Indian History Part 73 The Sangama Dynasty Section V: Dynastic Greatness

Canberra, 19 May 2019

The order of succession on the demise of Deva Raya I is a bit confused. Different inscriptions provide perplexing evidence of two sons of Deva Raya I—Ramachandra and Vijaya—as well as a grandson Deva Raya II as ruling at the same time. Although this conflicting information has been gathered from inscriptions across the kingdom, there is a possible explanation for it. Ramachandra ruled only a few months before being replaced by his brother Vijaya and therefore both their names could have appeared in inscriptions assigned as ruling within the same year. Further, Deva Raya II, son of Vijaya was actively involved in the administration and was considered co-regent during his father’s reign. The mention of his name as ruling could be explained by this situation.

Robert Sewell, the acknowledged authority on the history of Vijayanagara, states that Deva Raya I died in 1412-13, since the last inscription referring to him is dated 1413. However, a number of other authentic sources make it clear that Deva Raya I ruled till 1422. Sewell has got the dates wrong in a number of other instances and this is also considered one of those. Further, Sewell relied heavily on the accounts written by Nuniz, who has been found to be unreliable in matters of chronology and dates. When viewed taking into account all available information, the dates given by Sewell regarding Deva Raya I’s demise has to be discounted.

When Deva Raya I died his son Ramachandra, who had been the Governor of Udayagiri during his father’s reign, assumed the throne for a few months. A mnemonic verse preserved in Vidyaranya-Kalajnana mentions the succession after Deva Raya I by kings with names beginning with Ra and Vi. This order of succession could be taken as being correct.

Vira Vijaya Raya I

In 1422 itself, the year that his father died, Vijaya replaced his brother Ramachandra on the throne. In the battle with the Kondavidu Reddis, Vijaya had ably assisted his father in tandem with the minister Lakshmidhara (could have been Diwan Lakkana Dannaik, referred later) and was therefore a known and acknowledged military leader in his own right. Vijaya was also known by other names such as Vijayabhupati, Vijaya Bukka and Vira Bukka. The proclivity of Sangama kings to adopt many names and also use ‘Bukka’ as a title creates a certain amount of confusion, especially when conflicting inscriptions and chronicles have to be reconciled.

The length of Vijaya Raya I’s rule is still debated. It is safe to assume that it lasted five to six years, although some modern scholars assign a much shorter period to him—varying from a few months to a maximum of two years. However, an analysis and reconciliation of available inscriptions make it clear that the length of his rule would have been a minimum of at least five years; the earlier estimate was indeed correct.

It has been written by a contemporary Muslim chronicler that Vijaya Raya ‘did nothing worth recording’. Vijaya Raya I, although reported as a good field commander of military forces, was a weak king, preferring to leave the administration and effective rule of the kingdom to his capable son Deva Raya II. To formalise this arrangement, he appointed Deva Raya II as co-regent almost immediately on assuming the throne. Two important wars took place during Vijaya Raya I’s reign, although it was Deva Raya II who dealt directly with them. Therefore, these wars will be analysed in the narrative that deals with Deva Raya II’s reign.

Deva Raya II

The date that Deva Raya II started his rule has been established as 1422. However, it is also clear that this date is the time that he was declared co-regent by his father and Deva Raya assumed full responsibility for the administering the kingdom. He ruled, without being crowned as the king, throughout the five or six years of his father’s reign. The exact date of his coronation is unclear and adds to the confusion of the exact duration of Vijaya Raya’s rule. One epigraph at Manigarakeri, in South Kanara district, gives the date of his coming to power as March 1421. However, this date would have indicated his being declared the crown prince, or even more likely, his being instated as the Governor of Tulu. In 1421, his father and even grandfather was alive and Deva Raya II could not have been enthroned. Since he assumed the effective rule of the kingdom from 1422, the events taking place from that date have been clubbed under Deva Raya’s reign. From the beginning, he was involved in a series of skirmishes, battles and wars with the Bahmani kingdom.

Eighth Bahmani War 1422

Ahmad Shah Bahmani had become the Sultan around this time and after spending a few months strengthening his army, decided to avenge the defeat that Vijayanagara forces had inflicted on his predecessor. He invaded Vijayanagara in 1422, perhaps taking into account the instability being created by the succession confusion in the kingdom as well as the weakness of Vijaya Raya I.

Vijayanagara retaliated and in the initial stages its forces, assisted by a Warangal army, penetrated Bahmani territory all the way to Etgir in the Gulbarga district. However, the Warangal king inexplicably withdrew from the battlefield and the Vijayanagara forces suffered some reverses. Subsequently they were forced to make a tactical retreat and suffered fairly heavy casualties in the process. According to Muslim records, the Vijayanagara forces were ‘slaughtered’ and suffered great destruction. This account has to be tempered with realism and is obviously an exaggeration, although there is no doubt that the Vijayanagara forces had to retreat for practical reasons and would have suffered in the bargain. A fighting withdrawal is a definite recipe for increased casualties.

An Unlikely Story

Bahmani records mention a story that the Vijayanagara camp was surprised by an early morning raid by the Bahmanis. They report that the king, Vijaya Raya I, escaped to a sugarcane field nearby and was then found by some marauding Bahmani soldiers. However, in the confusion of battle they mistook him for a poor labourer and let him go. The result of the battle would have been different if they had recognised him as the king and captured him. However, this is an unlikely story and is not corroborated anywhere else.

Some later-day historians confuse the identity of the king who had this lucky escape by claiming that it was Deva Raya II who was found and then misidentified as a labourer. This postulation is also questionable; if at all such an episode took place, which in itself is doubtful, it would have been the king Vijaya Raya who would have been involved.

With the withdrawal of the Vijayanagara forces, Ahmad Shah ranged over the open country, looting and destroying all the Hindu temples that he came across. However, he was prevented from penetrating very deep into Vijayanagara territory by some concerted rear-guard action and the war turned into a desultory status quo.

In the meantime the king of Orissa, Bhanudeva IV, took advantage of the Vijayanagara preoccupation with the Bahmanis in the north-west and invaded the coastal Andhra region. He went on to capture all the erstwhile Kondavidu territories that Vijayanagara had earlier annexed. Deva Raya II assessed the situation—a belligerent opposition in the north-east and a status quo battle in the north-east—and decided to agree to a negotiated peace with the Bahmani Sultan. The peace was based on equal considerations and not a one-sided agreement as some Muslim chronicles have depicted it.

A less reported fact also indicates the balance of power still favoured Vijayanagara, although it cannot also be claimed that the Bahmani Sultan was cowed down—he was still able to hold his own. While the war was still raging, Ahmad Shah shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. Gulbarga was very close to the border with Vijayanagara and therefore susceptible to a direct attack, a fact that troubled the Sultan. Bidar was further north and also situated within more rugged terrain that would make any direct attack tactically difficult. Essentially, by moving the capital to Bidar, the Sultan ensured that he created some strategic depth for his kingdom from future Vijayanagara invasions. It is possible that during the early phase of this war, Vijayanagara forces directly threatened Gulbarga, prompting Ahmad Shah to initiate the move to Bidar, even while the war was on-going. In any case, when the move of the capital is analysed in the context of the prevailing political situation, it is clear that Ahmad Shah considered Vijayanagara an active threat to the well-being of his sultanate. This aspect is a less reported nuance regarding the balance of power, in the annals of Deccan and South Indian history.

The war did not end in a Bahmani victory as has been recorded in Muslim chronicles. There was no decisive victory for either kingdom, although an inscription in Kanara district mentions that Deva Raya II defeated a large and powerful ‘Turushka’ cavalry force; in this context, the term ‘Turushka’ should be considered to allude to the Bahmani forces since they were predominantly Muslims. Ahmad Shah Bahmani did not fight another war with Vijayanagara, also pointing to the balance of power being in favour of Vijayanagara rather than with the Bahmanis.

Campaign in the East

In medieval times Orissa was known as the land of elephants, with the kings adopting titles that suggested their command over large elephant forces and/or herds. In a similar manner Deva Raya II also has been titled ‘Gajabetakara’, or Hunter of Elephants, in some inscriptions. The adoption of this title has normally been explained in two ways. One, that it literally indicates Deva Raya’s addiction to the sport of hunting wild elephants; and two, that it is a metaphorical reference to the battlefield victories of the king where the allusion is to his vanquishing many enemies as strong as elephants. There is however a third possible explanation. Deva Raya II carried out an expedition into Orissa territory, known for its elephant-filled forests. Since the Orissa kings traditionally assumed titles, such as ‘Gajapati’, extolling their command over elephants, the title ‘Gajabetakara’ for Deva Raya in inscriptions could also imply his victory over Orissa kings.

Bhanudeva IV, taking advantage of Vijayanagra-Bahmani conflict, mounted an expedition south into Vijayanagara territory. In this effort he was assisted by Linga, the Velama chief of Devarkonda, who had earlier abandoned Vijayanagara in the Bahmani War, leading to Deva Raya II having to withdraw from his offensive into Bahmani territory. At this time the Reddi kingdom of Rajahmundry, ruled initially by Kataya Vema’s General Allada and then his sons Allaya Vema and Virabhadra, were allied with Vijayanagara. Allaya Vema, the elder of the two brothers, who was a skilled military tactician and also a good administrator, had followed a vigorous policy of expansion into Orissa territory. It is highly likely that Bhanudeva’s expedition was meant to check the aggression of the Rajahmundry Reddis and not a direct invasion of Vijayanagara.

The Orissa expedition was successful in containing Allaya Vema. The initial victories and the lack of reaction from Vijayanagara prompted Bhanudeva to extend his field of operations. He now contemplated annexation of the entire coastal Andhra territory. The Rajahmundry brothers could not withstand the combined might of the Orissa king and the Velamas and submitted to Bhanudeva, formally acknowledging him as their overlord. Emboldened by the continued lack of action from Vijayanagara, Bhanudeva evicted some Vijayanagara nobles from erstwhile Kondavidu territory that had been annexed earlier. Further, he crossed the River Krishna and captured some territories that were core Vijayanagara territory, not vassal provinces.

Having settled the Bahmani front, Deva Raya II decided to take action on his north-eastern border, against the combine of the Orissa king and the Velama chief. Accordingly, in 1428, Vijayanagara forces recaptured the Kondavidu territories that had been annexed by the Velama army. The recapture of the Kondavidu territories brought Vijayanagara into direct conflict with the Orissa king, whose underlings had been affected. There is only limited information regarding the rest of the Vijayanagara campaign. However, there are no doubts regarding the end-state—all Kondavidu territories were recaptured and brought back under Vijayanagara administration and the power of the Reddis of Rajahmundry was restored, at least temporarily.

South-Western Interlude

Having settled the immediate challenges from the Bahmanis of Gulbarga/Bidar and the Gajapatis of Orissa, Deva Raya II enjoyed a brief respite from continuous wars. Then Deva Raya II carried his sword to Kerala and subjugated the king of Quilon (Kollam). He permitted the Zamorin (Samoothiripad) of Calicut to retain his independence. However, the Zamorin lived in constant fear of the Vijayanagara Raya, as reported by a very reliable source, the Persian Ambassador to South India, Abdur Razzak. The ambassador, not only reports the fear of the Zamorin and other minor chieftains but also mentions Vijayanagara as extending at this time from ‘Ceylon to Gulbarga and from Bengal [Orissa] to Malabar’.

Ninth Bahmani War 1435-36

Ahmad Shah was succeeded by his son Ala ud-Din II who immediately on assuming power assembled a huge army, placed it under the command of his brother Muhammad and instructed him to invade Vijayanagara. He also demanded that Deva Raya pay the arrears of ‘tribute’ due to the Bahmani Sultan. Unconfirmed reports state that Deva Raya paid an unspecified, but huge, sum of money to the Bahmanis in order to avoid a full scale war.

The Vijayanagara army was normally unable to fully assert its will in the contests with the Bahmanis despite being numerically superior. Deva Raya was concerned about this state of affairs and assembled a council of nobles to examine this phenomena and devise a plan of action to counter it. The council found that the horses in the Bahmani cavalry were far tougher than the ones in use with the Vijayanagara army, making them capable of greater manoeuvring and longer duration operations. Secondly, the Bahmani army had a large body of expert archers who could be employed en masse at the critical point and time in an on-going battle to turn the tide, if necessary.

Third, the council recommended that Deva Raya permit Muslims to serve in the Vijayanagara army. However, there are differences of opinion in this matter between historians. It is definite that Muslims were serving in the Vijayanagara army from the time of Deva Raya I’s reign and also with the army of Deva Raya II before the 1435 Bahmani War that triggered the investigation and soul-searching. Therefore, it has to be presumed that the council recommended a concerted drive to enlist Muslims into the army and also the provision of incentives for them to join. The changes brought about were that the Muslims were now permitted to freely practice their religion and a mosque was built in the capital to facilitate their worship. Further, a Quran was placed next to the king’s throne so that Muslim commanders could perform the ceremony of obeisance facing the king, but euphemistically be paying genuflection to the Quran. The Muslim commanders were also allotted jagirs for their service.

Deva Raya II improved the training schedule of the Hindu soldiers in an attempt to bring them at par with the supposedly more disciplined Muslim warriors. He also concentrated on improving the archery skills of his forces, creating a new archery arm within the army that was kept under central control as an elite corps. He also insisted that all soldiers be trained in the use of the bow and arrow. Although Deva Raya II put in place these changes to improve the fighting efficacy of the army, it is unclear whether or not they bore fruit, even though one more war was fought against the Bahmanis in his reign. [The belief that Muslims were better warriors than Hindus somehow seems to have percolated into the mindset of the Hindu leadership. Over the long history of the Islamic invasion of the sub-continent, it becomes obvious that every Hindu-Muslim military encounter most likely started with the Hindu forces at a mental disadvantage. Battles were at times lost even before they started!]

An Assassination Attempt

It has been related by the Persian Ambassador Abdur Razzak that around 1443, an attempt was made to assassinate Deva Raya II.

The king’s brother planned an elaborate assassination attempt. He built a new house and used its inauguration as a ploy to gather all the nobles loyal to the king in one place. From there he lured them away from the assembly one by one, and had them murdered by his henchmen. The brother then went to the king to request him to come to the inauguration and partake in a meal. However, the king was unwell (it is unclear whether he was actually unwell or suspected his brother of planning some foul play) and declined to go for the meal upon which the brother attacked the king and left him for dead.

The brother then declared himself king from the balcony of the palace. However, Deva Raya II had only been wounded and had lost consciousness. He regained consciousness and escaped through the harem to then appear before the people. The people realised the plot and captured and killed the brother, since Deva Raya was a popular monarch. Subsequently, all the nobles and other connected to the plot were rounded up, tortured and killed.

There are two unrelated factors that can be understood from an analysis of this assassination attempt on the life of Deva Raya II. First is straightforward—it proved without doubt that the king was personally very brave and that he possessed great presence of mind even in the face of grave danger. However, the second is more important and had a greater and detrimental impact on the cohesion of the royal family and the future of the Sangama dynasty itself. For more than a century, the princes of the dynasty had remained loyal to the ruling king and also to each other, the greatest example being of the two brothers, Harihara and Bukka, who founded the empire with the younger brother supporting his elder brother throughout the latter’s life. However, with this assassination attempt and the king’s retaliation, the Sangama kings lost confidence in their brothers and close relatives. The characteristic trust placed on brothers, sons, nephews and immediate family was supplanted by suspicion and distrust. The kings became more detached from their brothers and the Sangamas became much like their Muslim neighbours, indulging in fratricidal succession struggles. This was the beginning of the decline of the powerful Sangama dynasty of Vijayanagara.

Tenth Bahmani War 1443

The assassination plot obviously was known and supported by the Bahmani Sultan. The murder of the large number of loyal nobles and the subsequent purge of the tainted nobles created a confused vacuum in the administration for some time. Taking advantage of this setback, Ala ud-Din II, now the ruling Bahmani Sultan, demanded a payment of ‘seven lakh varahas’ (700,000 gold coins) from Deva Raya II, threatening invasion in case he failed to deliver the tribute.

Deva Raya responded by sending an expedition into the Raichur Doab against the Bahmanis. The Vijayanagara forces captured Mudgal, advanced to Sagar and then to Bijapur, plundering the countryside on the way. The expeditionary army then camped on the banks of the River Krishna. In reply, Ala ud-Din collected a large force and attacked the Vijayanagara army. Three severe engagements took place in the span of two months. Minor skirmishes also continued to be fought between these three larger engagements. In the first battle, Bahmani forces were conclusively defeated and suffered great losses while the second encounter was more indecisive. However, in the third battle, Deva Raya’s elder son was either killed or gravely injured, which made the Vijayanagara forces retreat in some confusion. [Fleeing in panic at the death of a commander, usually the king or one of the princes, seems to have been a common trait in ancient and medieval Hindu armies. It is indicative of a lack of pre-planned and laid down command structure in the organisation of the army. The situation also brings into question the capabilities and freedom of manoeuvre that was delegated to the subordinate commanders below the king. It would seem that either they were not of a sufficiently high calibre or were not trusted fully by the sovereign. Perhaps they were purposely kept that way to ensure that the possibility of an uprising or a coup was minimised.]

After this episode a mutually agreed treaty was concluded. Deva Raya II agreed to not invade Bahmani territories in the future, an agreement that he honoured for the rest of his reign. Ferishta alludes to a tribute that was paid to the Bahmani Sultan, which cannot be corroborated and is an obviously biased statement in support of the Muslim sultan. In fact, Abdur Razzak who was an eye witness to the war states categorically that Ala ud-Din II did not return covered in glory, an understatement that euphemistically refers to a possible defeat.

Ferishta’s Dubious Authenticity

Contemporary Muslim chroniclers provide a great deal of detail regarding the terms of the treaty of 1443 between Vijayanagara and the Bahmani kingdom. However, they do not mention the recapture of Mudgal, which was one the most important strongholds in the Krishna-Tungabhadra doab. Ferishta, who is consistently and almost totally biased in favour of the Bahmanis in his reporting of events, clearly states the capture of Mudgal by Vijayanagara in the beginning of the 1443 War, but makes no mention of its recapture by Bahmani forces. In case the fort had been retaken, there is no doubt that Ferishta would have specifically mentioned it as a victory for the Muslim forces, in celebratory words. Therefore, it can be safely concluded that irrespective of Ferishta’s boast of a Bahmani victory, the ground reality was altogether something else.

Muhammad Kasim Ferishta (1570-1611)

Ferishta, original name Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah, was born in the Persian town of Astrabad on the banks of the Caspian Sea. While Ferishta, an adopted title/name meaning angel or one who has come, was still very young, his father Gholam Ali Hindu Shah was ordered to Ahmadabad in the Indian sub-continent to teach Persian to the prince Miran Husain Nizam Shah. Gholam Ali was given a fairly high position in the court of the Deccan Nizam Shahi rulers. Being of similar age, Ferishta was also educated along with the prince.

On reaching adulthood, Ferishta was appointed captain of the guards for the king Murtaza Nizam Shah, no doubt because of the influence of his father in the royal court. When prince Miran overthrew his father and claimed the throne, Ferishta’s life was spared because of his being Miran’s co-pupil in his younger days. Ferishta then went to Bijapur and entered the service of the Adil Shahi kings.

The Adil Shahi king felt that the Muslim conquest of the Deccan had not been adequately chronicled. He tasked Ferishta with writing the history of the Muhammadan conquest of the Indian sub-continent with special emphasis on the Deccan. The completed work was called Tarikh-i-Firishta and ran into 12 volumes. While the majority of the volumes deal with different kingdoms, rulers and battles, few of them also provide information regarding the geography and climate of the sub-continent. The volumes dealing with the Deccan were translated into English by Jonathan Scott and published as Ferishta’s History of the Dekkan (London, 1794, 2 volumes). In subsequent years several parts were also translated into English, the best and most complete translation being done by General J. Briggs titled History of the Rise of the Mahometan Power in India (London, 1829, 4 Volumes).

Modern day historians assert that Ferishta relied extensively on earlier works of Barani and Sarhindi and that his work cannot be fully relied on for accuracy since they are not firsthand account of events that happened. There is also no doubt that Ferishta was completely biased in favour of the Muslim rulers and did not spare any effort to make them ‘look good’ while denigrating the Hindu rulers, their military commanders and the Hindu armies that opposed the Muslim invasions. He gave vent to his imagination and was not above fabricating the flow of events to support his claims of Muslim greatness. Ferishta’s account and its translations can at best be considered to recall the chronology of events and the embellishments would have to be circumstantially pared away to reveal the actual state of affairs.

Simultaneous to the Bahmani War, Vijayanagara forces had also concluded a successful campaign against the powerful Orissa state. With a powerful and victorious army at his disposal, it is absurd to even consider Deva Raya II suing for peace, that too to a Sultan who was incapable of recapturing a fort that earlier been taken from him. At this time the Bahmani control did not even reach the Doab. A Persian epigraph of the Bahmani Sultan Ala ud-Din states that the southern boundary of his territories was at Halsangi village, in modern Bijapur district, a bit distant from the Doab. These evidences prove that Ferishta’s account of the prevailing situation was a one-sided exaggeration.

Ceylon Interlude

There is a report of a naval expedition to Ceylon led by Diwan Lakkana Dannaik who was also the commander-in-chief of the Vijayanagara army. The expedition must have set course around 1438 or so and on reaching Ceylon defeated the king and compelled him to pay tribute. With this victory, Vijayanagara power and sovereignty was re-established over the Southern Oceans.

No further wars or expeditions are reported during Deva Raya II’s reign. He ruled for two more years after the conclusion of the Orissa campaign and died in May 1446 after a rule of 25 years. A number of inscriptions, still extant, corroborate the date and the duration of his rule.

‘Thus an inscription at Sravana Belgola, of date corresponding to Tuesday, May 24 A.D. 1446, published by Professor Kielhorn, relates to the death in that day of “Pratapa Deva Raya;” and as it is couched in very curious and interesting terms, I give the translation in full —

“In the evil year Kshaya, in the wretched (month) second Vaisakha, on a miserable Tuesday, in a fortnight which was the reverse of bright, on the fourteenth day, the unequalled store of valour (PRATAPA) Deva Raya, alas! met with death.”

Robert Sewell,

A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar, p. 58

Deva Raya II – The Last Great Sangama

Deva Raya II was a great monarch and presided over the golden age of the first Vijayanagara dynasty.  He was the master of an extensive empire that stretched from the River Krishna in the north all the way to Ceylon and from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. The empire was wealthy through the collection of taxes and from the trade revenue from different ports of the kingdom. Vijayanagara’s naval vessels and trading ships dominated the southern seas and they extracted tribute from Quilon and other ports, even in Ceylon. The empire was frequently at war during Deva Raya’s rule, but he was also a great builder, a patron of poets, and of Sanskrit literature. He was liberal with the grants that he gave to men and women of learning, organising literary and philosophical debates in the capital and personally presiding over them. He promoted fine arts and built a number of temples.

Religious Developments

During a few relatively long periods of peace, Vijayanagara undertook the development of literary and religious activities. Deva Raya II was extraordinarily earnest in his endeavours to support and encourage literary and religious developments, which in turn attracted many scholars and gifted men and women from far and near to his court. Few ‘saints’ even made their way to the kingdom and attempted to influence the masses.

Vaishnava propaganda reached its height in the regions around Srirangam and Kanchi and few of the leaders of this movement attempted to directly influence the king as well. Vidyaranya, the mentor for Sangama kings, was already dead and there was no one of equal erudition, status or knowledge to replace him in the court. Gradually the beliefs of the royal family started to be biased towards ‘Agamic Shaivism’ and the kings started to align with this doctrine. However, Deva Raya was a free thinker, especially in matters of religious doctrine and dogma. For a period of time there was a struggle between contending sects to influence the king, which was actually a fundamental struggle between the Srivaishnavas and Veerashaivas. The king finally favoured the Veerashaivas and embraced Shaivism.


A careful study of the progression of Vijayanagara from its founding to the zenith of Sangama power brings out many factors that contributed to its rise. The most significant one that stands out amongst the myriad factors is that in spite of strenuous efforts by the neighbouring Bahmani Sultans to destroy the Hindu kingdom to their south, the Vijayanagara kings always succeeded in keeping the Bahmanis in check, while gradually expanding their territorial holdings after each encounter. Even Ferishta, the most biased of chroniclers, accepts that by the end of the 14th century, the Vijayanagara kings were far superior in strength, territorial holdings, wealth and stature to the Bahmani Sultans.

All of South India, and in the east coast all the way north to Orissa, acknowledged the supremacy of Vijayanagara. Goa and other sea ports in the western coast was under their control and the king had a sizeable navy based at Mangalore. The conquests of the Vijayanagara army, as well as the naval forays into the nearby island kingdoms, brought in enormous resources that added immense strength and stability to the country. After more than a century of its founding, Vijayanagara had the power to withstand any attack on its sovereignty. All contemporary historians, irrespective of their personal bias, agree that at this stage the kings of Vijayanagara were far superior in power, wealth and extent of kingdom in comparison to the Bahmani sultans, who ruled the only other large kingdom in the Peninsula.

The northern provinces of Vijayanagara were often and frequently ravaged by Muslim Bahmani forces. However, there is no instance that is reported by neutral observers where the power of the Vijayanagara kingdom was supposed to have been dealt a devastating blow or where the king was humiliated. Minor reverses did take place for a variety of reasons, but Vijayanagara was able to ensure that no permanent damage was done to its well-being. The princes and generals of Vijayanagara were always able to gain some advantage from every encounter that took place with the Bahmanis. Further, none of the Sangama kings had a cowardly attitude towards facing their adversaries. When the ruling princes started to become inept and disinterested in the affairs of state, especially military matters, the dynasty collapsed, as will be described in the next chapter. The valour and military prowess of the Vijayanagara generals have been acknowledged even in the Bahmani chronicles.

From its very inception, Vijayanagara as a kingdom was well consolidated and there was no possibility of the Bahmani sultans being able to shake its foundations and strength, let alone dictate humiliating terms to its king. The narratives that claim to have imposed abject terms on the Vijayanagara kings, especially during the Sangama rule, will have to be discarded as embellished and biased reports by Muslim chroniclers attempting to gain favour with mediocre sultans and upstart princes in Gulbarga and Bidar.

Figments of Ferishta’s Imagination

Ferishta mentions the forced marriage of Deva Ray I’s daughter to the Bahmani Sultan, Firuz Shah. This is an obvious untruth, since Deva Ray I at the peak of his power would not have consented, or been coerced, to giving his daughter in marriage to an ageing Muslim king of dubious capability. Further, Abdur Razzak who visited the region a mere 30 years after the supposed marriage does not even allude to it. At the time of his visit, eye-witnesses to the marriage, if it had indeed taken place, would have still been alive and would have mentioned it to Razzak. Being a Muslim ambassador, it is certain that even the whiff of such a rumour would have been documented by him. The episode of the Vijayanagara princess marrying an older Muslim king can be discounted as fiction.

Ferishta can also be ‘credited’ with inventing the story of Deva Raya I’s unrequited infatuation with a peasant girl, whom he calls Pertal, which is supposed to have led to a war with the Bahmanis. In the absence of any other corroborative source, even this episode has to be discarded as a figment of Ferishta’s fertile imagination.

Ferishta does let slip the bias that he epitomises in some statements. The contradictions of his chronicles are apparent in some remarks that he makes, such as his bald statement that Firuz Shah’s inability to capture Pangal even after a siege of two years could not by any means be considered a sign or demonstration of strength.


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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 Defence Analyst specialising in air power and national security. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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