Vijayanagar Empire: Medieval History
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Vijayanagar Empire: Medieval History

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Ancient and Medieval History

Vijayanagar Empire: Medieval History

Vijayanagar kingdom lay in the Deccan, to the south of the Bahmani kingdom.

In this article, we will learn every fact based on the Vijayanagar Empire, which is a very important part of history in the UPSC exam. 

The Vijayanagar period can be divided into four dynasties: Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu.

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Vijayanagar Empire: Medieval History

Archaeological sources:

  • Srirangam copper plate inscription of Devaraya II provides the genealogy and achievements of Vijayanagar rulers. 
  • The Hampi ruins and other monuments provide information on the cultural contributions of the Vijayanagar rulers.
  • Numerous coins issued by the Vijayanagar rulers contain figures and legends explaining their titles and achievements.

Harihara I and Bukka I:

  • Founded Vijayanagar in 1336.
  • They were originally served under the Kakatiya rulers of Warangal.
  • Then they went to Kampili where they were imprisoned and converted to Islam.
  • Later, they returned to the Hindu fold at the initiative of the saint Vidyaranya. 
  • They also proclaimed their independence and founded a new city, Vijayanagar (mean city of victory), on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river. 

The clash between Vijayanagar and Bahmani Kingdoms:

  • The conflict between the two kingdoms lasted for many years. 
  • Reason for dispute – Who will control Raichur Doab (the region between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra) and fertile areas of the Krishna-Godavari delta.
  • Bukka-I strengthened the city of Vidyanagar and renamed it Vijayanagar.
  • He restored harmony between the warring Vaishnavas and the Jains. 

Deva Raya I 

  • He was the third son of Harihara II.
  • His greatest achievement was his irrigation works where a dam was built across the Tungabhadra, with canals leading to the city.

Deva Raya II:

  • He was the grandson of Deva Raya I.
  • Deva Raya II began the practice of employing Muslim cavalrymen and archers in the army on a large scale 
  • In his inscriptions, he has the title of Gajabetekara (the elephant hunter)

The Saluva dynasty (1486-1505 AD)

  • Founded by Saluva Narasimha (1486-1491 AD).

Tirumal and Immadi Narasimha (1491-1505)

  • Both were miners during the regency of Narsa Nayaka.
  • Vasco Da Gama landed in Calicut during his reign in 1498.
  • Founder: Narasa Nayaka
  • Krishnadevaraya, the greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers, belonged to the Tuluva dynasty.
  • He possessed great military ability, an imposing personality and high intellectual quality.
  • In 1509, Krishnadevaraya's armies clashed with the Sultan of Bijapur at Diwani and Sultan Mahmud was severely injured and defeated. 
  • Yusuf Adil Khan was killed and the Raichur Doab was annexed.
  • Taking advantage of the victory and the disunity of the Bahamani Sultans, the Raya invaded Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur and earned the title "establisher of the Yavana kingdom" when he released Sultan Mahmud and made him de facto ruler. 
  • By that time the Bahmani kingdom was replaced by Deccan Sultanates.

War with Kalinga (Orissa):

  • Krishna Deva Raya’s Orissa campaign was also successful.
  • He defeated the Gajapathi ruler Prataparudra and conquered the whole of Telangana. 

Relations with Europeans:

  • He maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese.  
  • Albuquerque sent his ambassadors to Krishna Deva Raya.
  • Religion: Though a Vaishnavite, he respected all religions. 


  • A great patron of literature and art and he was known as Andhra Bhoja. 
  • 8 eminent scholars known as Ashtadiggajas were at his royal court.
  • Allasani Peddana was the greatest and he was called Andhra Kavita Pitamaha ( Grandfather of Telugu poetry).
  • His important work included Manucharitra and Harikatha Saram.
  • Pingali Suranna and Tenali Ramakrishna were other important scholars. 
  • Krishna Deva Raya himself authored a Telugu work, Amuktamalyada and Sanskrit works, Jambavati Kalyanam and Usha Parinayam.

Construction Works:

  • Repaired most of the temples of south India.
  • Built the famous Vittalaswami and Hazara Ramaswamy temples at Vijayanagar.
  • Built a new city called Nagalapuram.
  • Loss of Vijaynagar to Bahmani  After his death, Achyuta Deva and Venkata succeeded the throne.

Battle of Talikota:

  • During the reign of Rama Raya, the combined forces of Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golkonda and Bidar defeated him in 1565.
  • This battle is also known as Raksasa Tangadi. 
  • Rama Raya was imprisoned and executed. 
  • The city of Vijayanagar was destroyed.
  • This battle was generally considered to mark the end of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • However, the Vijayanagar kingdom existed under the Aravidu dynasty for about another century.
  • Thirumala, Sri Ranga and Venkata II were the important rulers of this dynasty. 
  • The last ruler of the Vijayanagar kingdom was Sri Ranga III.


  • Well organized.
  • King enjoyed absolute authority in executive, judicial and legislative matters.
  • The succession to the throne by the principle of hereditary.
  • Sometimes usurpation to the throne took place as Saluva Narasimha came to power by ending the Sangama dynasty.
  • A Rajya was divided into regions (Vishaya Vente or Kottam) and further divided into counties (Sime or Nadu), themselves subdivided into municipalities (Kampana or Sthala). 
  • Hereditary families ruled their respective territories and paid tribute to the empire, while some areas, such as Keladi and Madurai, came under the direct supervision of a commander.
  • Vijayanagar rulers gave full powers to the local authorities in the administration.

Revenue income:

  • The main source of income was land revenue – generally 1/6th of produce.
  • Another source of income: Tributes and gifts from vassals and feudal chiefs, customs collected at the ports, taxes on various professions. 


  • Well-organized and efficient.
  • It consists of the cavalry, infantry, artillery and elephants. 
  • High-breed horses were procured from foreign traders.  

Social Life:

  • Allasani Peddana wrote in Manucharitra that Vijay Nagar society had four castes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, Sudras

Foreign travellers account:

  • They left an account of the splendour of buildings and luxurious social life in the city of Vijayanagar.
  • Silk and cotton clothes were mainly used 
  • Perfumes, flowers and ornaments were used by the people. 
  • Dancing, music, wrestling, gambling and cock-fighting were amusements.


  • Sangama rulers were chiefly Savaites 
  • Their family deity - Virupaksha
  • Other dynasties were Vaishnavites. 
  • Srivaishnavism of Ramanuja was very popular.
  • But all kings were religiously tolerant. 
  • Muslims were employed in the administration and they were freely allowed to build mosques and worship.

Women’s Position:

  • Not improved. 
  • However, some of them were learned. 
  • Ganga Devi, wife of Kumara Kampana authored the famous work Madhuravijayam.
  • According to Nuniz, a large number of women were employed in royal palaces as dancers, domestic servants and palanquin bearers.
  • Devadasi: The attachment of dancing girls to temples was in practice. 
  • Paes gives an account of the flourishing devadasi system. 
  • Polygamy was prevalent among the royal families.
  • Sati was honoured and Nuniz gives a description of it. 

Economic Condition:

  • According to foreign travellers account,  Vijayanagar Empire was one of the wealthiest parts of the world at that time. 
  • The chief occupation of people - Agriculture 
  • The Vijayanagar rulers provided a stimulus to it by providing irrigation facilities by building dams and constructing tanks across the rivers like Tungabhadra.


  • Industries were organized into guilds.  Metalworkers and other craftsmen flourished during this period.
  • Diamond mines were located in Kurnool and Anantapur district. 


  • A great centre of trade.
  • The chief gold coin was the Varaha but weights and measures varied from place to place. 
  • Inland, coastal and overseas trade contributed to general prosperity. 
  • A number of seaports on both the coasts had resulted in foreign trade with Arabia, Persia, South Africa and Portugal on the west and with Burma, the Malay peninsula and China on the east. 
  • Export: Cotton and silk clothes, spices, rice, iron, saltpetre and sugar. 
  • Import: Horses, pearls, copper, coral, mercury, China silk and velvet clothes. 
  • The art of shipbuilding had developed. 
  • Languages:  Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil flourished. 
  • There was a great development in Sanskrit and Telugu literature. 

Also Read: Maratha Empire: Medieval History

Bahmani Kingdom:

  • Alauddin Bahman Shah also known as Hasan Gangu founded the Bahmani kingdom in 1347.
  • Capital - Gulbarga.
  • 14 sultans had ruled over this kingdom.  Among them, Alauddin Bahman Shah, Muhammad Shah I and Firoz Shah were important. 
  • Ahmad Wali Shah shifted the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar.
  • Bahmani kingdom was at its peak under the rule of Muhammad Shah III.
  • The success of Muhammad Shah was due to the advice and services of his minister Mahmud Gawan. 

Extension of Bahmani Kingdom:

  • It extended from the Arabian sea to the Bay of Bengal. 
  • On the west - Goa to Bombay.  
  • On the east - Kakinada to the mouth of the river Krishna. 

Mahmud Gawan

  • He was a Persian merchant. 
  • The Bahmani kingdom reached its peak because of the guidance of Mahmud Gawan.
  • At the age of 42, he joined the services of the Bahmani kingdom.
  • His personal qualities lead him to the position of chief minister.

Qualities of Mahmud Gawan :

  • Loyal to the kingdom.  
  • Lived a simple life and was magnanimous. 
  • He was also a learned person.  Possessed great knowledge of mathematics. 
  • Made endowments to build a college at Bidar which was built in the Persian style of architecture.  

Military qualities :

  • Waged successful wars against Vijayanagar, Orissa and the sea pirates on the Arabian sea.
  • His conquests include Konkan, Goa and Krishna-Godavari delta.

Administrative reforms:

  • To increase the control of the Sultan over the nobles and provinces, royal officers were appointed in each province for this purpose.
  • Most of the forts were under the control of these officers.
  • Nobles took advantage of weak sultans and declared their independence.  
  • By the year 1526, the Bahmani kingdom had disintegrated into 5 independent sultanates: Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Berar, Golkonda and Bidar 
  • These 5 states are known as Deccan Sultanates
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