A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar| by Robert Sewell Preface|Chapter 1|Chapter 2|Chapter 3|Chapter 4|Chapter 5|Chapter 6|Chapter 7|Chapter 8|Chapter 9|Chapter 10|Chapter 11|Chapter 12|Chapter 13|Chapter 14|Chapter 15|Chapter 16|Chapter 17
The Reign of Achyuta Raya
Achyuta Raya ~~ Fall of Raichur and Mudkal ~~ Asada Khan and Goa ~~ Disturbances at Bijapur ~~ Ibrahim Shah at the Hindu capital ~~ Firishtah on Vijayanagar affairs ~~ Rise of Rama Raya and his brothers ~~ Hoje ~~ Tirumala ~~ Varying legends ~~ Venkatadri defeated by Asada Khan near Adoni ~~ Asada Khan's career ~~ Belgaum and Goa ~~ Asada's duplicity ~~ Portuguese aggressions ~~ Religious grants by, and inscriptions relating to, Achyuta.
Achyuta, according to Nuniz and some other authorities, was a brother of the late king, and, in company with two other brothers and a nephew, had been confined by Krishna Deva in the fortress of Chandragiri, in order to prevent dissensions in the kingdom. The new monarch is said by Nuniz to have been specially selected by Krishna Deva. If so, the choice was singularly unfortunate, for Achyuta was a craven and under him the Hindu empire began to fall to pieces.
His minister was one of the powerful Saluva family, to which also had belonged Timma, the minister of King Krishna. Nuniz calls him Salvanay. The earliest known date of Achyuta's reign is gathered from an inscription bearing a date corresponding to Monday, August 15, A.D. 1530.
The beginning of his reign was ominously signalised by the loss of the frontier fortresses Mudkal and Raichur. Firishtah states that the Adil Shah had, some time before the death of Krishna Deva, made preparations to recover possession of these cities, and proceeds: ~~
"The Sultan … put his army in motion, attended by Ummad Shaw and Ameer Bereed with their forces; and the affairs of Beejanuggur being in confusion owing to the death of Heemraaje, who was newly succeeded by his son Ramraaje, against whom rebellions had arisen by several roles, met with no interruptions to his arms. Roijore and Mudkul were taken, after a siege of three months, by capitulation, after they had been in possession of the infidels for seventeen years."
The relief and delight of the Adil Shah at these successes, and at the death of his mortal enemy Krishna, must have been great; and Firishtah relates that the Sultan, "who had vowed to refrain from wine till the reduction of these fortresses, at the request of his nobility now made a splendid festival, at which he drank wine and gave a full loose to mirth and pleasure." Raichur and Mudkal were never again subject to Hindu princes.
Those who desire to obtain an insight into the character of the new king of Vijayanagar should turn to the chronicle of Nuniz. It will suffice here to say that he alienated his best friends by his violent despotism, and at the same time proved to the whole empire that he was a coward. His conduct and mode of government ruined the Hindu cause in Southern India and opened the whole country to the invader, though he himself did not live to see the end.
After the fall of Raichur and the Doab, Ismail Adil had another fight (1531) with his rival at Ahmadnagar and defeated him; after which the two brothers-in-law consolidated a strong alliance. Three years later Ismail died, having contracted a fever while besieging a fortress belonging to the Qutb Shah of Golkonda. His death occurred on Thursday, August 13, 1534, and he was succeeded by his son Malu. Asada Khan was appointed regent of Bijapur, but immediately on his accession the new sovereign so offended his powerful subject that he retired to Belgaum, and Sultan Malu, giving himself up to all kinds of excesses, was deposed after a reign of only six months. Malu was blinded by the orders of his own grandmother, and Ibrahim Adil, his younger brother, was raised to the throne. It was now 1535.
Da Cunha, the Portuguese governor of Goa, took advantage of these events to erect a fortress at Diu, and early in 1536 to seize again the mainlands of Goa, which had been for ten years in the possession of Asada Khan. The Khan sent a force to recapture these lands, and in February an engagement took place in which the Portuguese were victorious. A second attack by the Moslems was similarly repulsed. A third fight took place in July, and again the Muhammadans were beaten; but Asada Khan then assembled a larger army, and the foreigners were compelled to retire after blowing up their fortress.
About this time Quli Qutb Shah is said to have attacked Kondavid on account of its withholding payment of tribute, to have taken it, and built a tower in the middle of the fort in commemoration of its reduction.
Two inscriptions at Conjeeveram, dated respectively in 1532 and 1533, imply that at that period King Achyuta reduced the country about Tinnevelly; but apparently he was not present in person, and nothing further is known regarding this expedition.
We now enter upon a period very difficult to deal with satisfactorily, owing to the conflict of evidence in the works of the various writers.
"A year after his accession," writes Firishtah, "Ibrahim, Adil led his army to Beejanuggur on the requisition of the roy." This would be the year 1536 A.D. But what led to such an extraordinary complication of affairs? Can it be true that King Achyuta was so humiliated and hard pressed as to be compelled to summon to his aid the hereditary enemies of his country?
Nuniz is silent as to the cause, though he admits the fact. It is quite possible that Firishtah is correct, that the public were not taken into confidence by their despotic rulers, and that the troops of Bijapur marched to the Hindu capital at the request of King Achyuta. That they actually came there seems quite certain, and it is probable that Nuniz was in Vijayanagar at the time; but there is a LACUNA in his story which can only be filled up by reference to Firishtah. Accepting Firishtah, we can readily understand why King Achyuta received the Sultan and his army without open opposition, as Nuniz declares that he did, and why the Muhammadan king received splendid presents before he retired. To Nuniz, however, this conduct was inexplicable except on the basis of Achyuta's craven spirit and utter unworthiness. As to the assertion of Nuniz that the Sultan entered Nagalapur or Hospett and "razed it to the ground," we may remember the treatment of the city of Bijapur by Krishna Deva Raya, and surmise that the houses of the Vijayanagar suburbs may have been pulled to pieces by the Mussalman soldiery in search for firewood. However all this may be, my readers have before them the story as given by Nuniz in Chapter XX. of his chronicle, and the following is Firishtah's account of the event.
"Heem" Rajah, or, as Briggs renders the name, "Tim" Rajah ~~ representing "Timma," and referring doubtless to Saluva Timma, the great minister of Krishna Deva ~~ had, forty years earlier, become DE FACTO ruler of Vijayanagar on the death of the two sons of a former king, "Seo" Raya. He had poisoned the infant son of the younger of these sons, and had thus succeeded in becoming head of the state. During these forty years he had been obeyed by all. On his death his son Rama Rajah became ruler. Rama's marriage to "a daughter of the son of Seo" Raya had greatly added to his dignity and power, and he now tried to secure the throne for himself and his family. He was, however, compelled by the nobles to recognise as king an "infant of the female line," whose person he committed to the care of the child's uncle, "Hoje" Tirumala Raya, a man of weak intellect if not absolutely insane. In five or six years Rama cut off by treachery most of the chiefs who opposed him. He then marched on an expedition into Malabar, and afterwards moved against a powerful zamindar to the south of Vijayanagar, who held out for six months and in the end beat off the troops of Rama Raya. Vijayanagar was at that time governed by a slave whom Rama had raised to high rank, and this man, on being applied to by the minister to send supplies from the capital, was so amazed at the wealth which he saw in the royal treasury that he resolved to attempt to gain possession of it. He therefore released the child-king, obtained the co-operation of Hoje Tirumala, assumed the office of minister, and began to raise troops. "Several tributary roies, who were disgusted with Ramraaje, flew with speed to Beejanuggur to obey their lawful king; and in a short time thirty thousand horse and vast hosts of foot were assembled under his standard at the city." Tirumala then had the slave-governor assassinated. Rama Rajah at once returned to the capital, but was unable at that juncture to assert his authority. Finding himself deserted by many of the nobles he concluded a treaty with his lawful sovereign, and retired to his own province, which by agreement he was allowed to retain as his own independent state. Tirumala shortly afterwards strangled the king and seized the throne. The nobles submitted, since he was of royal blood, and better, in their opinion, than Rama Rajah; but when afterwards they found themselves unable to endure his tyranny and oppression, they rebelled and invited Rama Rajah to return.
Tirumala then found himself in great straits, and sent ambassadors with large presents to Ibrahim Adil Shah, begging him to march to his assistance and promising that the Vijayanagar kingdom should be declared tributary to Bijapur. Ibrahim, delighted beyond measure, after consulting Asada Khan accepted the terms, moved from his capital, and arrived before Vijayanagar "in the year 942," which corresponds to the period from July 2, A.D. 1535, to June 20, 1536. He was conducted into the city by Hoje Termul Roy, who seated him on the musnud of the raaje and made rejoicings for seven days." This conduct led to a change of front on the part of Rama Rajah and his supporters. They entreated Tirumala for the sake of the country to procure the retreat of the Sultan to his own dominions, promising submission and obedience if this should be done; and Tirumala, thinking that now he had no further use for his allies, requested the Sultan to return home. He paid over the subsidy agreed upon, which was assessed at something approaching two millions sterling, and made many other gifts. The story then ends with a tragedy.
"Ibrahim Adil Shaw had not yet recrossed the Kistnah, when Ramraaje and the confederates, who had bribed many of the troops in the city, broke their newly made vows, and hastened towards Beejanuggur, resolved to put the roy to death, on pretence of revenging the murder of his predecessor. Hoje Termul Roy, seeing he was betrayed, shut himself up in the palace, and, becoming mad from despair, blinded all the royal elephants and horses, also cutting off their tails, that they might be of no use to his enemy. All the diamonds, rubies, emeralds, other precious stones, and pearls, which had been collected in a course of many ages, he crushed to powder between heavy millstones, and scattered them on the ground. He then fixed a sword-blade into a pillar of his apartment, and ran his breast upon it with such force that it pierced through and came out at the back, thus putting an end to his existence, just as the gates of the palace were opened to his enemies. Ramraaje now became roy of Beejanuggur without a rival."
After this point in Firishtah's narrative we hear of no more "young Roies" or imprisoned sovereigns of the Second Dynasty. "Ramraaje" alone is spoken of as king, and Kings Achyuta and Sadasiva ~~ the latter of whom was undoubtedly recognised as king for some years though he was kept in custody ~~ are not so much as mentioned.
Thus Firishtah and Nuniz both agree that Ibrahim Adil advanced as far as the city of Vijayanagar, and retired after payment of immense sums of money and the gift of many valuable presents. The date was A.D. 1535 ~~ 36. With this date ends the historical portion of the chronicle of Nuniz.
We continue the narrative of events in Achyuta's reign as gathered from Firishtah. As soon as he heard of the death of Hoje Tirumala and the seizure of the throne by "Ramraaje," Ibrahim Adil Shah sent Asada Khan to reduce the important fortress of Adoni, which was undisputedly in Vijayanagar territory. Rama Rajah despatched his younger brother, Venkatadri, to its relief, and the latter hastened thither with a large force.
"Assud Khan, upon his approach, raised the siege and moved towards him. A sharp engagement ensued, and Assud Khan, finding that he was likely to have the worst of the action, from the vast superiority in numbers of the enemy, retreated in good order, but was followed fourteen miles by the victors, when he encamped; and Venkatadry, in order to be ready to harass the retreat the next day, halted in full security at a distance of only two miles from him. Assud Khan, who had ardently wished for such an event; towards the dawn of day, with four thousand chosen horse, surprized the camp of Venkatadry, whose self-confidence had left him wholly off his guard against such a manoeuvre. Assud Khan penetrated to his tents before he received the alarm, and he had scarce time to make his escape, leaving his treasures, family, and elephants to the mercy of the victors. When the day had fully cleared up, Venkatadry collected his scattered troops, and drew up as if to engage; but seeing Assud Khan resolute to maintain his advantage, and fearing for the personal safety of his wife and children, he declined hazarding a battle, and, retiring some miles off, fixed his camp: from whence he wrote Ramraaje an account of his disaster, and requested reinforcements to enable him to repair it. Ramraaje immediately sent supplies of men and money, openly declaring his intentions of carrying on the war, but privately informed his brother that he had reason to imagine that Ibrahim Adil Shaw had not been led merely of his own will to besiege Oodnee; that he suspected the zemindars of that quarter had invited him to make war, and that many of the nobility with him were secretly in his interest; therefore, he thought he would act prudently by making peace with the mussulmauns at present, and procuring the release of his wife and family from Assud Khan. Venkatadry, in consequence of the desires of his brother, having procured the mediation and influence of Assud Khan, addressed the sultan for peace, which being granted, and all affairs settled to the satisfaction of both states, Ibrahim Adil Shaw returned to Beejapore with Assud Khan and the rest of his nobility and army."
Asada Khan after this was greatly honoured by the Sultan, in spite of the intrigues which were fomented against him. Quarrels and disturbances, however, arose in the Bijapur dominions which lasted during the whole of the year 1542; in the course of which year King Achyuta died, and was succeeded nominally by Sadasiva, during whose reign Vijayanagar was practically in the hands of Rama Rajah and of his two brothers, Tirumala and Venkatadri.
Firishtah was a great admirer of Asada Khan and supported him in all that he did. Asada was a Turk, who, beginning life under the simple name of Khusru in the service of Ismail Adil Shah, distinguished himself in his sovereign's defence during the attack on Bijapur in 1511, a defence celebrated on account of the heroic conduct of the Sultan's aunt, Dilshad Agha. Khusru was rewarded by Ismail with the title of "Asada Khan," a name which he bore for the rest of his life, and a grant of the jaghir of Belgaum. He rose to be chief minister and commander-in-chief of the army of his master, and died full of years and honours in A.D. 1549.
The Portuguese at Goa had a very low opinion of Asada's character. They held him to be an inveterate intriguer, ready at every moment to betray his best friends, even his sovereign, if only by so doing he could advance his own personal and selfish interests; and in this, owing to his consummate skill and tortuous ways, he invariably succeeded. If space permitted, many interesting stories could be narrated of him, culled from the various writings of the day.
Barros calls him "Sufo Larij," a name which some writers have derived from "Yusuf of Lar." Castanheda spells the name "Cufolarim."
Asada Khan is entitled to a chapter to himself, but, to avoid prolixity, I will only give one extract from the "Asia" of Barros. Allusion has been made above to an attack on the mainlands of Goa by three Hindu chiefs, when Ponda was besieged. The inhabitants appealed to Nuno da Cunha, the governor-general, who hesitated to interfere for fear of bringing on a war with the Adil Shah. The principal danger was the lord of Belgaum, Asada Khan.
"Acadachan, like one who in a safe and lofty place watches some great fire spreading over the plains below, watched from his city of Belgaum the events that were passing;" ~~ but did nothing till the Adil Shah wrote desiring him to return to Bijapur, which he had temporarily left owing to a disagreement, and to assist him in the government of the kingdom. Asada Khan replied craftily that he had done with the affairs of this life, and proposed to go and die at Mecca. At this Ismail flew into a passion and vowed revenge against his powerful subject, who, to save himself, wrote to Da Cunha, professing his unalloyed friendship for the Portuguese, and inviting them to take possession of certain tracts on the mainland; declaring that his master, the Sultan, was powerless to defend himself against the armies of Vijayanagar. This was, it must be borne in mind, long after the Hindu victory at Raichur. Da Cunha sent Christovao de Figueiredo, Krishna Deva's valiant friend, to bear his reply, since the latter was on friendly terms with the lord of Belgaum. A conversation took place, in which Asada Khan said that he was afraid of his master, who was of variable and inconstant character, and that he desired of all things to preserve friendship with the Portuguese. He therefore begged to be allowed to visit Goa and cement an alliance with the governor-general, to whom he faithfully promised that the lands in question should become for ever the property of the king of Portugal. Accordingly the lands were seized by Da Cunha.
Immediately afterwards Asada began to intrigue with the king of Vijayanagar, and being invited to visit that city on the occasion of one of the great MAHANAVAMI festivals, left Belgaum with 13,000 men and 200 elephants. Before starting he wrote to Da Cunha, asking that Figueiredo might be sent to accompany him, and promising to obtain for the Portuguese a definite cession of the lands from the Raya, since these had formerly been the latter's possession. Accordingly Figueiredo left for Vijayanagar, but learned that the Khan had already arrived there and had joined the king. The Raya received Asada favourably, and, as a present, gave him two towns, "Tunge and Turugel,"since he hoped for his aid against the Sultan.
When the Sultan heard of Asada Khan's defection he gave himself up for lost, but assembled an army and advanced to within twelve leagues of the king's camp, where Asada Khan had pitched his tents at some distance from those of the Hindu lords. The Sultan thence wrote to the Raya demanding the delivery to him of his recalcitrant "slave," and the Raya sent on the letter to Asada Khan, who told the king that he would never join the Muhammadans, but would remain faithful to Vijayanagar. A short pause ensued, during which the Raya learned that constant messages were passing between the camps of the Sultan and Asada Khan. Both armies then marched towards Raichur, the Raya to retake the place from the Sultan, the Sultan watching for an opportunity to attack the Raya.
On the third day Asada Khan started with his forces two hours in advance of the royal troops, crossed the river first, and hastened to join the Sultan. Adil Shah received him with great apparent cordiality, and at length freely forgave him on the Khan's protestations that his intrigues with Vijayanagar and the Portuguese were only so many moves in a game undertaken for the advancement of the Sultan's interests. Previous to this move the Khan had held a conversation with Figueiredo, in which he succeeded in totally deceiving him as to his intentions, and reiterated his promises to obtain the cession of the mainlands from the Raya, for whom he professed the greatest friendship.
In the end, says Barros, the Adil Shah, secretly fearful of Asada Khan's duplicity, made a treaty of peace with the Raya, by which the Muhammadans retained Raichur but gave up some other territory.
Though this story differs from Firishtah at almost every point, it is permissible to think that it may refer to the events of 1535, when the Sultan visited Vijayanagar; for in continuing his narrative, Barros a little later mentions the year 1536. It seems hopeless to try and reconcile the conflicting stories of Nuniz, Barros, and Firishtah, but enough has been said to afford insight into the character of Asada Khan. Nuniz echoes the general sentiment when he writes of the Khan's rescue of the Adil Shah, after his defeat at Raichur in 1520 A.D., as being effected "by cunning," for his own purposes; and when he describes how, by a series of lies, Asada contrived the execution of Salabat Khan at the hands of Krishna Raya.
During this reign the Portuguese were busy establishing themselves at various places on the coast, and they built several forts there for the protection of their trade. They had been constantly at war with the Samuri of Calicut and other feudatories of Vijayanagar; but with the Raya himself they were on terms of friendship, and in 1540 they ratified a treaty of peace with the sovereigns of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar as well as with the Samuri.
Throughout the whole of their dealings with the Portuguese I find not a single instance where the Hindu kings broke faith with the intruders, but as much cannot, I fear, be said on the other side. The Europeans seemed to think that they had a divine right to the pillage, robbery, and massacre of the natives of India. Not to mince matters, their whole record is one of a series of atrocities. It is sad to turn from the description given us by Paes of the friendship felt for the Portuguese, and especially for Christovao de Figueiredo, by the "gallant and perfect" King Krishna Deva, and then to read of the treachery of the Viceroy towards the great Hindu Government; with which the Portuguese had made alliances and treaties, and for which they openly professed friendship. Thus, to take one instance only, in 1545 the governor of Goa made ready a large fleet and a force of 3000 men, but kept all his preparations secret, for very good reason. His object was to sail round the coast to San Thome, near Madras, land his troops, march inland, and sack the great temple of Tirumala or Tirupati, purely for lust of gain. Luckily a severe storm prevented him from setting said, but he plundered and destroyed some rich temples on the western coast, and enriched himself with the spoil This was a mere wanton attack on property belonging to feudatories of the Vijayanagar empire, for there has never been any pretence that the peace-loving Brahmans attached to these temples had in any way offended or interfered with the Portuguese.
In the time of Achyuta a large number of grants were made by the nobles to temples throughout Southern India, and numerous inscriptions on stone and copperplates are extant relating to these charitable and religious donations. One of the most important has been published by Professor Kielhorn. It relates that the king, being on the banks of the Tungabhadra on the 12th October A.D. 1540, at the temple of Vitthalasvami or Vitthalesvara ~~ the splendidly sculptured pavilions of which remain to this day, even in their ruin and decay, an object of astonishment and admiration to all beholders ~~ gave a grant of a village not far from Madras to the Brahmans learned in the Vedas.
The last date of Achyuta known to epigraphists at present is found in an inscription bearing a date corresponding to January 25, A.D. 1541; and the earliest date similarly available of his successor, Sadasiva, is July 27, A.D. 1542.