Indian History Part 73 The Sangama Dynasty Section II: Territorial expansion Under Bukka Raya I

Canberra, 19 April 2019

Bukka was the ablest and best of the Sangama brothers and had been associated with the founding of the kingdom with his eldest brother from the very beginning. Harihara left no surviving son and had nominated Bukka as the ‘Yuvaraja’, or crown prince, in 1337 itself. Further, he had already performed both military and administrative roles as a general and governor in various parts of the kingdom and was therefore an experienced executive. Bukka assumed the throne in 1354. Contrary to some claims, there is no evidence to suggest that a fratricidal strife ensued on Harihara’s death. However, the fortunes of Vijayanagara was still in the balance since the fledgling kingdom had not yet put down deep roots in the region.

The anxiety regarding the future of the kingdom ensued from two developments. First, Muhammad bin Tughluq had been replaced in Delhi by Feroz Shah whose attitude towards the Deccan and South India was unknown. How the new Sultan would react to the Sangama declaration of independence was unknown and the new dynasty was apprehensive, even though Tughluq influence in the Peninsula had waned considerably. Second, although founded a few years after Vijayanagara, the Bahmani kingdom to its north was growing in strength and was definitely antagonistic to the Hindu kingdom. In fact, immediately before Bukka assumed power, Vijayanagara had suffered a setback at the hands of the Bahmani ruler, an event that had made a signal impact on the new king. On the positive side, the Hoysalas had vanished completely and the new dynasty could lay claim to their erstwhile territories without any contest, if Bukka was envisaging territorial expansion. The Kakatiya power had also been reduced considerably, but was showing some signs of rejuvenation. However, the Kakatiya leadership was not averse to cooperating and joining forces with another Hindu power, and therefore did not pose any material threat to Vijayanagara. Even so, the political situation in the Deccan and South India could best be described as being fluid.

Internally, Bukka faced the distinct possibility of dissention from the family that could lead to civil war and possible disintegration. During the formation of the kingdom, Harihara I had entrusted the administration of the outlying provinces to his younger brothers who acknowledged Harihara as the overlord, but considered themselves autonomous rulers of their provinces. They considered the provinces they ruled to be their own fiefdoms to be dealt with as they pleased. This situation was brought to a head around 1355 by the death of the second Sangama brother Kampana I, who was the Governor of Udayagiri, and also elder to Bukka. On Kampana’s death his two sons, Savanna and Sangama II, divided the province between themselves as their patrimony. Following this example, other brothers and their offspring also started to consider their provinces to be their ‘inheritance’ from their elder brother. From an administrative perspective, the process of dividing the provinces worked well enough and without much acrimony. However, Bukka was shrewd enough to realise that this process would soon lead to the balkanisation of the greater kingdom and that it was only a matter of time before animosity between cousins flared up into conflict that would escalate into full-fledged civil war with its attendant destruction and instability. In order to bring the nephews under check, he started to appoint his own sons as governors of the outlying provinces, giving them the responsibility to bring these ‘autonomous’ provinces under central control.

[There would definitely have been a push back from the other surviving brothers and the group of nephews who would have felt disenfranchised by Bukka’s unilateral move. However, there is no evidence of a concerted opposition to this action or of any conflict having taken place to stop the newly appointed governors from taking over the rule of their allocated provinces. It can be surmised that since most of the action would have taken place in the outlying provinces, they either did not get mention in the central chronicles or were consciously left out of the narrative to ensure that the unity of the kingdom and its ruler’s hold on power was not questioned in posterity. Whatever, the reason it can be surmised, with reasonable accuracy, that there was minimal opposition to the ‘take over’ by the Bukka faction and any rebellion/revolt of a military nature was nipped in the bud. This situation leads to the conclusion that the entire sequence of events was planned and executed with meticulous care by Bukka Raya I.]

Military Exploits

Bukka was a perceptive king and maintained an overarching view of the evolving politico-strategic circumstances of the region. During the latter part of Harihara’s rule, the wise Vidyaranya had gone to Benares (at that time Benares was the centre of Hindu learning and culture with a number of sages congregating there from all over the sub-continent) to pursue his own studies and involvement in religious activities as well as to forge friendships with other learned people. Bukka now requested him to come back and assume the advisory position that he had earlier held. Bukka also assumed the Hoysala mantle and revived the earlier Hoysala-Kakatiya alliance in a mutually beneficial manner. Realising the precarious nature of the kingdom’s strategic circumstances, he managed to maintain peace with the Bahmani Sultan to the north, even though it was strained at times. Although still smarting under the earlier defeat by the Bahmanis, he put aside any consideration of retaliation for the time being. However, he was also on the lookout for opportunities to expand the power and territorial holdings of the kingdom.

The Malabar Expedition – 1358

Malabar was ruled by Kurbat Hassan Kangri, who had rebelled against Delhi and declared independence. He was not popular with the people of Malabar who spontaneously rebelled against him. The rebellion provided a pretext for Bukka Raya to interfere. Bukka took advantage of the internal instability and marched into Malabar, took Kurbat Hassan prisoner and annexed the small state into the larger Vijayanagara kingdom. Delhi was informed of the actions of the ‘Hindu’ king, but Feroz Shah did not have the wherewithal to initiate any counter actions. The annexation stood without being questioned.

Second Bahmani War – 1361-62

Almost immediately after the Bahmani Sultanate was established to its north, Vijayanagara had a military encounter with the Bahmani forces. The year is variously given as being around 1348 to 1352, although it must have been in, or closer, to 1348. This skirmish has not been appended as the First Bahmani War in the Vijayanagara chronicles, but is considered so by historians. In this encounter, there is no doubt that Vijayanagara came out second-best, ceding territories to the north of River Bhima to the Bahmani Sultan. Later chronicles of the kingdom attempt to smooth over the obvious setback and does not mention a Bahmani victory. Similarly the Bahmani records also mention only the capture of territory and does not celebrate a victory over its southern neighbour. This anomaly could perhaps be attributed to the fact that the newly established Bahmani kingdom was only about a year old and proper record keeping and chronicling of events had yet to be established. Available record of the encounter from both sides point towards an indecisive conclusion, although the end-state was definitely tilted in the Bahmani favour.

When Bukka Raya came to the throne, Alla ud-Din Bahmani was still ruling the Bahmani Sultanate. He was a powerful ruler and ever since he had inflicted a reverse on Vijayanagara in their first military entanglement, Bukka was wary of engaging the Bahmani Sultan in battle. For the first six years of his rule, he held his peace even through tumultuous times, anticipating the demise of Alla ud-Din Bahmani. The patience paid off. The Bahmani kingdom lapsed into slight instability at the death of Alla ud-Din and the following succession struggle. Bukka took advantage of this situation; he joined hands with the Warangal king and send a combined demand to the new Bahmani Sultan, Muhammad Shah, to restore territories that formerly belonged to Vijayanagara and Warangal back to the respective kings.

Muhammad Shah, although newly anointed as the Sultan, was an experienced statesman and realised that he could not afford to go to war against the combined might of the two Hindu kingdoms. He therefore entered into negotiations and stalled the discussions under many different pretexts, managing to keep the Vijayanagara ambassador in his court for almost 18 months without any clear decisions being made. During these protracted deliberations, Muhammad Shah was surreptitiously preparing the Bahmani army for war. At an advanced stage of the negotiations he made counter-territorial claims on both Vijayanagara and Warangal, which was also used as a ruse to further stall the proceedings.

After ensuring that his armies were well prepared, Muhammad Shah declared war on Warangal, captured Villumpatam and killed the king Vinayakadeva in a barbarous manner. Warangal managed to secure peace by paying a large tribute and ceding Golconda to the Bahmani Sultan. Although Bukka was the actual instigator of the conflict with Muhammad Shah, when the Hindu alliance was in trouble he could not provide any worthwhile assistance to his ally. He watched while Warangal was being stamped out of existence. Bukka Raya now send an ambassador to Feroz Shah Tughluq in Delhi, making an offer to recover the imperial territories of Delhi and return it to the Delhi Sultan, if sufficient military assistance would be forthcoming from Delhi itself. The imperial territories that he referred to were obviously the Bahmani holdings at that time. Feroz Shah was embroiled in his own troubles and did not even respond to this overture. However, the embassy to Delhi enraged Muhammad Shah and became the foundation for yet another Vijayanagara-Bahmani war.

Third Bahmani War – 1366-68

The Second Bahmani War did not entail much fighting and ended inconclusively. Although it sounded the final death knell of the Warangal kingdom as an independent entity, the relationship between Vijayanagara and the Bahmani Sultanate remained indeterminate and the political situation continued to be strained. There is a story that has been repeated in different sources as the reason for the start of the Third Bahmani War.

The story goes: During one if his indulgent parties at court, a troupe of 300 musicians pleased Muhammad Shah; the Sultan in an inebriated state of mind send the entire troupe to Bukka Raya in neighbouring Vijayanagara with instructions to the Hindu king to reward them; Bukka was obviously angered and not only turned the musicians away, but also expelled the Bahmani envoy from his court and out of the country; war followed almost immediately. The story cannot be verified without any doubt, but appears in almost all accounts of the Third Bahmani War. There appears to be some truth behind the story that has obviously been embellished in the recounting over the years, although it is difficult to distinguish wheat from chaff. [If such an episode did take place even in some minor form, it can also be deduced that Muhammad Shah believed that he had won the previous encounter and therefore could presume to be the overlord of the Sangama king. It is also to be noted that the Bahmanis had come out in better shape after the first encounter between the two and that Muhammad Shah could have rightfully felt an air of superiority at this juncture.]

In this third encounter, Bukka took the initiative and crossed the River Tungabhadra with 30,000 cavalry, 3000 elephants and 100,000 foot soldiers. [The estimated size of the force seems to be a bit exaggerated, especially considering the manner in which the subsequent engagement played out.] Bukka went on to capture Mudgal and is reported to have killed the entire population of the town. Only one person managed to escape and reported the capture of Mudgal and the story of the massacre to the Bahmani Sultan in Gulbarga. These events threw Muhammad Shah into a rage. He appointed his son as his successor in his capital, as a precaution against his being killed or wounded in battle, crossed the River Krishna with a large army, and arrived close to Mudgal to give battle to the Vijayanagara king.

The Battle of Mudgal. Bukka took a cautious approach and send all the wealth that was accumulated in his camp back to Vijayanagara and then advanced towards the Bahmani army at a carefully calculated pace. However, he got bogged down in soggy ground before he could make contact with the adversary. Seeing the plight of the Vijayanagara army, the Bahmani forces advanced; Bukka immediately withdrew without offering serious battle and ensconced himself at the fort at Adoni, leaving behind his entire baggage train. Muhammad not only plundered the Vijayanagara camp, but also put to the sword 90,000 people including women and children. [The actions initiated by Bukka, considered to be an able and competent general, is completely uncharacteristic and is difficult to explain in any meaningful manner. The only plausible reason for his withdrawal could be the inferiority of his forces, which in turn calls into question the numerical strength of the Vijayanagara forces mentioned above. These were later-day estimates and were obviously wrong. It is entirely possible that the Vijayanagara forces were still being built up and therefore were numerically inferior and also had not yet reached a state of maturity as battle-proven fighting forces.]

The Battle of Siruguppa. Bukka now send out an army under the command of General Mallinatha to oppose the rampaging Bahmani forces. Mallinatha arrived on the banks of the River Tungabhadra and waited for the Bahmani forces to show up. Muhammad Shah waited for reinforcements to come from his capital and then crossed Tungabhadra near Siruguppa. Battle was joined on 23 July 1366. Numerically, the forces were supposed to have heavily favoured Vijayanagara, reported as 40,000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry against 15,000 cavalry and 30,000 foot soldiers of Muhammad Shah. Fortunes shifted either way throughout the fighting in the morning hours and the battle was undecided till such times that Mallinatha was mortally wounded. At the death of their commander, the Vijayanagara forces lost heart and rapidly disintegrated, dispersing in utter confusion. A great slaughter of Hindu soldiers and civilians of the region is reported with the numbers being put at hundreds of thousands.

First Siege of Vijayanagara – 1366-67

Vijayanagara forces lapsed into strategic confusion following the signal defeat at Siruguppa. Bukka also realised that his capital was now open to direct attack. He initiated a rapid fighting withdrawal from the fort at Adoni, where he had been barricaded, awaiting the battle victory that the great general Mallinatha had promised. His intent was to fight a defensive battle against the Bahmani forces from within the walls of Vijayanagara. The general population was also retreating towards the safety of the capital and therefore he decided to take a route through the forests, in order to avoid the cluttered roadways, to hurry back to protect the capital. Even so he took three months to reach Vijayanagara.

Muhammad Shah had followed close behind the Vijayanagara forces and almost immediately laid siege to the capital. Seeing that the siege was moving towards a status quo, Muhammad decided to attempt a ruse of demonstrating his withdrawal by crossing the River Tungabhadra towards his own territories. Bukka fell for the ruse and came out of the citadel to pursue what he believed were retreating forces. The Bahmani forces had gathered and concentrated correctly and were able to deliver a sound defeat on the somewhat scattered Vijayanagara army, which once again retreated to the forests. Muhammad once again laid siege to Vijayanagara and this time started to lay waste and ravage the surrounding countryside, while also intensely harassing the local population.

Realising the plight of his people outside the fortifications of the capital, Bukka sued for peace and accepted paying a huge ransom that was demanded. In return, Muhammad Shah Bahmani promised not to kill even one more person, although according to authenticated reports, he had already massacred more than 500,000 Hindus by then. [It cannot be verified whether this number is the total of people killed during the entire campaign or only during the siege of Vijayanagar. In either case, the number is very large.] It is also chronicled that it took several decades for the demography of some of the provinces of Karnataka to return to an even keel after this great massacre.

Conquest of South India – 1368-71

Once the Hoysala dynasty floundered and their kingdom broke up, South India descended into a confused and unstable state. Minor chieftains, who had so far been vassal subjects of the Hoysalas, broke out in a frenzy of independence fervour leading to avoidable internecine wars. The region was engulfed in a situation that did not provide any semblance of security of life and property. The Sultanate of Madura, although only lately established, continued its anti-Hindu activities, which in turn exacerbated the instability of the region. The last Hoysala king of note, Ballala III, had not been able to complete his endeavour to contain the Madura Sultanate before he was defeated and the Hoysala power fully snuffed out.

Although, militarily not faring very well against successive Bahmani Sultans, Bukka decided to take up the task of stabilising and consolidating South India. This could also have been a considered realignment of his expansionist activities to the south since the Bahmanis to the north were proving to be far stronger and also unstintingly belligerent. The fact that Bukka initiated the South Indian campaign just one year after the siege of Vijayanagara was lifted also indicates a cautionary wariness towards the northern neighbour. The peace with the Bahmani Sultan was uneasy at best. Bukka could also have been assessing the strength of the Bahmanis for a later day tussle for supremacy and in the meantime increasing the strategic depth and holistic power of the kingdom by conquering the territories to the south.

For the conquest of South India, he delegated his son Kumara Kampanna, the viceroy at Mulbagal, to be the overall commander. The prince was given a large army and the support of experienced generals to ensure that the South Indian campaign would be sufficiently invigorated.

Kampanna’s Progress

Kampanna first entered the minor kingdom of Tondamandala ruled by Sambava Raya. He killed Sambava in a duel and annexed the kingdom to Vijayanagara with almost no resistance being offered. The Vijayanagara prince then proceeded to Kanchipuram, paid obeisance to the powerful Gods of the place, established a garrison there and proceeded further south towards Madura. The Sultanate of Madura had become the bastion of Islamic rule in South India and was therefore a primary target for the Vijayanagara forces. The kingdom had already started to think of itself as a ‘Hindu’ kingdom and the southern bulwark against the continuous Islamic invasions from the north. It was almost imperative for Vijayanagara to wipe out the Islamic kingdom of Madura, although territorially small, which stood out as an aberration in an otherwise Hindu South India.

The Vijayanagara-Madura battle was bitter and fierce with the Sultan of Madura and his forces opposing the Hindu forces with all their might. In the end the Sultan was killed in battle and the Sultanate annexed as part of the expanding Vijayanagara kingdom. This was the end of established Muslim rule in South India for a few centuries. Kampanna continued further south towards Ramnad and reached Rameswaram in 1371 as the culmination of a triumphant conquering march. It is noteworthy that throughout this exultant march south, Kampanna had been conscientiously restoring Hindu temples that had been desecrated or destroyed during the various marauding Islamic raids into South India or been demolished by local Muslim chiefs who ruled/controlled small pockets of land. He insisted on reinstituting the practice of worship in these restored temples before moving on.

Kampanna continued to stay in South India for two more years, consolidating the conquest and establishing administrative procedures that were in consonance with Vijayanagara practices. He returned to his provincial capital Mulbagal around 1373. Kampanna died prematurely in 1374 and is considered to have been a great loss to the emerging Vijayanagara kingdom. The fact that he is referred to as ‘Kumara’ Kampanna in the official records indicate that he was anointed as the crown prince by Bukka. He was a great administrator and a warlike general in the battlefield and was mourned by the entire kingdom.

Kampanna’s conquering march through South India, and more importantly his effective administrative consolidation of the region, could be considered one of the great achievements of the early Vijayanagara kingdom and the Sangama dynasty. It goes beyond the achievement of one king, in this instance Bukka Raya I, and has to be attributed to the Empire that was being created. This achievement was significant not only in terms of strengthening the evolving kingdom, but for the eradication of pockets of Islamic rule and their ascendancy in South India, which brought about a noticeable demographic homogeneity to the region.

Bukka Raya I celebrated his son’s victories by assuming the titles of ‘King of Kings’ and ‘Lord of the Three Seas’. The second title clearly indicates his control over the entire southern part of the Peninsula where the three seas meet. He also became sufficiently established and secure in his position to send an embassy to the Chinese Emperor Tai-tsu.

Fourth Bahmani War – 1375-77  

At the conclusion of the South Indian campaign, Vijayanagara enjoyed a brief interlude of relative peace. However, simmering territorial disputes continued to mar the bilateral relationship with the burgeoning Bahmani Sultanate and this broke out to open war for control of disputed areas in the Doab. In the interim period, Muhammad Shah had been replaced on the Bahmani throne by his son Mujahid, who demanded that Bukka hand over some forts under Vijayanagara control located in the Doab between the Rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra. He also demanded that Vijayanagara consider River Tungabhadra as their northern border and confine themselves to the territories south of the river. Bukka in turn replied that River Krishna was the boundary between the two kingdoms and therefore the Bahmanis had no claim to any part of the Doab and should evacuate the area. Raichur, located in the Doab, and Anegundi on the northern banks of the River Tungabhadra had always belonged to Vijayanagara. Further, Bukka now demanded that Mujahid return the Vijayanagara elephants that had been captured by his father Muhammad Shah in an earlier battle between the two kingdoms.

Mujahid now declared war on Vijayanagara; crossed the River Krishna and overran the entire Doab; then crossed River Tungabhadra and marched on Adoni. Bukka resorted to the old tactic of waiting for the Bahmani army on the banks of the River Tungabhadra. Mujahid divided his army into three parts—send one to besiege Adoni, the other towards Vijayanagara and himself led the third one to attack Bukka and his camped army. Bukka however avoided giving battle and retreated into the forested hills and continually kept moving, avoiding being pinned down and resorting to hit and run tactics. [The reason for Bukka avoiding battle for a second time is difficult to fathom and has not been clearly explained in any of the contemporary texts. This is even more intriguing considering that he now had assured numerical superiority; his army had just won decisive victories during the extended South Indian Campaign and therefore morale was high; and he himself had been a worthy military commander in his earlier days. It would seem that Bukka was cowed down by the earlier setbacks heaped on Vijayanagara by the Bahmani Sultans and perhaps there was some awe in the Hindu forces about the prowess and ferocity of the Muslim legions. However, there is no critical evidence to support the last statement, which is the author’s conjuncture since no other logical reason can be deduced for Bukka’s actions.] Bukka’s tactics made it difficult for the Bahmani army to follow him effectively.

For nearly six months the two armies played a cat and mouse game without engaging in pitched battles. The advantage was with the Bahmanis since they were operating in Vijayanagara territories and resorted to pillaging the country wherever they marched—destroying Hindu temples and looting as much wealth as possible. [The religious overtones of the war is easily discernible in the accounts from both sides.] Bukka gradually retreated to Vijayanagara and Mujahid once again laid siege to the capital.

Second Siege of Vijayanagara – around 1376-77

During this siege of Vijayanagara, fortune varied considerably from the previous one conducted a decade ago. Since the siege was not progressing as he wanted it to, Mujahid who was an impulsive military commander, broke through the outer defences of Vijayanagara with a small band of followers and was almost killed when the defenders surrounded him. He barely managed to escape with his life. The Hindu defences were resolute this time and the besiegers were kept at bay without much difficulty. Bukka also started to receive reinforcements from the provinces being governed by his sons and nephews and in the meantime Mujahid was gradually being surrounded. Threatened with being cut off from his own home base, Mujahid raised the siege and retreated to Bahmani territory, after a futile attempt to invest Adoni during this retreat. He had realised that delaying the return to Bahmani territory would make extrication difficult, if not impossible.

Soon after the retreat of the Bahmani Sultan, Bukka Raya I died. The year was 1377. He was succeeded to the throne by his son Harihara II, who had been chosen by Bukka himself as the heir apparent. The earlier death of Kumara Kampanna, who had been declared the crown prince, had brought to the fore the question of succession to the throne. Bukka Raya had many other sons who had distinguished themselves as warriors, commanders and able administrators. However, for some inexplicable reason the king chose Harihara II, his son through Queen Gaurambika as his successor. Harihara II had not thus far been involved in any affairs of state and had no proven track record of valour, administrative acumen or statesmanship. Considering that throughout his life Bukka was an astute and calculating monarch, the reason for this selection remains a mystery to all students of Vijayanagara history. [It could well have been a display of favouritism towards a young queen by a somewhat older king who was besotted by her beauty—the result of a successful ‘pillow-talk’ revolution. If so, this would not be the first or the last time such an arrangement was made in hereditary kingdoms. The story of the epic ‘Ramayana’ comes to mind.]

An Assessment of Bukka Raya I

Bukka Raya is considered the real architect of the Vijayanagara Empire and also one of the greatest monarchs of his time. The second appellation is somewhat dubious since as a king he was not particularly successful in keeping the marauding Bahmani forces at bay in two instances, and once also had to sue for peace at enormous cost to the exchequer. However, there is no doubt that he was a consolidating monarch and also that he was responsible for the expansion of Vijayanagara territories to the south, making it a vast kingdom by any account. The diversity of the ethnicities that were conquered and the geographical immensity of South India turned the fledgling kingdom into a veritable ‘Empire’ although the term was added only at a much later stage. He ruled only for a relatively short period of time and although he was definitely a liberal and progressive monarch, during his entire tenure the kingdom was on a war-footing, with his armies being engaged in battle almost continually.

Religious Policy. In an age of great religious bigotry, which Bukka had personally witnessed and also been subject to, as a king he followed a somewhat tolerant religious policy. He was tolerant towards all religious sects, some even outside the Hindu pantheon. He proclaimed all religions, primarily the several within the broad Hindu fold, to be equal and as being entitled to the protection and patronage of the state. Copies of this edict was placed in all important centres in towns across the kingdom. There is also some indication, which cannot be readily corroborated, that Bukka meant this edict to apply to Jews, Christians and even to Muslim residents, i.e., to all non-Indian religions as well. If this was indeed so, it is a great and forward looking policy initiative by any standards, which definitely makes Bukka Raya I rank amongst the greatest of medieval kings.

Character. Bukka was a man of stellar qualities and played a number of roles in his life—of a dedicated brother; loyal subordinate leader; obedient disciple of a religious sage; fair and balanced master; a doting father; and a duty-bound king. In an instance of universal agreement, even the Islamic chroniclers of the time, who normally provided only one-sided assessments of the Hindu kings, agree that Bukka was a remarkable ruler and do not dispute the praise heaped on him.

‘…shrewd and far-sighted, with lion-like courage and lofty spirit, true of speech and quick in action, devoted to religion, self-collected in adversity, impartial by nature, yet discriminate in his choice of men and judgement—this is how he is described in both literature and inscriptions.’

M.H. Rama Sharma,

The History of the Vijayanagar Empire, Beginnings and Expansion (1308-1569), Edited by M. H. Gopal. P. 35.

Bukka Raya I did not initially have a strong foundation to build his kingdom and started with only confidence in his own abilities. It is remarkable that he started his career as a petty official in a petty kingdom and rose to become the king of an authentic empire—almost an ‘Emperor’ at the time of his death—by sheer dint of his own initiatives, determination and in-born talent. His greatest achievement was that he managed to roll back the pervasive Islamic influence from the territory south of the River Bhima all the way to the Indian Ocean—truly becoming the ‘Lord of Three Seas’. Bukka was concerned with the basic security of the people and the kingdom as a priority objective, amply demonstrated by his willingness to sue for peace and pay a hefty tribute to ensure that the Bahmani army did not perpetuate atrocities on his people during the first siege of Vijayanagara that was being ably resisted. With single-minded focus, he managed to gather around him the Hindu chiefs and generals who had so far been fighting the Islamic invasion on their own. These generals readily congregated under his flag, recognising the two hallmarks of his personality—impartial behaviour and dedication to the cause.

Vidyaranya – Religious and Literary Revival

Bukka, while being a fighting king, also paid great attention to reviving learning, restoring temples that had been destroyed and fallen into disrepair, and also established monasteries to ensure the continuation of age-old religious traditions. He provided continuous patronage for religious activities and entrusted Vidyaranya, his mentor, with the task of the revival of the Hindu religion that had been suffering from the concerted attack by Islamic fundamentalism. While the king was providing physical security for the Hindu practice of worship, Vidyaranya concentrated on providing the spiritual leadership necessary to effect a revitalisation of the faltering religion.

Vidyaranya carefully planned and instituted schemes to restore the practice of religious learning by inviting scholars from across the country to come and work on various aspects of the Hindu religion under the auspices of the Vijayanagara king. Soon the kingdom became the centre of learning and education on logic, astronomy, grammar, philosophy and Vedic theology. Over a period these scholars created a large volume of religious work. Vidyaranya himself authored a number of books, most of which are still available to be perused.

These literary achievements that directly supported Hindu religious revival led to a resurgence of the religion. Bukka Raya’s patronage for learning contributed to making his reign a glorious chapter not only in Vijayanagara history, but also in the religious history of medieval India, at a time when the sub-continent was under assault by alien religious philosophies. He left behind a splendid legacy for posterity, both in the renewal of the Hindu religious practices as well as literary works of a high standard. The combined religious and literary revival that was brought about under the aegis of the king also assisted in establishing the three prominent Hindu sects of South India—the Smartha, Sri Vaishnava, and Madhava. These separate sects took form and developed within the established religious system.

Vidyaranya played a critical role in the success that Bukka achieved, both as a conquering and stabilising king and as a Hindu revivalist ruler. His role in the consolidation of the growing ‘empire’ cannot be overemphasised. While Vidyaranya had reached the highest level of religious scholarship, he was also a genius in the sphere of worldly wisdom, providing the two Sangama brothers—Harihara and Bukka—with sound advice regarding the fundamentals of establishing, and wisely ruling, a kingdom. In fact, it was he who bore the primary responsibility, in the early days, of creating the processes and infrastructure to establish a new kingdom from scratch. In later times Vidyaranya, working in tandem with Bukka Raya, gradually put in place the practices and procedures that would ultimately lead to the extinction of three illustrious dynasties—the Sennas, Hoysalas and Kakatiyas—thereby securing the future of the Sangama dynasty and that of the Vijayanagara Empire in an age of uncertainty.

By the time of Bukka Raya I’s demise, the entire ‘Hindu India’ had started to look to Vijayanagara for support and guidance; an impressive achievement in extremely volatile circumstances.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2019]
All Rights Reserved
No part of this website/Blog or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author. You may quote extracts from the website or forward the link to the website with attribution to For any other mode of sharing, please contact the author @ (





About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Political and Defence Analyst specialising in military strategy, national security, and international politics. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: