A Forgotten Empire Chapter 15

A Forgotten Empire Chapter 15

Destruction of Vijayanagar (A.D. 1565) Arrogance of Rama Raya ~~ Ahmadnagar attacked ~~ Muhammadans combine against Vijayanagar ~~ The league of the five kings ~~ Their advance to Talikota ~~ Decisive battle, 1565, and total defeat of the Hindus ~~ Death of Rama Raya ~~ Panic at Vijayanagar ~~ Flight of the royal family ~~ Sack of the great city ~~ Its total destruction ~~ Evidence of Federici, 1567 ~~ Downfall of Portuguese trade, and decay of prosperity at Goa.

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

Meanwhile affairs were advancing rapidly in the interior. After the Nizam Shah's dominions had been wasted, as already described, by the Adil Shah and Rama Raya, peace was made by the restoration of Kallian to Bijapur;[320] but as soon as the allies had retired, Hussain entered into an alliance with Ibrahim Qutb Shah and again marched to attack Ali Adil. Again Ali called in the aid of Vijayanagar, and again Rama Raya marched to his aid, this time with 50,000 horse and an immense force of infantry. The opposing forces met at Kallian, when the Qutb Shah deserted to Ali Adil, and Hussain was compelled to withdraw to Ahmadnagar. Attacked in his own capital, he retreated.

"The three sovereigns laid siege to Ahmednuggur, and despatched detachments various ways to lay waste the country round. The Hindoos of Beejanuggur committed the most outrageous devastations, burning and razing the buildings, putting up their horses in the mosques, and performing their idolatrous worship in the holy places; but, notwithstanding, the siege was pushed with the greatest vigour, the garrison held out with resolution, hoping that at the approach of the rainy season, the enemy would be necessitated to raise the siege.

"when the rains had set in, from the floods, damp, and want of provisions, distress began to prevail in the camp of the allies, and Kootub Shaw also secretly corresponded with the besieged, to whom he privately sent in grain."[321]

The siege was raised, therefore, and before long the allies separated, and the Hindu army returned home.

"In the first expedition on which Ali Adil Shaw, pressed by the behaviour of Houssein Nizam Shaw, had called Ramraaje to his assistance, the Hindoos at Ahmednuggur committed great outrages, and omitted no mark of disrespect to the holy religion of the faithful, singing and performing their superstitious worship in the mosques. The sultan was much hurt at this insult to the faith, but, as he had not the ability to prevent it, he did not seem to observe it. Ramraaje also, at the conclusion of this expedition, looking on the Islaam sultans as of little consequence, refused proper honours to their ambassadors. When he admitted them to his presence, he did not suffer them to sit, and treated them with the most contemptuous reserve and haughtiness. He made them attend when in publick in his train on foot, not allowing them to mount till he gave orders. On the return from the last expedition to Nuldirruk, the officers and soldiers of his army in general, treated the mussulmauns with insolence, scoffing, and contemptuous language; and Ramraaje, after taking leave, casting an eye of avidity on the countries of Koottub Shaw and Adil Shaw, dispatched armies to the frontiers of each."

Both the great Shahs, therefore, abandoned certain territories to the Hindus, and from Golkonda Rama obtained Ghanpura and Pangul. It was the last Hindu success.

"Ramraaje daily continuing to encroach on the dominions of the mussulmauns, Adil Shaw at length resolved, if possible, to punish his insolence and curtail his power by a general league of the faithful against him; for which purpose he convened an assembly of his friends and confidential advisers."

Some of these urged that the Raya was too wealthy and powerful, by reason of his immense revenues, which were collected from no less than sixty seaports in addition to very large territories and dependencies, and the number of his forces was too vast, for any single Muhammadan monarch to cope with him. They therefore pressed the Sultan to form a federation of all the kings of the Dakhan and wage a joint war. Ali Adil heartily concurred in their opinion, and began by despatching a secret embassy to Ibrahim Qutb Shah.

Ibrahim eagerly accepted, and offered his services as mediator between Ali Adil and his great rival at Ahmadnagar. An envoy was sent to the latter capital, and the sovereign, Hussain Shah, warned beforehand of the important proposals to be made, received him in private audience. The ambassador then laid before the king all the arguments in favour of the Bijapur plan.

"He represented to him that during the times of the Bhamenee princes, when the whole strength of the mussulmaun power was in one hand, the balance between it and the force of the roles of Beejanuggur was nearly equal; that now the mussulmaun authority was divided, policy demanded that all the faithful princes should unite as one, and observe the strictest friendship, that they might continue secure from the attacks of their powerful common enemy, and the authority of the roles of Beejanuggur, who had reduced all the rajas of Carnatic to their yoke, be diminished, and removed far from the countries of Islaam; that the people of their several dominions, who ought to be considered the charge of the Almighty committed to their care, might repose free from the oppressions of the unbelievers, and their mosques and holy places be made no longer the dwellings of infidels."

These arguments had their full weight, and it was arranged that Hussain Nizam Shah should give his daughter Chand Bibi in marriage to Ali Adil with the fortress of Sholapur as her DOT, and that his eldest son, Murtiza, should espouse Ali's sister ~~ the two kingdoms coalescing for the conquest and destruction of Vijayanagar. The marriages were celebrated in due course, and the Sultans began their preparations for the holy war.

"Ali Adil Shaw, preparatory to the war, and to afford himself a pretence for breaking with his ally, dispatched an ambassador to Ramraaje, demanding restitution of some districts that had been wrested from him. As he expected, Ramraaje expelled the ambassador in a very disgraceful manner from his court; and the united sultans now hastened the preparations to crush the common enemy of the Islaam faith."

Ibrahim Qutb Shah had also joined the coalition, and the four princes met on the plains of Bijapur, with their respective armies. Their march towards the south began on Monday, December 25, A.D. 1564.[322] Traversing the now dry plains of the Dakhan country, where the cavalry, numbering many thousands, could graze their horses on the young crops, the allied armies reached the neighbourhood of the Krishna near the small fortress and town of Talikota, a name destined to be for ever celebrated in the annals of South India.[323]

It is situated on the river Don, about sixteen miles above its junction with the Krishna, and sixty-five miles west of the point where the present railway between Bombay and Madras crosses the great river. The country at that time of the year was admirably adapted for the passage of large bodies of troops, and the season was one of bright sunny days coupled with cool refreshing breezes.

Here Ali Adil, as lord of that country, entertained his allies in royal fashion, and they halted for several days, attending to the transport and commissariat arrangements of the armies, and sending out scouts to report on the best locality for forcing the passage of the river.

At Vijayanagar there was the utmost confidence. Remembering how often the Moslems had vainly attempted to injure the great capital, and how for over two centuries they had never succeeded in penetrating to the south, the inhabitants pursued their daily avocations with no shadow of dread or sense of danger; the strings of pack-bullocks laden with all kinds of merchandise wended their dusty way to and from the several seaports as if no sword of Damocles was hanging over the doomed city; Sadasiva, the king, lived his profitless life in inglorious seclusion, and Rama Raya, king de facto, never for a moment relaxed his attitude of haughty indifference to the movements of his enemies. "He treated their ambassadors," says Firishtah, "with scornful language, and regarded their enmity as of little moment."[324]

Nevertheless he did not neglect common precautions. His first action was to send his youngest brother, Tirumala, the "Yeltumraj" or "Eeltumraaje" of Firishtah, to the front with 20,000 horse, 100,000 foot, and 500 elephants, to block the passage of the Krishna at all points. Next he despatched his second brother, Venkatadri, with another large army; and finally marched in person towards the point of attack with the whole power of the Vijayanagar empire. The forces were made up of large drafts from all the provinces ~~ Canarese and Telugus of the frontier, Mysoreans and Malabarese from the west and centre, mixed with the Tamils from the remoter districts to the south; each detachment under its own local leaders, and forming part of the levies of the temporary provincial chieftain appointed by the crown. According to Couto, they numbered 600,000 foot and 100,000 horse. His adversaries had about half that number. As to their appearance and armament, we may turn for information to the description given us by Paes of the great review of which he was an eye-witness forty-five years earlier at Vijayanagar,[325] remembering always that the splendid troops between whose lines he then passed in the king's procession were probably the ELITE of the army, and that the common soldiers were clad in the lightest of working clothes, many perhaps with hardly any clothes at all, and armed only with spear or dagger.[326]

The allies had perhaps halted too long. At any rate, their scouts returned to their sovereigns with the news that all the passages of the river were defended, and that their only course was to force the ford immediately in their front. This was in possession of the Hindus, who had fortified the banks on the south side, had thrown up earthworks, and had stationed a number of cannon to dispute the crossing.

The defenders of the ford anxiously awaited intelligence of their enemy's movements, and learning that he had struck his camp and marched along the course of the river, they quitted their post and followed, keeping always to the south bank in readiness to repel any attempt to cross directly in their front. This manoeuvre, a ruse on the part of the Mussulmans, was repeated on three successive days. On the third night the Sultans hastily left their camp, returned to the ford, and, finding it deserted, crossed with a large force. This movement covered the transit of the whole of their army, and enabled them to march southwards to the attack of Rama Raya's main body.

Rama Raya, though surprised, was not alarmed, and took all possible measures for defence. In the morning the enemy was within ten miles of his camp, and Venkatadri and Tirumala succeeded in effecting a junction with their brother.

On the following day, Tuesday, January 23; 1565,[327] both sides having made their dispositions, a pitched battle took place[328] in which all the available forces of both sides were engaged. In one of his descriptions Firishtah estimates the Vijayanagar army alone as amounting to 900,000 infantry, 45,000 cavalry, and 2000 elephants, besides 15,000 auxiliaries; but he himself varies so greatly in the numbers he gives in different parts of his narrative that there is no necessity to accept these figures as accurate. There can be little doubt, however, that the numbers were very large. The Hindu left, on the west, was entrusted to the command of Tirumala; Rama Raya in person was in the centre, and the right was composed of the troops of Venkatadri. Opposed to Tirumala were the forces of Bijapur under their Sultan Ali Adil; the Mussalman centre was under the command of Hussain Nizam Shah; and the left of the allied army, in Venkatadri's front, consisted of the forces brought from Ahmadabad and Golkonda by the two Sultans, Ali Barid and Ibrahim Qutb. The allied forces drew up in a long line with their artillery in the centre, and awaited the enemy's attack, each division with the standards of the twelve Imams waving in the van. The Nizam Shah's front was covered by six hundred pieces of ordnance disposed in three lines, in the first of which were heavy guns, then the smaller ones, with light swivel guns in the rear. In order to mask this disposition two thousand foreign archers were thrown out in front, who kept up a heavy discharge as the enemy's line came on. The archers fell back as the Hindus of Rama's division approached, and the batteries opened with such murderous effect that the assailants retreated in confusion and with great loss.

Rama Rajah was now a very old man ~~ Couto says "he was ninety-six years old, but as brave as a man of thirty" ~~ and, against the entreaties of his officers, he preferred to superintend operations from a litter rather than remain for a long time mounted ~~ a dangerous proceeding, since in case of a reverse a rapid retreat was rendered impossible. But he could not be induced to change his mind, remarking that in spite of their brave show the enemy were children and would soon be put to flight. So confident was he of victory that it is said he had ordered his men to bring him the head of Hussain Nizam, but to capture the Adil Shah and Ibrahim of Golkonda alive, that he might keep them the rest of their lives in iron cages.

The battle becoming more general, the Hindus opened a desolating fire from a number of field-pieces and rocket-batteries. The left and right of the Muhammadan line were pressed back after destructive hand-to-hand fighting, many falling on both sides. At this juncture Rama Raya, thinking to encourage his men, descended from his litter and seated himself on a "rich throne set with jewels, under a canopy of crimson velvet, embroidered with gold and adorned with fringes of pearls," ordering his treasurer to place heaps of money all round him, so that he might confer rewards on such of his followers as deserved his attention. "There were also ornaments of gold and jewels placed for the same purpose." A second attack by the Hindus on the guns in the centre seemed likely to complete the overthrow of the whole Muhammadan line, when the front rank of pieces was fired at close quarters, charged with bags of copper money; and this proved so destructive that 5000 Hindus were left dead on the field in front of the batteries. This vigorous policy threw the Hindu centre into confusion, upon which 5000 Muhammadan cavalry charged through the intervals of the guns and cut their way into the midst of the disorganised masses, towards the spot where the Raya had taken post. He had again changed his position and ascended his litter; but hardly had he done so when an elephant belonging to the Nizam Shah, wild with the excitement of the battle, dashed forward towards him, and the litter-bearers let fall their precious burden in terror at the animal's approach. Before he had time to recover himself and mount a horse, a body of the allies was upon him, and he was seized and taken prisoner.

This event threw the Hindus into a panic, and they began to give way. Rama Raya was conducted by the officer who commanded the artillery of Hussain Nizam to his Sultan, who immediately ordered his captive to be decapitated, and the head to be elevated on a long spear, so that it might be visible to the Hindu troops.

On seeing that their chief was dead, the Vijayanagar forces broke and fled "They were pursued by the allies with such successful slaughter that the river which ran near the field was dyed red with their blood. It is computed on the best authorities that above one hundred thousand infidels were slain in fight and during the pursuit."

The Mussulmans were thus completely victorious, and the Hindus fled towards the capital; but so great was the confusion that there was not the slightest attempt made to take up a new and defensive position amongst the hills surrounding the city, or even to defend the walls or the approaches. The rout was complete.

"The plunder was so great that every private man in the allied army became rich in gold, jewels, effects, tents, arms, horses, and slaves, as the sultans left every person in possession of what he had acquired, only taking elephants for their own use."

De Couto, describing the death of Rama Raya, states[329] that Hussain Nizam Shah cut off his enemy's head with his own hand, exclaiming, "Now I am avenged of thee! Let God do what he will to me!" The Adil Shah, on the contrary, was greatly distressed at Rama Raya's death.[330]

The story of this terrible disaster travelled apace to the city of Vijayanagar. The inhabitants, unconscious of danger, were living in utter ignorance that any serious reverse had taken place; for their leaders had marched out with countless numbers in their train, and had been full of confidence as to the result. Suddenly, however, came the bad news. The army was defeated; the chiefs slain; the troops in retreat. But still they did not grasp the magnitude of the reverse; on all previous occasions the enemy had been either driven back, or bought off with presents from the overstocked treasury of the kings. There was little fear, therefore, for the city itself. That surely was safe! But now came the dejected soldiers hurrying back from the fight, and amongst the foremost the panic-stricken princes of the royal house. Within a few hours these craven chiefs hastily left the palace, carrying with them all the treasures on which they could lay their hands. Five hundred and fifty elephants, laden with treasure in gold, diamonds, and precious stones valued at more than a hundred millions sterling, and carrying the state insignia and the celebrated jewelled throne of the kings, left the city under convoy of bodies of soldiers who remained true to the crown. King Sadasiva was carried off by his jailor, Tirumala, now sole regent since the death of his brothers; and in long line the royal family and their followers fled southward towards the fortress of Penukonda.

Then a panic seized the city. The truth became at last apparent. This was not a defeat merely, it was a cataclysm. All hope was gone. The myriad dwellers in the city were left defenceless. No retreat, no flight was possible except to a few, for the pack-oxen and carts had almost all followed the forces to the war, and they had not returned. Nothing could be done but to bury all treasures, to arm the younger men, and to wait. Next day the place became a prey to the robber tribes and jungle people of the neighbourhood. Hordes of Brinjaris, Lambadis, Kurubas, and the like,[331] pounced down on the hapless city and looted the stores and shops, carrying off great quantities of riches. Couto states that there were six concerted attacks by these people during the day.

The third day[332] saw the beginning of the end. The victorious Mussulmans had halted on the field of battle for rest and refreshment, but now they had reached the capital, and from that time forward for a space of five months Vijayanagar knew no rest. The enemy had come to destroy, and they carried out their object relentlessly. They slaughtered the people without mercy, broke down the temples and palaces; and wreaked such savage vengeance on the abode of the kings, that, with the exception of a few great stone-built temples and walls, nothing now remains but a heap of ruins to mark the spot where once the stately buildings stood. They demolished the statues, and even succeeded in breaking the limbs of the huge Narasimha monolith. Nothing seemed to escape them. They broke up the pavilions standing on the huge platform from which the kings used to watch the festivals, and overthrew all the carved work. They lit huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings forming the temple of Vitthalasvami near the river, and smashed its exquisite stone sculptures. With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description.

Caesaro Federici, an Italian traveller ~~ or "Caesar Frederick," as he is often called by the English ~~ visited the place two years later, in 1567. He relates that, after the sack, when the allied Muhammadans returned to their own country, Tirumala Raya tried to re-populate the city, but failed, though some few people were induced to take up their abode there.

"The Citie of BEZENEGER is not altogether destroyed, yet the houses stand still, but emptie, and there is dwelling in them nothing, as is reported, but Tygres and other wild beasts."[333]

The loot must have been enormous. Couto states that amongst other treasures was found a diamond as large as a hen's egg, which was kept by the Adil Shah.[334]

Such was the fate of this great and magnificent city. It never recovered, but remained for ever a scene of desolation and ruin. At the present day the remains of the larger and more durable structures rear themselves from amongst the scanty cultivation carried on by petty farmers, dwellers in tiny villages scattered over the area once so populous. The mud huts which constituted the dwelling-places of by far the greater portion of the inhabitants have disappeared, and their materials overlie the rocky plain and form the support of a scanty and sparse vegetation. But the old water-channels remain, and by their aid the hollows and low ground have been converted into rich gardens and fields, bearing full crops of waving rice and sugar-cane. Vijayanagar has disappeared as a city, and a congeries of small hamlets with an industrious and contented population has taken its place.

Here my sketch of Vijayanagar history might well end, but I have thought it advisable to add a few notes on succeeding events.

Tirumala took up his abode at Penukonda, and shortly afterwards sent word to the Portuguese traders at Goa that he was in need of horses. A large number were accordingly delivered, when the despotic ruler dismissed the men to return to Goa as best they could without payment. "He licensed the Merchants to depart," writes Federici, "without giving them anything for their Horses, which when the poore Men saw, they were desperate, and, as it were, mad with sorrow and griefe." There was no authority left in the land, and the traveller had to stay in Vijayanagar seven months, "for it was necessarie to rest there until the wayes were clear of Theeves, which at that time ranged up and downe." He had the greatest difficulty in making his way to Goa at all, for he and his companions were constantly seized by sets of marauders and made to pay heavy ransom for their liberty, and on one occasion they were attacked by dacoits and robbed.

Tirumala being now with King Sadasiva in Penukonda, the nobles of the empire began to throw off their allegiance, and one after another to proclaim their independence. The country was in a state of anarchy. The empire, just now so solid and compact, became disintegrated, and from this time forward it fell rapidly to decay.

To the Portuguese the change was of vital importance. Federici has left us the following note on their trade with Vijayanagar, which I extract from "Purchas's Pilgrims:" ~~

"The Merchandize that went every yeere from Goa to Bezeneger were Arabian Horses, Velvets, Damaskes, and Sattens, Armesine[335] of Portugall, and pieces of China, Saffron, and Scarletts; and from Bezeneger they had in Turkie for their commodities, Jewels and Pagodas,[336] which be Ducats of Gold; the Apparell that they use in Bezeneger is Velvet, Satten, Damaske, Scarlet, or white Bumbast cloth, according to the estate of the person, with long Hats on their heads called Colae,[337] &c."

Sassetti, who was in India from 1578 to 1588, confirms the others as to Portuguese loss of trade on the ruin of the city: ~~

"The traffic was so large that it is impossible to imagine it; the place was immensely large; and it was inhabited by people rich, not with richness like ours, but with richness like that of the Crassi and the others of those old days…. And such merchandise! Diamonds, rubies, pearls … and besides all that, the horse trade. That alone produced a revenue in the city (Goa) of 120 to 150 thousand ducats, which now reaches only 6 thousand."

Couto tells the same story:[338] ~~

"By this destruction of the kingdom of Bisnaga, India and our State were much shaken; for the bulk of the trade undertaken by all was for this kingdom, to which they carried horses, velvets, satins and other sorts of merchandize, by which they made great profits; and the Custom House of Goa suffered much in its Revenue, so that from that day till now the inhabitants of Goa began to live less well; for paizes and fine cloths were a trade of great importance for Persia and Portugal, and it then languished, and the gold pagodas, of which every year more than 500,000 were laden in the ships of the kingdom, were then worth 7 1/2 Tangas, and to day are worth 11 1/2, and similarly every kind of coin."

Sassetti gives another reason, however, for the decay of Portuguese trade and influence at Goa, which cannot be passed over without notice. This was the terrible Inquisition. The fathers of the Church forbade the Hindus under terrible penalties the use of their own sacred books, and prevented them from all exercise of their religion. They destroyed their temples and mosques, and so harassed and interfered with the people that they abandoned the city in large numbers, refusing to remain any longer in a place where they had no liberty, and were liable to imprisonment, torture, and death if they worshipped after their own fashion the gods of their fathers.[339]

About this period, therefore (1567), the political condition of Southern India may be thus summed up: ~~ The Muhammadans of the Dakhan were triumphant though still divided in interest, and their country was broken up into states each bitterly hostile to the other. The great empire of the south was sorely stricken, and its capital was for ever destroyed; the royal family were refugees at Pennakonda; King Sadasiva was still a prisoner; and Tirumala, the only survivor of the "three brethren which were tyrants,"[340] was governing the kingdom as well as he could. The nobles were angry and despondent, each one seeking to be free; and the Portuguese on the coast were languishing, with their trade irretrievably injured.

Firishtah summarises the events immediately succeeding the great battle in the following words: ~~

"The sultans, a few days after the battle, marched onwards into the country of Ramraaje as far as Anicondeh,[341] and the advanced troops penetrated to Beejanuggur, which they plundered, razed the chief buildings, and committed all manner of excess. When the depredations of the allies had destroyed all the country round, Venkatadri,[342] who had escaped from the battle to a distant fortress, sent humble entreaties of peace to the sultans, to whom he gave up all the places which his brothers had wrested from them; and the victors being satisfied, took leave of each other at Roijore (Raichur), and returned to their several dominions. The raaje of Beejanuggur since this battle has never recovered its ancient splendour; and the city itself has been so destroyed that it is now totally in ruins and uninhabited,[343] while the country has been seized by the zemindars (petty chiefs), each of whom hath assumed an independent power in his own district."

In 1568 (so it is said) Tirumala murdered his sovereign, Sadasiva, and seized the throne for himself; but up to that time he seems to have recognised the unfortunate prince as his liege lord, as we know from four inscriptions at Vellore bearing a date corresponding to 5th February 1567 A.D.[344]

And thus began the third dynasty, if dynasty it can be appropriately called.

wA Forgotten Empire Chapter 15  

A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar


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