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Rare Royal Brothers: Hakka and Bukka

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About seventy years ago I heard the names Hakka and Bukka in my primary school and as the name sounded a bit odd, I laughed and the class teacher used the cane generously on me. That was my first encounter with Hakka and Bukka. Later, when I became a serious student of history, I was specially attracted by these two brothers who were responsible for the establishment of Vijayanagara Empire, generally referred to as the golden age of South Indian history. Actually there is no parallel of two brothers helping each other without any rivalry in founding the kingdom (except Yadu and Krishna of the Mysore Wadiyar family).

Without going into the controversy, the role of Hakka and Bukka in founding the Vijayanagara Empire may be referred to here. Fourteenth Century AD was the most unlucky period in South India. Alauddin Khilji swept over South India like a locust and destroyed all the Hindu Kings. The two brothers Hakka and Bukka came on the scene. Being heroic and ambitious, they wanted to resist the Muslim expansion and thought of founding an empire to protect the ancient heritage of South India.

Brave and Farsighted:
Though they were brave and farsighted, being young lacked proper guidance. At that juncture, Saint Vidyaranya the pontiff of Sringeri Mutt came into contact with these two brothers. Vidyaranya by his insight decided that these two brothers can be useful in founding a Hindu Empire and went to Hampi along with these brothers and the Vijayanagara Empire was inaugurated in 1336 AD.

In an interesting inscription of 1346 AD, we find Hakka and Bukka along with other brothers went to Sringeri, worshipped the Swamiji and made many gifts. Both again paid frequent visits to Sringeri and thus acknowledged the support and guidance from the Sringeri pontiffs in founding the Vijayanagara Empire. Thus both of them were distinguished persons in the contemporary South India.

Then started the process of glorification of these brothers. It is said that these were the sons of a person by name Sangama and hence their dynasty became Sangama. Historians have scratched their head in understanding the literal meaning of the word Hakka and Bukka. As Hakka means a flower in old Kannada, he was called so because he was a flower in the Sangama dynasty. But no explanation has been offered to Bukka.

Record Writers:
When Hakka (1336 - 56) and Bukka (1356 - 77) became kings, the royal record writers could not call them by their simple names. Sanskritisation came into play. Hakka was called Harihara, Hariyappa Odeya whereas Bukka was respectfully referred to as Bukkaraya, Bukkanna Odeya etc., with titles like Mahamandaleshvara. Overnight they became celebrities. The simple names Hakka and Bukka were forgotten and Harihararaya and Bukkaraya took birth because of the royal record writers, who were always eager to please their kings.

The next question is the caste of Hakka and Bukka. Fortunately the tradition was so strong; it did not allow the royal record writers to add fanciful ideas in this aspect. That is why historians consider tradition more important than literary writings or records. Almost all the traditional literary works either in Sanskrit or Kannada dealing with Hakka and Bukka are unanimous that the two brothers belonged to Kuruba community. This is a very ancient community which has played an important role in the socio – political - cultural history of India in general and Karnataka in particular. Thus this community has contributed the founder - brothers of Vijayanagara to South India.

Then it was the turn of the modern historians to examine the origin of Hakka and Bukka. Three different attempts have been made. The first is that Hakka and Bukka were Kannadigas (Kannada speaking people living in Karnataka). They were in the service of the Hoysalas as Ministers and after the downfall of the Hoysalas, occupied that area and began to rule. Vijayanagara kings took refuge in titles like Protectors of Karnataka, Glory of Karnataka, Kannadaraya, Kannada Ramaramana etc. Majority of their inscriptions and coins are in Kannada. They patronised Kannada language and literature. Thus Karnataka origin is generally accepted.

Scholars argue:
But some scholars have argued that Hakka and Bukka were Andhras. The two brothers were in the service of Kakatiya Prataparudra. After his defeat at the hands of the Muslims, Hakka and Bukka fled to Hampi in Karnataka and founded the empire. They argued that Vijayanagara period was the golden age of Telugu literature and hence the two brothers in Warangal (Andhra) were more related to the Andhra area. Some other scholars have argued that Hakka and Bukka were in the Muslim army and were sent to Deccan as governors. The pro - Muslim brothers after coming over to Hampi became anti - muslin because of the guidance of Vidyaranya.

Now these theories have remained academic without any significance. Both laid firm foundations for the Vijayanagara Empire. They also inaugurated the tradition of minting coins in gold, silver and copper. Hakka and Bukka inaugurated the Hanuman type coins with Hanuman on one side and more importantly Kannada legend Vira Harihara or Vira Bukkaraya. South India is what it is today (without invasion) because of Hakka and Bukka. That is the biggest tribute to them.

Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy,
Former Head,
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology,
University of Mysore

Courtesy: star of mysore

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