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The Vijaynagara Empire

History And Background

The Vijaynagara Empire also known as the Karnata Kingdom was founded by two brothers Harihara and Bukkar Rai as a successor to the prosperous Hindu kingdoms of the Hoysalas, the Kakatiyas, and the Yadavas which were raided by the Tughluqs.

The two brothers declared their independence from Muhammad bin Tughluq and established the Vijayanagar Empire replacing the short-lived Kampili kingdom which had come into existence as a resistance to invasions by Delhi Sultanate.

Harihara and Bukka Rai

Harihara succeeded to the throne in 1336 and ruled for twenty years. He was succeeded by Bukka and ruled until 1377.

Initially, the brothers clashed with Mysore's Hoysala monarch and Madurai's king. Later, Bukka defeated and conquered the Madurai king. He gradually established control over the entirety of South India.

Dynasties of Vijaynagara

Vijayanagar's kingdom lasted 230 years. The kingdom was ruled by rulers from three dynasties.

  • Sangama Dynasty (1336-1485)-Started by Harihara and Bukka

  • Saluva Dynasty (1485-1505)-Started by Saluva Narasimha

  • Tuluva Dynasty (1505-1565)-Started by Vir Narasimha

  • Krishnadeva Raya (1509–1530).

Krishna Deva Raya

According to historians, Krishnadeva Raya was the most powerful ruler of the Vijayanagar Empire. The kingdom reached the peak of power and wealth in South India during his reign.

A Portuguese traveller, Domingo Paes, paid a visit to Krishnadeva Raya's court. His accounts provide insight into the political, social, and economic conditions of the era.

Krishnadeva was an exceptionally gifted general. He vanquished the Bahmani king and the Orissa kings. Additionally, he invaded and occupied the Raichur doab, a fertile area located between the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers.

The empire he established covered the totality of South India.

Commerce & Trade

The king encouraged commerce and trade. He promoted trade between the Portuguese, English, and Dutch.

He also placed a premium on agriculture. Recognizing that increased production would result in increased revenue for the kingdom, he constructed numerous tanks, dams, and canals throughout the kingdom.


In all administrative matters, the king was supreme. He was helped by a ministry council. The kingdom was divided into mandalams (provinces), each with its own governor, nadus (districts), sthalas (sub-districts), and gramas (sub-districts) (villages).

During his reign, the tradition of local self-government, a defining feature of Chola administration, suffered a setback.

Feudal System: Village administration evolved into a feudal system.

Additionally, administrative positions became hereditary. The king became heavily dependent on feudal lords.

Economy of Vijaynagara

Economic Situation Vijayanagar was an extremely flourishing kingdom. Agriculture, trade, and commerce contributed to its prosperity. Nicolo Conti and Abdur Razzaq detail the splendour of the Vijayanagar court and the nobles' luxurious lifestyles.

Revenue: Land revenues were the primary source of revenue. It was determined on the basis of the land's fertility. Additionally, there were other taxes, such as property taxes, taxes on the sale of produce, taxes on professions, and taxes on marriage.

The kingdom prospered due to a vibrant trade.

The majority of historians believe that the kingdom's prosperity was limited to a few. The nobles and peasants led very different lives, with the latter remaining poor and downtrodden.

Architecture: Hampi served as the kingdom's capital. It had magnificent structures, particularly temples.

The Vittalaswami temple, the Virupaksha temple, and the Hazara Rama temple are all fine examples of the Vijayanagar rulers' temple architecture. These temples' walls are decorated with beautiful sculptures.

Literature: Literature advanced in this kingdom as well. The rulers promoted the development of Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada. Sayana wrote Vedic commentaries.

Krishnadeva Raya was a prominent Telugu and Sanskrit scholar in his own right. In Telugu, he composed a poem titled Amuktamalyada. In his court, he patronised a number of learned men. This included the Ashtadiggaja, a group of eight great Telugu scholars.

The Decline of Vijayanagara

After Krishnadeva Raya's death, the Vijayanagar kingdom weakened. His successors were not particularly powerful.

In 1565, the rulers of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, and Golconda banded together and defeated Vijayanagar's ruler at Bannihatti, near Talikota. This is referred to as the Talikota Battle. It signalled the end of Vijayanagar's kingdom.


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