India is known for its rich culture and varied heritage is a home for many empires in the past. The group of states or countries that are ruled by a single monarch is nothing but an empire. One of which is the Vijayanagara Empire, which means ‘city of victory’. Although it’s not as famous as the Mughal Empire, the empire covered most of the present day South India and is unique in its own way.
When most of the Northern states of India were under the rule of Muslims of the Delhi Sultanate, the origin of this unknown empire was seen in the 13th century with a motive to defend Southern India from Islamic invasions.
The Vijayanagara Empire was founded in the year 1336 by Raja Harihara and his brother Bukka Raya-1. The Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva, and Aravidu dynasties are included under the Vijayanagara Empire. The empire has the name from its capital Vijayanagar. The Vijayanagara Empire, also known as the Karnataka Empire and the Kingdom of Bisnegar both were situated in the Deccan plateau region of Southern India.
The kingdom rose to its prominence with its aim to fight the Muslim Invasion of South India. This kingdom emerged from the ruins of Kampili kingdom eight years after the entire population of Kampili committed a jauhar (ritual mass suicide) due to their defeat by the Malik Zada of Delhi.
Krishnadevaraya- An Indian Icon
Krishnadevarya, a magnificent ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire was the third one who succeeded the throne from the Tuluva Dynasty. He ascended the throne soon after the death of his father, Tuluva Narasa Nayaka.
He turned out to be a dominant ruler after defeating the Sultans of Bijapur, the Bahmani Sultanate and the Gajapatis of Odisha. He remained as the most powerful of all the Hindu rulers of India and had the most expensive empire in the country. And also the rule of Krishnadevaraya saw a greater success in military, as he could turn any losing battle into a victory by changing the battle plans within no time.
The Deccan region under the reign of Krishnadevaraya saw a great development and success.
- The annual raid by the Sultans came to an end.
- The establishment of friendly relations with the Portuguese and also utilizing the Portuguese expertise to improve the water supply.
- The abolishment of the Marriage fee.
- The implementation of deforestation activities by bringing more land into cultivation and thus, generated revenue.
- The language Telugu gained much popularity as a literary medium under the patronage of Krishnadevaraya.
- The rule of Krishnadevaraya is considered to be a golden age of Telugu literature. Other Southern India languages like Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit became the prominent languages in literature.
- The very famous Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple was provided with objects made of valuable ones ranging from diamond studded crowns to golden swords.
The empire reached its peak when the Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious under the reign of Krishnadevaraya.
Administration and Revenue:
The rulers of the Empire maintained a very well functioning of administrative methods. The King was the final authority who was assisted by ministers. All the higher ranking ministers were given military training.
The empire was divided into five provinces which is known by the name ‘Rajya’ and the rajyas were divided into regions, ‘Kottam’ and kottam were divided into counties, ‘Sime or Nadu’ and these were further divided into municipalities, ‘Kampana or Sthala.’ These divisions were ruled by the authorities who were associated or given their regions. Also, the Empire’s war strategy worked very well each time which mostly involved the massive invasions.
The Empire largely earned wealth from agriculture. Jowar, cotton, pulses, sugarcane, rice, wheat, betel leaves and coconut were produced largely in the lands of the Empire. The vibrant growth of the textile industry happened to be witnessed during the rule of the kings of Vijayanagara Empire. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, pepper and cardamom that grew in the hilly regions were transported to the city for trade and hence earned revenue. Also, the capital city was renowned for the marketing of gems and gold.
The scared temples, buildings and monuments of the Vijayanagara Empire are the most beautiful and famous ones till date. The building of monuments provided employment to thousands of sculptors, masons and skilled artisans. Exporting of cotton, jewels, spices, precious stones, perfumes, ivory, etc to China and other countries helped in gaining huge profits and ultimately it became the richest Empire.
The Hindu caste system was followed by larger part of the population. Brahmins enjoyed a high level respect in the society. Untouchability and Sati practices prevailed in the Empire.
The power of the empire declined after a major military defeat by the Deccan Sultanates and their combined armies in the year 1565. The empire lasted till 1646.
The empire is largely known for its boundless art history of architectural works and its legacy of sculpture and paintings.
Hampi, the World Heritage Site today known for its ruined temple complexes was an ancient village on the banks of River Thungabadra and belonged to the Vijayanagara Empire.The temple is befitted in its own beauty of the pillars and carvings on the walls.
The stone temple car at the Vitthala temple is known for its beauty. The carvings on the walls of the temples are the best examples of their Kalyanamantapa style (which means a stage set for a wedding). It is an example for the grand specimen of the Vijayanagara art and it took several decades to complete it.
The Hazara Ramaswamy temple is the modest and perfectly finished example for the pillared Kalyanamantapa style.
The Matanga hill is at the centre of Hampi was known for the cultivation of spices during the reign of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Today, its stands to be the best tourist site for the beautiful view of sunset and sunrise.
When the ruins of an Empire could be this beautiful, imagine how significant the architectural works were prevalent in those times i.e. the 13th and the 14th century. The ruins of an Empire are now a Worldwide Tourist attraction spots. It’s the glory and reflection that remains in every monument that reminds of Indian culture and tradition. It is the teachings, values, respect, talent, spirituality and many more which are learnt from the ancestors that lives on. Every sculpture, every carving, every temple is beautiful in its own way and each speak of a story, and that why it’s not simply an Incredible India!