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(1336 - 1565 A.D.)
The empire was founded by Harihara-I and Bukka-I, two of the five sons of Sangama. Harihara and Bukka were in the service of the Raya of Kampili. When Bahauddin Gurshap, a cousin of Mohd. bin Tughlaq, revolted and took refuge with the Raya of Kampili, the Sultan attacked Kampili and annexed it to the Delhi Sultanate. During the course of this war, Harihara and Bukka were both made prisoners of war and taken to Delhi. In 1335, when Tughlaq possessions in the south were in a stage of general turmoil, the Sultan released them and sent as commanders of the Tughlaq troops to restore order in the south, where they came under the influence of a sage and declared their independence.
· Harihara and Bukka, who founded the empire in 1336, were the sons of Sangama and named the first dynasty of Vijaynagar after their father as Sangama Dynasty (1336-1485).
· The second dynasty, founded by Saluva Narasimha, known as Saluva dynasty, ruled from 1485 to 1505.
· The third dynasty, known as Tuluva ruled from 1503 to 1570.
· The fourth or the Aravidu dynasty ruled till about the middle of the seventeenth century.
The Sangamas (1336-1485)
Harihara-I (1336-56), aided by his brother Bukka-I, started an era of conquest and expansion. The Hoyasala kingdom was conquered by 1346, and the Kadamba territories were annexed in 1347. Harihara also sent two armies in 1352-53, one under prince Savanna and the other under Kumara Kampana annexed the Sultanate of Madurai to the Vijaynagar.
Harihara I was succeeded by his his brother Bukka I (1356-77). Bukka I sent an expedition against Rajanarayana Sambuvaraya, who earlier had been restored to his throne by Harihara I and had probable asserted his independence soon after. He also found with the Bahmani sultan Muhammad Shah I and signed a treaty with him. His son Kumara Kampana, who governed the Tamil districts, proceeded south, and defeated the sultan of Madura and annexed his dominions to the Vijaynagar.
Bukka’s son and successor, Harihara II (1377-1404), consolidated the new kingdom. An invasion by the Bahmani sultan Mujahid Shah was repulsed. Harihara II invaded the Konkan and northern Karnataka, attacked the Reddi rulers, and occupied the Addanki and Srisailam areas. In 1398, he defeated the Velamas and the Bahamanis. His death in 1404 was followed by a dispute about his succession and consequent political instablitliy. His two sons Virupaksa I and Bukka II appear to have ruled one after the other for two years, and in 1406 Devaraya I ascended the throne.
Devaraya I (1406-26) had to face an invasion by Firoz Shah Bahmani, and was forced to surrender the fort of Bankapur to the Bahmanis. Devaraya formed an alliance with Katayavema, his relative and chief of the Reddi kingdom, to counter the activities of Anadeva Choda, an ally of Firuz shah Bahmani. Devaraya I in 1410, had a barrage across the Tungabhadra constructed. Towards the close of Devaraya’s rule the Italian Nicolo Conti visited the imperial city. He describes it as having a circumference of 96 kms and containing 90,000 potential soldiers. Besides describing the city and its king, Nicolo Conti also mentions festivals like Dipavali, Navaratri. Devaraya I was great patron of scholars. It was to Devaraya’s court that the gifted telugu poet Srinatha, the author of Haravilasam and many other works, journeyed from the Reddy courts of Rajamundry and Kondavidu seeking recognition for his talents. The ‘Pearl hall’ of the palace where he honoured men of eminence is immortalized in literature. Devarya I died in 1442 and was succeeded by his son Ramachandra.
Ramachandra who had been associated with his father in the govt of Udayagiri since 1390-91, ruled as emperor of Vijaynagar for six months only. Ramachandra was succeeded by his brother Vijaya I. He was also known as Vijayabhupati, Vijaya Bukka or Vira Bukka III. Vijaya, who was a weak ruler, took no interest in the affairs of the govt and left it to the care of his son and coregent Devaraya II.
Devaraya II (1426-46) was the greatest sovereign of the Sangama dynasty. He was called ‘Immadi Devaraya’ and also ‘Proudha Devaraya’ or the great Devaraya by his subjects. The inscription speak of his title Gajabetekara i.e., the elephant hunter. Devaraya II had to face an invasion led by the Bahmani sultan Ahmad I in the Raichur doab. The Bahmani sultan shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. Devaraya II annexed Kondavidu (AP) to his kingdom, attacked the Gajapati kingdom of Orissa and subjugated a few chiefs in Kerela. Except the Zomorin of Calicut, all other kings and chieftains in Kerela accepted his suzerainty. Devaraya II was a great patron of literature and himself an accomplished scholar in Sanskrit. He is credit with the authorship of two Sanskrit works, Mahanataka Sudhanidhi and a commentary on the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana. The Persian ambassador Abdur Razzaq who visited his court gives a vivid account of the empire of Vijaynagar.
The reign of Devaraya II was followed by the short reign of Vijayaraya II (1446-47).
The next ruler Mallikarjuna was young at the time of his accession and taking advantage of it, the Bahmani sultan Alauddin II and Kapileshvara Gajapati of Orissa invaded Vijaynagar.
Saluva Narasimha (1485-90), ruler of the Chandragiri region and a powerful feudatory, usurped the throne and saved the kingdom from an impending disruptions.
The Saluvas (1485-1505):
Saluva Narasimha faught against the Sambetas of Peranipadu and the Palaigars of Ummattur, and quelled fissiparous tendencies within the empire. But he was defeated and imprisoned by Purushottama Gajapati and his release was secured to the surrender of Udayagiri in Nellore dist. Before Saluva Narasimha died in 1490, he placed his two young sons under the care of his minister Narasa Nayaka and made him the regent of the kingdom. The elder of the two, Timma, was crowned king but was murdered by a rival and so the younger, Immadi Narasimha was appointed. The regent Narasa Nayaka, however, removed him to Penugonda and kept him under control, himself donating the scene for over a decade. Narasa Nayaka come into conflict with Yusuf Adil Khan of Bijapur and Prataparudra Gajapati, and asserted his authority over several small chiefs in the south. After his death in 1503, his son Vira Narasimha became the regent and continued to keep Immadi Narasimha under tutelage. When Immadi Narasimha was assassinated in 1505, Vira Narasimha became the actual ruler and started what is known as the Tuluva dynasty.
The Tuluvas (1503-70):
Vira narasimha, son of Narasa Nayaka, founded the Tuluva dynasty. After his brief reign, he was succeded by his younger brother Krishan Deva Raya (1509-29) who was the greatest ruler of Vijaynagar. The Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes stayed at Vijaynagar during his reign. He defeated the rebellious chief of Ummattur, the Gajapati king Prataparudra of Orissa, the Adil Shahi sultan Yusuf Adil and his son Ismail Adil. The whole of the Raichur doab passed into the hands of Vijaynagar. He successfully invaded Gulbarga and Bidar and restored the puppet Bahmani sultan to the throne. To commemorate this act of restoration of the Bahmani monarcy, he assumed the title of Yavanarajya Sthopanacharya or restorer of the Yavana kingdom. He also concluded a series of treaties with the Portuguese who were trying to capture the territories of Adil Shahi kingdom, their common enemy. His political ideas are contained in his telugu work Amuktamalyada. He was himself a scholar of Sanskrit as well as Telugu. As a great patron of literature, he was known as Abhinava Bhoja. Asta Diggajas adorned the court of Krishan Deva Raya. Among these poets, Peddana was personally honoured by the emperor for his proficiency in Sanskrit and telugu. He founded a town Nagalapur (near Vijaynagar) and built tanks, gopurams and temples in various parts of empire. After his death, his half-brother Achyuta Raya (1529-42) succeeded him.
Achyuta raya had to repulse the invasion of Ismail Adil khan for the seizure of the Raichur doab. He also defeated the Gajapati ruler and the sultan of Golkonda. Ismail Adil khan died in 1534 and taking advantage of this Achyuta Raya invaded Bijapur and forced his son Mulla Adil Khan to sue for peace. Achyuta was succeeded by his son Venkata I with his maternal uncle Salakaraju Tirumala as regent. Tirumala’s intention were suspected by Varadadevi, the queen mother, who sought the help of Ibrahim Adil Shah I; but the clever Tirumala won him over. Ibrahim Adil Shah invaded Vijaynagar in spite of Tirumala’s understanding with him. Tirumala, however, inflicted defeat. Panicstricken people proclaimed Tirumala as the ruler. But, soon Rama Raya defeated Tirumala in a few battles and seized the kingdom. in the name of Sadashiva who was ultimately crowned in 1543, but Rama Raya remained the de facto ruler.
Sadashiva raya (1543-69) was only a titular soverign; the actual govt was controlled by Rama Raya. The Deccani states of a confederacy of alliance which defeated the Vijaynagar forces in the battle of Rakshasa Tangadi (Talikota) in January 1565. Rama Raya was captured and executed. After this disaster the Vijaynagar govt. was shifted first to Penukonda and then to Chandragiri where the fourth or the Aravidu dynasty founded.
The Aravidus (1570-1649)
Founded by the Rama Raya’s brother Tirumala. Taking advantage of the weakness of the central govt, the nayakas of Vijaynagar, such as the nayakas of Tanjavur, Madurai, Gingee etc. declared their independence.
Administration under Vijayanagar Empire
They gave centralized administration in which king was supreme and generally a Brahmin Kings were assisted by Mantri Parishad, whose members were also mainly Brahmins. Sachivalaya was the department in which officials worked. Empire was divided into various segments:
· Rajya or Manadlam was biggest administrative division where princes were appointed as Governors.
· Rajyas were further divided into: 1) Valanadu, 2) Nadu or District,3) Melagram, 4) Gram
Governor working in those Rajyas had powers to levy taxes and issue coins but were under total control of central authority.
Feudal system developed which was known as Nayankar System. The military officers called as Amar Nayaks who got land in lieu of their salary and that land was called as Amaram. Amaram did not fall under Rajya directly. Amar Nayaks couldn’t introduce coins and taxes though they could maintain army and collect revenue themselves. Over the period Amar Nayaks became hereditary.
· Vijayanagar rulers also collected taxes from various sources and land revenue was the greatest sources. It was 1/6th of the produce
· Trades, crafts and industries were taxed.
· A unique tax on marriage was also imposed which had to be paid by both bride and groom.
· In case of widow remarriage tax was not imposed implying that widow remarriage was encouraged by state
· Even prostitutes and gamblers were taxed thereby legitimizing these professions.
Society and Culture
· There was evidence of influence of Aryan culture.
· Priest class and temples got certain land which were taxed but at very low rates; 1/40th in case of temples and 1/30th in case of priests
· Brahmins had monopoly over education, it was reserved for upper castes only and women were generally ignored.
· Temples had great role in developing various cultures, like drama, music, paintings and this in turn encouraged various craftsmen and artisans.
· Temples in south India thus played an important role, both for developing economy as well as culture.
· ‘Kalyanmandap’ was unique feature of south Indian temples. In this mandap marriage of Devis and Devtas were celebrated with great pomp and show.
· Some of famous temples constructed in Vijayanagar empire are Virupaksha Temple (built by Krishna Deva Raya) and Temple of Thousand Pillars. They are very important for their architectural excellence.
Condition of Women:
· Condition of women was generally poor. Though there was no purdah system, polygamy was prevalent.
· Widows were discouraged by society to re-marry (but State encouraged it by not taxing widow remarriage).
· Sati was prevalent, though a unique system was also prevalent wherein male guards of king jumped in pyre of king.
· Child marriage was not very common but there were some instances of this practice.