History of Vijayanagara

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As you skim towards the older portions of Hampi’s history, it appears as if history often gives way to folklore and then deftly glides into to mythology .

The typical version Hampi’s history starts with a popular folklore. Two local chieftains, Hakka & Bukka , reports to their guru an unusual sight they saw during a hunting expedition. A hare chased by their hound suddenly turns courageous and start chasing back the hound.

Vidyaranya, the guru, tells them that the place is so special and asks them to establish theirs local capital at this place. The seed of an empire was sown.

Over the next 200 plus years (1336 AD – 1565 AD) four dynasties ruled Vijayanagar .

History of Vijayanagar’s had been a saga of resistance against the northern Sultanates as well as building of its spectacular capital in Hampi.

Domingo Paes, a Portuguese horse trader, who visited Hampi during its heydays wrote in a letter (most likely to João de Barros , the famous Portuguese historian) "The size of this city I do not write here, because it cannot all be seen from any one spot, but I climbed a hill ( most likely the Matunga Hill) whence I could see a great part of it. I could not see it all because it lies between several ranges of hills. What I saw from thence seemed to me as large as Rome, and very beautiful to the sight;

there are many groves of trees within it, in the gardens of the houses, and many conduits of water which flow into the midst of it, and in places there are lakes and the king has close to his palace a palm-grove and other rich-bearing fruit-trees.

Below the Moorish quarter is a little river, and on this side are many orchards and gardens with many fruit-trees, for the most part mangoes and areca-palms and jack-trees, and also many lime and orange trees, growing so closely one to another that it appears like a thick forest; and there are also white grapes.

All the water which is in the city comes from the two tanks of which I have spoken, outside the first enclosing wall."

The capital was one major trading center. Anything from horses to gems was traded in Hampi. Art and architecture found its special place in Hampi. The rulers were great patrons of art and religion. Most of the kings associated names of their favorite gods with their names.

Some of the kings were renowned for their ambitious projects.

King Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529 AD) of the Tuluva Dynasty stands tall among the rest. During his regime the empire saw its peak.

By this time Vijayanagara Empire covered the whole of south India and beyond.

The Krishna Temple that you can visit in Hampi was commissioned by him to commemorate the victory over the Gajapathi kings of Utkala (in present day Orissa state).

The warring Deccan Sultanates could finally join together to defeat the Vijayanagara army at Talarikota, a place north of Hampi.

Vijayanagara army suffered heavy losses. The capital city was plundered, its population massacred. Treasure hunters ransacked its palaces and temples for months.

Kings lost, capital fallen, population fled, Hampi turned into a ghost city. For centuries Hampi remained as a neglected place. This erstwhile metropolitan with more than half a million population slowly turned into a jungle where wild animals roamed freely.

The area came under many kings from time to time with the flow of history. But it was no more considered strategic and hence neglected.

During the colonial period, Hampi evoked some curiosity among the western archaeologists. Robert Sewell’s (1845-1925), seminal work aptly titled as A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar was a major attempt to narrate the empire that was. In 1917 A.H. Longhurst’s Hampi Ruins Described and Illustrated became the first travel guide for the visitors to Hampi. UNESCO’s World Heritage Site was conferred to Hampi in 1986.

Currently Hampi's monuments - hundreds of them - are popular among tourists, pilgrims and the area is one of the exotic locations for the Bollywood and local film shootings. Jackie Chan film “Myth” was shot in the Hampi.

Vijayanagara Empire:

Sangama Dynasty:

Harihara Raya I 1336-1356
Bukka Raya I 1356-1377
Harihara Raya II 1377-1404
Virupaksha Raya 1404-1405
Bukka Raya II 1405-1406
Deva Raya I 1406-1422
Ramachandra Raya 1422
Vira Vijaya Bukka Raya 1422-1424
Deva Raya II 1424-1446
Mallikarjuna Raya 1446-1465
Virupaksha Raya II 1465-1485
Praudha Raya 1485

Saluva Dynasty:

Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya 1485-1491
Thimma Bhupala 1491
Narasimha Raya II 1491-1505

Tuluva Dynasty:

Tuluva Narasa Nayaka 1491-1503
Viranarasimha Raya 1503-1509
Krishna Deva Raya 1509-1529
Achyuta Deva Raya 1529-1542
Sadashiva Raya 1542-1570

Aravidu Dynasty:

Aliya Rama Raya 1542-1565
Tirumala Deva Raya 1565-1572
Sriranga I 1572-1586
Venkata II 1586-1614
Sriranga II 1614-1614
Ramadeva 1617-1632
Venkata III 1632-1642
Sriranga III 1642-1646

The characteristic 'Yali' image carved on a composite pillar.

The characteristic 'Yali' image carved on a composite pillar.

The characteristic 'Yali' image carved on a composite pillar.

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