from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
maximum extent of the Vijayanagara empire (approx. 1520)

Vijayanagar (or Vijayanagara ) was a Hindu kingdom in southern India , existing from 1336/46 to 1565. It was named after a city of the same name (German: City of Victory). Under its current name Hampi , it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites .



The heartland of Vijayanagara was an extremely arid area and highly dependent on water storage and irrigation work. In view of the sparse population, it was initially a country of immigration. Only gradually did it develop in the Middle Ages from a zone of cattle breeding and marginal arable farming to a robust economic area that could feed a growing population. The temple economy played an important role in the development with its donations, land ownership and religious authority. In view of the relatively poor economic base (compared to the extreme south, for example), the clan chiefs of this region were interested in increasing their income through mercenary services, looting and access to lucrative trade routes. The political disorder caused by Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325–1351), the Sultan of Delhi , in the early 14th century reinforced this tendency, and the kings of Vijayanagaras knew how to use it for themselves.


Virupaksha Temple in Hampi
Derelict gopuram in Hampi

The founders were the brothers Harihara and Bukka, sons of a man named Sangama. Its origin is controversial, some historians suspect the rise of former vassals of the Hoysala kings. Others propose the thesis of a monk Vidyaranya who led two kidnapped brothers who had been converted to Islam back to Hinduism (around 1336).

Sangama and his five sons Bukka, Harihara, Kampana, Mudappa, Marappa were first in the service of the short-lived Kampili kingdom, which was defeated by the Muslims in 1327 and then (according to most historians of Karnataka ) in the service of the Hoysala king, who lost his capital Dvarasamudram in 1327. A contrary statement, derived from documents of the 17th century, says that they would have instead entered the service of the Kakatiya of Warangal , in whose fall they were captured by the troops of the Delhi Sultan and converted to Islam. The Sultan would have made them governors in what would later become the Vijayanagara area.

The first dynasty

In any case, the brothers founded the city of Vijayanagara on the Tungabhadra River and dedicated their kingdom to the god Virupaksha . After the death of the neighboring, last Hoysala king, Harihara ascended the now free throne in 1346, perhaps even with the consent of the widow, who was mentioned in an inscription before him in 1349. During this time the monk Vidyaranya (together with his brother Sayana) tried to reassert the Vedic teaching and the laws of the Brahmins . In particular, he expanded the legend about the philosopher Shankara and placed it in the service of his policy of renewal.

The royal power was very weak at first and had only a limited base in later times. Above all, it was justified in the first generation of the Vijayanagara kings with the protection of the holy places from the attacking Muslims. In the 14th century, Vijayanagara was more like a group of semi-autonomous states than a united kingdom. The three brothers Hariharas and Bukkas had their own territories. Given the limited foothills in the north, one also had to rely on the capital. This (today's Hampi ) was protected by the Tungabhadra River, swamps and granite cliffs, plus three granite walls, three rock castles and unclear mountains. It survived so many sieges and later astonished Portuguese visitors for its size and splendor.

In lengthy campaigns in the 14th and 15th centuries, the tenacious resistance of smaller kings and local princes had to be broken. Partly allied with the Bahmani Sultanate and Orissa . Harihara's younger brother and successor Bukka (r. 1357–77) fought extensive wars with his neighbors. He claimed the border on the Krishna River and made peace with the Bahmani Sultanate in 1365, instead he (or his son Kumara Kampana) conquered the Madurai Sultanate on the southern tip of India in 1370 . Artillery , operated by foreigners, is mentioned for the first time in the Deccan in 1365 .

Only Harihara II (r. 1377-1404) strengthened the royal power by occasionally handing over important commands and posts to non-relatives and Brahmins . Under Deva Raya II (r. 1426–1446) the kingdom was further strengthened in the middle of the 15th century, on the one hand through the army reform, on the other hand through a broadened tax base. Money taxes were now levied (in addition to the usual taxes on grain and other crops) on trade, especially on the Malabar coast , as well as on textiles and metal goods. The next dynasties then tried to draw income from the Coromandel coast , while their predecessors there had been content with honorary displays.

The broadened tax base went hand in hand with a modernization of the army, which also ended the military superiority of the Bahmani Sultanate. Under Deva Raja II in the middle of the 15th century, in addition to the usual foot soldiers, it had over 35,000 horsemen, over 100,000 archers, firearms and war elephants. The king bought the horses for dear money in the ports of the Malabar coast and even took Muslims into his service, for whom he had a mosque built in Vijayanagara.

The Tuluvas: Peak of Power and Failure

After internal signs of disintegration, the dynasty changed twice at the end of the 15th century, with a general usurping the throne.

Under King Krishnadeva Raya (ruled 1509–1529) from the Tuluva dynasty, Vijayanagara rose again: the last Bahmani sultan was defeated and reinstated in office (1509), the Dekkan sultanates were played off against each other, it came to pass extensive construction work and the promotion of poetry. Trade contacts were maintained with the Arabs and the Portuguese in Goa . In the heartland, Krishnadeva secured his authority by building a whole system of royal fortresses and manning them with mercenaries (including Portuguese and Muslims with firearms, plus foot soldiers of non-peasant origin). These soldier households and their Brahmanic commanders and agents gave him an unprecedented level of power.

However, royal power was still limited. The king himself only administered the crown land, about 30,000 square miles on Tungabhadra. The rest of the empire was administered by senior ministers and commanders (Saluva Timma, Saluva Nayaka alias Chellappa, Saluva Timmarasu, etc.). Their power of disposal extended not only to high-income provinces, the proceeds of which were only partially passed on to the king, but also to significant troops. The Portuguese traveler Fernao Nuniz (c. 1535) describes these "ministers" as lords, not officials. They got the lands at their disposal, relied on the existing local structures (e.g. the temples and sects) for the administration and only paid the king a fixed sum that was far from the yield of their territories. It is hardly surprising that the interests of ambitious lords could quickly turn against the crown. At the same time, the number of Muslim mercenaries in the troops increased, and Muslims were admitted to the court and the army command. Rama Raya alone took several thousand Muslim mercenaries from Bijapur into his service for his relatively successful rebellion against King Achyutadeva in 1535.

Given Vijayanagar's expansive policies in the 16th century, an unreliable power base was problematic. Krishnadeva Raya had triumphed over the united Muslim sultanates in 1509/10. The regent (or de facto king) Rama Raya should not succeed in this despite great successes (e.g. the capture of the Sultan of Ahmadnagar ): His policy ended in a catastrophe. In January 1565 the decisive battle against the united Dekkan sultanates at Talikota broke out : two Muslim generals defected, the eighty-year-old Rama Raya was captured and immediately beheaded. Vijayanagara was sacked and destroyed, its population dispersed. The royal family fled and the next regent, Tirumala Deva, tried to revitalize the city but was unsuccessful and moved the court to Penukonda.

The state continued to exist until around 1650, but was no longer a serious power factor.

List of rulers of Vijayanagara

The list is based on a book by Robert Sewell ( A Forgotten Empire ).

Sangama dynasty
  • Harihara Raya I. (Deva Raya) (1336-1343)
  • Bukka Raya I. (1343-1379)
  • Harihara Raya II (1379-1399)
  • Bukka Raya II (1399-1406)
  • Deva Raya I (1406-1412)
  • Vira Vijaya Raya (1412-1419)
  • Deva Raya II (1419-1444)
  • (unknown) (1444–1449)
  • Mallikarjuna Raya (1452-1465)
  • Rajasekhara Raya (1468–1469)
  • Virupaksha Raya I (1470-1471)
  • Praudha Deva Raya (1476–?)
  • Rajasekhara Raya (1479-1480)
  • Virupaksha Raya II (1483–1484)
  • Rajasekhara Raya (1486-1487)
Saluva dynasty
  • Narasimha Raya (1490–?)
Tuluva dynasty
  • Narasa Raya (Vira Narasimha) (? -1509)
  • Krishnadeva Raya (Krishna Deva) (1509-1529)
  • Achyuta Raya (1529–1542)
  • Sadasiva Raya (1542–1567)
Aravidu dynasty
  • Rama Raya (1542-1565)
  • Tirumala Raya (1567-1575)
  • Ranga Raya II (1575–1586)
  • Venkata Raya I. (1586-1614)
  • Ranga Raya III. (1614)


  1. Both would not necessarily be mutually exclusive: You could also have been Muslims and still have been in the military service of the Hoysala, because such jobs have been occupied by the Hoysala since the 12th century and traveling warriors were not uncommon at that time.
  2. ^ Kulke, Rothermund: A History of India. 4th edition. 2004, p. 188.


Web links

Commons : Vijayanagar  - collection of images, videos and audio files