The decline of the Delhi Sultanat was accompanied by the rise of Vijayanagar and Bahmanid kingdoms which dominated India south of Vindhyas for more than 200 years. Although these kingdoms constantly fought with each other, they maintained law and order within their territories, and on the whole provided stable governments which enabled the growth of trade and commerce. Many of the rulers devoted themselves to the growth of agriculture, and built cities and capitals with magnificent buildings.Many of them were also patrons of art and culture.
  • Thus, in contrast to north India, two large territorial states emerged and functioned in south India from the middle of the 14th century onwards. A new situation arose with the break up of the Bahmanid kingdom towards the end of the 15th century, and the disintegration of the Vijayanagar empire later, following its defeat at the battle of Talikota in 1565.
  • This was also the period when a European power, the Portuguese, entered the Asian scene, and tried on the basis of its naval strength to establish its domination over the seas and its bordering areas and to capture the overseas trade.
Vijayanagara Empire (no need to remember, just for reference)
Sangama dynasty
Harihara Raya 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 Raya 1422
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 1491–1505
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—its Nature and Conflict with the Bahmani Kingdom

  • Sangama dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire was by the brothers, Harihara I (also called Vira Harihara or Hakka Raya) and Bukka Raya I
  • The role of Harihar and his brother, Bukka, in the foundation of the kingdom are generally accepted, the early origins of the family are not clear. According to tradition,  they belonged to a family of five brothers, and had been feudatories of the Kaktiyas of Warangal, and later joined the service of the ruler of Kampili in modern Karnataka, gradually rising to the position of ministers. When Kampili was over-run and conquered by Muhammad bin Tughlaq for giving refuge to a Muslim rebel, the two brothers were captured, and sent to Delhi as prisoners, and converted to Islam. Soon a rebellion broke out at Kampili against Turkish rule, and the brothers were sent to suppress the rebellion, but they forsook their new faith and joined the rebellion.
  • Many reject this traditional account. According to them, there is little evidence of the brothers serving at Warangal, nor of their subsequent capture and conversion. According to them, Harihar and Bukka belonged to the group of 75 nayaks of Karnataka who had rebelled against Turkish rule, and that they belonged to a strong Shaivite family. They deny that the family had any earlier links with Andhra.
  • In building their system of administration, the Vijayanagar rulers not only used the Tamil traditions of Chola rule, but also Telugu and Kannada traditions of the Kakatiyas and the Hoysalas. Thus, they were not mere provincial leaders, but represented the entire south.
  • There was a complicated situation in south India following the collapse of Tughlaq rule. Some of the old surviving kingdoms, such as the Hoysalas of Mysore, lingered on and a number of new principalities arose. Of these the most important were the Sultans of Madurai, the Valema rulers of Warangal, and the Reddis of Telingana. Later, the Bahmani kingdom rose to the north of the Vijayanagar kingdom.

  • These principalities constantly fought against each other, or allied themselves according to need. Thus, in the struggle against the Sultan of Madurai, the Hoysala ruler, Ballal III, was defeated and executed . Taking advantage of this situation, Harihar and his brothers launched upon a campaign of expansion, and soon the whole of the Hoysala kingdom passed into their hands. This was followed by a protracted struggle against the Sultanat of Madurai. The Madurai Sultanat was wiped out by 1377. Vijayanagar rule now extended in the south upto Rameshwaram, and included parts of Kerala which had been parts of the Madurai sultanat.
  • Earlier, Harihar had established a new capital, Vijayanagar, on the river Tungbhadra. According to tradition, he did so on the advice of the sage, Vidyaranya. However, according to another tradition, the city was built by Bukka who succeeded his brother in around 1356, and ruled till 1377.
  • Vijayanagar had to meet the rising power of the Bahmani Sultans in the north who, from time to time, received the support of the Valema rulers of Warangal and the Raya of Telingana who were afraid of the rising power of Vijayanagar, and looked upon the Bahmani ruler as a kind of a balancing factor.
  • The Bahmani kingdom was founded in 1347 by an Afghan noble, Alauddin Hasan, whose family had risen in the services of Alauddin Khalji. According to a popular legend, mentioned by Ferishta who wrote in the 17th century, Hasan has risen in the service of a brahman, Gangu, and was, therefore, known as Hasan Gangu.After his elevation to the throne, Alauddin Hasan, in order to raise the status of his family, tried to trace his descent from the Iranian heroes, Isfandar and Bahman, and added the words “Bahman Shah” to his name. It was from this title that the kingdom was called the Bahmani kingdom.
  • The interests of the Vijayanagar rulers and the Bahmani sultans clashed in three separate and distinct areas; (1)Tungbhadra doab(Raichur Doab) (2)Krishna-Godavari delta (3)Marathwada country.
  • The Tungbhadra doab was the region between the rivers Krishna and Tungbhadra.(triangular region of land in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka lying between the Krishna River and itstributary, the Tungabhadra River) On account of its wealth and economic resources, it had been the bone of contention between the Western Chalukyas and the Cholas in the earlier period, and between the Yadavas and the Hoyalas later on.
  • The struggle for the mastery of the Krishna-Godavari basin which was very fertile and which, on account of its numerous ports, controlled the foreign trade of the region, was often linked with the struggle for the Tungbhadra doab. Thus, the rulers of the area allied themselves sometimes to the Bahmani kingdom, or sometimes sided with Vijayanagar to save themselves.
  • In the Maratha country, the main contention was for the control of the Konkan and the areas which gave access to it. The Konkan was a narrow strip of land between the Western Ghats and the sea. Its principal port Goa was, thus, of great importance to the southern states.
    File:India Konkan locator map.svg
    Konkan area in red
  • Military conflict between the Vijayanagar and the Bahmani kingdoms was a constant feature almost throughout the existence of these two kingdoms. This had several effects; it emphasised the military aspect of both the kingdoms; also, the conflict between the two was often portrayed in religious terms. Although claiming to be defender of Hindu interests, Vijayanagar rulers did not hesitate from employing a contingent of Muslims horsemen, armed with bows. As their early struggle was against the Hoysala rulers who were Hindus. Later, the Gajpati rulers of Orissa invaded and occupied parts of the Vijayanagar kingdom, leading to a Vijayanagar-Bahmani alliance against them. The rulers of Warangal also allied themselves for a long time with the Bahmani rulers against Vijayanagar.
  • The religious dimension cannot, however, be ignored altogether. It made the conflict between Vijayanagar and the Bahmani sultans more bitter, leading to widespread devastation in the contested areas and the neighbouring territories, with considerable loss of life and property. Both sides sacked and burnt towns and villages, imprisoned and sold into slavery men, women and children, and committed other barbarities, often in the name of religion.
  • The battle for the Tungbhadra doab had commenced as early as 1336 when the Bahmani forces had attacked and captured Raichur, but which was recovered by Harihar the following year. Warfare between the two sides continued in recurrent cycles. Thus, in 1367, Bukka embarked upon a war in association with the ruler of Warangal to recover the areas lost to the Bahmani ruler earlier. When Bukka I assaulted the fortress of Mudkal in the disputed Tungbhadra doab, he slaughtered the entire garrison, except one man. When this news reached the Bahmani sultan, he was enraged and to take revenge, he crossed the Tungbhadra, the first time a Bahmani sultan had in person entered the Vijayanagar territory. According to Persian sources, the Vijayanagar ruler was defeated, and had to retire into the jungles. We hear for the first time of the use of artillery by both the sides in the battle. However, the Bahmani sultan could not gain a decisive victory, and the war dragged on for several months, during which a wholesale slaughter of men, women and children went on.
  • Finally, a kind of a treaty was patched up which restored the old position whereby the doab was shared by the two sides. A vague promise was also made that in future wars the two sides would not slaughter helpless, unarmed inhabitants. However, this hardly had an effect on future warfare.
  • The elimination of the Sultan of Madurai in the south enabled Vijayanagar under Harihar II (1377-1404) to successfully embark upon a forward policy in the north-east and west.       There were a series of Hindu principalities in the north-east region. The rulers of Orissa to its north, as well as the Bahmani sultans were also interested in this area.
  • Although the ruler of Warangal had helped Hasan Gangu in his struggle against Delhi, his successor had invaded Warangal and seized the strong-hold of Kaulas and the hill fort of Golconda. Vijayanagar had been too busy in the south to intervene. The Bahmani Sultan fixed Golconda as the boundary of his kingdom and promised that neither he nor his successor would encroach against Warangal any further. To seal this agreement, the ruler of Warangal presented to the Bahmani sultan a throne set with valuable had been originally prepared as a present to Muhammed bin Tughlaq.
  • The alliance of the Bahmani kingdom and Warangal lasted for over 50 years and was a major factor in the inability of Vijayanagar to overrun the Tungbhadra doab, or to stern the Bahmani offensive in the area.
  • The battles between Vijayanagar and the Bahmanis kept the position of the two sides remaining more or less the same, with the fortune of war swinging sometimes to one side, and sometimes to the other.

Sangama Dynasty:

Harihara I (1336–1356 CE)

Bukka (1356–1377 CE)

Harihara II(1377–1404 CE):

  • Bukka’s successor, Harihara II, continued Bukka’s campaign through southern India and managed to take control of coastal Andhra between Nellore and Kalinga and conquer the Addanki and Srisailam areas as well as most of the territory between the peninsula to the south of the Krishna River. Harihara II also managed to conquer many Indian ports such as that of Goa, Chaul, and Dabhol.
  • Harihara II was able to maintain his position in the face of the Bahmani-Warangal combine. His greatest success was in wresting Belgaum and Goa in the west from the Bahmani kingdom. He also sent an expedition to the north of Sri Lanka.
  • Harihara II ruled from the capital Vijayanagara now more popularly known as Hampi.

Deva Raya I (1404-1422):

  • After a period of confusion and war of succession, Harihar II was succeeded by Deva Raya I (1404-1422). Early during his reign, there was renewed fight for the Tungbhadra doab.
  • He was defeated by the Bahmani ruler, Firuz Shah, and had to pay ten lakhs of huns, pearls and elephants as an indemnity. He also agreed to marry his daughter to the Sultan, ceding to him in dowry Bankapur in the doab in order to obviate all future disputes. The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and show. This was not the first political marriage of this type in south India. Earlier, the ruler of Kherla in Gondwana had married his daughter to Firuz Shah Bahmani in order to effect peace. However, these marriages by themselves could not bring about peace.
  • The question of the Krishna-Godavari basin led to a renewed conflict between Vijayanagar, the Bahmani kingdom and Orissa. Following a confusion in the Reddi kingdom, Deva Raya entered into an alliance with Warangal for partitioning the Reddi kingdom between them. Warangal’s defection from the side of the Bahmani kingdom changed the balance of power in the Deccan. In consequence, Deva Raya was able to inflict a shattering defeat on Firuz Shah Bahmani, and annexed the centre territory up to the mouth of the Krishna river.
  • Deva Raya I did not neglect the arts of peace. He constructed a dam over the Tungbhadra so that he could bring a canal into the city to relieve the shortage of water. It irrigated the neighbouring fields also, and canal increased his revenues. He also build a dam on the river Haridra for irrigation purposes.

Deva Raya II (1425-1446):

  • After some confusion, Deva Raya II (1425-1446), who is considered the greatest ruler of the dynasty, ascended the throne at Vijayanagar. He was an able administrator, an ambitious warrior and a man of letters.
  • According to an account of visiting Persian chronicler Abdur Razzak, Deva Raya II’s empire extended from Ceylon to Gulbarga, and Orissa to the Malabar.
  • In order to strengthen his army he inducted more Muslims into it. According to Ferishta, Deva Raya II felt that the superiority of the Bahmani army was due to their sturdier horses and their large body of good archers. He, therefore, enlisted 2000 Muslims, gave them jagirs, and commended to all his Hindu soldiers and officers to learn the art of archery from them. The employment of Muslims in the Vijayanagar army was not new, for Deva Raya I is said to have kept 10,000 Muslims in his army.
  • Ferishta tells us that Deva Raya II assembled 60,000 Hindus well skilled in archery, besides 80,000 cavalry, and 2,00,000 infantry.  The collection of a large cavalry must have put a strain on the resources of the State since most of the good mounts had to be imported, and the Arabs, who controlled the trade, charged high prices for them.
  • With his new army, Deva Raya II crossed the Tungbhadra river in 1443 and tried to recover Mudkal, Bankapur, etc., which were south of the Krishna river and had been lost to the Bahmamani sultans earlier. Three hard battles were fought, but in the end the two sides had to agree to the existing frontiers.
  • Deva Raya II fought three important battles against the Gajapati of Odisha: in c.1427 against King Bhanudeva in the battle of Kondavidu, in c.1436 against King Kapilendra when the later tried to conquer Rajamahendri, and again in c.1441. An invasion by the Reddis of Kondavidu was also repulsed and by c.1432, all the petty chiefs of the region were brought under the Vijayanagara control.
  • Deva Raya II had the title Gajabetegara, which literally means “Hunter of elephants”.
  • Nuniz, a Portuguese writer of the sixteenth century, tells us that the kings of Quilon, Sri Lanka, Pulicat, Pegu, Tenasserim (in Burma) and Malaya paid tribute to Deva Raya II.  Perhaps, the rulers of these countries were in contact with Vijayanagar, and had sent presents to secure its goodwill. Sri Lanka, however, had been invaded a number of times. This could have not been attained without a strong navy.
  • Deva Raya II’s rule was a high point in the development of Kannada literature, when competition between Vaishnava and Veerashaiva writers was fierce and literary disputations between the two sects were common.To him goes the credit of authoring well known works in the Kannada language (Sobagina Sone and Amaruka) and in the Sanskrit language (Mahanataka Sudhanidhi).Some of the most noted Kannada poets of the medieval period, such as Chamarasa and Kumara Vyasa gained his patronage.The Sanskrit poet Gunda Dimdima, and the noted Telugu language poet Srinatha whom the king honored with the title Kavisarvabhauma (“Emperor among poets”) were in his court.It was an age of development in secular literature as well. The noted South Indian mathematician Parameshvara, from the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics lived in his empire

Foreigners Account:

  • Under a series of capable rulers, Vijayanagar emerged as the most powerful and wealthy state in the south during the first half of the fifteenth century. A number of travellers who visited Vijayanagar during the period have left a graphic account of the city and the country.
  • Nicolo Conti: Niccolò de’ Conti was a Venetian merchant and explorer, born in Chioggia, who traveled to India and Southeast Asia, and possibly to Southern China, during the early 15th century.The Italian traveller, He then crossed the Arabian sea to Cambay, in Gujarat. He travelled in India to “Pacamuria”, “Helly” and Vijayanagar, capital of the Deccanbefore 1555. It was in India that he coined the phrase ‘Italian of the East’ to refer to the Telugu language, which he found had words ending with vowels, similar to Italian. He went to “Maliapur” on the east coast of India (probably modern-day Mylapore, in Chennai), where he visited the tomb of St. Thomas, who in Christian tradition is recorded to have founded a Christian community there.In the 1430s he sailed back to India (Quilon, Kochi, Calicut, Cambay) and then to the Middle-East (Socotra, Aden, Berbera in Somalia, Jidda in Egypt).Throughout his travels, he presented himself as a Muslim, for security.                                                                                           Nicolo Conti, who visited Vijayanagar in 1420, says of the city “The circumference of the city is sixty miles, its walls carried up to the mountains, and enclose the valley at their foot…. In this city there are estimated to be ninety thousand men fit to bear arms. Their king is more powerful than all the other kings in India.”
  • Ferishta ,  a Persian historian.says: “The princes of the Bahmani maintained their superiority by valour only; for in power, wealth and extent of the country, the Rayas of Bijarnagar (Vijayanagar) greatly exceeded them.”                                                                                  While Ferishta was still a child his father was summoned away from his native country into Ahmadnagar, Hindustan, to teach Persian to the young prince Miran Husain Nizam Shah with whom Firishta studied.Firishta left for Bijapur to enter the service of King Ibrahim Adil II in 1589.Having been in military positions until then, Firishta was not immediately successful in Bijapur. Further exacerbating matters was the fact that Firishta was of a Shia origin and therefore did not have much chance of attaining high positions in the dominantly Sunni courts of the Deccan sultanates.In 1593 Ibrahim Shah II ultimately implored Firishta to write a history of India with equal emphasis on the history of Deccan dynasties as no work thus far had given equal treatment to all regions of the subcontinent.The work was variously known as the Tarikh-i Firishta and the Gulshan-i Ibrahim. In the introduction, a resume of the history of Hindustan prior to the times of the Muslim conquestis given, and also the victorious progress of Arabs through the East. The first ten books are each occupied with a history of the kings of one of the provinces; the eleventh book gives an account of the Muslims of Malabar; the twelfth a history of the Muslim saints of India; and the conclusion treats of the geography and climate of India. It also includes graphic descriptions of the persecution of Hindus during the reign of Sikandar Butshikan in Kashmir. Firishta drew from Tabaqat-i-Akbari by Nizamud-din, Tarikh-i-Rashidi by Mirza Haider and Barani’sTarikh. Firishta’s account is the most widely quoted history of the Adil Shahi, but it is the only source for a fabricated story asserting the Ottoman origin of Yusuf Adil Shah, the founder of the Adil Shahi dynasty.On the other hand, Tarikh-i-Farishti is said to be independent and reliable on the topic of north Indian politics of the period, ostensibly that of Emperor Jehangir where Firishta’s accounts are held credible because of his affiliation with the south Indian kingdom of Bijapur.
  • Abdur Razzaq who had travelled widely in and outside India, and was an ambassador at the court of Deva Raya II, says: “This latter prince has in his dominions three hundred ports, each of which is equal to Calicut, and on terra firma his territories comprise a space of three months journey.”  All travellers agree that the country was thickly populated with numerous towns and villages. Abdur Razzaq says: “The country is for the most part well cultivated, very fertile. The troops amount in number to eleven lakhs.” Abdur Razzaq considers Vijayanagar to be one of the most splendid cities anywhere in the world which he had seen or heard of. Describing the city, he says: “It is built in such a manner that seven citadels and the same number of walls enclose each other. The seventh fortress, which is placed in the centre of the others, occupies an area ten times larger than the market place of the city of Herat.” Starting from the palace, there were four bazars “which were extremely long and broad.” As was the Indian custom, people belonging to one caste or profession lived in one quarter of the town. The Muslims lived in separate quarters provided for them. In the bazars as well as the king’s palace, “one sees numerous running streams and canals formed of chiselled stone, polished and smooth.” Another later traveller says that the city was larger than Rome, one of the biggest towns in the western world at that time.                                                                                    The kings of Vijayanagar were reputed to be very wealthy. Abdur Razzaq mentions the tradition that “in the king’s palace are several cell-like basins filled with bullion, forming one mass.” The hoarding of wealth by the ruler was an ancient tradition. However, such hoarded wealth remained out of circulation, and sometimes invited foreign attack.                                       Abdur Razzaq was a Timurid chronicler and Islamic scholar. He was for a while the ambassador of Shah Rukh, the Timurid dynasty ruler of Persia. In his role as ambassador he visited Calicut in western India in the early 1440s. He wrote a narrative of what he saw in Calicut which is valuable as information on Calicut’s society and culture.
  • Fernão Nunes, also known as Fernao Nuniz, was a Portuguese traveller, chronicler and horse trader who spent three years in Vijayanagara, capital of the Vijayanagara Empirein the time period 1535-1537 CE. His writings have brought to light many interesting details about Vijayanagara at that time, including construction of massive fortification works, watch towers and security walls. From his notes it is known that the expansion of the regal capital limits happened during the rule of King Bukka Raya II and Deva Raya I.Fernao Nunes was a horse merchant.He visited vijayanagaram during the period of Achutha Deva raya.

Was Vijayanagar a war state?

  • There has been a good deal of debate among scholars about the nature of the Vijayanagar state. Some considered it the nearest to a war state. He traces this to the view put forward by a Vijayanagar ruler that the income of the state should be divided into four parts, one part for various works, two, i.e. half for warfare, and the remainder saved for an emergency. He also lays emphasis on the amaram system whereby its holder, the nayak, who was granted a piece of territory had, in return, to maintain a number of troops, horses and elephants for the service of the ruler, and swear loyalty to him.
  • Vijayanagar was a war state only in the sense that all medieval states had to be constantly ready for war. The success of the rulers of Vijayanagar in meeting their Muslim opponents was largely based on the fact that they not only copied their mode of cavalry warfare but also inducted a large number of mounted Muslim archers in their army. The rulers of Vijayanagar also maintained a large standing army which, we are told, was paid in cash. Thus, while continuing traditional forms, the rulers of Vijayanagar also tried to adopt some new features.
  • There is a difference of opinion whether the Vijayanagar state was a loose association of semiautonomous military and territorial leaders, the nayaks, or was a centralised state on the model of the Delhi sultanat. In this context it should be remembered that the amaram cannot be equated to the Turkish iqta system. The nayaks were not former slaves or subordinates of the ruler in whose service they rose, with the ruler having the power to transfer them at will or even to remove them. The nayaks were hereditary territorial lords in their own right. While they promised service and loyalty to the ruler whose grant legitimized their position, they ran their own administration, and paid a part of their income to the ruler. There were 200 nayaks in the Vijayanagar kingdom. The rulers tried to control them, but could not remove them. Also, in some of the outlying areas in the south and the west, local rulers who had accepted the Vijayanagar suzereignty continued to rule. Thus, the area administered directly by the Vijayanagar rulers must have been much smaller than the size of the empire.
  • For the purpose, apart from the usual council of ministers headed by a Pradhani or chief, there was a secretariat in which a large number of scribes (kayasthas) were employed. According to Abdur Razzak, near the ruler’s palace was the diwan-khana “which is extremely large and presents the appearance of a chihalsitun, or a forty-pillared hall where the records are kept and the scribes seated.” However, we know little about the method of administration, or the size of the area under direct administration.

Was Vijayanagar a citadel of (Hindu) orthodoxy and conservatism?

  • The Vijayanagar state has been called ” a citadel of (Hindu) orthodoxy and conservatism”. Thus, it is argued, the rulers spent a lot of time and attention in building and repairing temples and maths, and prided themselves on bearing the titles of “protectors of the Vedas, and the Vedic path”. They also gave great favours to the brahmans, who were not only given grants of revenue-free lands, but were appointed commanders of armies and forts. The military assignment given to the brahmans, and their important political role was, however, motivated not by religious sentiments but by a desire to use the brahmans as a balancing factor against the powerful Kannad nayaks.
  • In matters of religion, the Vijayanagar rulers were not narrow. Although Saivities to begin with, they did not discriminate against the other sects among the Hindus. They also give patronage to Jainism. The Christian missionaries who had settled down in south India were allowed to do missionary work, and make conversions among the Hindus. The Muslim soldiers employed in the army were given freedom for offering namaz, and in general there were good relations among the Hindus and the Muslims.
  • The only case of blatant intolerance that can be cited is when in 1469, the Vijayanagar ruler, Mallikarjuna Raya, in a fit of anger hearing that the Muslim traders of Bhatkhal had sold horses to the Bahmani ruler, ordered the extirpation of all Muslims in the city. Many Muslims were massacred, and the survivors fled to Goa. This folly and crime led to retaliation from the Bahmani ruler, and the loss of Belgaum and the surrounding region to the Bahmani ruler.

Climax of the Vijayanagar Empire and its Disintegration:

  • There was confusion in the Vijayanagar empire after the death of Deva Raya II. Civil wars broke out among various contenders to the throne. Many feudatories assumed independence in the process. The authority of the Raya shrunk to Karnataka and to some portions of the western Andhra region.

Saluva dynasty:

  • After some time, the throne was usurped by the king’s minister, Saluva. The earlier dynasty, thus, came to an end. Saluva restored internal law and order, and founded a new dynasty.
  • Saluva Narasimha was the first king of the dynasty ruling from 1485–1490. Narasimha spent his reign in relatively successful campaigns to reduce his vassals throughout the kingdom to submission and in unsuccessful attempts to stop the encroachment of the king of Orissa. Narasimha also opened new ports on the west coast so that he could revive the horse trade, which had fallen into Bahmanī hands.
  • This dynasty also soon came to an end and a new dynasty (called the Tuluva dynasty) was founded and Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30) who was the greatest figure of this dynasty.

Tuluva dynasty:

Krishna Deva Raya (1509-29):

  • Krishna Deva had not only to re-establish internal law and order, but he had also to deal with the old rivals of Vijayanagar, viz., the successor states of the Bahmani kingdom Bidar Sultanate; Ahmednagar Sultanate; Bijapur Sultanate; Golconda Sultanate and Berar Sultanate) and the state of Orissa which has upsurped many Vijayanagar territories.
  • In addition, he had to contend with the Portuguese whose power was slowly growing. They were using their control over the seas to browbeat the smaller vassal states of Vijayanagar in the coastal areas in order to gain economic and political concessions. They had even offered to buy the neutrality of the Raya by promising him assistance in recovering Goa from Bijapur and giving him a monopoly in the supply of horses.
  • In the series of battles lasting seven years, Krishna Deva first compelled the ruler of Orissa to restore to Vijayanagar all the territories up to the river Krishna. Having thus strengthened himself,
  • Krishna Deva renewed the old struggle for the control of Tungabhadra doab. This led to a hostile alliance between his two main opponents, Bijapur and Orissa. Krishna Deva made grand preparations for the conflict. He opened the hostilities by overrunning Raichur and Mudkal. In the battle which followed, the Bijapur ruler was completely defeated (1520). He was pushed across the river Krishna, barely escaping with his life. The Vijayanagar armies also reached Belgaum in the west, occupied and sacked Bijapur for a number of days and destroyed Gulbarga before a truce was made.
  • Thus, under Krishna Deva, Vijayanagar emerged as the strongest military power in the south. However, in their eagerness to renew the old feuds, the southern powers largely ignored the danger posed to them and to their commerce by the rise of the Portuguese. Unlike the Cholas and some of the early Vijayanagar rulers, Krishna Deva seems to have paid scant attention to the development of a navy.

Foreign Accounts:

  • The conditions in Vijayanagar during this period are described by a number of foreign travellers.Foreign travellers like Barbosa, Paes and Nuniz speak of his efficient administration and the prosperity of the empire under his sway.
  • Domingos Paes, an Portuguese who spent a number of years at Krishna Deva’s court, has given a glowing account of his personality. He remarks: “He is a great ruler and a man of much justice, but subject to sudden fits of rage.” He cherished his subjects, and his solicitude for their welfare became proverbial.                                                                                                  Domingos Paes (16th century) was a Portuguese traveller who visited the Vijayanagara Empire around the year 1520. His account of the capital Vijayanagara (Hampi) is the most detailed of all historic descriptions of this ancient city. He visited the city during the rule of King Krishna Deva Raya and recorded his impressions og Vijayanagara state in jis Chronica.                    The report of Paes, who visited Vijayanagara during Krishnadeva’s reign, is based primarily on careful observation, whereas Nuniz relied often also on hearsay and legends. Paes described in detail the so-called feudal nayankara system of Vijayanagara’s military organisation and the annual royal Durga festival and he was fascinated by the greatness of Vijayanagara’s fortified urban landscape, its markets, temples and the royal centre. Paes detailed description of the city of Vijayanagara (which is only partly guoted here) is of immense help for identifying and interpreting the still impressive ruins of Vijayanagara, which once was, according to Paes, as large as Rome and “the best provided city of the world.”
  • The greatest achievement of Krishna Deva lay in the broad toleration that prevailed in his empire. Barbosa says: “The king allows such freedom that every man may come and go and live according to his own creed, without suffering from annoyance, without enquiry whether he is a Christian, Jew, Moor or heathen.” Barbosa also pays a tribute to Krishna Deva for the justice and equity prevailing in his empire.
  • Duarte Barbosa was a Portuguese factor at Cannanore and Cochin in between 1503 and (about) 1517 and had left behind an interesting account on trade and political events of the southeast including Bengal.We have an account of what Vijayanagara was like in A.D. 1504 – 14 in the narrative of Duarte Barbosa, who visited the city during that period.Speaking of the “Kingdom of Narsinga,” by which name the Vijayanagar territories were always known to the Portuguese
  • Barbosa writes: “It is very rich, and well supplied with provisions, and is very full of cities and large townships.”He describes the large trade of the seaport of Bhatkal on its western coast, the exports from which consisted of iron, spices, drugs, myrabolans, and the imports of horses and pearls; but as regards he last two items he says, “They now go to Goa, on account of the Portuguese.” The governor of Bhatkal was a nephew of King Krishna Deva.“Forty-five leagues from these mountains there is a very large city which is called BIJANAGUER, very populous, and surrounded on one side by a very good wall, and on another by a river, and on the other by a mountain. This city is on level ground; the king of Narsinga (Vijayanagara) always resides in it. He has in this place very large and handsome palaces, with numerous courts…. There are also in this city many other palaces of great lords, who live there. And all the other houses of the place are covered with thatch, and the streets and squares are very wide. They are constantly filled with an innumerable crowd of all nations and creeds…. There is an infinite trade in this city…. In this city there are many jewels which are brought from Pegu and Celani (Ceylon/Sri Lanka), and in the country itself many diamonds are found, because there is a mine of them in the kingdom of Narsinga and another in the kingdom of Decani (Deccan). There are also many pearls and seed-pearls to be found there, which are brought from Ormuz and Cael … also silk-brocades, scarlet cloth, and coral….”  “The king constantly resides in the before-mentioned palaces, and very seldom goes out of them….”“All the attendance on the king is done by women, who wait upon him within doors; and amongst them are all the employments of the king’s household; and all these women live and find room within these palaces, which contain apartments for all….”“This king has a house in which he meets with the governors and his officers in council upon the affairs of the realm…. They come in very rich litters on men’s shoulders…. Many litters and many horsemen always stand at the door of this palace, and the king keeps at all times nine hundred elephants and more than twenty thousand horses, all which elephants and horses are bought with his own money…. This king has more than a hundred thousand men, both horse and foot, to whom he gives pay….” “When the king dies four or five hundred women burn themselves with him…. The king of Narsinga (Vijayanagara) is frequently at war with the king of Dacani (Deccan), who has taken from him much of his land; and with another gentile king of the country of Otira (apparently Orissa), which is the country in the interior.”

  • Krishna Deva was also a great builder. He built a new town near Vijayanagar and dug an enormous tank which was also used for irrigation purposes.
  • He was a gifted scholar of Telugu and Sanskrit. Of his many works, only one in Telugu on polity, and a drama in Sanskrit are available today. His reign marked a new era in Telugu literature when imitation of Sanskrit works gave place to independent works. He extended his patronage to Telugu, Kannada and Tamil poets alike. Krishna Deva Raya’s reign is considered the golden age of Telugu literature.
  • Krishna Deva Raya patronised the Tamil poet Haridasa and Tamil literature soon began to flourish as the years passed by.He patronised Kannada poets Mallanarya.
  • Krishna Deva Raya respected all sects of Hinduism and lavished on the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple numerous objects of priceless value.He also contributed in building parts of Srisailam temple complex.Krishna Deva Raya was formally initiated into the Vaishnava Sampradaya by Vyasatirtha.

Sadashiva Raya and Rama Raja:

  • After the death of Krishna Deva, there was a struggle for succession among his relations since his sons were all minors. Ultimately, in 1543, Sadashiva Raya ascended the throne and reigned till 1567. But the real power lay in the hands of a triumvitrate in which the leading person was Rama Raja.
  • Rama Raja was able to play off the various Muslim powers against one another. He entered into a commercial treaty with the Portuguese whereby the supply of horses to the Bijapur ruler was stopped. In a series of wars he completely defeated the Bijapur ruler and also inflicted humiliating defeats on Golconda and Ahmadnagar.  It seems that Rama Raja had no larger purpose than to maintain a balance of power favourable to Vijayanagar between these three powers. At length, they combined to inflict a crushing defeat on Vijayanagar at Bannihatti, near Talikota, in 1565. This is called the battle of Talikota or the battle of Rakshasa-Tangadi. Rama Raja was surrounded, taken prisoner and immediately executed. Vijayanagar was thoroughly looted and left in ruins.
  • The battle of Bannihatti is generally considered to mark the end of the great age of Vijayanagar.
  • Although the kingdom lingered on for almost a hundred years, its territories decreased continually and the Raya no longer counted in the political affairs of south India.

State Administration, Society and Economy in Vijayanagara:

  • The concept of kingship among the Vijayanagar rulers was high. In his book on polity, Krishna Deva Raya advises the king that “with great care and according to your power you should attend to the work of protecting (the good) and punishing (the wicked) without neglecting anything that you can see or hear.” He also enjoined upon the king to “levy-taxes from his people moderately.”
  • In the Vijayanagar kingdom the king was advised by a council of ministers which consisted of the great nobles of the kingdom.
  • The kingdom was divided into rajyas or mandalam (provinces) below which were nadu (district), sthala (sub-district) and grama (village). However, the Chola traditions of village self-government were considerably weakened under Vijayanagar rule. The growth of hereditary nayakships tended to curb their freedom and initiative.
  • Historians are not agreed about the condition of the peasantry under the Vijayanagar rule, because most of the travellers had little knowledge about village life and, thus, spoke of it in very general terms. In general, it may be presumed that the economic life of the people remained more or less the same; their houses were mostly thatched with a small door; they generally went about barefooted and wore little above the waist.
  • People of the upper classes sometimes wore costly shoes and a silk turban on their heads, but did not cover themselves above the waist. All classes of people were fond of ornaments, and wore them “in their ears, on their necks, on their arms, etc.”
  • We have very little idea about the share of the produce the peasants were required to pay. According to an inscription, the rates of taxes were as follows:
  1. One-third of the produce of kuruvai (a type of rice) during winter.
  2. One-fourth of seasame, ragi, horsegram, etc.
  3. One-sixth of millet and other crops cultivated on dry land.
  • Thus, the rate varied according to the type of crops, soil, method of irrigation, etc.
  • In addition to the land-tax, there were various other taxes, such as property tax, tax on sale of produce, profession taxes, military contribution (in times of distress), tax on marriage, etc.
  • The sixteenth century traveller, Nikitin, says: “The land is overstocked with people, but those in the country are very miserable while the nobles are extremely affluent and delight in luxury.”
  • Trade and agriculture grew under the Vijayanagar rule. As village self-rule declined, there was the growth of a class of locally powerful people who used their position for developing agriculture by providing additional irrigation facilities for which an extra charge was made. Many temples, which enjoyed rent-free villages, also used their resources for this purpose.
  • Urban life grew under the Vijayanagar empire and trade flourished. Many of the towns grew around temples. The temples were very large and needed supply of food stuff and commodities for distribution of prasadam to the pilgrims, service of God, the priests, etc. The temples were rich and also took active part in trade, both internal and overseas.
  • Thus, despite continuous wars, there was growth of trade and urbanisation in south India between 14th and 16th centuries. Agriculture also developed. This was reflected in the cultural growth during the period.

The Bahmani Kingdom—its Growth and Disintegration

(No need to remember, just for reference)

Titular Name Personal Name Reign
Independence from Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah
Hasan Gangu 1347–1358 CE
Shah Muhammad Shah Bahmani I 1358–1375 CE
Ala-ud-Din Mujahid Shahہ
Mujahid Shah Bahmani 1375–1378 CE
Shah Dawood Shah Bahmani 1378 CE
Shah Mahmood Shah Bahmani I 1378–1397 CE
Shah Ghiyath-ud-din Shah Bahmani 1397 CE
Shah Shams-ud-din Shah Bahmani
Puppet King Under Lachin Khan Turk
1397 CE
Taj-ud-Din Feroze Shah
Feroze Khan 1397–1422 CE
Shah Ahmed Shah Wali Bahmani 1422–1436 CE
Ala-ud-Din Ahmed Shah
Ala-ud-Din Ahmed Shah Bahmani 1436–1458 CE
Ala-ud-Din Humayun Shahاہ
Humayun Shah Zalim Bahmani 1458–1461 CE
Shah Nizam Shah Bahmani 1461–1463 CE
Muhammad Shah Lashkari
Muhammad Shah Bahmani II 1463–1482 CE
Vira Shah Mahmood Shah Bahmani IIئم 1482–1518 CE
Shah Ahmed Shah Bahmani II
Puppet King Under Amir Barid I
1518–1521 CE
Ala-ud-Din Shah
Ala-ud-Din Shah Bahmani II
Puppet King Under Amir Barid I
1521–1522 CE
Shah Waliullah Shah Bahmani
Puppet King Under Amir Barid I
1522–1525 CE
Shah Kaleemullah Shah Bahmani
Puppet King Under Amir Barid I
1525–1527 CE
Dissolution of the Sultanate into 5 Kingdoms namely; Bidar Sultanate; Ahmednagar Sultanate; Bijapur Sultanate; Golconda Sultanate and Berar Sultanate.
  • The empire was founded by Ala-ud-Din Hassan Bahman Shah who had revolted against the Delhi Sultanate of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.The Bahmani capital was Ahsanabad (Gulbarga) between 1347 and 1425 when it was moved to Muhammadabad (Bidar).
  • We have already traced the rise of the Bahmani kingdom, and its conflict with the Vijayanagar empire till the death of Deva Raya II (1446).

Firuz Shah Bahmani(1397-1422):

  • The most remarkable figure in the Bahmani kingdom during the period was Firuz Shah Bahmani (1397-1422). He was well-acquainted with the religious science, that is, commentaries on the Quran, jurisprudence, etc., and was particularly fond of logic, and of the natural sciences such as botany, geometry etc. He was a good calligraphist and a poet and often composed extempore verses.
  • According to Ferishta, he was well versed not only in Persian, Arabic and Turkish, but also in Telugu, Kannada and Marathi. He had a large number of wives in his haram from various countries and regions, including many Hindu wives, and he used to converse with each of them in their own language.
  • Firuz Shah Bahmani was determined to make the Deccan the cultural centre of India. The decline of the Delhi Sultanat helped him, for many learned people migrated from Delhi to the Deccan. The king also encouraged learned men from Iran and Iraq. He generally spent his time till midnight in the company of divines, poets, reciters of history and the most learned and witty among his courtiers. He had read the Old and New Testaments, and he respected the tenets of all religions. Ferishta calls him an orthodox Muslim, his only weakness being his fondness for drinking wine and listening to music.
  • The most remarkable step taken by Firuz Shah Bahmani was the induction of Hindus in the administration on a large scale. It is said that from his time the Deccani brahmans became dominant in the administration. The Decanni Hindus also provided a balance against the influx of foreigners called afaqis or gharibs. Many of the foreigners from West Asia were Persians, under whose influence Persian culture and also Shia doctrines grew in the kingdom.
  • The Bahmani rulers were tolerant in religious matters, and though most of them were Sunnis, they did not persecute Shiism. Nor was jizyah levied on the Hindus during the early phase of Bahmanid rule. We have no reference to jizyah in the subsequent period also. If collected later on, it was collected as a part of land-revenue (kharaj).
  • Firuz Shah Bahmani encouraged the pursuit of astronomy and built an observatory near Daulatabad. He paid much attention to the principal ports of his kingdom, Chaul and Dabhol, which attracted trading ships from the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, and poured in luxury goods from all parts of the world.
  • Firuz Bahmani started the Bahmani expansion towards Berar by defeating the Gond Raja Narsingh Rai of Kherla. Kherla was restored to Narsingh who was made an amir of the kingdom and given robes of state, including an embroidered cap.
  • Firuz Shah Bahmani’s marriage with a daughter of Deva Raya I and his subsequent battles against Vijayanagar have been mentioned. The struggle for the domination of the Krishna-Godavari basin, however, continued. In 1419, the Bahmani kingdom received a setback, Firuz Shah Bahmani being defeated by Deva Raya I. This defeat weakened the position of Firuz. He was compelled to abdicate in favour of his brother Ahmad Shah I.

Ahmad Shah I:

  • He is called a saint (wali) on account of his association with the famous sufi saint Gesu Daraz. However, Ahmad Shah was also considered a saint by the Hindus, so much so that his urs (death anniversary) continued to be celebrated jointly till recent times.
  • Ahmad Shah continued the struggle for the domination of the eastern seaboard in south India. He could not forget that is the last two battles in which the Bahmani sultan had been defeated, the ruler of Warangal had sided with Vijayanagar. In order to wreck vengeance, he invaded Warangal, defeated and killed the ruler in the battle, and annexed most of its territories.
  • In order to consolidate his rule over the newly acquired territories, he shifted the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar.
  • After this, he turned his attention towards Malwa, Gondwana and the Konkan.

Age of Mahmud Gawan (1463-1482):

  • The second half of the fifteenth century saw the gradual rise of the Bahmani kingdom as the leading power in the south. This had been presaged by the conquest of Warangal by Ahmad Shah which showed that the balance of power was shifting in favour of the Bahmaids.
  • Following the death of Deva Raya II, there was confusion in Vijayanagar which provided an opportunity to the Gajpati rulers of Orissa to expand their power and influence in the area. The Bahmanids used the opportunity to consolidate their position in the south, and to expand northwards towards Berar and Khandesh, and westwards towards the Konkan. This brought them into conflict with the rulers of Malwa and Gujarat.
  • During this period, struggle between the Afaqis (Newcomers), and the Deccanis (Oldcomers) created confusion in the internal affairs of the Bahmani kingdom till Mahmud Gawan rose to power and prominence.
  • An Iranian by birth he comes first to our notice in 1456 when he was put at the head of a force to deal with a pretender who had risen against the reigning sultan. Mahmud Gawan was introduced to the ruler, and steadily gained in influence so that in 1461 when the sultan died, and a minor succeeded him, Mahmud Gawan was appointed a member of the council of regency, set up to look after the affairs of the state.
  • Following a series of invasions by the ruler of Malwa, the council of regency was dissolved, and in 1463 a new prince was seated on the throne who appointed Mahmud Gawan as wakil -i-sultanat (prime minister), with the tile of Khwaja-i-Jahan and Malik-ut-Tajjar. Although Mahmud Gawan had never been a trader (tujjar), this title had been awarded by some preceding rulers upon leading nobles.
  • Mahmud Gawan dominated the affairs of the state for twenty years. During the period, Mahmud Gawan tried to extend the frontiers of the kingdom towards the east and the west. In the east, he came into conflict with the Gajpati ruler of Orissa, and joined hands with Vijayanagar to oust him from the Caromondal coast. He also made further conquest at the cost of Orissa.
  • Mahmud Gawan’s major military contribution, however, was the over-running of the western coastal areas, including Dabhol and Goa. The loss of these ports was a heavy blow to Vijayanagar. Control of Goa and Dabhol led to further expansion of the overseas trade with Iran, Iraq, etc. Internal trade and manufactures also grew.
  • Mahmud Gawan also tried to settle the northern frontiers of the kingdom. Since the time of Ahmad Shah I, the kingdom of Malwa ruled by the Khalji rulers had been contending for the mastery of Gondwana, Berar and the Konkan. In this struggle, the Bahmani sultans had sought and secured the help of the rulers of Gujarat. After a great deal of conflict, it had been agreed that Kherla in Gondwana would go to Malwa, and Berar to the Bahmani sultan. However, the rulers of Malwa were always on the lookout for seizing Berar. Mahmud Gawan had to wage a series of bitter battles against Mahmud Khalji of Malwa over Berar. He was able to prevail due to the active help given to him by the ruler of Gujarat.
  • It would thus, be seen that the pattern of struggle in the south did not allow divisions along religious lines, political and strategic considerations and control over trade and commerce being more important causes of the conflict. Secondly, the struggle between the various states of north India and in south India did not proceed completely in isolation from each other. In the west, Malwa and Gujarat were drawn into the affairs of the Deccan, and in the east, Orissa was involved in a struggle w ith Bengal and also cast covetous eyes on the Coromandel coast.
  • The expansion of the Bahmani kingdom towards the east and the west led to a resurgence of the conflict with Vijayanagar. But by this time Vijayanagar was no match for the Bahmani kingdom. Mahmud Gawan not only annexed the Tungabhadra doab, but made a deep raid into the Vijayanagar territories, reaching as for south as Kanchi.
  • Other characteristic of Mahmud Gawan:
  1. In an age in which he lived, drinking and pursuits of pleasure were ordinary things, but he was above all these things. He was a man of high character and never indulged in low pursuits.
  2. He was a great lover of justice and treated both the poor and the rich alike. Though he himself belonged to the Irani group, he showed no leniency to them.
  3. But the most important quality in his character was his devo­tion to his masters.
  4. He was a great lover of the poor and was always ready to help them. He used to distribute a major portion of his income among the poor and the destitute.
  5. He led a very simple life and hated pomp and show like anything. He used to take his meals in earthen-wares and slept on ordinary matters.

Internal reforms, art and architecture of Mahmud Gawan:

  • Mahmud Gawan carried out a number of internal reforms. Some of these were aimed at limiting the power of the nobles.
  • The old provinces (tarafs) were further sub-divided from four into eight, and the governor of each fort was to be appointed directly by the sultan.
  • The salaries and obligations of each noble were fixed.The salary could be paid in cash or by assigning a jagir. Those who were paid by means of jagir were allowed expenses for the collection of land revenue.
  • In every province, a tract of land (khalisa) was set apart for the expenses of the Sultan. Efforts were made to measure the land and to fix the amount to be paid by each cultivator to the state.
  • Mahmud Gawan organized the army on systematic lines. Their salaries were raised and every other facility was provided to them but at the same time strict discipline was enforced on them. The military power that had been assigned to the Jagirdars by the former rulers was taken away from them and centralised in the hands of the Sultan. These measures led to efficiency and infused a new life in the army.
  • He successfully curbed the mutual jealousies of the nobles who were divided into hostile groups of the Dakhani and the Iranian Amirs. Though he himself was a Persian, he did not favour the members of his own group. He did not patronize any group, and kept both of them under his strict control.
  • With a view to improving agriculture various irrigation projects were undertaken and several vexations taxes which hung heavy on the peasants were abolished.
  • He organized the finances on sound lines because he fully knew their importance for the better running of the state. He saved a good deal of money by effecting economy and stopping useless expenditure. In this way he set right the whole state machinery and established complete peace and order in the country.
  • Mahmud Gawan was a great patron of the arts. He built a magnificent madrasa or college in the capital, Bidar. This fine building, which was decorated with coloured tiles, was three storeys high, and had accommodation for one thousand teachers and students who were given clothes and food free. Some of the most famous scholars of the time belonging to Iran and Iraq came to the madrasa at the instance of Mahmud Gawan.
    Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan in Bidar

Downfall an death of Mahmud Gawan:

  • One of the most difficult problems which faced the Bahmani kingdom was strife among the nobles. The nobles were divided into old-comers and new-comers or Deccanis and Afaqis. As a newcomer, Mahmud Gawan was hard put to win the confidence of the Deccanis. Though he adopted a broad policy of conciliation, the party strife could not be stopped. His opponents managed to poison the ears of the young Sultan who had him executed in 1482. Mahmud Gawan was over 70 years old at the time.
  • The party strife now became even more intense. The various governors became independent. Soon, the Bahmani kingdom was divided into five principalities; Golconda, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar and Bidar. Of these, the kingdoms of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda played a leading role in the Deccan politics till their absorption in the Mughal empire during the seventeenth century.
  • The Bahmani kingdom acted as a cultural bridge between the north and the south. It also established close relations with some of the leading countries of West Asia, including Iran and Turkey.
  • The culture which developed as a result had its own specific features which were distinct from north India. These cultural traditions were continued by the successor states and also influenced the development of Mughal culture during the period.

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