Origin of Vijayanagara Empire

Origin of Vijayanagara Empire

The origin of Vijayanagara empire is associated with controversy. The Vijayanagara empire rose in southern India in the 14th century CE. Over the past decades historians have expressed differing opinions on whether the empire's founders, Harihara I and Bukka I, were of Kannada or Telugu origin. There are also varying opinion on the role of the sage Vidyaranya in the founding of the Vijayanagara empire.


Kannadiga origin theory

Several scholars attest that the founders of the Vijayanagara Empire were Kannadigas and related to the Hoysala dynasty.[1][2][3][4][5] Though controversies over the role of Vidyaranya in the founding of the empire exist, Vidyaranya was an important Sanyasi at the Sringeri order, though not the head of the monastic order until 1380.[6][7]

Recent epigraphal research and interpretation of inscriptions not known to earlier historians support the theory that the founders of the empire were local princes under the service of the Hoysala kings. Inscriptions prove that Harihara I and Bukka Raya I were in the Hoysala service a decade before their arrival at Kampili (in modern Bellary district).[3][8][9] Not only did the widow of Hoysala Veera Ballala III participate in the coronation of Harihara I in 1346, her name appears before that of the Vijayanagara King Harihara I in a 1349 inscription indicating he gained legitimacy for being a devoted heir of the Hoysalas. Further, it is proven that the original founding of Vijayanagara was in 1320 by Veera Ballala III, then known as Vijayavirupaksha Hosapattana.[3][10] By 1344, the transfer of power from the Hoysala Empire to the emerging Vijayanagara empire seems to have been gradual and without bloodshed, as ex-Hoysala officers melted away from a crumbling Hoysala power now to support the Sangama cause.[11] In 1346, Harihara I made a grant to Bharati Tirtha in the presence of Krishnayitayi, queen of Hoysala Veera Ballala III, who herself made a grant on the same day. Harihara I was a commander in the Hoysala Kingdom and had been appointed by Veera Ballala III with autonomous powers after the fall of the Seuna and Kampili kingdoms, to administer the northern territories. The very first fortress Harihara I built was the fort at Barakuru in coastal Karnataka in 1336, when he was a Hoysala commander in charge of its northern territories from his seat in Gutti, modern Ananthapur district in Andhra Pradesh, at that time a Hoysala territory.[12] He assumed the Kannada titles Purvapaschima Samudradhishvara (Master of eastern and western and occeans), Arirayavibhada (fire to the enemy kings) and Bhashegetappuvarayaraganda (punisher of the ruler who failed to keep a promise). When Veera Ballala III died fighting the Sultan of Madurai, Harihara I seems to have gained soveriegn powers over the entire Hoysala territory.[13]

It has been pointed out that even famous Telugu scholars Vallabharaya and Srinatha, in their works called the Sangama brothers Karnata Kshitinatha, indicating they were a Kannada family. An early inscription of Harihara II called him, Lion to the scent elephant of the Andhra king, demonstrating their anti-Telugu propensity.[14] Persian author Ferishta of Vijayanagara days wrote the emperors as "Roies of Karnataka".[15] The Kannada writings of that time Chikkadevaraya Vamshavali and Keladinripa Vijayam state that the Sangama brothers were Kuruba by caste making them people of Karnataka[16] Regarding the earliest modern work on Vijayanagara Empire by Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire, 1901, it is claimed that he had not used all sources but had copiously used travellogues and other works by only European travellers.[17]

Almost half of the Vijayanagar inscriptions are in Kannada out of a total of about 7000 available today and use surnames which are pure Kannada titles such as Bhashegetappuva - rayara - ganda, Moorurayaraganda and Arirayadatta. The remaining inscriptions are in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil.[18][19] The Karnataka Empire or Vijayanagar Empire was originally of the Karnataka region and it drew its inspirations from the Hoysala Empire and the Western Ganga Dynasty of the Karnataka and the Chola and Pandya of the Tamil country.[20] Inscriptional evidence shows that Ballappa Dandanayaka, a nephew of Hoysala Veera Ballala III was married to a daughter of Harihara I, the founder of the empire. This is claimed proof enough of the association Sangama brothers had with the Hoysala family.[21]

It is also asserted that the theory of capture of Harihara I and Bukka Raya I by the Sultan of Delhi and conversion to Islam is false and that the testimony of epigraphs proves that the area around Hampi constituted their homeland. The empire never had a Telugu origin. The patron saint of the early kings was saint Vidyaranya, the 12th Shankaracharya of Sringeri in Karnataka and this is proof enough of their unquestionable identity with the Kannada country.[22] About the Muslim records that claim a Telugu origin of Harihara I and Bukka Raya, it is said that they are neither unanimous nor reliable in their claims. In those days of religious rigidity, it is too far-fetched to accept a theory of conversion to Islam and reconversion to Hinduism and still manage to win the trust and loyalty of Hindu subjects, in an hour of impending invasions.[23] It is further pointed out the great devotion the founders of the empire had in Lord Chennakeshava of Belur and Lord Virupaksha of Hampi testifying to their origin from Kannada country, though in political and administrative matters, the Vijayanagar kings followed the Hoysala, Kakatiya, Chola framework in the various regions of the empire. It is also claimed that the Sangama brothers even signed their Sanskrit records in Kannada as Srivirupaksha and used their Kannada titles even in Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit records. No such Telugu titles were used by them.[16] The popular chieftain and patriot of those times, prince Kumara Rama of Kummatadurga or simply Kummata (Kampili kingdom in Bellary District) may have been related to Sangama, father of Harihar I. This evidence exists in literary works by Nanjunda (Kumara Rama Charita) and others that the early Vijayanagar kings raised memorials at Sandur, Chitradurga and Dharwad to sing the glory of Kumara Rama's valor and show their continued efforts to build an empire in his legacy. All this proves the matrimonial relations the Sangama family had with the Kummata family.[16]

Telugu origin theory

Several scholars and historians have attested the Telugu origin of Vijayanagar empire[24][25][26]. The famous British traveler Francis Buchanan while on a visit to Beidur in Mysore (Karnataka) in 1801, was shown by one Ramappa Varmika a Sanskrit book in his possession called the Vidyaranya Sikka, which mentioned that the founders of Vijayanagar were Harihara and Bukka, guards of the treasury of the Kakatiya King Prataparudra of Warangal [27]. These young brothers met a spiritual teacher, Vidyaranya, the sage of Sringeri monastery, who guided them to establish the kingdom of Vijayanagar to safeguard Hindu religion. This was in 1336 and Harihara was made first king of the fledgling empire[28]. Robert Sewell considered various such theories and concluded that Harihara and Bukka were treasury officers of Golla/Kuruba caste, in the court of Warangal (Kakatiya dynasty)[24]. The Delhi sultan who captured and converted the brothers to Islam, sent them back to put down the rebellion of Hoysala king[29]. They succeeded in suppressing the rebellion but laid foundation of an independent kingdom at the behest of Vidyaranya[30].

Well known historians of South India also supported the conclusions of Sewell based on extensive research and information provided by the Sanskrit and Kannada treatises such as Vidyaranya Kalajnana (in Sanskrit), Vidyaranya Vrittanta, Rajakalanirnaya, Piramahasamhiti and Sivatatva Ratnakara (all in Kannada)[31][32]. A reputed scholar from Karnataka described seven traditional accounts of the origin of Harihara and Bukka, out of which five inclined towards their Telugu origin[33]. Well-known historian, Saletore surmised that Hampi was lying outside the Hoysala territory and supported the Telugu origin of Vijayanagara kings[34]. The Telugu Golla identity of Harihara and Bukka and that they worshipped the goddess Bhuvaneswari was also established[35]. Indirect evidences such as the employment of predominantly Telugu Nayaks (Kamma, Balija, Velama and Reddy) for revenue collection throughout the empire also supported the Telugu affinity[36].

Muslim historians and scholars of the time such as Ziauddin Barani, Isarni and Ferishta and foreign visitors like Ibn Batuta and Nuniz also recorded that the brothers were serving the King Prataparudra and were made captive after the fall of Warangal [37]. According to another historian who based his research on evidence culled from inscriptions such as Gozalavidu record, "the founders of Vijayanagara were at first in the service of the last Kakatiya king Prataparudra of Warangal, and that when that monarch was defeated by Muhammad bin Tughluq and taken prisoner, they fled to Kampili and took refuge in the court of Kampilideva” [31][38]. On the outbreak of a rebellion in Kampili the brothers were sent by Tughlaq with an army to Kampili to reconquer it from the rebels and rule the province as his deputies[39][40][41]. They successfully accomplished the task but under the influence of Vidyaranya they renounced Islam, and threw in their lot with the Andhra nationalists led by Musunuri Nayaks who had just then succeeded, under the leadership of Kaapaya, in expelling the Muslims and re-establish the national independence[42]. Harihara and Bukka then reverted to their ancient faith and having declared independence, assumed the leadership of the Hindus of Kampili in their fight against the Muslims[43].

Kaapaya and Bukka actively collaborated with each other to ward off the Muslim threat, probably because of their close association in the court of Warangal. Historians surmised that the establishment of Vijayanagar kingdom drew inspiration from the successful exploits of Kaapaya[44]. After the demise of the Kakatiya Empire, Reddys of Kondavidu and Velamas of Rachakonda asserted their independence[45][46] thus bringing them into a natural conflict with Vijayanagar kings whose sole aim was to consolidate Hindu opposition to alien dharma. Velamas colluded with Bahmanis to save their territories thus making them enemies of Vijayanagar. It was Krishna Deva Raya who vanquished Reddys and Velamas and unified the South[47].

Other Theories of Origin

A popular account says that the Hampi region was part of a tiny kingdom of Kampili in the 14th Century when large parts of north India was under Muslim rule. In 1326 AD Muhammad bin Tughluq defeated and killed the king of Kampili. Among those taken prisoner were sons of Sangama, Hukka (Harihara I) and Bukka (Bukka Raya), both treasury officers of Kampili who were forced to convert to Islam. Some years later the brothers were sent back to govern Kampili. The brothers laid the foundation of an independent kingdom, denying any subordination to the Tughluqs and became Hindu again.[48]


  1. ^ P.B. Desai, B.A. Saletore, Henry Heras and Kamath in Kamath (2001), p158
  2. ^ Karmarkar (1947), p30
  3. ^ a b c Kulke and Rothermund (2004), p188
  4. ^ G.S.Gai and S.K. Aiyangar in Durga Prasad, p191
  5. ^ Rice (1897), p345
  6. ^ Several grants were made by Harihara I and Bukka I to the Sringeri monastery from 1346 and Vidyaranya did use his influence to secure large amounts of financial help for the Sangama brothers (Kamat 2001, p160-161)
  7. ^ Vidyaranya's blessings and the proximity of the influential monastic order of Sringeri did help in providing legitimacy to the new kings of a new empire (Kulke and Rothermund 2004, p188)
  8. ^ native Kannadigas by origin (Karmarkar 1947, p30)
  9. ^ The Founding king was an officer under King Ballal (West 1877, p637)
  10. ^ This discovery were made by William Coelho and Henry Heras (Kamath 2001, p129)
  11. ^ Eaton (2006), p42
  12. ^ Kamath (2001), p160-161
  13. ^ Ibn Batuta gave a graphic description of his end of Veera Ballala III. The greatest hero in the dark political atmosphere of South India (Kamath 2001, p130).
  14. ^ Saletore in Kamath (2001), p159. Saletore wrote Social and political life in Vijayanagar Empire, 1934
  15. ^ Desai in Kamath (2001), p159
  16. ^ a b c Kamath (2001), p159
  17. ^ Kamath (2001), p158
  18. ^ Kamath (2001), p157
  19. ^ G.S. Gai in Arthikaje. "The Vijayanagara Empire". History of Karnataka. www.outKarnataka.com. http://www.ourkarnataka.com/states/history/historyofkarnataka39.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  20. ^ Appadurai in The Place of Kannada and Tamil in Indias National culture (INTAMM 1997).
  21. ^ Heras in Kamath (2001), p159. Heras wrote Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagar Empire, 1927
  22. ^ Arthikaje, History of Karnataka
  23. ^ Desai, Saletore and Henry Heras in Kamath 2001, p158
  24. ^ a b Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): A contribution to the history of India, Chapter 2 (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext02/fevch10.txt)
  25. ^ Rubies, J. P., Travel and Ethnology in Renaissance: South India Through European Eyes (1250-1625), 2000, Cambridge University Press, p. 15, ISBN 0521770556
  26. ^ H. Kulke, Reflections on the historiography of early Vijayanagara and Sringeri, in: Vijayanagara: City and Empire, Vol I, 1985, by A. Dallapiccola and S. Z. Ave, Stuttgart,pp. 120-143
  27. ^ Francis Buchanan, Travels in Southern India, Mysore, vol. III, East India Company, London, 1807, Buchanan, p. 110
  28. ^ J. R. Pantulu, Krishna Raya or The Story of the Karnatak Kingdom, The Quarterly Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society, Vol. II, Pts. 3 and 4, Rajamundry, 1927, pp. 204-219
  29. ^ Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras (http://igmlnet.uohyd.ernet.in:8000/gw_44_5/hi-res/hcu_images/G2.pdf)
  30. ^ B. Stein, Vijayanagara, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 141, ISBN 0521266939
  31. ^ a b N. Venkataramanayya, The Early Muslim expansion in south India, University of Madras Press, Madras, 1942
  32. ^ M. H. Ramasarma, The History of the Vijayanagar Empire, Vol. I, Bombay
  33. ^ History of Vijayanagar: The Never to be Forgotten Empire, Bangalore Suryanarain Row, 1993, Asian Educational Services, p. 23; ISBN 8120608607
  34. ^ B. A. Saletore, Theories concerning the origin of Vijayanagara, in: Vijayanagara Sexcentenary Association, Volume, Ed. Karmakar, Dharwar, 1936, pp. 139-160
  35. ^ B. V. Sreenivasa Rao, Notes on Vijayanagara, Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society, Vol. 25, 1958-60, pp. 155-177
  36. ^ Y. Subbarayalu, The Revenue System of the Vijayanagara State, The Vijayanagara Heritage, Ed. Ramamurthy J.R, Sri Vidya Vijayanagara Hampi Heritage Trust, Anegondi, Hospet, 1996, pp. 75-80
  37. ^ J. D. B. Gribble, History of the Deccan, 1896, Luzac and Co., London
  38. ^ B. R. Gopal, The Gozalavidu Inscription of Bukkaraya, Journal of the Karnataka University, Vol. 7, Dharwad, 1971, pp. 174-183
  39. ^ N. Venkataramanayya, Vijayanagara: Origin of the City and the Empire, Bulletin of the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, Madras University, Madras, 1931
  40. ^ N. Venkararamanayya, The Founders of Vijayanagara Before the Foundation of the City, Journal of the Oriental Research, Vol. 12, Pt. 2, Madras, 1938, pp. 221-223
  41. ^ Telugu Vignana Sarvaswamu, Volume 2, History, Telugu University, Hyderabad
  42. ^ M. Somasekhara Sarma, A Forgotten Chapter of Andhra History, 1945, Andhra University, Waltair
  43. ^ K. A. Nilakanta Sastri and N. Venkataramanayya; Further Sources of Vijayanagara History, 1946, Vol. II, University of Madras, Madras
  44. ^ N. Venkataramanayya, The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, 1942, University of Madras Press, Madras
  45. ^ Eṃ Kulaśēkhararāvu (1988). A history of Telugu literature. For copies, M. Indira Devi. p. 96. http://books.google.co.in/books?ei=P1kYTrTnB4LTrQfF9_DIAQ&ct=book-thumbnail&id=GpAOAAAAYAAJ&dq=fall+of+kakatiya+empire+reddys&q=fall+of+kakatiya+empire++reddi#search_anchor. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  46. ^ Gordon Mackenzie (1990). A manual of the Kistna district in the presidency of Madras. Asian Educational Services. p. 9. ISBN 978-81-206-0544-2. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=430nAMZz8LwC&pg=PA10&dq=reddi+kings&hl=en&ei=B3cUToaEE8LOrQfUlqSIBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-thumbnail&resnum=2&ved=0CDcQ6wEwAQ#v=onepage&q=reddi%20kings&f=false. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  47. ^ K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar Empire, 1955, Oxford University Press, Madras, ISBN 019560686-8
  48. ^ Hampi - A Travel Guide, 2003, p27


  • Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore, 2001 (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041
  • K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, 1955, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002), ISBN 019560686-8
  • N. Venkataramanayya, The Early Muslim expansion in south India.
  • Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras Till 1565 A.D., P. G. Publishers, Guntur
  • Hampi, A Travel Guide, Department of Tourism, India, Good Earth publication, New Delhi 2003 ISBN 81-877801-7-7
  • Karmarkar, A.P. (1947), Cultural history of Karnataka : ancient and medieval, Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, Dharwad OCLC 8221605
  • Arthikaje. "The Vijayanagara empire". History of karnataka. OurKarnataka.Com. http://www.ourkarnataka.com/states/history/historyofkarnataka39.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  • Richard M. Eaton, The New Cambridge History of India - A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761, Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 0521254841
  • Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, fourth edition, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-32919-1
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  • West, E.W. (1877), History of Bombay Karnataka, Musalman and Maratha A.D. 1300-1818, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Madras (Reprinted 1989), ISBN 81-206-0468-9

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