Indian History Part 75 The Tuluva Dynasty Section VIII: Rama Raya-Establishing Aravidu Rule

Canberra, 9 November 2019

The regency of Rama Raya can be divided into three distinct phases. The first phase is the time during which Rama Raya carried out the duties of the Regent diligently, ruling on behalf of the infant/boy-king. The inscriptions and chronicles of this period scrupulously maintain the authority of Sadasiva Deva as the king, with some of them going to the extent of stating that ‘Sadasiva gave orders to Rama Raya…’ followed by Rama Ray making the grants according to the king’s wishes. The only title given to Rama Raya was that of Minister and, in some cases, ‘Agent of Sadasiva’. There is no trace of his assuming any higher authority and he is reported to have been an ideal and true Regent, always subservient to the wishes of the king. (This phase has been covered in the previous chapter.)

The second phase could be considered to have started when Sadasiva Deva came of age. When he was old enough to assume the reins of the Empire on his own, Rama Raya placed him under ‘house-arrest’. Other than for being deprived of his freedom to move about freely and to personally rule his kingdom, Sadasiva Deva was treated in all aspects with the pomp and ceremony that accompanies a ruling king. There is still some debate regarding the location of his incarceration, but it is certain, as can be seen from later events, that he was physically in the capital Vijayanagara. It would seem that Sadasiva Deva was kept in one of the subsidiary palaces in the capital, incommunicado with anyone other than a few trusted lieutenants of Rama Raya.

After the young king was imprisoned, Rama Raya assumed royal titles and gave a number of grants in his own name. Thereby he made it clear to the people, by omission rather than proclamation, that he was the ‘king’ in all but name. Further, he undermined the status and power of some of the senior noble families who continued to be loyal to the Tuluva dynasty, going as far as to destroy some of them, while at the same time promoting his own extended family to positions of power and stature. The imprisonment of Sadasiva Deva could be considered the beginning of the rule of the fourth dynasty—the Aravidu Dynasty. (This chapter has been placed under the Tuluva Dynasty narrative only to maintain the chronological continuity from a pedantic point of view, since Rama Raya never declared himself ‘king’.)

The third phase is the short period of few years preceding the disastrous Battle of Rakshasa-Tangadi (often referred to erroneously as the Battle of Talikota in a large number of later-day records) where Rama Raya was defeated in battle and beheaded. This battle has been described in detail in the next chapter.

First Nizam Shahi War 1556

Hussein Nizam Shah, newly anointed as the king in Ahmadnagar, successfully send out feelers to Ibrahim Qutb Shah, also newly established in Golconda, and formed an alliance against Bijapur to extract revenge for its earlier transgressions. The newly formed alliance decided to first reduce Gulbarga and Bidar. Accordingly, the combined Nizam and Qutb Shahi armies laid siege to Gulbarga. The Gulbarga garrison, the second strongest in the Adil Shahi kingdom, resisted fiercely. However, Ibrahim Adil Shah realised that he would not be able to contain or push back the combined armies of Ahmadnagar and Golconda and requested Rama Raya for assistance.

Rama Raya marched in person to provide assistance to his newest ally. At the same time Rama Raya also send a letter to Ibrahim Qutb Shah, his friend and protégé, requesting him to resist providing any military or diplomatic support to the Nizam Shah in his endeavours. To reinforce this mildly couched ‘demand’, Rama Raya also send a large force under the command of his brother Tirumala to invade and devastate Golconda territories near the fort of Pangal—a punitive, but forceful indication of what would follow if the Qutb Shah did not heed the Raya’s request.

Ibrahim Qutb Shah was intimidated and withdrew from the alliance and recalled his army to Golconda. Realising that he was left on his own, Hussein Nizam Shah also raised the siege of Gulbarga and returned to his capital. After the hiatus had died down, Rama Raya brought the three major Shahi kings—Adil, Nizam and Qutb—together at the junction of the Rivers Krishna and Bhima to discuss a lasting peace. An acceptable peace formulation was hammered out and the Shahi kingdoms lapsed into relative peace for the time being.


During Rama Raya’s absence from the kingdom, two of his brothers who were jointly governing Adoni rebelled. They foraged out and captured some nearby lands and declared independence. On returning to the capital, Rama Raya took a conciliatory approach and send a message to his rebel brothers to desist from such activities. However, this advice was not heeded. Rama Raya asked for military assistance from Ibrahim Qutb Shah and the combined Vijayanagara-Golconda forces captured Adoni after a six-month siege. The rebel brothers surrendered. Rama Raya rewarded the Golconda force’s commander Kubool Khan with great wealth for his exemplary performance during the campaign. [Vijayanagara at this time was a very powerful kingdom and had the military might to campaign against all three Shahi kingdoms simultaneously. Therefore, Rama Raya’s request for assistance from the Qutb Shahi king can only be interpreted as a diplomatic move to draw Golconda further into his orbit, and to distance Ibrahim away from creating alliances with the other Muslim kingdoms. Perhaps this is an indication that the shrewd ‘Regent’ had started to worry about the possibility of an anti-Vijayanagara confederacy being formed by the Shahi kingdoms to his north.]

In 1557, Ibrahim Adil Shah died and was succeeded by his son Ali Adil Shah. Ali made all efforts to further strengthen the alliance with Vijayanagara. On getting to know of the untimely death of one of Rama Raya’s sons, he personally visited Vijayanagara without any royal escorts, spending a period of time mourning along with the Raya. At the end of this visit, Rama Raya’s wife adopted Ali Adil Shah as her son before he returned to Bijapur. Thus emboldened by a strong alliance with the all-powerful Vijayanagara Empire, Ali Adil Shah demanded that Hussein Nizam Shah return the territories of Kalyani and Sholapur to Bijapur control. The demand was obviously rejected rudely by the Nizam Shahi king.

Second Nizam Shahi War 1558 – 59

Ali Adil Shah decided to go to war against the Nizam Shahis and immediately asked for Vijayanagara assistance, which was willingly provided. Rama Raya also invoked the Treaty of 1556 and asked Ibrahim Qutb Shah to join the alliance against Ahmadnagar. The Qutb Shah joined the combined armies. However, it was done reluctantly since Ahmadnagar and Golconda were gradually coming closer to each other for mutual benefit. [It is obvious that none of the Shahi kings had the power, stature or gumption to not grant a ‘request’ that was made by Rama Raya, irrespective of their individual geo-political situation.]

Rama Raya now personally led the combined armies—reported to have been 100,000 cavalry and 900,000 infantry—against Hussein Nizam Shah. He easily recaptured Kalyani and then marched towards Ahmadnagar. The entire Nizam Shahi territory through which the large army traversed was laid waste and chronicles state that there was no people left in large swaths of the Nizam Shahi kingdom after the Vijayanagara-Bijapur forces had rolled over it. Several reports of mosques being destroyed and of extreme cruelty being perpetrated against Muslims are also available. Even though the invading army was a combined force of Vijayanagara, Bijapur and Golconda, the reported animosity of the force towards Muslims and their places of worship is somewhat difficult to understand. The possibility of exaggeration in the reporting by Muslim chroniclers cannot be ruled out, although it cannot also be fully verified.

A Change in the Level of Religious Tolerance

It is from this time, that the narrative of peninsular history takes on a distinctly religious flavour. The chronicles of the Shahi kingdoms as well as those of Vijayanagara never fail to mention the religion of the adversary, mostly in a derogatory manner. The sanguine tolerance of Muslims that had been a conspicuous hallmark of the Sangama and Saluva rule in Vijayanagara had given way to a religious arrogance that opted to treat the ‘other’ as inferior. This gradual shift to religious rigidity in the Hindu kingdom could well have been the result of the completely intolerant and vicious attitude of Islam towards all other religions, especially Hinduism, which had been on overt display in the Peninsula for more than three centuries. By the mid-1500s, the Vijayanagara kings had realised that a tolerant approach to Islam was always taken as a weakness by the followers of that religion and not seen as a magnanimous attitude to a person’s, or a people’s, right and independence to worship their gods as desired. The Regent had no option but to alter the benevolent and altruistic attitude of the Hindu monarchy to the foreign religion. Tolerance was bound to give way to ruthless suppression, much like Islam’s attitude towards Hinduism, especially in a situation of long-drawn military contests and rapidly changing borders between the kingdoms.

Alarmed by the devastation being wreaked on his kingdom and the seeing the invincible strength of the invading army, Hussein Nizam Shah fortified his capital with a strong garrison and himself fled, taking along his family, to his hill-fortress of Paikhan (Paithan) for refuge. From Paithan he send urgent messages to the rulers of Berar, Bidar and even Khandesh for assistance to resist the invading forces. There is an uncorroborated report that he very narrowly escaped capture by Venkatadri while fleeing the capital to Paithan. Rama Raya now laid siege to Ahmadnagar. Although the war had been initiated by Ali Adil Shah, the campaign had been taken over by Rama Raya because of his stature and the preponderance of the Vijayanagara army within the three-pronged alliance.

Although Ibrahim Qutb Shah was participating in the siege, he was a reluctant member of the alliance against Ahmadnagar since Hussein Nizam Shah was also his ally. Although he was with the Adil Shah and Rama Raya, he send a secret letter to Hussein Nizam Shah promising to provide him diplomatic assistance in getting over the current dire straits. Ibrahim now started to play a double-game, primarily to undermine the hold that Rama Raya had established on the allied armies and also to assist his erstwhile ally, the Nizam Shah. Along with the letter to Hussein, he also send a message to the commander of the Ahmadnagar fort to hold out at all costs and not to surrender since Ibrahim was initiating some actions that would soon relieve him.

Ibrahim Qutb Shah bribed some of the Vijayanagara nobles to plead with Rama Raya to raise the siege and withdraw before the monsoon set in and the way back to Vijayanagara became difficult to traverse because of the flooded rivers en-route. However, Rama Raya refused to relent. He was fully committed to destroying the Nizam Shahi power. Ibrahim Qutb Shah, already disloyal in spirit, now became traitor to the alliance in deed also—he started to resupply the besieged Ahmadnagar fort in defiance of the alliance and also send a message to Rama Raya that he was withdrawing from the alliance and returning to Golconda. Meantime, in a fortuitous turn of events, the Regent of Berar had invaded Golconda territory, which provided Ibrahim with an added excuse to start withdrawing from the siege. However, the Qutb Shah had to cede the district of Kondapalli to Vijayanagara as the price for being allowed to withdraw to Golconda, even though the Berar army was invading his kingdom. The sway and control Rama Raya held over the other kingdoms is very obvious from this action.

Berar forces had also started to interdict the supply lines of Vijayanagara forces, making it difficult for them to maintain the siege. Rama Raya decided to withdraw. He moved back and camped with his extensive army at Ashty, planning a further siege of Ahmadnagar after he had dealt with the Berar forces. Hussein Nizam Shah sued for peace during this brief interlude, which was granted under some humiliating conditions. The main conditions were, first, the Nizam Shah should give up all claim to Kalyani, which would revert to Adil Shahi control; second, he should put to death Jehangir Khan, the commander of Berar auxiliary forces, who had joined Nizam Shahi forces and been effective in interdicting Vijayanagara supply lines; and third, Hussein Nizam Shah should personally visit Rama Raya and accept a ‘paan’ from him, as a sign of accepting vassal status. These conditions were met and peace was agreed upon, although regional stability was yet a far cry.

The significance of this peace agreement was that it did not bring about any sort of reconciliation between the warring factions and that the alliances that were formed were short-lived groupings of convenience. There was no love lost between any of the kingdoms. Further, the meeting between Hussein Nizam Shah and Rama Raya was marred by overtly displayed mutual animosity, which prompted Rama Raya to heap insults on the Nizam Shah and send him back completely humiliated. The seed of hatred that had already been planted in Hussein Nizam Shah’s heart now started to grow into an all-consuming obsession that would lead to his nurturing extreme hatred of the Hindu king for ever. The personal meeting of the two kings and the events that transpired between them would form the basis for later actions.

A Religious Expedition 1559        

While Rama Raya was campaigning in the north, Christian priests under the patronage and protection of the new Portuguese Viceroy in Goa, Don Constantine De Braganza, had started an aggressive campaign of oppression, forced conversions and destruction of unguarded temples. The priests, belonging to the order of Saint Francis, had seized the coastal region from Nagapatam to San Thome. On his return, Rama Raya was appraised of these developments and the Brahmins appealed to him for help. Rama Raya decided to act and commenced an expedition to Mylapore, which was an important centre of Roman Catholic worship with a monastery and the Church of Saint Thomas being located there.

Details of the campaign are unfortunately lost in antiquity. However, disparate and indirect sources indicate that the expedition was successfully completed—Vaishnava worship was re-established in the affected areas and disturbances were quelled. The available reports are unanimous in their appreciation that no wanton destruction of Christian places of worship or persecution of their priests took place at any time during the campaign, essentially mounted to restore Hindu worship in some areas of the kingdom. [Rama Raya’s behaviour in this instance is in sharp contrast to the devastation that was visited upon the Muslim Shahi kingdoms by the same Vijayanagara army during their expedition to Ahmadnagar. The reasons for this different treatment are not readily visible. It could be that since this was the first time that Christian missionaries were behaving in an overtly offensive manner the Raya was lenient with them. Perhaps more importantly, it could have been because Rama Raya did not want to antagonise the Goa Viceroy/Governor, since Vijayanagara was dependent on the port of Goa for critical replenishment of war horses for the army.]

Why Are There No Records of This Campaign?

The scarcity of information regarding this purely religion-oriented campaign is surprising and also noteworthy in a study of medieval Vijayanagara. The situation stands out even more since every other campaign of the Rayas of Vijayanagara are carefully catalogued and narrated in great detail. There is a possibility that this campaign has been down-played by later day historians in an attempt to smooth over or whitewash the early offensive Christian missionary activities and the vehement Hindu reaction to it.

There is also a report, in Portuguese records, of the Viceroy mounting a retaliatory attack on the Malabar Coast, where it is claimed that the port of Mangalore was put to fire and all its inhabitants slaughtered. The conduct of a reprisal attack on another part of the extensive Vijayanagara kingdom is believable. However, the report of the burning and destruction of Mangalore, an important port critical to the trade of the Empire, without any retribution from the Raya stretches the bounds of imagination. The Portuguese report is obviously an exaggeration.

In 1560, Goa was raised to an archbishopric and there are once again reports that all inhabitants were forced to convert to Christianity, on the threat of torture and imprisonment for failure to do so. The conversions continued in other parts of South India although they find only sporadic and scanty mention in the local narrative. Further, there are no reports available regarding the reaction of the Hindu bastion, Vijayanagara, to these religious activities. The reports and analysis of 19th and 20th century historians and their carefully crafted, and politically correct, narratives—of the religious activities of the proselytising Christian priests—are suspect. There is no doubt that these biased reports distorted the historical narrative of medieval South India.

Third Nizam Shahi War 1561 – 62

The burgeoning affinity between Ahmadnagar and Golconda culminated in a marital alliance, with Hussein Nizam Shah’s daughter being given in marriage to Ibrahim Qutb Shah in 1559. Thereafter, the combined armies of the two kingdoms laid siege to Kalyani, which had been taken by Rama Raya from Nizam Shah and then gifted to Bijapur. As had become customary, the Adil Shah requested Rama Raya’s assistance to ward off the invaders.

Rama Raya’s reaction was immediate and predictable. He send Venkatadri with 15,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry to invade the southern districts of the Qutb Shahi kingdom, to draw back their forces from the Kalyani siege. At the same time, Rama Raya himself led the Vijayanagara army and joined the Adil Shah on the banks of the River Krishna. The combined army, now joined by Burhan Imad Shah of Berar and Ali Barid Shah of Bidar, marched to Kalyani. Venkatadri captured large stretches of the Qutb Shahi kingdom and laid waste the occupied land. Hussein Nizam Shah and Ibrahim Qutb Shah took stock of the deteriorating situation, raised the siege of Kalyani, and started their return to their own capitals.

Ibrahim was harassed by Vijayanagara forces throughout his homeward journey and managed to reach Golconda with great difficulty. Hussein also managed to reach Ahmadnagar, but with the Bijapur and Vijayanagara forces at his heels. He barely managed to decamp from his capital to take refuge in the fort of Joonere before Ahmadnagar was once again besieged. Vijayanagara forces now laid waste the Nizam Shahi territory around the capital and is also reported to have committed great atrocities on the local population. There is special mention in the Muslim chronicles of the desecration of mosques by the Hindus worshipping idols and singing in them, and some mention of a few mosques being destroyed. [These reports have been further exaggerated by later-day Western historians in an effort to demonise the medieval Hindu conquering armies. At the same time they do not even mention the ‘desecration’ of Hindu temples by the invading Muslim armies by using the broken idols and temple stones to build the stepping stones at the entrance to their mosques, built on the same spot as the destroyed temple. In this one-sided reporting, early Indian historians also share the blame. This author has no issues with unbiased reporting of events and their analysis; however he firmly believes that political correctness, which hide reprehensible acts in a one-sided manner, and exaggerations of the actions of one-side in a power struggle have no place in the narration and analysis of any part of history.] By the mid-1500s, the geo-political developments in the Peninsula had taken on overt tones of religious intolerance—a move towards worsening confrontations.

The siege of Ahmadnagar was lifted on the insistence of the Adil Shah, although Hussein was pursued into the hills where he had gone into hiding. In the Battle of Connor (this place has not been identified), a Nizam Shahi detachment of about 3,000 soldiers led by a noble, Hussain Rushun Khan Deccani, fought a pitched battle with Vijayanagara forces and was conclusively defeated with the commander being killed in the fight.

Rama Raya was intent on destroying Nizam Shahi power and returned to lay siege to Ahmadnagar. Hussein Nizam Shah sued for peace and was forced to agree to some very humiliating terms. At the same time monsoon rains had set in and the rivers had started to swell. One Vijayanagara military camp on the banks of the River Sena was washed away with great loss of life, equipment and some treasure. The combination of the Nizam Shah accepting peace terms and the arrival of the wet monsoon compelled Rama Raya to lift the siege and start his return journey to Vijayanagara. However, the peace that was concluded was acrimonious and left both sides with bad feelings about each other. Rama Raya moved south and made camp at Hutgi, where he stayed for six months with his huge army. He savaged the surrounding countryside and even let his forces lay waste some Bijapur territory, even though that was alliance territory. Further, Rama Raya forced Adil Shah to cede Yadagiri and Bagalkot to Vijayanagara, as payment for his assistance, and only then resumed his return journey.

One of the most important developments that came out of this campaign was that it marked the end of the close friendship between Vijayanagara and Golconda. So far, even when they were on the opposite sides of alliances, Rama Raya and Ibrahim had refrained from fighting each other directly, maintaining their deep friendship as sacrosanct. However, at the beginning of this campaign, Rama Raya had deployed a force under Venkatadri to ransack to southern districts of Golconda in an attempt to persuade Ibrahim to join the alliance against Ahmadnagar. These actions by Vijayanagara made Ibrahim Qutb Shah conclude that the old friendship with Vijayanagara was broken for ever.

An analysis based on hindsight brings out the fact that Ibrahim Qutb Shah would not have refused the request from Rama Raya to join the alliance against Ahmadnagar, even though he was trying to shore up his relations with Hussein Nizam Shah. There was no need to have send a marauding force as an added impetus to ensure that the Qutb Shah joined the Vijayanagara alliance. This episode demonstrates the arrogance that Rama Raya had started to display in dealing with the Shahi kings, even those who had been declared his friends. The overbearing attitude of Rama Raya during the last decade of his life can be identified as one of the primary reasons for the Shahi kingdoms coming together in their only show of cooperation, to destroy the power of Vijayanagara.

The Gathering Storm

Immediately after Rama Raya returned to Vijayanagara, Ali Adil Shah once again requested his assistance to defeat a rebellion by his brother Abdullah who was being openly helped by the Portuguese. In fact the Portuguese Governor, Dom Pedro Mascarenhas, had personally crowned Abdullah as ‘Sultan of Bijapur’ and send him, along with Portuguese troops, to attack Bijapur. Rama Raya was instrumental in defeating this force and subsequently banishing Abdullah back to Goa. During this episode, Abdullah had fled to Ahmadnagar, but Rama Raya has evoked the newly created treaty with Hussein Nizam Shah and had the rebel imprisoned there prior to being exiled to Goa.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Qutb Shah had returned to Golconda and seen first-hand the depredations committed by the Vijayanagara army in the southern districts of his kingdom. He immediately send an army to oppose Venkatadri, still rampaging in Golconda territory. This retaliation led to the Battle of Torkal that lasted for a many days, but remained indecisive. Rama Raya now resorted to a full-scale invasion of Golconda, without any real reason for doing so other than his own whim and fancy. [Once again the arrogance of such a decision is breathtaking in its scope and also indicative of the absolute power of Vijayanagar at that time.]

Rama Raya planned a three-pronged attack on Golconda: Sida Raya Timapa with 50,000 cavalry was to attack and capture Kondapally and Masulipatam; Jolumraj, Rama Raya’s son-in-law was to invade Deverakonda and Indrakonda with 20,000 cavalry; and the main forces under Rama Raya were to move towards Golconda. These forces plundered the areas that they were invading and Rama Raya’s contingent laid waste the areas surrounding the capital itself. Vijayanagara forces had reached close enough to skirmish with the Qutb Shahi army in the Sultan’s gardens surrounding the royal palace. At the same time, Vijayanagara had been joined by minor allies who captured number of smaller forts from Qutb Shahi control for their own benefit.

Realising that the kingdom was on the verge of collapse, Mustapha Khan the intrepid Prime Minster of Golconda, started peace negotiations by initially making Ali Adil Shah request Rama Raya to return to Vijayanagara. Considering his close relations with the Adil Shah, Rama Raya reluctantly withdrew from a campaign that he was easily winning. On the tenuous cessation of this war, Ibrahim Qutb Shah took action against the Naikwars in his territory who had also rebelled, taking advantage of the Vijayanagara invasion. Ibrahim was successful in subduing the Naikwars after an aborted revolt and it is reported that a large number were executed. Surprisingly, Rama Raya did not send help to the rebels against the Qutb Shah.

The depredations of the Vijayanagara forces occupying Shahi territory, the overbearing arrogance of Rama Raya and his concerted attempts at always keeping the Shahi kings divided made the Deccan rulers realise that the power of Vijayanagara had to be somehow whittled down. Although each of the Shahi kings—three major and two minor—disliked each other intensely and suffered from great pangs of jealousy at each other’s successes, they started to initiate cooperation against the powerful Hindu kingdom, which had now emerged as a common enemy. The acceptance of the need to put up a combined front against Vijayanagara activities underlined the need for the Muslim kingdoms to form some sort of a confederacy to face up to the Hindu kingdom’s might. This was the origin of the Muslim Shahi Confederacy in the Deccan, although it was short-lived.

Rama Raya, an experienced de-facto king, was aware of the gathering storm. It could never be thought that he was blinded by his power, pride and arrogance—he anticipated a combined Muslim onslaught on his kingdom. Accordingly, he had constructed another bastion on the walls that surrounded the capital Vijayanagara and also fortified the hills on the northern frontier of the kingdom, in the Bellary and Cuddappah districts. He had also erected new forts and repaired the old ones that had been built during Krishna Deva Raya’s reign. However, as will be seen, these preparations proved inadequate in the face of the oncoming hurricane of a great Muslim assault that blew away everything in its wake.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2019]
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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 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)

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