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History of Karnataka
The Vijayanagara Empire

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The establishment of the famous Vijayanagara Empire in the fourteenth century A. D. constitutes an event of great significance in the history of India. It filled the political vacuum created due to the downfall of the powerful dynasties like the Hoysalas, the Seunas and the Kakatiyas. The Vijayanagara Empire has left a permanent impression of its existence in the fields of religion, literature and administration.

The Origin:
The credit of the foundation of the Vijayanagara kingdom goes to the initiative taken up by the five sons of Sangama, “a petty Chief of noble traditions, claiming descent in the Yadava lineage”. They were Harihara, Bukka, Kampanna, Marappa and Muddappa. Due to the decisive role played by the first two, only their names are associated with the event. But historians are not unanimous regarding the original home and early affiliations of these brothers.

Scholars like Prof. K. A. Nilakanta Sastry, Dr. N. Venkataramanayya and B. Surya Narayana Rao have supported the Telugu or Warrangal origin theory. According to them Harihara and Bukka were in the service of Prataparudra of Warrangal. On the subjugation of the Kakatiya kingdom by the Sultan of Delhi, they joined the services of the ruler of Kampili or Anegundi. They were taken to Delhi when the Sultan captured Kampili.

At Delhi, they were converted and later the Sultan sent them to Anegundi as Governors, over the southern provinces. After reaching Anegundi Harihara and Bukka came under the influence of Sage Vidyaranya, re – entered the fold of Hinduism and founded the independent kingdom of Vijayanagara.

But scholars like Fr. Heras, B. A. Saletore and Dr. P. B. Desai have ably rejected this theory. They hold the view that the Sangama brothers were closely connected with the Hoysalas. Dr. Desai is of the opinion that the founders of Vijayanagara never belonged to the Telugu region and the story of their captivity and conversion by the Sultan of Delhi is false. The testimony of epigraphs establishes the fact that the ancestral territory of the Sangama brothers was Karnataka and that the area round about Hampi constituted their homeland.

Soon after the fall of Warrangal (1323) and Kampili (1327) the might of the Muslim aggressor was increasingly perceptible on the Hoysala kingdom. From 1330 onwards Ballala III was active in the northern frontiers organizing the defences against the invader. When he experienced the great difficulty of protecting his vast empire, he gave Mahamandaleshwara Harihara a free hand and necessary encouragement to follow his own line of action in the northern part of his dominions.

Naturally, this led to the foundation of the city and Kingdom of Vijayanagara in 1336.

After the death of Ballala III (1342) the Hoysala kingdom became extinct and Harihara could declare his independence.

That Harihara and his brothers hailed from the Kannada region and were legitimate successors to Hoysala sovereignty by natural process is supported by evidence. For example, they became over lords of the entire communions formerly ruled by the Hoysalas without any clash for the transfer of power.

In keeping with the old tradition, they implicitly followed the Hoysala framework in all political and administrative matters. Lord Virupaksha of Hampi and Chennakeshava of Belur were worshipped.

As pointed out by G. S. Gai almost half of the inscriptions of Vijayanagara are in Kannada. Many of their titles like “Bhashegetappuva - rayara - ganda” and “Rayamoovara - ganda” were in Kannada and were used in the same form even in Sanskrit.

According to Dr. P. B. Desai, “the adoption of the pontiffs of Shringeri as their revered teachers and spiritual guides and the pasupata Kriyasaktis as their family priests by the Sangama is yet another testimony of their unquestionable identity with the Hoysala country and Karnataka”.

to be continued....


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