About Vijayanagar Kings-Empire

Lakshmi Narasimha Hampi.
  • Who founded the Vijayanagar Empire? Who were its rulers? What period did they rule from? Did they defeats in war Sultans of Deccan states. Article provides answers to these and many more questions. 

Detailed caption - Lakshmi Narasimha, 4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, its 7 hoods acting as a canopy, arched by Kirtitoran mukha, height 6.7 metres. The statue was consecrated by priest Krishabhatt in 1528 A.D. at the behest of Krishnadevaraya.


After three centuries of frustration, humiliation, defeat and retreat Islamic forces, in the 10th century, managed to conquer Northern part of India (Note that thanks to King Sukhdev’s defeat of Mazud Ghazni in 1033, the next invasion by Mohammed Ghori was in 1180). Read about the Battle of Baharaich 1033


It was not until the second half of the 16th century that the Muslim states of the Deccan could dominate south India, a result of the Vijayanagara rulers.


The capital city Vijayanagara or the ‘city of victory’ was situated on the south bank of the river Tungabhadra, now represented by the ruins of Hampi. 


This article is compiled by referring to volumes 6-7 of The History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan. End of article is a link to article ‘Battle of Talikota’ fought between Ramaraya and combined forces of Sultans of Deccan. This article tells about the kings who ruled Vijayanagar.


About Vijayanagara Empire

Abd-ur-Razzag son of Timur visited Vijayanagara in 1443 during the reign of Devaraya II (1442-1446) and wrote, “The city of Vijayanagra occupied an area of 64 sq miles and had 7 concentric enclosures, each surrounded with strong fortifications.” Portuguese Paes (visited the city during reign of Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529) said the city was “as large as Rome and very beautiful to look at.” 


The key monuments in Vijayanagara, now represented by the city of Hampi, were King’s Audience Hall-Throne Platform-Elephant Stable - Hazara Rama and Vitthala temples-temples of Pampapati etc. The rulers also made gopurams of various temples in South India for e.g. at Belur, Kalyana-mandapa at Vellore and two temples at Kanchipuram etc.  

 Gopuram Belur Temple made by Vijayanagara King. 

R C Mazumdar wrote, “For it was impossible to deny that India was saved from this disaster by the patronage of the rulers of Vijayanagara and Mithila”. Volume 6 Pg. xxxi.


Three dynasties that ruled from Vijayanagar city are -

1. Sangama (1336-1485).

2. Saluva 1485-1505). 

3. Tuluva (1505-1565).


The capital was destroyed in 1565. Then the capital shifted to Penugonda, then Chandragiri and finally to Vellore.


Origins of Harihara and Bukka

As per Volume 6, ‘The founders of the Vijayanagara were first in the service of Prataparudra of Warangal. When the king was defeated by M Bin Tughlaq they fled to Kampili to take refuge there. They were carried away to Delhi where they were forcibly converted to Islam. On the outbreak of a rebellion in Kampili the Sultan sent them with an army to reconquer it which they did. 


They then came under the influence of Swami Vidyaranya (a perfect amalgamation of idea of Brahmin-Kshatriya thinking) who persuaded them to renounce Islam and become Hindus again. They assumed leadership of the Hindus of Kampili. The city of Vijayagara or Vidyanagara was built by Swami Vidyaranya, Harihara and Bukka. Vol 6 pg. 322-323.


Harihara, post conversion, was persuaded to adopt the name of god Sri Virupaksha. He was crowned in A.D. 1336 as king of the new kingdom of Hampi-Hatinavati and to commemorate that event he laid the foundations of his new capital, Vijayanagara, on the same day. The new capital was more secure, as compared to the earlier capital of Anegundi, surrounded by the Hemakuta, Matanga and Malayavanta hills. Harihara shifted to his new capital (took 7 years to complete) and had his palace on Hemakuta hill.


Harihara I ruled from 1336-1356. He was a great administrator and with the help of a trusted minister, Chikka Udaiya, laid the foundations of a strong and stable system of civil administration that lasted until the very last days of the empire.


Bukka I ruled from 1357 to 1377. He undertook a series of wars. In 1370 Kumara Kampana, the son of Bukka 1 defeated the forces of Madura. Later the Sultan was defeated and killed. 


With the conquest of Madura, the whole of South India extending up to Rameshwaram came under the sway of Vijayanagara Empire. Bukka I was a great soldier and achieved great success in battle esp. against the Muslims.


Bukka I took an active interest in the revival of Vedic dharma. He gathered all the scholars of Vedic literature, placed them under his kula-guru Madhavacharya-Vidyaranya and his famous brother Sayanacharya, he asked them to compose fresh commentaries and expound the meaning of the Vedas and allied texts. He also encouraged Telegu literature. Vol 6, pg. 279-281.


Harihara II ruled from 1377 to 1404. Amongst others he defeated the Bahmani Sultan Mujahid Shah who invaded Vijayanagara kingdom in 1377. During his reign the kingdom expanded in all directions and assumed the proportions of a mighty empire.


Devaraya I (son of Harihara II) ruled from 1406-1422. During his rule he was continuously engaged in war with the Bahmani sultans, the Velamas and Reddis of Kondavidu. At a battle for control for the strategic control of the fort of Pangal, Devaraya’s army defeated the Bahami forces. He was a great organiser of the armies. 


Under him, Vijayanagara became the chief centre of learning in the whole of South India. It became Vidyanagara, the city of learning and the abode of Goddess Saraswati. At the ‘Pearl Hall’ of the palace were honoured poets, artists and philosophers. Vol 6 pg. 286-288.


Devaraya II ruled from 1422 to 1446. He defeated the Bahmanis during invasion of 1423. Thereafter, he launched attack on Gajati (Orissa) and Velamas (Andhras).


Around 1443 second war broke out with Bahmani king. In the first battle Devaraya II won. In the third battle the forces of Vijayanagara fled panic-stricken into the Mudgal fort. A treaty was signed according to which Devaraya agreed not to molest the Sultan’s territories in future and pay annually a stipulated tribute. However, the Sultan could not take possession of Mudgal fort so not clear about nature of claimed victory over Devaraya. 


In 1442 his Diwan and Commander-in-Chief, Lakkana Dannaik, is said to have gone on a naval expedition to the frontier of Ceylon. The Ceylonese were defeated and compelled to pay tribute. He promoted fine arts and adorned his capital with new temples. He loved to organize literary and philosophical debates in his court.


Devaraya II was the master of extensive empire which extended from the river Krishna to Ceylon and from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. He gathered much revenue from the numerous ports of his empire. His fleet scoured the seas, and levied tribute from Ceylon, Pegu and many other countries. Vol 6 pg. 294


The Sangama dynasty ended in 1485. Saluva dynasty ruled from 1485 to 1505 and Taluva from 1505 to 1565.


A series of rulers ruled from 1446 to 1509 till Krishnadevaraya ruled from 1509-1529.


In 1509 Bahamni Sultan, Mahmud Shah, declared jihad on the infidels of Vijayanagara. They were defeated. He fought wars to expand his empire and attached Orissa in 1513. After a series of attacks including on Gajapati’s capital Cuttack, a treaty of peace was signed in 1518 by which Gajapati gave his daughter in marriage to Krishnadevaraya and obtained from him all the territory north of the Krishna conquered by him during the war. Vol 6 pg. 309-313.  Next he defeated the Qutub Shahi rulers of Golconda and Adil Khan of Bijapur.

Overview Krishna Temple Hampi.

Krishna temple has an image of Bala Krishna that Krishnadevaraya bought from a temple in Udaygiri, Odisha and enshrined in the Mahamandapa.


He maintained good relations with the Portuguese since they had a virtual monopoly over import of Arab and Persian horses that he needed.


Krishnadevaraya was a great general who led his armies personally and knew how to win. After the battle he would go to the battlefield looking for the wounded and give them medical help. He was in the habit of touring the empire annually when he came into personal contact with his subjects and listened to their complaints.


His building activity was confined to Nagalpur, a new town founded near Vijayanagara. The thousand pillared mantapas and raya-gopurams, which are seen in the country-side in south India, were largely built during his reign. He was a patron of art and letters. Though he promoted all languages, he favoured Telegu. His court had 8 eminent Telegu poets. Volume 6 pg. 317-320.


Achyutadevaraya (AD in short), his half-brother successor, ruled from 1530-1542.


To avoid dissension he entered into an agreement with Krishnadevraya’s son-in-law Ramaraya whereby the latter was his partner in the administration of the empire. Ramaraya removed old servants from key positions and appointed his own men. He also took into service 3,000 Muslim soldiers whom Adil Shah discharged from his service. Once confident he imprisoned AD and declared himself king. This was not accepted by the nobles so he proclaimed AD’s young nephew Sadashiva as king and ruled in his name.

Achyutadevraya Temple, Hampi.

Rivalry between AD’s son, Sadashiva and Ramaraya followed. Eventually Ramaraya became king. Sadashiva ruled from 1543-1552 and Ramaraya from 1552-1573. In his desire for power Ramaraya enlisted the services of many Muslim mercenaries and adventurers. With the increase of Msulims in the army and government services, loyalty of the one and safety of the other were jeopardised. Volume 7 pg. 489.

Ramaraya (1552-1573) was the first ruler of Vijayanagara to entangle himself in the inter-State politics of the Muslim kingdoms. Although he prevailed upon them by his cleverness and military strength, the rapid growth of his power alarmed them. They united and brought his downfall in the battle of Rakshasi-Tangadi (Talikota).


He was one of the greatest Hindu monarch who ever ruled South India. During his rule the authority of the Rayas extended from Rameshwaram in South to Narmada in the North. All Muslim rulers of the Deccan had to submit to him, at one time or another, and carry out his behests. He was a great soldier and diplomat. He was a great patron of art and letters.


For six years after the battle of Talikota there was confusion.  Of the many nobles who rose to prominence were the Nayaks of Madurai, Tanjore and Gingee.


Tirumala, who became king after his brother Ramaraya death was unable to check anarchy. Unable to take on his adversaries Tirumala compromised with the Nayaks and thereafter divided the kingdom amongst his three sons corresponding to the linguistic areas. The eldest got all Telegu districts with Penugonda as headquarters. Rama was to rule Karnataka from Srirangapattana and Venkatapati who resided in Chandragiri was to look after the affairs of the Tamil country.


Sriranga was the last ruler of some consequence. Eventually he became a king without a kingdom, fled to Mysore. Gradually small principalities came within the fold of the Muslim States. The Nayaks of Gingee and Tanjore submitted to the Sultan of Bijapur (Tanjore 1649). Hence Vijayanagara Empire, which was founded three centuries ago came to end. Volume 7 pg. 501  


It must be said that the Vijayanagara Empire saved Sanatana Dharma in South India.


To know about all the monuments at Hampi and to see album links


To read about the Battle of Talikota


Talk on Vijayanagara Empire Art and Architecture by Prof Anila Verghese


Pictures of Matanga Hill and Achyutaraya Temple


Vellore Fort was built by Reddy’s around 1566 who were subordinate chieftains of Sadashiva (Vijayanagara). To see pics of fort and Jalakanteshwara Temple made in Vijayanagar style   


Receive Site Updates