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
Origin of the Empire (A.D. 1316)
Muhammad’s capture of Kampli and Anegundi — Death of his nephew Baha-ud-din — Malik Naib made governor of Anegundi — Disturbances – Harihara Deva Raya raised to be king of Anegundi — Madhavacharya Vidyaranya — The city of Vijayanagar founded — Legends as to the origin of the new kingdom. The city of Vijayanagar is, as already stated, generally supposed to have been founded in the year 1336, and that that date is not far from the truth may be gathered from two facts. Firstly, there is extant an inscription of the earliest real king, Harihara I. or Hariyappa, the “Haraib” of Ibn Batuta, dated in A.D. 1340. Secondly, the account given by that writer of a raid southwards by Muhammad Taghlaq tallies at almost all points with the story given at the beginning of the Chronicle of Nuniz, and this raid took place in 1334.
For if a comparison is made between the narrative of Batuta and the traditional account given by Nuniz as to the events that preceded and led to the foundation of Vijayanagar, little doubt will remain in the mind that both relate to the same event. According to Ibn Batuta, Sultan Muhammad marched southwards against his rebel nephew, Baha-ud-din Gushtasp, who had fled to the protection of the “Rai of Kambila,” or “Kampila” as Firishtah calls the place, in his stronghold amongst the mountains. The title “Rai” unmistakably points to the Kanarese country, where the form “Raya” is used for “Rajah;” while in “Kambila” or “Kampila” we recognise the old town of Kampli, a fortified place about eight miles east of Anegundi, which was the citadel of the predecessors of the kings of Vijayanagar. Though not itself actually “amongst the mountains,” Kampli is backed by the mass of rocky hills in the centre of which the great city was afterwards situated. It is highly natural to suppose that the “Rai,” when attacked by the Sultan, would have quitted Kampli and taken refuge in the fortified heights of Anegundi, where he could defend himself with far greater chance of success than at the former place; and this would account for the difference in the names given by the two chroniclers. Ibn Batuta goes on to say that the Raya sent his guest safely away to a neighbouring chief, probably the Hoysala Ballala, king of Dvarasamudra in Maisur, then residing at Tanur. He caused a huge fire to be lit on which his wives and the wives of his nobles, ministers, and principal men immolated themselves, and this done he sallied forth with his followers to meet the invaders, and was slain. The town was taken, “and eleven sons of the Rai were made prisoners and carried to the Sultan, who made them all Mussalmans.” After the fall of the place the Sultan “treated the king’s sons with great honour, as much for their illustrious birth as for his admiration of the conduct of their father;” and Batuta adds that he himself became intimately acquainted with one of these — “we were companions and friends.”
There are only two substantial points of difference between this story and the traditional Hindu account given by Nuniz. One of these concerns the reason for the Sultan’s attack. According to the Hindus it was a war undertaken from pure greed of conquest; according to Muhammadan story it was a campaign against a rebel. The second is that while the Hindus declare that none of the blood royal escaped, Batuta distinctly mentions the survival of eleven sons, and proves his point incontestably. But this does not vitiate the general resemblance of the two accounts, while the synchronism of the dates renders it impossible to believe that they can refer to two separate events. We may suppose that since the eleven sons became followers of Islam they were for ever blotted out of account to the orthodox Hindu.
After the capture of the fortress the Sultan, according to Ibn Batuta, pursued Baha-ud-din southwards and arrived near the city of the prince with whom he had taken refuge. The chief abandoned his guest to the tender mercies of the tyrant, by whom he was condemned to a death of fiendish barbarity.
“The Sultan ordered the prisoner to be taken to the women his relations, and these insulted him and spat upon him. Then he ordered him to be skinned alive, and as his skin was torn off his flesh was cooked with rice. Some was sent to his children and his wife, and the remainder was put into a great dish and given to the elephants to eat, but they would not touch it. The Sultan ordered his skin to be stuffed with straw, to be placed along with the remains of Bahadur Bura, and to be exhibited through the country.”
To continue briefly the story given by Nuniz. After the capture of Anegundi in 1334 the Sultan left Malik Naib (whom Nuniz calls “Enybiquymelly” in his second chapter, and “Mileque neby,” “Meliquy niby,” and “Melinebiquy” in the third) as his local governor, and retired northwards. The country rose against the usurpers, and after a time the Sultan restored the principality to the Hindus, but made a new departure by raising to be Raya the former chief minister Deva Raya, called “Deorao” or “Dehorao” by Nuniz. He reigned seven years. During his reign this chief was one day hunting amongst the mountains south of the river when a hare, instead of fleeing from his dogs, flew at them and bit them. The king, astonished at this marvel, was returning homewards lost in meditation, when he met on the river-bank the sage Madhavacharya, surnamed VIDYARANYA or “Forest of Learning,” — for so we learn from other sources to name the anchorite alluded to — who advised the chief to found a city on the spot. “And so the king did, and on that very day began work on his houses, and he enclosed the city round about; and that done, he left Nagumdym, and soon filled the new city with people. And he gave it the name VYDIAJUNA, for so the hermit called himself who had bidden him construct it.”
Thus, in or about the year A.D. 1336, sprung into existence the great city which afterwards became so magnificent and of such wide-spread fame.
The chronicle continues by saying that the king constructed in the city of Vijayanagar a magnificent temple in honour of the sage. This temple I take to be the great temple near the river, still in use and known as the temple of Hampi or Hampe, having a small village clustering about it. On the rocks above it, close to a group of more modern Jain temples, is to be seen a small shrine built entirely, roof as well as walls, of stone. Everything about this little relic proves it to be of greater antiquity than any other structure in the whole circuit of the hills, but its exact age is doubtful. It looks like a building of the seventh century A.D. Mr. Rea, superintendent of the Madras Archaeological Survey, in an article published in the MADRAS CHRISTIAN COLLEGE MAGAZINE for December 1886, points out that the fact of mortar having been used in its construction throws a doubt upon its being as old as its type of architecture would otherwise make it appear. It is quite possible, however, that the shrine may have been used by a succession of recluses, the last of whom was the great teacher Madhava. If we stand on that rock and imagine all the great ruins of the city visible from thence, the palaces and temples, the statues and towers and walls, to be swept out of existence, we have around us nothing but Nature in one of her wildest moods — lofty hills near and far, formed almost entirely of huge tumbled boulders of granite, but with trees and grass on all the low ground. It was a lonely spot, separated by the river from the mere inhabited country on the farther side, where dwelt the chiefs of Anegundi, and was just such as would have been chosen for their abode by the ascetics of former days, who loved to dwell in solitude and isolation amid scenes of grandeur and beauty.
We shall, however, in all probability never know whether this hermit, whose actual existence at the time is attested by every tradition regarding the origin of Vijayanagar, was really the great Madhava or another less celebrated sage, on whom by a confusion of ideas his name has been foisted. Some say that Madhavacharya lived entirely at Sringeri.
There are a number of other traditions relating to the birth of the city and empire of Vijayanagar.
One has it that two brothers named Bukka and Harihara, who had been in the service of the king of Warangal at the time of the destruction of that kingdom by the Muhammadans in 1323, escaped with a small body of horse to the hill country about Anegundi, being accompanied in their flight by the Brahman Madhava or Madhavacharya Vidyaranya, and by some means not stated became lords of that tract, afterwards founding the city of Vijayanagar.
Another states that the two brothers were officers in the service of the Muhammadan governor of Warangal subsequent to its first capture in 1309. They were despatched against the Hoysala Ballala sovereign in the expedition under the command of Malik Kafur in 1310, which resulted in the capture of the Hindu capital, Dvarasamudra; but the portion of the force to which the brothers belonged suffered a defeat, and they fled to the mountainous tract near Anegundi. Here they met the holy Madhava, who was living the life of a recluse, and by his aid they established the kingdom and capital city.
A variant of this relates that the two brothers for some reason fled direct from Warangal to Anegundi. This account redounds more to their honour as Hindus. Though compelled first to accept service under their conquerors, their patriotism triumphed in the end, and they abandoned the flesh pots of Egypt to throw in their luck with their co-religionists.
A fourth story avers that the hermit Madhava himself founded the city after the discovery of a hidden treasure, ruled over it himself, and left it after his death to a Kuruba family who established the first regular dynasty.
A fifth, mentioned by Couto, who fixes the date as 1220, states that while Madhava was living his ascetic life amongst the mountains he was supported by meals brought to him by a poor shepherd called Bukka, “and one day the Brahman said to him, ‘Thou shalt be king and emperor of all Industan.’ The other shepherds learned this, and began to treat this shepherd with veneration and made him their head; and he acquired the name of ‘king,’ and began to conquer his neighbours, who were five in number, viz., Canara, Taligas, Canguivarao, Negapatao, and he of the Badagas, and he at last became lord of all and called himself Boca Rao.” He was attacked by the king of Delhi, but the latter was defeated and retired, whereupon Bukka established a city “and called it Visaja Nagar, which we corruptly call Bisnaga; and we call all the kingdom by that name, but the natives amongst themselves always call it the ‘kingdom of Canara.’ ” Couto’s narrative seems to be a mixture of several stories. His wrong date points to his having partly depended upon the original chronicle of Nuniz, or the summary of it published by Barros; while the rest of the tale savours more of Hindu romance than of historical accuracy. He retains, however, the tradition of an attack by the king of Delhi and the latter’s subsequent retirement.
Another authority suggests that Bukka and Harihara may have been feudatories of the Hoysala Ballalas.
Nikitin, the Russian traveller, who was in India in 1474, seems to favour the view that they belonged to the old royal house of the Kadambas of Banavasi, since he speaks of “the Hindoo Sultan Kadam,” who resided at “Bichenegher.”
Here we have a whole bundle of tales and traditions to account for the origin of the great kingdom, and can take our choice. There are many others also. Perhaps the most reasonable account would be one culled from the general drift of the Hindu legends combined with the certainties of historical fact; and from this point of view we may for the present suppose that two brothers, Hindus of the Kuruba caste, who were men of strong religious feeling, serving in the treasury of the king of Warangal, fled from that place on its sack and destruction in 1323 and took service under the petty Rajah of Anegundi. Both they and their chiefs were filled with horror and disgust at the conduct of the marauding Moslems, and pledged themselves to the cause of their country and their religion. The brothers rose to be minister and treasurer respectively at Anegundi. In 1334 the chief gave shelter to Baha-ud-din, nephew of Muhammad of Delhi, and was attacked by the Sultan. Anegundi fell, as narrated by Batuta, and the Sultan retired, leaving Mallik as his deputy to rule the state. Mallik found the people too strong for him, and eventually the Sultan restored the country to the Hindus, raising to be rajah and minister respectively the two brothers who had formerly been minister and treasurer. These were Harihara I. (“Hukka”) and Bukka I.
The First Vijayanagar Dynasty
[The following shows the pedigree of this dynasty as given in the EPIGRAPHIA INDICA (iii. p. 36). Inscriptions not yet satisfactorily examined will probably add to the information given.]