A Forgotten Empire Chapter 1

A Forgotten Empire Chapter 1

Introductory remarks -- Sources of information -- Sketch of history ofSouthern India down to A.D. 1336 -- A Hindu bulwark against Muhammadanconquest -- The opening date, as given by Nuniz, wrong -- Togao Mamede or Muhammad Taghlaq of Delhi -- His career and character.

IntroductionIn the year 1336 A.D., during the reign of Edward III. of England, there occurred in India an event which almost instantaneously changed the political condition of the entire south. With that date the volume of ancient history in that tract closes and the modern begins. It is the epoch of transition from the Old to the New.

This event was the foundation of the city and kingdom of Vijayanagar. Prior to A.D. 1336 all Southern India had lain under the domination of the ancient Hindu kingdoms, -- kingdoms so old that their origin has never been traced, but which are mentioned in Buddhist edicts rock-cut sixteen centuries earlier; the Pandiyans at
Madura, the Cholas at Tanjore, and others. When Vijayanagar sprang into existence the past was done with for ever, and the monarchs of the new state became lords or overlords of the territories lying between the Dakhan and Ceylon.

There was no miracle in this. It was the natural result of the persistent efforts made by the Muhammadans to conquer all India. When these dreaded invaders reached the Krishna River the Hindus to their south, stricken with terror, combined, and gathered in haste to the new standard which alone seemed to offer some hope of protection. The
decayed old states crumbled away into nothingness, and the fighting kings of Vijayanagar became the saviours of the south for two and a half centuries.

And yet in the present day the very existence of this kingdom is hardly remembered in India; while its once magnificent capital, planted on the extreme northern border of its dominions and bearing the proud title of the 'City of Victory' has entirely disappeared save for a few scattered ruins of buildings that were once temples
or palaces, and for the long lines of massive walls that constituted its defences. Even the name has died out of men's minds and memories, and the remains that mark its site are known only as the ruins lying
near the little village of Hampe.

Its rulers, however, in their day swayed the destinies of an empire far larger than Austria, and the city is declared by a succession of European visitors in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to have been marvellous for size and prosperity -- a city with which for richness and magnificence no known western capital could compare. Its
importance is shown by the fact that almost all the struggles of the Portuguese on the western coast were carried on for the purpose of securing its maritime trade; and that when the empire fell in 1565, the prosperity of Portuguese Goa fell with it never to rise again.

Our very scanty knowledge of the events that succeeded one another in the large area dominated by the kings of Vijayanagar has been hitherto derived partly from the scattered remarks of European travellers and the desultory references in their writings to the politics of the inhabitants of India; partly from the summaries compiled by
careful mediaeval historians such as Barros, Couto, and Correa, who, though to a certain degree interested in the general condition of the country, yet confined themselves mostly to recording the deeds of the European colonisers for the enlightenment of their European readers; partly from the chronicles of a few Muhammadan writers
of the period, who often wrote in fear of the displeasure of their own lords; and partly from Hindu inscriptions recording grants of lands to temples and religious institutions, which documents, when viewed as state papers, seldom yield us more than a few names and dates. The two chronicles, however, translated and printed at the
end of this volume, will be seen to throw a flood of light upon the condition of the city of Vijayanagar early in the sixteenth century, and upon the history of its successive dynasties; and for the rest I have attempted, as an introduction to these chronicles, to collect all available materials from the different authorities alluded to and
to weld them into a consecutive whole, so as to form a foundation upon which may hereafter be constructed a regular history of the Vijayanagar empire. The result will perhaps seem disjointed, crude, and uninteresting; but let it be remembered that it is only a first attempt. I have little doubt that before very long the whole history of
Southern India will be compiled by some writer gifted with the power of 'making the dry bones live' but meanwhile the bones themselves must be collected and pieced together, and my duty has been to try and construct at least the main portions of the skeleton.

Before proceeding to details we must shortly glance at the political condition of India in the first half of the fourteenth century, remembering that up to that time the Peninsula had been held by a number of distinct Hindu kingdoms, those of the Pandiyans at Madura and of the Cholas at Tanjore being the most important.

The year 1001 A.D. saw the first inroad into India of the Muhammadans from over the north-west border, under their great leader Mahmud of Ghazni. He invaded first the plains of the Panjab, then Multan, and afterwards other places. Year after year he pressed forward and again retired. In 1021 he was at Kalinga; in 1023 in Kathiawar; but in no
case did he make good his foothold on the country. His expeditions were raids and nothing more. Other invasions, however, followed in quick succession, and after the lapse of two centuries the Muhammadans were firmly and permanently established at Delhi. War followed war, and from that period Northern India knew no rest. At the end of the thirteenth century the Muhammadans began to press southwards into the Dakhan. In 1293 Ala-ud-din Khilji, nephew of the king of Delhi, captured Devagiri. Four years later Gujarat was attacked. In 1303 the reduction of Warangal was attempted. In 1306 there was a fresh expedition to Devagiri. In 1309 Malik Kafur, the celebrated general,
with an immense force swept into the Dakhan and captured Warangal. The old capital of the Hoysala Ballalas at Dvarasamudra was taken in 1310, and Malik Kafur went to the Malabar coast where he erected a mosque, and afterwards returned to his master with enormous booty.[6]

Fresh fighting took place in 1312. Six years later Mubarak of Delhi marched to Devagiri and inhumanly flayed alive its unfortunate prince, Haripala Deva, setting up his head at the gate of his own city. In 1323 Warangal fell.

Thus the period at which our history opens, about the year 1330, found the whole of Northern India down to the Vindhya mountains firmly under Moslem rule, while the followers of that faith had overrun the Dakhan and were threatening the south with the same fate. South of the Krishna the whole country was still under Hindu domination,
but the supremacy of the old dynasties was shaken to its base by the rapidly advancing terror from the north. With the accession in 1325 of Muhammad Taghlaq of Delhi things became worse still. Marvellous stories of his extraordinary proceedings circulated amongst the inhabitants of the Peninsula, and there seemed to be no bound to his intolerance, ambition, and ferocity.

Everything, therefore, seemed to be leading up to but one inevitable end -- the ruin and devastation of the Hindu provinces; the annihilation of their old royal houses, the destruction of their religion, their temples, their cities. All that the dwellers in the south held most dear seemed tottering to its fall.

Suddenly, about the year 1344 A.D., there was a check to this wave of foreign invasion -- a stop -- a halt -- then a solid wall of opposition; and for 250 years Southern India was saved.

The check was caused by a combination of small Hindu states -- two of them already defeated, Warangal and Dvarasamudra -- defeated, and therefore in all probability not over-confident; the third, the
tiny principality of Anegundi. The solid wall consisted of Anegundi grown into the great empire of the Vijayanagar. To the kings of this house all the nations of the south submitted.

If a straight line be drawn on the map of India from Bombay to Madras, about half-way across will be found the River Tungabhadra, which, itself a combination of two streams running northwards from Maisur, flows in a wide circuit north and east to join the Krishna not far from Kurnool. In the middle of its course the Tungabhadra cuts through a wild rocky country lying about forty miles north-west of Bellary, and
north of the railway line which runs from that place to Dharwar. At this point, on the north bank of the river, there existed about the year 1330 a fortified town called Anegundi, the 'Nagundym' of our chronicles, which was the residence of a family of chiefs owning a small state in the neighbourhood. They had, in former years, taken
advantage of the lofty hills of granite which cover that tract to construct a strong citadel having its base on the stream. Fordable at no point within many miles the river was full of running water at all seasons of the year, and in flood times formed in its confined bed a turbulent rushing torrent with dangerous falls in several places. Of
the Anegundi chiefs we know little, but they were probably feudatories of the Hoysala Ballalas. Firishtah declares that they had existed as a ruling family for seven hundred years prior to the year 1350 A.D.[7]

The chronicle of Nuniz gives a definite account of how the sovereigns of Vijayanagar first began to acquire the power which afterwards became so extensive. This account may or may not be accurate in all details, but it at least tallies fairly with the epigraphical and other records of the time. According to him, Muhammad Taghlaq of Delhi, having
reduced Gujarat, marched southwards through the Dakhan Balaghat, or high lands above the western ghats, and a little previous to the year 1336[8] seized the town and fortress of Anegundi. Its chief was slain, with all the members of his family. After a futile attempt to govern this territory by means of a deputy, Muhammad raised to the dignity of chief of the state its late minister, a man whom Nuniz calls 'Deorao,' for 'Deva Raya or Harihara Deva I. The new chief founded the city of Vijayanagar on the south bank of the river opposite Anegundi and made his residence there, with the aid of the great religious teacher Madhava, wisely holding that to place the river between him and the ever-marauding Moslems was to establish himself and his people in a condition of greater security than before. He was succeeded by 'one called Bucarao' (Bukka), who reigned thirty-seven years, and the next king was the latter's son, 'Pureoyre Deo' (Harihara Deva II.).

We know from other sources that part at least of this story is correct. Harihara I. and Bukka were the first two kings and were brothers, while the third king, Harihara II., was certainly the son of Bukka.

The success of the early kings was phenomenal. Ibn Batuta, who was in India from 1333 to 1342, states that even in his day a Muhammadan chief on the western coast was subject to Harihara I., whom he calls 'Haraib' or 'Harib,' from 'Hariyappa' another form of the king's name; while a hundred years later Abdur Razzak, envoy from Persia, tells us that the king of Vijayanagar was then lord of all Southern India, from sea to sea and from the Dakhan to Cape Comorin -- 'from the frontier of Serendib (Ceylon) to the extremities of the country of Kalbergah ... His troops amount in number to eleven lak,' I.E. 1,100,000. Even so early as 1378 A.D., according to Firishtah,[9]
the Raya of Vijayanagar was 'in power, wealth, and extent of country' greatly the superior of the Bahmani king of the Dakhan.

The old southern states appear (we have little history to guide us) to have in general submitted peaceably to the rule of the new monarchy. They were perhaps glad to submit if only the dreaded foreigners could be kept out of the country. And thus by leaps and bounds the petty state grew to be a kingdom, and the kingdom expanded till it became an empire. Civil war and rebellion amongst the Muhammadans helped Harihara and Bukka in their enterprise. Sick
of the tyranny and excesses of Muhammad Taghlaq, the Dakhan revolted in 1347, and the independent kingdom of the Bahmanis was for a time firmly established.

The chronicle of Nuniz opens with the following sentence: --

'In the year twelve hundred and thirty these parts of India were ruled by a greater monarch than had ever reigned. This was the king of Dili,[10] who by force of arms and soldiers made war on Cambaya for many years, taking and destroying in that period the land of Guzarate which belongs to Cambaya,[11] and in the end he became its lord.'

After this the king of Delhi advanced against Vijayanagar by way of the Balaghat.

This date is a century too early, as already pointed out. The sovereign referred to is stated in the following note (entered by Nuniz at the end of Chapter xx., which closes the historical portion of his narrative) to have been called 'Togao Mamede.'

'This king of Delhi they say was a Moor, who was called Togao Mamede. He is held among the Hindus as a saint. They relate that once while he was offering prayer to God, there came to him four arms with four hands; and that every time he prayed roses fell to him from out of heaven. He was a great conqueror, he held a large part of this
earth under his dominion, he subdued ... (blank in original) kings, and slew them, and flayed them, and brought their skins with him; so that besides his own name, he received the nickname ... which means 'lord of ... skins of kings' he was chief of many people.

'There is a story telling how he fell into a passion on account of (BEING GIVEN?) eighteen letters (OF THE ALPHABET TO HIS NAME?), when according to his own reckoning he was entitled to twenty-four.[12]

There are tales of him which do indeed seem most marvellous of the things that he did; as, for instance, how he made ready an army because one day in the morning, while standing dressing at a window which was closed, a ray of the sun came into his eyes, and he cried out that he would not rest until he had killed or vanquished whomsoever had dared to enter his apartments while he was dressing. All his nobles could not dissuade him from his purpose, even though they told him it was the sun that had done it, a thing without which they could not live, that it was a celestial thing and was located in the sky, and that he could never do any harm to it. With all this he made his forces ready, saying that he must go in search of his enemy, and as he was going along with large forces raised in the country through which he began his march so much dust arose that it obscured the sun. When he lost sight of it he made fresh inquiries as to what the thing was, and the captains told him that there was now no reason for him to wait, and that he might return home since he had put to flight him whom he had come to seek. Content with this, the king returned by the road that he had taken in his search for the sun, saying that since his enemy had fled he was satisfied.

'Other extravagances are told of him which make him out a great lord, as, for instance, that being in the Charamaodel country he was told that certain leagues distant in the sea there was a very great island,
and its land was gold, and the stones of its houses and those which were produced in the ground were rubies and diamonds: in which island there was a pagoda, whither came the angels from heaven to play music and dance. Being covetous of being the lord of this land, he determined to go there, but not in ships because he had not enough
for so many people, so he began to cart a great quantity of stones and earth and to throw it into the sea in order to fill it up, so that he might reach the island; and putting this in hand with great
labour he did so much that he crossed over to the island of Ceyllao, which is twelve or fifteen leagues off[13], This causeway that he made was, it is said, in course of time eaten away by the sea, and its remains now cause the shoals of Chillao. Melliquiniby,[14] his captain-general, seeing how much labour was being spent in a thing so
impossible, made ready two ships in a port of Charamaodell which he loaded with much gold and precious stones, and forged some despatches as of an embassy sent in the name of the king of the island, in which he professed his obedience and sent presents; and after this the king did not proceed any further with his causeway.

'In memory of this work he made a very large pagoda, which is still there; it is a great place of pilgrimage.

'There are two thousand of these and similar stories with which I hope at some time to trouble your honour; and with other better ones, if God gives me life. I kiss your honour's hand.'[15]

To conclusively establish the fact that this account can only refer to Muhammad Taghlaq of Delhi, who reigned from 1325 to 1351, it is necessary that we should look into the known character of that monarch and the events of his reign.

Nuniz states that his 'Togao Mamede' conquered Gujarat, was at war with Bengal, and had trouble with the Turkomans on the borders of Sheik Ismail, I.E. Persia.[16] To take these in reverse order. Early in the reign of Muhammad Taghlaq vast hordes of Moghuls invaded the Panjab and advanced almost unopposed to Delhi, where the king
bought them off by payment of immense sums of money. Next as to Bengal. Prior to his reign that province had been subdued, had given trouble, and had again been reduced. In his reign it was crushed under the iron hand of a viceroy from Delhi, Ghiyas-ud-din Bahadur 'Bura,' who before long attempted to render himself independent. He
styled himself Bahadur Shah, and issued his own coinage. In 1327 (A.H. 728) the legends on his coins acknowledge the overlordship of Delhi, but two years later they describe him as independent king of Bengal.[17] In 1333 Muhammad issued his own coinage for Bengal and proceeded against the rebel. He defeated him, captured him, flayed
him alive, and causing his skin to be stuffed with straw ordered it to be paraded through the provinces of the empire as a warning to ambitious governors. With reference to Gujarat, Nuniz has been led into a slight error. Muhammad Taghlaq certainly did go there, but only in 1347. What he did do was to conquer the Dakhan. Firishtah
mentions among his conquests Dvarasamudra, Malabar, Anegundi (under the name 'Kampila,' for a reason that will presently be explained), Warangal, and these places 'were as effectually incorporated with his empire as the villages in the vicinity of Delhi.'[18]

He also held Gujarat firmly. If, therefore, we venture to correct Nuniz in this respect, and say that 'Togao Mamede' made war on the 'Dakhan' instead of on 'Gujarat' and then advanced against Anegundi (wrongly called 'Vijayanagar,' which place was not as yet founded) we shall probably be not far from the truth. The history of 'Togao
Mamede' so far is the history of Muhammad Taghlaq.

Then as to the extraordinary stories told of him. True or not, they apply to that sovereign. Muhammad is described by contemporary writers as having been one of the wonders of the age. He was very liberal, especially to those learned in the arts. He established hospitals for the sick and alm-houses for widows and orphans. He was the most
eloquent and accomplished prince of his time. He was skilled in many sciences, such as physic, logic, astronomy, and mathematics. He studied the philosophies and metaphysics of Greece, and was very strict in religious observances.

'But,' continues Firishtah, from whom the above summary is taken, 'with all these admirable qualities he was wholly devoid of mercy or consideration for his people. The punishments he inflicted were not only rigid and cruel, but frequently unjust. So little did he hesitate to spill the blood of God's creatures that when anything
occurred which excited him to proceed to that horrid extremity, one might have supposed his object was to exterminate the human species altogether. No single week passed without his having put to death one or more of the learned and holy men who surrounded him, or some of the secretaries who attended him.'

The slightest opposition to his will drove him into almost insane fury, and in these fits he allowed his natural ferocity full play. His whole life was spent in visionary schemes pursued by means equally irrational. He began by distributing enormous sums of money amongst his nobles, spending, so it is said, in one day as much as [pound
sterling]500,000. He bought off the invading Moghuls by immense payments instead of repelling them by force of arms. Shortly after
this he raised a huge army for the conquest of Persia, his cavalry, according to Firishtah, numbering 370,000 men. But nothing came of it except that the troops, not receiving their pay, dispersed and pillaged the country. Then he decided to try and conquer China and sent 100,000 men into the Himalayas, where almost all of them miserably perished; and when the survivors returned in despair the king put them all to death. He tried to introduce a depreciated currency into his territories as a means to wealth, issuing copper tokens for gold, which resulted in entire loss of credit and a standstill of trade. This failing to fill the treasury he next destroyed agriculture
by intolerable exactions; the husbandmen abandoned their fields and took to robbery as a trade, and whole tracts became depopulated, the survivors living in the utmost starvation and misery and being despoiled of all that they possessed. Muhammad exterminated whole tribes as if they had been vermin. Incensed at the refusal of
the inhabitants of a certain harassed tract to pay the inordinate demands of his subordinates, he ordered out his army as if for a hunt, surrounded an extensive tract of country, closed the circle towards the centre, and slaughtered every living soul found therein. This amusement was repeated more than once, and on a subsequent occasion
he ordered a general massacre of all the inhabitants of the old Hindu city of Kanauj.[19] These horrors led of course to famine, and the miseries of the Hindus exceeded all power of description. On his return from Devagiri on one occasion he caused a tooth which he had lost to be interred in a magnificent stone mausoleum, which is
still in existence at Bhir.

But perhaps the best known of his inhuman eccentricities was his treatment of the inhabitants of the great city of Delhi. Muhammad determined to transfer his capital thence to Devagiri, whose name he changed to Doulatabad. The two places are six hundred miles apart. The king gave a general order to every inhabitant of Delhi to proceed
forthwith to Devagiri, and prior to the issue of this order he had the entire road lined with full-grown trees, transplanted for the purpose. The unfortunate people were compelled to obey, and thousands -- including women, children, and aged persons -- died by the way. Ibn Batuta, who was an eye-witness of the scenes of horror to which this
gave rise, has left us the following description: --

'The Sultan ordered all the inhabitants to quit the place (Delhi), and upon some delay being evinced he made a proclamation stating that what person soever, being an inhabitant of that city, should be found in any of its houses or streets should receive condign punishment. Upon this they all went out; but his servants finding a blind man in one
of the houses and a bedridden one in the other, the Emperor commanded the bedridden man to be projected from a balista, and the blind one to be dragged by his feet to Daulatabad, which is at the distance of ten
days, and he was so dragged; but his limbs dropping off by the way, only one of his legs was brought to the place intended, and was then thrown into it; for the order had been that they should go to this
place. When I entered Delhi it was almost a desert.'[20]

It is characteristic of Muhammad's whimsical despotism that shortly afterwards he ordered the inhabitants of different districts to go and repeople Delhi, which they attempted to do, but with little success. Batuta relates that during the interval of desolation the king mounted on the roof of his palace, and seeing the city empty
and without fire or smoke said, 'Now my heart is satisfied and my feelings are appeased.'

Ibn Batuta was a member of this king's court, and had every opportunity of forming a just conclusion. He sums up his qualities thus: --

'Muhammad more than all men loves to bestow gifts and to shed blood. At his gate one sees always some fakir who has become rich, or some living being who is put to death. His traits of generosity and valour, and his examples of cruelty and violence towards criminals, have obtained celebrity among the people. But apart from this he is
the most humble of men and the one who displays the most equity; the ceremonies of religion are observed at his court; he is very severe in all that concerns prayer and the punishment that follows omission of it ... his dominating quality is generosity.... It rarely happened that the corpse of some one who had been killed was not to
be seen at the gate of his palace. I have often seen men killed and their bodies left there. One day I went to his palace and my horse shied. I looked before me and I saw a white heap on the ground, and when I asked what it was one of my companions said it was the trunk of a man cut into three pieces.... Every day hundreds of individuals
were brought chained into his hall of audience, their hands tied to their necks and their feet bound together. Some were killed, and others were tortured or well beaten.'[21]

A man of these seemingly opposite qualities, charity, generosity, and religious fervour linked to unbridled lust for blood and an apparently
overmastering desire to take life, possesses a character so bizarre, so totally opposed to Hindu ideals, that he would almost of necessity be accounted as something superhuman, monstrous, a saint with the heart of a devil, or a fiend with the soul of a saint. Hence Muhammad in the course of years gathered round his memory, centuries after his death,
all the quaint tales and curious legends which an Oriental imagination could devise; and whenever his name is mentioned by the old chroniclers it is always with some extraordinary story attached to it.

Nuniz, therefore, though accurate in the main, was a century too early in his opening sentence. His 'Togao Mamede' can be none other than Muhammad Taghlaq.

Henceforward this will be assumed.[22]

A Forgotten Empire Chapter 2

wA Forgotten Empire Chapter 1  

A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar


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