Krishna Deva Raya – the Great
Hindu Resurgence and Renaissance
in his Vijayanagara Empire
By Dr. K.M.Rao Ph.D., D.Litt.,
Bharatiya Ithihasa Sankalana Samiti
The Vijayanagara Empire KB 4438 -4667 (1336-1565 AD)
Musunoori Nayaka, Prolaya Nayaka, Kapaya Nayaka, Somedeva Chalukya and Vira Ballala III, the heros of Hindu Nationalist Movement after throwing away the yoke of Muslim rule in southern Bharata, prepared the ground for something great. Two Kshatriya brothers Harihar and Bukka, who were taken prisoners from Kampili and forced to embrace Islam were appointed governor and deputy governor of Kampili. Inspired by sage Madhava Vidyaranga they renounced Islam, took the lead of the Hindu nationalist Movement and founded the Kingdom and the city of Vijayanagara in KB 4438 (1336AD) which was developed as an Empire.
Vijayanagara empire was ruled by four dynasties: Sangam KB 4438-4587 (1336-1485AD), Saluva KB 4587-4605 (1485-1503AD), Tuluva KB4605-4611 (1503-1509), and Aravidu KB 4671-4674 (1569-1572).
For the history of Vijayanagara empire, Farishta is often quoted as an authority. Farishta was a court historian. His full name was Muhammad Kasim Hindushah. As a persian born historian of the 16th century, he was the court historian to Sultan Ibrahim Adilshah of Bijapur. He authored
Tarikh-I-Firishta which was translated by Briggs as “ The History of the rise of mohammadan power in India”. So far as Vijayanagara is concerned, Farishta is not a reliable source being a court historian of a Sultan of Dakshin and having viewed the Vijayanagara kingdom as a rival. Dr.S.D.Kulkarni in his monumental work(study of Indian History and Culture,Vol.VII), has critically analysed this in his book from PP.25-27. Farishta has converted the victories of Vijayanagara Empire into defeats. More reliable sources are the contemporary literature of the southern Bharata, the inscriptional accounts, the records of the temples and the coins of the time.
I. Sangam Dynasty
Harihara I, KB 4438-4458 (1336-1356 AD)-He was one of five sons of Sangama. He founded the city and kingdom of Vijanagar in KB 4438(1336AD) with the able guidance of Madhava Vidyaranya.
He was able to extend his kingdom to an empire. During his period The Sultan of Madura was perpetrating extreme atrocities on Hindus. Since the details will take large space only Harihara’s statement is mentioned. “I very much lament for what war has done to the progress in Madura. The coconut trees have all been cut and in their places are to be seen rows of iron spikes with human skulls dangling at the points”. (Madhuravijayam, op. Cit. p.16).
In about KB 4454-55 (1352-53AD) Harihara sent his army under prince Soven and Kumar Kampana, son of Bukka, to crush the Sultan of Madura. The Sultan was defeated and captured (The study of Indian History and Culture, vol.VII, Dr.S.D.Kulkarni, p.19.)
Bukka I, KB 4458-4479 (1356-1377 A.D.)
He fought a fierce battle with Muhammed Shah of Bijapur in which Muhammed Shah was compelled to have a treaty with BukkaI, by accepting his complete domination over Krishna Tungabhadra Doab except some Mahals on the southern bank of Krishna river inKB4467 (1365AD.)
Bukka I was a very enlightened king. Inspite of Muslim fanaticism experienced by him, he was very tolerant. In his days, there was a dispute between the Vaishnavas and the Jains. He issued an edict declaring that all the religions including Islam and christianity would receive equal treatment from the state. All his successors followed this policy. He gave encouragement to the study of Vedas . Speacil grants were made to his guru Vidyaranya and his brother Sayanacharya for study of vedas in all their aspects. He also encouraged Telugu literature and was the patron of the Telugu poet Nachana Soma, the greatest name of his age.
Bukka I was succeeded by HariharaII, KB4479-4506 (1377-1404A.D.) and then Devaraya IKB 4508-4524 (1406-1422Ad.).
Devaraya I was a great King. He was the first to create a cavalry unit in his army. He also introduced Turkish bowmen in his army.
Devaraya I was an ardent Shaivite. He was speacially devoted to the worship of Goddess pampa of Hampi-Tirtha. He was also a lover of art and literature. Under him Vijanagar became really a Vidyanagar, the abode of the Goddess of learning Saraswati.
Devaraya I was succeeded by Devaraya II, KB 4524-4548 (1422-1446AD): Malikarjuna, KB 4548-4567(1446-65AD), and virupakshaII, KB 4567-4587 (1465-85AD).
II Saluva Dynasty
Saluva Narasimha, KB 4587 – 4592 (1485-1490 AD)
When the rulers of the old dynasty had gone weak, the vassal of Vijayanagara, Saluva Narasimha saved the empire from its disintegration. He had, however, to exert further to bring all the former nobles to accept his authority. Saluva means eagle or hawk. His grand father Mangu showed valour under BukkarayaI. He killed the Sultan of Madura and thus earned the title saluva. Narasimha’s father was Gundaraya Odeyar who ruled at Chandragiri.(Southern Indian Inscription No.462, Vol.IX,
part II, P.473)
Narasa Nayaka KB 4592-4605 (1490-1503AD)
After the death of Narasimha, Narasa Nayaka became the regent for the two sons of Narasimha but de fecto he became the ruler. He extended the borders of the empire to the Tamilnadu region and the western Karnataka. He died in KB 1503 AD. Bequeathing the kingdom to his eldest son,
- III. Tuluva Dynasty
Vira Narasimha, KB 4605-4611 (1503-1509 AD)
Vira Narsimha had to face the ‘Jihad’ organised by Bahamani Kingdom. Vira Narasimha had to suffer a setback. But after a short time he captured Tulu Nadu, on the western coasts.
Krisna Deva Raya, the Great, KB 4611-4631 (1509-1529 A.D.)
He was the greatest emperor of the Vijayanagara empire of Tuluva dynasty. He defeated Yusuf Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, and recovered the fortress of Raichur. He extended his frontiers to Orissa in the north and to Sreerangapattinam in the south. He was also a patron of the arts, letters and religion. During Krishna Deva Raya’s period the Vijayanagara empire was at its zenith. The empire extended from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian sea and included modern Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He not only marked the climax in the territorial expansion of the Vijayanagara empire but was also remarkable for the encouragement and development of Arts and Letters. Himself an accomplished scholar, Raya was a generous patron of learning. He was in no way less famous’, writes Krishna Sastri, ‘for his religious zeal and catholocity’. He respected all sects of Hindu religion alike, though his personal leanings were in favour of Vaishnavism… Krishna Raya’s kindness to the fallen enemy, his acts of mercy and charity towards the residents of the captured cities, his great military prowess which endeared him alike to his feudatory chiefs and to his subjects, the royal reception of the kind that he invariably bestowed upon foreign embassies, his imposing personal appearance, his genial look and polite conversation made him the greatest personality of his time. After Krishna Deva Raya, the great, Vijayanagara empire started declining and almost ended following the battle of Talikot.
Battle of Talikot
No Muslim kindom singly was capable of facing the might of the Vijayanagar empire. Hence all the five muslim kingdoms – Ahmednagar, Barar, Bidar,Bijapur and Golconda took shelter
under a ‘Jihad’ against Vijayanagar in which even the sufis of Bijapur (warrior sufis) got together and attacked Vijayanagar on 23rd January,1565. It was one of the few wars fought using a joint strategy. The battle was hard fought. The Vijayanagar empire had 10,000 horsemen and 1,40,000 foot soldiers. However, the critical strength of attack was in its superior supply line as it was being fed from five sources. The combined invading muslim force of 80,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry launched an offensive with a massive frontal attack. This was made possible by an initial artillery barrage that softened up the Vijayanagara amy’s offensive capability. The attack was brief and concentrated: The aftermath was the pillage of Vijayanagar. The magnificence of Vijaynagar ended and it was deprived of its splendour by the invading army in a manner which can still be seen at Hampi.
Although Vijayanagar was destroyed, Tirumla, The brother of Rama Raya, escaped and founded the Paravidu dynasty.
The dynasty which was founded by Tirumala survived till KB 4744 (1642 AD), the last king of this dynasty was Ranga.
Krisna Deva Raya’s Vijayanagar Empire
The cradle of Civilization of Bharat
Foreign travellers, who visited India during the 15th and 16th centuries, have left glowing accounts of the Empire of Vijayanagar. The city of Vijayanagar was encompassed by massive fortifications and was of enormous size. The italian traveller, Nicolo Conti, who visited it about AD1420 writes: “the circumference of the city is sixty miles, its walls are carried upto the mountains and enclose the valleys at their foot, so that its extent is thereby increased. In this city there are estimated to be ninety thousand men fit to bear arms. ….. The King is powerful than all the other kings of India. Abdur Razzaq, who came to India from Persia and went to Vijayanagar in AD1442-1443, observes: “ The country is so well populated that it is impossible in a reasonable space to convey an idea of it. In the kings trasury there are chambers with excavations in them, filled with molten gold, forming one mass. All the inhabitants of the country, whether high or low, even down to the artificers of the bazar, wear jewels and ornaments on their ears and around their necks,arms,wrists and fingers.” Domingos Paes, a Portuguese, who has recorded a detailed description of Vijayanagar, writes: “ Its king has much treasure and many soldiers and many elephants, for there are number of these in this country… in this you will find men belonging to every nation and people, because of the great trade which it has and the many precious stones there, principally diamonds. …This is the best provided city in the world, and is stocked with provisions such as rice,wheat,grains, Indian corn, and a certain amount of barley and beans, moong, pulses, horse grain and many other seeds which grow in this country, which are the food of the people, and there is a large store of these and very cheap. … The streets and markets are fully laden with oxen without count. Edordo Barbosa, who was present in India in AD 1516, describes Vijayanagar as of great extent, highly populous and the sea of an active commerce in country diamonds,rubies, musk, pepper and Sandal from Malabar.
It is clear from foreign accounts and other sources that unbounded prosperity prevailed in the Vijayanagar Empire. Agriculture flourished in different parts of the realm and the state pursued a wise irrigation policy. The principal industries related to textiles, mining and metallurgy, and the most important of the minor industries was perfumery. Craftsmen’s and merchants’ guilds played an
important role in the economic life of the kingdom. Abdur Razzaq writes : “ The tradesmen of each separate guild or craft have their shops close to one another,” Paes also observes: “ there were temples in every street, for these appertain to institutions like the confraternities you know of in our parts, of all the craftsmen and merchants.”
The most remarkable feature in the economic condition of the kingdom was commerce, inland, coastal and overseas. The most important port on the Malabar coast was Calicut, and according to Abdur Razzaq, the Empire possessed 300 sea ports. it had commercial relations with the islands in the Indian Ocean, the Malay Archipelago, Burma, China, Arabia, Persia, South Africa, Abyssinia and Portugal. The principal articles of exports into the Empire were horses, elephants, pearls, copper, coral, mercury, China silks and velvet.
Accounts of foreign travellers,inscriptions, and literature, contain copious reference regarding the different aspects of the social life of the people in the Vijayanagar Empire. Women in general occupied a high position in the society, and instances of the active part they took in the political, social and literary life of the country are not rare. Besides being trained in wrestling, handling swords and shields, music and other fine arts, some of them at any rate received a fair degree of literery education. Nuniz writes:” He (The King of Vijayanagar) has also women who wrestle, and others who are astrologers and soothsayers; and he has women who writes all the accounts of expenses that are incurred inside the gates , and others whose duty it is to write all the affairs of the Kingdom and compare their books with those of the writers outside; he has women also for music, who play instruments and sing. Even the wives of the king are well versed with music. …it is said that he has judges, as well as bailiffs and watchmen who every night guard the place, and thse are women.”
The Vijayanagar Empire had to its credit brilliant cultural and artistic achievements. The emperors were patrons of all languages- Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada, and under their fostering care, some of the finest pieces of literature were produced. Sayana, the famous commentator of the vedas, and his brother Madhava, flourished during the early days of Vijayanagar rule and were deeply attached to the state. The reign of krishna Deva Raya was of special importance in his branch of activity as in all others. It marked the dawn of a new era, in the literary history of southern Bharat. Himself a scholar, a musician and poet, he he loved to gather around him poets, philosophers and religious teachers whom he honoured with magnificent gifts of land and money. He wrote his magnum opus, Amuktamalyada, in Telugu. In his introduction to this book he refers to five sanskrit works written by him. The book is not merely of religious interest but also of great historical importance for the reign of Krishna Deva Raya. In his court flourished the “Ashtadiggajas”, ‘the eight elephants’ (famous poets), who supported the world of (Telugu) literature.”
Along with the growth of literature we have a remarkable development of art and architecture. The ruins of this old capital of this Empire proclaim to the world that evolved there in the days of its glory, a distinct style of architecture, sculpture and painting by Bharatiya artists. The famous Hazara temple, built during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, is, remarks Longhurst, ‘one of the most perfect specimens of Hindu temple architecture in existence’. The vitthalaswavi temple is also a fine example of Vijayanagar style. In the opinion of fergusson, it shows the extreme limit in florid magnificience to which the style advanced’. The art of painting attained a high degree of excellence, and the art of music rapidly developed. Some new works on the subject of music were produced. Krishna Deva Raya and the regent, Rama Raya were proficient in music. Theatres provided amusement for the people of the kingdom.
Epigraphic and literary evidence clearly shows that the rulers of Vijayanagar were of pious disposition and devoted to Dharma. But they were not fanatics. Their attitude towards the prevailing four sects,Saiva, Buddha, Vaishnava and jaina, and even alien creeds, Christian, Jewish and Moorish, was liberal. Barbosa writes: “ The king allows such freedom that every man may come and go and live according to his creed without suffering any annoyance, and without enquiry, whether he is a christian, Jew, Moor or Hindu.”