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The Vijaynagara Empire

The Vijayanagar empire emerged in fourteenth century India and lasted a fairly remarkable three hundred years. It was a formidable Hindu kingdom which ruled Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and parts of Kerala in southern India. It also governed the territories of Mysore, Trichinopally, Kanara, Pondicherry, Chingalpet and Kanchivaram. To its south was the Hindu Zamorin of Kerala, while to the north was the Bahamani sultanate of the Deccan.

Two brothers, Harihara (Hakka) I and Bukka Raya, laid the foundations of the Vijaynagar capital and the empire. Vijayanagara was on the south bank of the River Tungabhadra near the fortress of Anegudi. Also known as the Sangama brothers, these two adventurers consolidated their power and then expanded it, first under Harihara I and then Bukka Raya, which made the capital more defensible and secure.

Harihara I and Bukka established the Vijaynagar kingdom when the Tughlaqs of Delhi lost power in the Deccan, at the same time as a patchwork of minor kingdoms emerged around it. The Emperors of the Sangama dynasty were great patrons of art and culture, and under them the region influenced development in music, literature and architecture. Many temples were built in their southern Indian territories and the economy of the region flourished, with several coins being introduced during the empire’s existence.

Harihara was the eldest son of Bhavana Sangama, who belonged to the Kuruba (or Kurumas, Dhangaras in the southern Indian states. It has been concluded from inscriptions that Harihara was administering the northern parts of Karnataka at Gutti in the 1330s, in Ananthpur district, in 1339, which was the northern section of the Hoysala kingdom.

Upon the death of Hoysala Veera Ballala III, Harihara took full control of the entirety of the kingdom’s territory.

The kingdom prospered and continues to expand under Bukka Raya, as he conquered most of the kingdoms of Southern India. He defeated the Shambuvaraya kingdom of Arcot and the Reddis of Kondavidu by 1360 and the region around Penukonda was annexed. He also moved the capital of the empire to Vijayanagara,  which was more secure and defensible than the previous capitol at Anegondi.

By1374, Bukka Raya has gained the upper hand over the Bahamanis for control of the Tungabhadra-Krishna doab. He also took control of Goa and the kingdom of Orya and forced the Jaffna kingdom of Ceylon and Malabar to pay tributes to him.

Harihara’s death led to a fight for the throne by his sons: Deva Raya I, Bukka Raya II, and Virupaksha Raya. Virupaksha Raya ruled for just a few months before being murdered by his sons and was then succeeded by Bukka Raya II. He then ruled for two years before being succeeded by Deva Raya I.

Virupaksha’s poor reign was marked by the loss of a lot of the kingdom’s territory to the Mohammedans, such as the locations of Goa, Chau, and Dabhol.

Deva Raya’s reign was marked by continual attacks by the Velamas of Telangana, the Bahamani sultan, the Reddis of Kondavidu, and the Gajapatis of Orya. Unlike his father, Deva Raya II was a forceful and powerful ruler. He defeated the Gajapatis of Orya three times in 1427, 1436 and 1441.

Deva Raya succeeded in conquering Kondavidu in 1432, and repelled invasions by Ahmad Shah I of the Bahamanis while holding Mudgal fort in 1436. He later restored the Reddis in Kondavidu.

The Bahamani kingdom took over much of the Vijayanagar empire by this point. The Portuguese also recently arrived in southern India, seizing many of the ports on the western coast that the Vijayanagar empire had until then controlled. The Gajapatis conquered Rajamahendri in 1454, and Udayagiri and Chandragiri in 1463.

Virupaksha Raya seized the throne from his failed cousin, but faced by constantly rebellious nobles and officials he was unable to halt the decline of the dynasty. He lost the Konkan coast (including Goa, Chaul, and Dabul) by 1470 to Mahamud Gawan, the Prime Minister of the Bahamani kingdom, who was sent to conquer the area by Sultan Mohammed Shah III.

Virupaksha Raya was defeated by Purshottam Deva of Orissa, at Kanchipuram, which is under Vijaynagar control. The victorious Oryan King married Virupaksha Raya’s daughter, Padmavati.

Despite his attempt to secure control of the empire after murdering his father, Praudha Raya failed to halt its decline. Seeing that the only way to save the empire was to mount a military coup, the King’s general, Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, took control, founding the Saluva dynasty.

The Vijaynagar Kingdom rose to its highest peak of glory during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. Not only was he an able administrator and a great warrior but he was also a scholar, a poet, a musician and a kind king. He was loved very much by his subjects and he even treated his enemies with honor. He won all the wars he had waged during his rule.

Krishna Deva was the younger brother of Vira Narasimha who defeated the Sulvas to snatch the throne. Krishna Deva succeeded his brother and soon proved his mettle as an able king. He defeated the king of Orissa and also the Sultan of Bijapur. He defeated the Bahamani ruler Ismail Adil Shah to put an end to the Muslim dominance in Southern India. His empire extended from Cuttack in eastern India to Goa in the west and Raichur Dobe in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south.

During Krishna Deva’s reign the European (mainly the Portuguese ) traders came to India and he encouraged foreign trade with the visitors. Krishna Deva was a great patron of art, poetry and music. Tenali Ramakrishna – the scholar who was famous for his wisdom, was a prominent member of Krishna Deva’s court.        Raya built the famous Vithalswami and Hazara temple in Hampi. These temples and many other more are magnificent specimens of the Vijaynagar style of Hindu architecture.

Krishna Deva Raya’s forces and the Sultan of Bijapur clashed in 1509. Yusuf Adil Khan was killed and Sultan Mahmud was defeated. He conquered the feudatory of Gajapati kings of Odisha. He defeated Ganga Raja on the Kaveri banks.

Krishna Deva Raya and the Portuguese shared cordial relations. The Portuguese Dominion of India was set up in 1510 in Goa. Arabian horses and guns were supplied to the Emperor by Portuguese merchants. Tirumala Raya, his son was made the Yuvaraja in 1524. However he could not serve for long because of his death due to poisoning.

Literature in many languages prospered during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya; thus, his reign is also called as a golden age of Telugu literature. Several Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada poets were patronized by the king. Astadiggajalu, the great eight poets, were part of his court. He patronised Kannada poets Mallanarya, Chatu Vittal-anatha and Timmanna Kavi. Allasani Peddana was entitled Andhra Kavita Pitamaha by the king, which meant “father of Telugu poetry”.

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