The Vijayanagara Kingdom And Other Provincial Dynasties
The Vijayanagara Kingdom
À famous historian called George Sewell, in his book called “A Forgotten Empire’, has put forward seven traditional legends of the origin of the Vijayanagar empire which, like many others, arose amidst the dismemberment of the Tughlag empire. But the most acceptable view is that the Vijayanagar empire was founded in 1336 by Harihara and Bukka of the Sangama dynasty who were, at first, in the service of the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal, Prataparudra 11. But after the Muslim conquest of the Kakatiya kingdom in 1323, they went over to the kingdom of Kampili in modern Karnataka and became ministers there.
When Kampili was also overrun by Muhammad Tughlug, the two brothers were imprisoned, converted to Islam, and appointed to deal with the rebellions in the province of Kampili. After establishing their sway over Kampili for the Sultan, the two Sangama brothers returned to the Hindu föld at the initiative of saint Vidyaranya, proclaimed their independence and founded a new city on the south bank of the Tungabhadra which was called Vijayanagar (city of victory) or Vidyanagar (city of learning).
Vijayanagara Kingdom Expansion
The young kingdom had to contend with the Hoyasala ruler of Mysore and the Sultan of Madurai. The Sultan of Mudarai had defeated the Hoyasala ruler in a battle and executed him. The dissolution of the Hoyasala kingdom enabled Harihara and Bukka to expand their tiny principality. By 1346, the whole of the Hoyasala kingdom had passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar rulers. The Sultanate of Madurai was extinguished after a long struggle in 1377.
The Vijayanagar empire then comprised the whole of south India up to Ramesvaram, including the Tamil country as well as Kerala. After eliminating the Sultanate of Madurai, the scene of Vijayanagar expansion shifted to the Raichur doab, the fertile tract between the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers, where the Vijavangar rulers had to fight the Brahmani rulers. The main reason for the conflict was obviously economic as the fertile Raichur Doab would yield large revenues to the kingdom which possessed the region The conflict started in 1367 during the reign of Bukka I and continued till the eclipse of the Vijayanagar empire in 1565 A.D. The region changed hands but both the kingdoms were weakened considerably due to this incessant conflict.
The Vijayanagar kingdom was ruled by four dynasties – Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu. Of these four, the Sangama and the Tuluva dynasties produced the two greatest rulers of the Vijayanagar kingdom – Devaraya II and Krishna Devaraya. Devaraya II was the greatest ruler of the Sangama dynasty and was very successful in the conflict with the Bahmanis. In order to strengthen his army, he inducted Muslims, mainly Turkish archers, and asked his soldiers to learn archery from them. He also annexed the Kondavidu kingdom besides successfully attacking the Gajapati ruler of Orissa. He was a great scholar and a great patron too. He was the author of a Sanskrit work Mahnataka Suddhanidhi and honoured Srinatha, one of the greatest Telugu poets. But it was during the reign of Krishna Devaraya that the Vijayanagar empire saw its zenith. His two main military achievements were his conquest of Bijapur and putting a puppet sultan on the throne, for which he assumed the title ‘Yavanaraja Sthopanacharya’ or restorer of a Yavana (foreign) kingdom and his second one was the conquest of Orissa ruled by Pratapandra Gajapati and annexation of Telangana. He also secured the hand of the daughter of the Gajapati ruler. He was also a great patron of Telugu literature.
His court was adorned by the Ashtadiggaias or eight great poets like Peddana, Timmana, Dhurjati and Tenali Ramakrishna. The emperor himself was a scholar of great merit having written the famous work on polity called Amuktamalyada. He was also a great builder. He built a new city called Nagalpura and the famous Vithalswamy and Hazar Rama temples. After Krishna Devaraya, the empire’s decline started and the rule of Rama Raya and his policy of pitting one Muslim ruler against another worked against him and the Muslim sultans united to inflict a terrible defeat on Vijayanagar armies at Tallikota in 1565 which resulted in a gruesome massacre of Hindus. The battle of Tallikota struck at the very roots of the Vijayanagar kingdom. As a result of this virtual death blow, the Hindu kingdom could never revive. In 1570 AD, the throne was annexed by Tirumala, a brother of Rama Raya, who founded a new dynasty namely the Aravidu dynasty. A series of weak successors, with the exception of Venkata I who ruled about 1586 AD and was extremely able, led to the dismemberment of the empire.
Vijayanagara Kingdom Administrative System -Political
The Vijayanagar administration was a feudal organisation but the king was the fountain of all authority with a distinct flair for autocracy. The royal court, as corroborated by the contemporary travellers, was regal and full of splendour. For administrative convenience, the king was assisted by a Council of Ministers, various military commanders, religious pundits, and other learned men, probably six to eight in number. They served as advisers to the king. The office was hereditary and the Council was headed by the Chief Minister
Justice System – Vijayanagara Kingdom
The king also constituted the highest court of the kingdom. Punishments were severe and amputation of limbs for thefts was common. The priestly class was, however, exempted. Justice was imparted according to ancient Hindu law.
Provincial Administration – Vijayanagara Kingdom
The empire was divided into two hundred provinces which included the tributary vassal states also. Each administrative unit was placed under a governor, who was either a member of the royal family or a royal noble of the king. The provincial administration was a miniature replica of the central administration. The viceroy kept his own court, army etc., and was a despot within his own dominions. The powerful kings, however, kept a constant vigilance on their governors.
The provinces were further sub-divided into Nadus or Kottams which comprised towns and villages. The village, as usual, was the smallest unit of administration and managed its affairs through hereditary officers called Ayagars, who were empowered to decide petty disputes, collect revenue and enforce law and order, which dealt a death blow to village autonomy.
Revenue Administration – Vijayanagara Kingdom
Land revenue from the crown lands was the most important source of income. Tributes and gifts from vassals and feudal chiefs; customs collected from the ports and tolls on inland commerce; taxes on various professions, houses, markets and licences; fines inflicted by courts, etc. were also important sources of income. Land revenue was collected on the basis of assessment, fixed after a careful survey. Its rate varied according to the nature of the cultivated land, crops cultivated and the quantum of yield obtained. Generally, 1/6 of the gross produce was collected as revenue but sometimes it was raised to 1/2.
Vijayanagara Kingdom Military Administration
There was a well organised and efficient standing army that consisted of cavalry, infantry, artillery and elephant corps. High breed horses were procured from foreign merchants. Different grades of officers were there in the army, the top grades being the nayakas or palegars. In addition to the regular standing army, armies of vassal kings, governors and feudal levies assisted the king whenever necessary. Ordinary soldiers of the royal army were usually paid in cash, but big officers like palegars were granted territory (amaram) with a fixed revenue in lieu of their salaries.