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Vijayanagara Empire, Empire, Rulers, Architecture, Social Condition, Economic Condition, Art and Literature

Vijayanagara Empire, Empire, Rulers, Architecture, Social Condition, Economic Condition, Art and Literature

     The Vijayanagara Empire (Sanskrit: विजयानागरसामरज्याम) (also known as the Carnatic Empire and the Bisnagara Empire by the Portuguese) was located in the Deccan (South) region of India. It was established in 1336 by Harihara Raya and Bukka Raya, two brothers of the Sangam dynasty. The Sangam dynasty was a pastoral dynasty of ancient South India and the kings of this dynasty were Kuruba Kshatriyas.

     The Vijayanagara Empire (1336–1646) was a medieval empire. Its kings ruled for 310 years. Its original name was the Kingdom of Karnataka. It was founded by two brothers named Harihara and Bukka Raya. The Portuguese knew this kingdom by the name of Bisnagra kingdom.

     After flourishing for about two and a half hundred years, in 1565, this state suffered a heavy defeat and the capital Vijayanagara was burnt. After that, it continued for another 70 years in a diminished form. The remains of the capital city of Vijayanagara have been found near the city of Hampi in modern Karnataka state and are a World Heritage Site.

      In 1336 CE, Harihara and Bukka, the two sons of the last Yadava ruler ‘Sangam’, established the Vijayanagara Empire on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. Both these brothers were earlier feudatories in the Kakatiya dynasty, but later became ministers in the Kampili kingdom.

Kampili state had given shelter to Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s enemy Bahauddin Gurshasp, so Muhammad bin Tughlaq attacked Kampili state. As a result of this attack, both Harihara and Bukka were arrested by Muhammad bin Tughlaq and taken to Delhi.

After being taken to Delhi, both these brothers were converted to Islam and sent to suppress the rebellion of the Hoysalas in the South. Coming to the south, these two brothers renounced Islam in the presence of Guru Madhav Vidyaranya and re-adopted Hinduism through a process of purification.

Both the brothers Harihara and Bukka founded the Vijayanagara Empire on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river under the inspiration of their guru Madhava Vidyaranya and his brother Sayana. The main objective of the establishment of this Vijayanagara Empire was to establish a powerful Hindu state.

Vijayanagara Empire – 4 Dynasties

  •        Sangam Dynasty (1336 – 1485 AD)
  •        Suluv dynasty (1485 – 1505 AD)
  •        Tuluva dynasty (1505 – 1570 AD)
  •        Aravidu dynasty (1570 – 1649 AD)

Sangam Dynasty (1336 – 1485 AD)

  •  This dynasty was founded in 1336 AD by Harihara and Bukka. The name of the father of Harihara and Bukka was Sangam. This dynasty was named the Sangam dynasty after his name.
  •  The first ruler of this dynasty was Harihara I (1336 – 1356 AD), who established the Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 AD and made Hampi his capital.
  • Harihar I has been called the ruler of the sea. Harihara I conquered Madurai in 1352-53 AD.
  • After the death of Harihara I, Bukka I (1356 – 1377 AD) became the ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire. Bukka I has been called the lord of the three seas.
  • The long-running conflict between Vijayanagara and the Bahmani kingdom began during the reign of Bukka I. There was a continuous struggle between these two states for authority over Raichur Doab.
  • It is noteworthy that the area between Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers is known as Raichur Doab. The region was very important for its fertile land and deposits of iron and diamonds.
  • Bukka I assumed the title of ‘Vedmarga Pratishtapaka’ and he also composed a book named ‘Vedik Magga Pravartak’.
  • In the court of Harihara II (1377 – 1404 AD), Madhavacharya, the author of the Sudarshan Sangrah, Srinath, the author of the Hari Vilas Granth and Sayana, the commentator of the Aitareya Brahmana, were present. Harihara II was the first person to assume the title of Maharajadhiraja and Rajaparameshwara.
  • During the reign of Devaraya I (1406 – 1422 AD), a dam was built on the Tungabhadra River and Nehru was developed into the Vijayanagara Empire. During the period of this ruler, the Italian traveler Niccolò Conti came to the Vijayanagara Empire in 1420 AD.
  • Devaraya II (1425 – 1446 AD) has been called ‘Gajbetkar’ meaning ‘hunter of elephants in the inscriptions. He also gave jagirs to the Muslims. It was during his reign that Abdur Razzaq, the ambassador of Iran, came to the Vijayanagara Empire. Devaraya II wrote a Sanskrit treatise named ‘Mahantak Sudhanidhi’ and also wrote a commentary on Badrayana’s Brahmasutra.

Suluv dynasty (1485 – 1505 AD)

       The Suluva dynasty was founded in 1485 AD by Narasimha Suluva. In this, the Sangam dynasty ended. This dynasty came to an end in a short reign of 20 years.

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Tuluva dynasty (1505 – 1570 AD)

  •  The Tuluva dynasty was founded by Vira Narasimha in 1505 AD. The ruler of this dynasty, Krishnadeva Raya, became the greatest ruler of the entire Vijayanagara Empire.
  •  Krishnadeva Raya composed a famous treatise in Telugu called Amuktamalyad. In this book, the administrative policies of Krishna Deva Raya and his political views have been mentioned. Eight scholars and poets of Telugu lived in his court, who is known in history as ‘Ashtadiggaj’.
  • Krishnadeva Raya assumed the title of ‘Yavanraj Sthapanacharya’. He had very good relations with the Portuguese. Krishnadeva Raya also built the Hazara Temple dedicated to Lord Rama and the Vitthal Swami Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.
  • Krishna Deva Raya was a follower of Vaishnavism. He also appointed Muslims in his kingdom. Babur in his autobiography Baburnama has described Krishnadev Rai as the most powerful emperor of South India.
  • After Krishnadeva Raya, Achyutadeva Raya and Sadasiva were the prominent rulers of the Tuluva dynasty. The decisive battle of Talikota took place in 1565 AD during the reign of Sadashiv. In which the four Bahmani kingdoms of Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Bidar together defeated the army of Vijayanagara Empire. The decline of the Vijayanagara Empire was almost evident after this war.

Aravidu dynasty (1570 – 1649 AD)

       The Aravidu dynasty was founded in 1570 AD by a person named Tirumala. Venkata II was a prominent ruler of this dynasty, who shifted his capital to Chandragiri. This dynasty was the last dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire. After this, the Vijayanagara Empire was completely destroyed.

Vijayanagara Empire – Other Important Points

       The governance system of the Vijayanagara Empire was monarchical. Under this, all the power was vested in the king only. During this time the empire was divided into administrative units like Prant, Mandal, Valnadu, Nadu, Ur (village), etc.

      The Nayankara system and the Aigar system were the main features of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Nayaka system was part of the provincial system of the Vijayanagara Empire, Nayakas were, in effect, generals who were given a plot of land as salary. The kayaks had to maintain an army and come to the aid of the king in times of need. The posts of Nayaks were hereditary. Krishnadeva Raya appointed an officer named Mahamandaleshwar to control the behavior of the Nayaks.

     The agar system was an important feature of rural administration during the Vijayanagara rule. Under this, 12 persons were appointed in each village, who was known as Aigar.

     Land revenue used to be the main source of income for the state. According to Nilakanta Sastri, one-sixth of the produce was collected as land tax during this period. In this period the land tax was called ‘Shishta’.


      During this time the land was classified in different ways. Tax-free land given to Brahmadeya Brahmins, tax-free land given to monasteries, Mathapur, tax-free land given to Devdeya temples, land given as salary to military and civil officials, Amram, special services in the village Tax-free land given for exchange was called Umbli, tax-free land given to Ayagaras was called manya.

     Significantly, medieval history is known as the history originally ruled by Muslim rulers, but in the meantime, the Vijayanagara Empire existed as a Hindu rule for about 300 years. During this period, the Vijayanagara Empire not only introduced various successful administrative systems but also made very significant contributions to the cultural history of the country. From this point of view, the Vijayanagara Empire has an important place in Indian history.

Architecture and sculpture of the Vijayanagara Empire

      The rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire were known for their love of art. He built many palaces, public buildings, and temples. Due to a large number of temples, Vijayanagara was also called the ‘City of Temples’. The following is a brief description of the architecture and sculpture of the Vijayanagara Empire:

1. Architectural Temple

(a) Vitthal Temple

This temple was started at Hampi during the time of Krishnadeva (1509-1530) and was completed during the time of Achyuta (1530-1542 AD). It is 152 m in rectangular form. long and 94 m. wide Its height is 7.05 m. Huh. Its womb is surrounded by 3 rows of pillars. The total number of pillars is 562. On touching each pillar, different types of music are heard in it. There is an idol of Vitthal in the sanctum sanctorum. It also has ardha and mahamandapa. The part of Mahamandap is 30×18 m. Huh. 

    The texture of its pillars is strange. The ceilings are carved and beautifully designed. There are two entrances to the Ardhamandap. There are four pillars in the four corners, on which there are figures of half humans and half demons. There is a way to go to the sanctum sanctorum. There are Kalyana-mandapas within this boundary. In front of the Mahamandap, there is a beautiful building called ‘Ratha’. To enter the boundary of the temple from the outside, there are three gates along with the gopuram.


Vitthal Temple

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(b) Temple of Hazararam Swami

     It was also built by Krishnadev Rai. The people of the dynasty used to come to worship in this temple. In this, a wide passage has been made from the semi-mandap to the sanctum sanctorum. Its pillars are completely carved. In this, the Amman Mandap (without pinnacle) and the Vimana or Rath Mandap (with pinnacle) are very beautiful. There is a special kind of ornamentation on the roof of the temple. Its vines create innovation in the Dravidian style as they are made using brick, cement, and paint. ‘Ramchariya’ is inscribed on the stone on the walls of the temple. Ramlila can be clearly seen all over the wall.


Temple of Hazararam Swami

(c) Other temples

Many other beautiful temples of the Vijayanagara kingdom are found at Vellore, Kumbakonam, Tadpatri, and Srirangam. The Kalyana Mandap of the Vellore temple is very famous. There are hieroglyphs, demons and other figures on its pillars. The gopuram of the temple is huge. There are 1000 pillars in the Varadraj temple of Kanchi. 

   The gopuram of Tadpatri’s temple is the most beautiful and ornamented. The temple of Srirangam is a wonderful specimen of the Dravidian style. To reach its sanctum sanctorum, gates consisting of 6 gopurams are made in one direction. Apart from this, the temple of Pampathy is a wonder of engineering skills. The female idol in the temple of Jijji is similar to the female idol of Gandhara and Mathura.

2. Decoration of temples

      The ornamentation of pillars and arches of Vijayanagara temples becomes dense in such a way that the sense of drama is clearly visible in the stone. Most of the pillars have the shape of a horse or some divine animal. The pillars are cuboidal below and take up eight or sixteen angles at the top. In the Velor temple, Vamana men are shown pressed under the horse, which shows either the victory over a barbarian race or the defeat of the Muslims. 

   Gaj Singh of Vitthal temple and Ankit Singh sitting on the pedestal are very beautiful. The king and queen are on the pillars of the welfare pavilion. There are scenes of religious, social, and imaginary subjects on the square pillars. There are serpents at the bottom in all four corners. There are elephants or gatekeepers at the entrance of the temples.

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3. Palace and Fort

      Most of the buildings of the Vijayanagara kingdom were built on hills. Seeing them, it is difficult to say whether these stone blocks were made by joining or they were made by cutting the mountains. The remains of the forts reveal their vastness. His assembly hall, the place of the throne, and the victory memorial were specially made beautiful.

4. The role of heroes in architecture

    The heroes of Vijayanagar also showed great dedication to building buildings and temples. The Meenakshi Temple of Madura is an unmatched example of Indian architecture.

5. Sculpture

The sculpture of Vijayanagara is considered representative of the art of the Middle Ages. The decorations in the idols have deepened the expressions. There are proportions in the parts of the idols. Most of the idols are built on classical principles. In the idols of the sanctum sanctorum, the light was transmitted from outside to inside, so that their unique power could be maintained. There were many types of idols on the walls of the temples. 

    Large idols of the Parshvadevata were placed on both sides of the main passage of the sanctum sanctorum. Images of Dikpal, Shalbhanjika, Shardul (half man, half animal), teacher-disciple, Mithun, soldier, animal, etc. were common. Apart from stone idols, many metal idols were also made in Vijayanagara. Due to the inclusion of classical style, seriousness has come into them.

Social Condition, Economic Condition, Art and Literature

Social status

     The Vijayanagar society was divided into several classes and castes on the basis of Vedic and classical traditions.  Still, the main classes were four – Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya Varna (Chetti), and the lower class.


  •      Brahmins had the highest position in society.
  •      Brahmins were kept free from harsh punishment.
  •      Brahmins used to lead a respectable life and did not use meat etc.


  •      There is no clear description of the Kshatriya class.
  •      Presumably, it can be said that the people of the Kshatriya class used to work as kings, provincial and central high officials, generals, etc.

Vaishya Varna (Chetti)

  •      There is a mention of a huge class called “Chetti” of Vaishya Varna or the middle class.
  •      Most of the trade was in the hands of the Vaishya class.
  •      This group (Vaishya class) was fully proficient in clerical and accounting work.

Lower class

  • Farmers, weavers, barbers, weapon carriers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, sculptors, carpenters, etc. used to come from the lower class.
  • Dongars (jugglers), fishermen, and joggers were looked down upon in society.

  • Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Chettis had a high standard of living, while the standard of living of others was very low.

Status of women

  • The status of women was often low and they were considered objects of enjoyment.
  • Elite women had a respectable position in society.
  • She was well-versed in education, dance, weaponry, etc.
  • Women were also appointed as bodyguards.
  • The people of the royal family used to keep women as maids and concubines.
  • A large section of women was involved in prostitution. The life of widowed women was considered very humiliating.
  • Widow marriage was prevalent.
  • The practice of purdah was not prevalent.
  • Probably the practice of Sati was also prevalent.


     Courtesans are mentioned with each character.
     These were of two types-

  • Related to temples and
  • Independent living

Many bad practices were also prevalent in the society of the Vijayanagar Empire, such as-

  •      Child marriage,
  •      Polygamy,
  •      The tradition of Sati,
  •      Dowry system,
  •      Slavery etc.

  •  Kriyi slaves were called ‘Vesavag’.
  •  Women also used to be slaves.
  •  Drama, Yakshagana, chess, playing dice, gambling, sword fighting, juggling, spectacle, fishing, painting, etc. were the means of entertainment for the people.
  •  People were non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian.
  •  Eating beef was prohibited.
  •  Brahmins did not eat meat.
  •  Cotton silk clothes were in vogue.
  •  Men used to wear a dhoti, kurta, cap, and scarf and women wore a dhoti and choli.
  • Upper-class women used to wear petticoats.
  • Only rich people used to wear shoes.
  •  Men used to wear bracelets (Gandpendra) on one leg.
  • The kings of Jianagar neither took interest in education nor established schools or colleges.
  • He promoted education indirectly by donating land to Brahmins and by donating land and property to temples and monasteries.
  • In this state, along with the four Vedas, Puranas, history, drama, philosophy, language, mathematics, etc. were taught.

Economic condition

  • Various foreign travelers like Nicoli Conti, a resident of Italy, Domingo Paez, a resident of Portugal, and Abdurrazzaq, a resident of Iran, have praised the economic prosperity of the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • Here agriculture and trade were in very advanced condition.
  • Excellent arrangements were made for agricultural land and means of irrigation.
  • The trade of the Vijayanagara Empire was mainly done with Malaya, Burma, China, Arabia, Iran, Africa, Abyssinia, and Portugal.
  • Trade was done by both water and land routes.
  • Arabia, pearls, copper, coal, mercury, silk, etc. were imported from abroad and cloth, rice, molasses, sugar, spices, perfume, etc. were exported from here.
  • There were many types of land in existence at that time like

Type of land

Cottage land

     The land is leased to the farmer by the land owners.

Mathapur Bhoomi

     The land was donated to Brahmins, temples, and monasteries in return for religious services.

Umbali land

     Rent-free land was given to a village.

Amaram land

     The land was granted to military and civilian officials in return for meritorious services.

Ratkodge Land

     The land was given to those who displayed valor in war.

Art and literature

  • The kings of Vijayanagar gave a lot of encouragement to various arts – architecture, theatrical art, musical art, painting, etc.

  • Krishnadeva Raya’s ‘Hazara Temple’ and ‘Vitthalaswamy’ temples are excellent examples of the architecture of this period.


  • In this period, many texts on dance and theatrical art were composed.
  • The kings gave protection to many scholars.

  • Literature was written in Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada languages during this period.

  • Sayana, Madhav, Nachan Som, Krishnadev Rai, etc. were the main scholars here.

  • He wrote books on dance art, grammar, philosophy, religion, etc.

    In short, the Hindu religion, culture, literature, architecture, sculpture, and musical art of ancient South Indian languages got a lot of encouragement in the Vijayanagara state.

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