Episode 15: The Vijayanagara Empire


Shrikanth and Gaurav talk to Maneesh on all things Vijayanagara Empire.

An empire that lasted longer than the Mughal Empire and whole legacy thrives to this day.

@shrikanth_krish   @gaurav_lele    @maneesht


Sources and References:

A Forgotten Empire by Robert Sewell
2. A History of South India by KA Nilakanta Sastri
3. Sources of Vijayanagara History by S Krishnaswami Aiyangar
4. Vijayanagara History by KAN Sastri and Venkataramanayya
5. Administration and Social Life under Vijayanagara by TV Mahalingam
6. The New Cambridge History of India 1-2 by Burton Stein



3 thoughts on “Episode 15: The Vijayanagara Empire”

  1. Just making a suggestion, I think it would be useful if a separate episode is made on the Rajputs and their rise to political prominence, particularly the Sissodiyas of Mewar from 1360’s onwards.
    It is often overlooked that Rana Sanga’s Rajput Confederacy had emerged as the most powerful military power in the period before the Mughal invasion, it had defeated the Delhi Sultanate, defeated and subjugated much of the Malwa Sultanate into vassaldom through his Purabiya chiefs, and had carried out a successful invasion of Gujarat, bring the Chieftaincy of Idar under him, and sacking the capital of the Muzaffarshahis. Even after the decline of Mewar, the Rajputs remained a major power, contending with both the Mughals and the Sur Empires as the State of Jodhpur rose under Maldev Rathore, giving stiff challenge to the Sur Empire. Moreover if we expand the scope of the Rajput identity, we may also include the Muzaffarshahis of Gujarat who claimed Kshatriya ancestry, though they came from the Tank caste in Thanesar in modern day Haryana. The Muzaffarshahis contended with both the Mughals and the Portuguese, made alliance with the Ottomans, and were only fully defeated by Akbar in 1570’s, thus playing a major role not just in Indian history but that of all of Asia
    As such considering that the Rajputs were a major power in North India from around 1350 to 1550, roughly till the death of Maldev Rathore of Jodhpur, the podcast might as well cover them. This period of North India is often glossed over with only the Lodis getting some attention, and the figures such as Maharana Kumbha and Sanga, Maldev Rathore and Ahmed Shah I and Muhammad Begada of the Muzaddarshahi, are often ignored despite their impact being no less than the likes of Sikander Lodi or Krishnadevaraya.

    I propose starting from this roughly 1350 in order to chart the rise of Mewar as a major power under Rana Kshetra, since unlike in the case of Hammir, the first Sessodiya ruler, we have contemporary inscriptions referring to Rana Kshetrasimha, who was also arguably the first Rajput ruler after the Khilji period to have actually won a field battle against a Sultanate army when he defeated Dilawar Khan Ghori, Governor of Malwa (referred to as Ami Shah in the Menal Inscription of 1389), sometime before 1382, with the help of the Hada Rajputs of Bundi. To note here is that ‘Rana’ Hammir’s earlier successes from 1316-1340 against the Sultanate and their Songara Chahmana vassals came mostly through raids and ambushes, as was possibly the case in the conflict against a Sultanate force (perhaps wrongly situated at Singoli instead of Sojat in the later accounts), and possibly intrigue in the actual taking of Chittor fort itself from Banvir Songara, the Sultanate vassal. Furthermore, an earlier inscription from around1366 of a Thakur refers to Khestrasimha as the sole ruler, and he is also the first to be referred to as a Rana or Ranaka, while Hammir was referred to as as a Bhupati in another inscription of early 15th century, which probably means that despite Hammir’s successes and his status elevation in the later inscriptions, the true consolidation of the State took place under Rana Kshetra.

    The period between Rana Kshetra and his son Laksha marked rapid expansion of Mewar, with the Sissodiya conquests of Bhilwara, Ajmer and much of Godwar and Hadoti, in addition to their core districts of Mewar itself. This period also saw the subjugation of recalcitrant tribal groups such as Meds and Bhils, and even the discovery of the silver mines in the modern-day Udaipur district which gave an economic boost to the kingdom. All of this laid the foundation for the illustrious reigns of Rana Kumbha, Raimal and Sanga during which the other Rajput clans such as the Rathores of Marwar and Idar, Dodiya Parmars, Hadas of Bundi, Khichis of Gagron and Devaras of Sirohi, Pratiharas of Chanderi and Tomars of Raisen etc. acknowledged the Sissodiya supremacy, often through force. Mewar also became the main Rajput state to face and defeated the powerful Sultanates of Gujarat and Malwa, and often dominated the Khanate of Nagaur to its North.

    Apart from the Sissodiyas of Mewar, one may also look at the secondary Rajput powers, both Hindu and Muslim ones, such as the Tomars of Gwalior, the Rathores of Marwar/Jodhpur, Khanate of Nagaur (Khanzada Rajputs, though actually of Tank Caste, same as their cousins the Sultans of Gujarat), the Khanzada Walis of Mewat and the Raos of Idar (of Rathore clan). These were powerful emerging states, and often in opposition to the powerful and larger states such as Mewar, Malwa, Gujarat, Jaunpur and later a resurgent Delhi.

    Lastly, one may also discuss the powerful Rajput houses that often served the major states of the time, often as pseudo mercenaries in the highly competitive military labor market of North India, these may include the likes of the Dodiya Chiefs who took service under the Sissodiyas, and one of whom would later conquer Sirohi for Maharana Kumbha, and then the likes of the Purabiya Rajputs who dominated the armies of Malwa and Jaunpur, and later even Suri Sultanate, with Medini Rai and Silhadi being notable collaborators of Rana Sanga who overturned the Malwa Sultan’s authority. And last but by no means the least, Punjabi Rajput groups such as the Bhatis, Janjuas and the Gakhars etc. who held chieftaincies and were often prized mercenaries and sometimes important horse suppliers to the Delhi Sultanate, indeed Sultanate chroniclers (maybe Barani or Khusrau) often cite some Punjabi and modern day Haryanvi Rajput groups as prime suppliers of good horses after the cutting off of large amount of horse trade from Central Asia post the Mongol conquests, of course this immensely increased their in importance as the Sultanate prior to Khilji did not have the control of Gujarat, certain parts of Rajasthan or the effective control of Sindh either, regions which could supply good horses to compensate for the lack of foreign horses.

    I’ve tried to give a rough overview here to highlight the importance of this oft sidelined period, often characterized as a transition period between the Sultanate and the Mughal empires, much in the same way till recently the 18th century was seen as, prior to recent works.

  2. Correction:
    1. Dodiya Rajputs were Pratiharas, I’ve mistakenly mentioned them as Parmars.
    2. Chanderi and Raisen were not hereditary Rajput principalities, rather they were given out by Rana Sanga to his Purabiya Rajput vassals, Medini Rai Pratihara and Silhadi Tomar respectively, after his camapaigns in Malwa.

  3. Excellent comment above about Rajputs.
    I’d also like to add the much-missed history of Kalinga.
    Eastern Ganga dynasty fought Islamic imperialism for 300 years and stayed free
    The [Eastern] Gangas thus achieved the unique distinction of being the only Indian royal dynasty that successfully resisted the Muslim onslaught for more than two centuries and maintained their independence to the very end after the Muslims had conquered the rest of India, literally from Himalayas to Cape Comorin.
    Ancient India, P 393, By R C Majumdar

    Narasimha Deva I is one of the greatest Hindu commanders who took the offensive against the Bengali sultanate, slaughtered them, and terrorized them. Built the famous Konark Temple to celebrate his victory.

    In the 15th century, during the reign of Rana Kumbha, another gigachad appeared on the scene. That was Kapilendra Deva who usurped the throne of Cuttack in the 1430s and started Hindu military expansion. Brutally defeated the Bengal Sultanate and the Bahmanis. Probably the most powerful empire of his times. An Empire from Bangladesh to Tamil Nadus. It was a hindu military state.

    here was also another new feature of administration under Ganga rule: the rise of military officers as local magnates. This in a way anticipated the later development in the Vijayanagar empire. An inscription from south Orissa of 1230 contains a long list of such military officers (nayaka), who seem also to have had some administrative functions….The title nayaka was not unknown in earlier periods, but the sudden increase in the number and their importance in several parts of Orissa in the early thirteenth century, and even more so in the fourteenth century, seems to be a clear indication of the militarisation of Hindu states in the late Middle Ages…We may attribute this to the impact of the Delhi sultanate which had been founded only a few decades earlier. If this is correct, it would show that Hindu realms were able to respond very quickly to such new challenges.

    A history of India, 4th edition

    Cuttack, the then capital of Odisha around 1500AD became the third-largest city in India and the 12th largest in the world due to the material prosperity and the flow of Hindus from all over India. This political independence due to the military success of the rulers was the reason behind the popularity of the Jagannatha tradition all over India. That is the reason many Hindu temples are still intact in Odisha. Odia language has the least influence of Persian and Arabic among languages of northern India. The Hindu population in Odisha is still around 94%. In fact, the adjoining districts of the neighbouring states where the Gajapati rulers ruled for a longer period still have a good Hindu majority. The long Hindu rule, which was based on the ancient wisdom of Vedanta and Shastras, nourished the arts, and culture of the region could only be maintained by the military success of the Hindu rulers of Odisha, which remained a Hindu state long after neighbouring regions had fallen to Islamic rule.

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