Battle of Talikota-Vijayanagar Empire vs Sultans of Deccan

  • This article gives you two versions what happened at the Battle of Talikota and learnings therefrom for modern day India.

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


Who founded the Vijayanagar Empire? Who were its rulers? What period did they rule from? Did they defeat in war Sultans of Deccan States. To know read HERE


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).


There are two versions of the battle. We present both the versions.


The Battle of Talikota 1565

Though the Vijayanagara Empire flourished for nearly another century post 1565, it ceased to be the dominant power in the Deccan. Excepting the fact that the army was practically annihilated and Ramaraya slain, everything else is doubtful due to the wilful distortion of facts by Muslim historians.


Ramaraya was shrewd political operative who knew that capitalising enmity between Bahamani Sultans was profitable for his empire. As he was surrounded by five hostile Bahamani kings he pitted one sultan against other. This process ensured-  


One, he extended his borders by occupying territories of North Krishna river by taking advantage of war between Bahamani Sultans.

Two, he kept Vijayanagara secure by capitalising the battles between the Bahamani Sultans.


By this policy, upon the request of Ali Adilshaha, Ramaraya marched against Nizam and raided Ahmednagar kingdom and also plundered Qutub kingdom. As to revenge this, Nizam and Qutub requested to Rama Raya to attack on Adilshaha, Ramaraya raided Adilshaha territory (Raichur Doab).

This angered Ali Adilshaha. He identified Rama Raya as common infidel enemy. But he knew that he alone could not defeat Ramaraya and his mighty Vijayanagara army. So Adil Shaha formed a grand alliance with Nizam and Qutub against their common enemy Ramaraya.


23 January 1565 was a Battle that chopped the chance of Hindu supremacy.


One view of what happened.

According to Volume 8 pg. 493 of The History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the real cause appears to be which the Sultans of Deccan esp. the rulers of Ahmadnagar and Golcondo felt was the growing power of Vijayanagara and the ascendancy which Ramaraya established over the Muslim States of the Deccan. Ramaraya had realized the weakness of the Muslim States of the Deccan due to their mutual hatred. The quarrels between Bijapur and Nagar and his repeated armed assistance in deciding their struggles enhanced Rmaraya’s power. The Muslims took alarm at the increase in power of a Hindu kingdom. 


Adil Shah appears to have sat on the fence until almost the very end leaving the two Sultans to bear the brunt of the fight. It is also said that the war was fought between the two villages of Rakkasige and Tangadige, situated on the northern bank of the Krishna river and not near the village of Talikota.


According to Hindu accounts, the war lasted for over six months (Muslim historians say it lasted for a few hours). One battle is said to have raged with intense fury for 27 days. In the final engagement the Sultans of Nagar and Golconda retreated from the field in confusion.


What could not be won on the battlefield was gained by treachery. Caeser Frederick attributes Muslim victory to the treachery of Muslim troops in Ramaraya’s service. (Two Muslim commanders who had under them 70-80,000 men deserted Ramaraya) Another view is that Ramaraya army was not able to take on Adil Shah’s army when they joined the attack.


Still Ramaraya was indeed one of the greatest Hindu monarchs who ever ruled South India. His empire extended all over South India, the Deccan, from Setu in the south to Narmada in the north. He was a great patron of art and letters. Some of the finest buildings and temples were made in his time.


Another view of what happened

The Muslim States of the Deccan secured their alliance by establishing marital alliances between them (for e.g. Husein of Ahmadnagar gave his daughter Jamal Bibi in marriage to Qutub Shah and thus strengthened his position 1563) and after completion of ceremonies they marched against Rama Raya.


Before declaration of war they sent an emissary to Rama Raya with message “give up the key forts of Raichur and Mudgal,” which Rama Raya refused. The sultan’s assembled at Talikota but did not immediately start war preparations. They indulged in merry making for several days as a mark of firmly cementing their ties.


When Ramaraya received news of their movement he made arrangements and had confidence in this strength. After he got news that Bahamani forces are crossing Krishna river, Ramaraya sent his large army of twenty thousand horseback soldiers and one lakh infantry under his brother Tirumala Raya to prevent Bahamani forces from crossing the Krishna river.


But fate played his game. Adilshaha came with his new tactic. He pretended to attempt of crossing river and turned back and actually tried to cross River from different places. Huge Vijayanagara army fell into his trap and this strategy proved hugely successful.


Ali Adilshaha attacked Tirumala Raya fiercely and forced him to retreat and chased him for long way. Ramaraya was trying to motivate his soldiers by shouting loudly. His forces began to retreat. To motivate them he gave them wealth, jewels, high positions for those who kill most enemies. This tactic worked and Vijayanagara forces fought bravely. His forces decimated left flank of Bahamani forces and forced them to retreat. Under Venkatadri heavy guns threw Bidar forces into disarray and Qutub Shah was forced to retreat.


The retreatment of Bahamani forces worried the Bahamani kings. They were continuously pushed back by the Vijayanagara army. The courage of Bahamani forces started falling and they started for complete retreat.


To stop this Nizam put up the Rahtaanat sign in front of his tent. Rahtaanat is sign of holy Islamic oath which means that Muslim soldiers would die in Jihaad but should not run away from battlefield. Nizam also ordered his chief eunuch that if Bahamans were defeated they should kill all his zanana. So combined forces of Bahamanis attacked the Hindu army which then had gained an upper hand.


But -------


An enormous chunk of Muslim soldiers in Ramaraya's army defected to enemy camp by refusing to fight on the side of infidel camp. Their leader, Gilani brothers defected to Bahamani camp for “Islam Ka Vaasta”. Muslim soldiers under the Gilani brothers launched subversive attack and forces were surrounded from all sides. 5000 of Vijayanagara army killed in this subversive attack.


In spite of old age, Ramaraya fought furiously like a man possessed. He again motivated his army and started the slaughter of Bahamani forces. Rumi Khan started firing canon shots at Vijayanagara army. Accidentally his one shot hit the Ramaraya’s head and he fell from the elephant. Rumi Khan captured him and offered Ramaraya in front of Nizam and Qutub. Nizam Shah beheaded Ramaraya and affixed his head to the tip of spear and paraded it all over the battlefield.


About 1 lakh soldiers of the Vijayanagara kingdom perished in the battle and pursuit. What followed was the sack and destruction of the city of Vijayanagara. The Muslim states were victorious. But the Sultans of five states, after the threat of Hindu kingdom was gone, began quarrelling amongst themselves again.


“The victors captured jewels, ornaments, furniture, camels, tents, camp equipage, all sorts in such quantity that the whole army is enriched.” - Burhan-i-Masir


Every single house, temple, building and habitation in a radius spanning twenty leagues was burnt down. Vijayanagara was plundered by invaders. For the first time in its history, south India witnessed the savage, practice and ultimate success of Jihad. This full scale attack on Hampi meant that Hindus never recovered from this mortal blow.


“The plunder was so great that every private man in the allied army became rich in gold, jewel, tents, arms, horses and slaves. The king’s permitted to every person to retain what he acquired, reserving the elephants for their own use.” Vol 8 pg. 426        


“They broke the pavilions standing on the huge platform from which the kings used to watch the festivals and overthrew all the carved works. They lit huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings, forming the temple of Vitthalswami near the river and smashed its exquisite stone sculptures. With the fire and swords, with crowbars and axes they carried day after day their work of destruction.


Never perhaps in the history of the world , has such havoc been wrought and wrought so suddenly on a splendid city teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full of plentitude and prosperity, one day and on the next sieged, pillaged, and reduced to ruins amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors of beggaring description.” Sowell

Its civilizational culture and values got destructed in one day. An Empire founded by Harihara and Bukka under the guidance of Vidyaranya Swami on the values of Dharma, nationalism and patriotism got crippled permanently by the hands of evil forces of invaders.


Learnings from Battle of Talikota are relevant to India even today

We continue to ignore threats from our adversaries just like Ramaraya did. Although must add that things are changing.


Till the time of Krishnadevaraya nationalism and patriotism united every class of society. Post Devaraya kings indulged in civil war for the throne, sensual pleasures and temporary benefits and regional nationalism.  


This harmed the empire. As a result there were increase in large numbers of jagirdars who enjoyed autonomy. They formed alliances with enemies for benefits and the sake of regionalism. This was the biggest mistake which killed the main idea of empire founded by Harihara and Bukka. As a result the empire got weakened. This regional politics exists today even.


False identities were created as linguistics, caste, environmental, cultural, to increase the regionalism. Dravidian identity politics in Tamil Nadu is one such e.g.

Due to this regionalism, diversity in the Indian civilization was construed as differences.


The second mistake was Ramaraya’s blind trust in the Gilani brothers. Gilani brothers defected from Rama Raya in the last stage because of an ideological war. We are repeating the same mistake in the name of secularism, this had made adversaries powerful.


So the battle of Talikota is the eternal warning to us to save our culture and civilization. It was Vijayanagara Empire then today it is Bharat. Unless India and followers of Dharma take the lessons from Talikota seriously, history could repeat itself sooner than later.


Author is a Civil Engineering student from Maharashtra.



1. Advanced history of India by RC Majumdar and KK Dutta.

2. Seventy years of secularism by Sandeep Balakrishna.

3. City of victory the rise and fall of Vijayanagara by Ratnakar Sadasyula.





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