In my series on Vijayanagar Empire, I had started with the founding of the Empire, and in this post I will be looking at the reign of the brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya, and the foundation of the Sangama Dynasty.
Not really much is known about Harihara’s reign as a ruler, except for some inscriptions, that give him the titles of Karnataka Vidya Vilas (master of great knowledge and skills), Bhashegetappuvarayaraganda (punisher of those feudatories who don’t keep their promise), Arirayavibhada (fire to enemy kings). What emerges from most historical studies is that Harihara and Bukka were among the prominent ones of the 5 brothers, and Vidyaranya Swamy was their main guidance. Also during 1343, the last Hoysala ruler Veera Ballala III, was killed during one of his numerous battles with the Sultan of Madurai, what this meant all the Hoysala territories by default came underneath Vijayanagara empire, giving a vast area to rule over.
While Harihara I ruled over the empire , his brothers Marappa administered Chandragutti region( probably today’s Chandragiri), Kampana governed over Nellore region, and Mudappa looked after the Mulbagal region( now in Karnataka). Bukka was the most powerful of the lot, and was second in command to his brother, a great warrior himself, and one seen as the next ruler. It’s said that under his reign, Vijayanagar covered the entire Tungabhadra Valley to the east, and the Konkan, Malabar coast to the west. The role of Vidyaranya Swamy, during the initial years of the Vijayanagara Empire, needs to be emphasized here. While he was the Raja Guru, as well as the Chief Minister for Harihara I, he played a major role in the wise delegation of powers and responsibilities. He undertook the duties of being the advisor to Harihara I,while he delegated his equally wise brother Sayana, to Sangama, who became the Viceroy General after death of his father Kampana , and commanded the Eastern provinces. Vidyaranya’s other brother Bhoganatha, was the Jagadguru of Sringeri, and commanded great respect. In effect it was these two families that of Vidyaranya and Harihara, Bukka who together played a major role in the initial years of the empire.It was out of respect to Vidyaranya that Harihara I built a massive temple at Hampi close to the Tunghabhadra river, which still exists today.
As per most records Harihara I, passed away around 1343 AD, and since Kampana was the 2nd son of Sangama, he would have been the natural successor to throne. However Bukka being the second in command to Harihara, ascended the throne around that time. While there is speculation that there might have been a battle of succession and Bukka could have emerged victorious defeating his brothers, there is really not much historical evidence to suggest so. Also with Vidyaranya playing a key role as an adviser, he would have stepped in to avert a possible conflict. What is clear from most evidences is that Bukka ruled for around 36 years, between 1343 and 1379, and during his reign, the kingdom expanded all the way up to Kalinga. Most of the Southern kingdoms surrendered to Bukka, and it could have been for tactical reasons. One as a defense against the Muslim invasions from the North, and another as a counter to the emerging Bahmani kingdom. In fact Bukka’s reign was marked more by his constant battles with the Bahmani rulers, than with other kingdoms.
While studying the history of Vijayanagara, it is pretty much imperative, that we also have an idea of the Bahmani kingdom. Nothing much is known about the origin of the founder Allaudin Bahman Shah, except that his real name was Hassan Gangu, and he worked as a servant in the home of a Brahmin astrologer named Gangadhar Shastri of Delhi. It is believed that Gangadhar Shastri, blessed him, when he returned the wealth he found in his farm. Later Hassan Gangu served as a general in the army of Md.Bin Tughlaq, and received the title of Zafar Khan, after he became a Governor. Later he broke away from the Delhi Sultanate and founded his own kingdom in 1347, under the title of Allauddin Bahman Shah, it is believed that the Bahman could be a corruption of the word Brahman, or after a famous Iranian warrior. Thus the Bahmani and Vijayanagar kingdoms were founded at same time. The initial capital of the Bahmanis was at Gulbarga, and for the next couple of centuries, the Deccan would be a witness to the constant battle for supremacy between the Bahmanis and Vijayanagara.
The initial forays of Allauddin Bahman Shah, saw him extend the territory up to Adoni( now in Kurnool district, AP). Allauddin passed away in 1358, and he was succeeded by his son Mahmud Shah I, with whom Bukka had a long rivalry. One of the earliest attacks by Mahmud Shah I, was on a combined force of Vijayanagar and Warangal empires, and while he almost came up to Hampi, he could not really covet the advantage. Another expedition was on the city of Vellunputtun, under Warangal, which fell to the Bahmanis and the hapless prince Vinayaka Deva was burnt alive. Bukka and the prince of Warangal, then joined forces against Muhammad Shah I, even requested Feroze Shah Tughlaq to help them, but the latter refused. Muhammad Shah I, then attacked Warangal and Golkonda, which fell to him, and also yielded the vast treasures of the area. Warangal would be ultimately annexed to the Bahmani Kingdom by 1424, and they dominated the entire area north of the Krishna river.
With Warangal, conquered, Muhammad Shah now turned his attention to the Vijayanagara empire. The first of the battles fought was believed to be due to Bukka Raya, insulting the messenger of a draft from Mohammad Shah, demanding him to pay tribute. Bukka mounted a huge force against the Bahmani Kingdom, with 30,000 horses, 3000 elephants and 1000 cavalry. The strategically important fort of Mudgal( now in Raichur district, Karnataka) lying in the Raichur Doab, between Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers was first attacked, its inhabitants massacred, and a lone survivor carried the news to Muhammad Shah I. Enraged at the loss of a strategic fort, Mohd Shah I, swore revenge on the Vijayanagara rulers, and mounted a surprise attack on the Vijayanagara forces camping outside another fortress Oodnee, where they were caught unawares and massacred en masse. After Odni, Muhammad Shah I, now attacked the fortress of Adoni, and Bukka I, sent his army to protect the place. Crossing the Tunghabhadra River, he was only around 25 miles from the fortress one of the most strategic ones. The Tungabhadra here, forms an arc of sorts, with the Adoni fortress in center, and Bukka placed himself on the Southern banks of the river.
Finally on July 1366, the armies of Mohammed Shah I, and Bukka Raya clashed on the open plains, the Bahmani forces under the command of Khan Mahmud, and Vijayanagar forces under Bukka’s maternal uncle Hajemula Raya. It was a fierce battle with the forces of Vijayanagara first gaining the advantage breaking the right and left flanks of the Army. Just when Khan Mahmud seemed to be losing hope, Mahmud Shah appeared with a fresh reinforcement of troops and they counter attacked. The artillery under Mukrib Khan, also inflicted heavy damages on the Vijayanagara forces. When Hajemula Raya was badly wounded, he had to flee the battlefield, and this scattered the Vijayanagara troops. The Bahmani forces indulged in a large scale massacre of the Hindus there, and soon went in hot pursuit of Bukka Raya I, who escaped through the forests and mountains to Vijayanagara. But at a terrible cost, as Mahmud Shah I, destroyed all the places he came across in his pursuit. Muhammad Shah then laid seige to Vijayanagara, however the constant attacks by Hindu defenders made him retreat back. It was however a tactical retreat to fool Bukka Raya I, and there again was an attack, followed by wholesale massacres, which made Bukka Raya go for a temporary truce of sorts. Around 5 lakh Hindus were estimated to have been slaughtered by Muhammad Shah I, and the Carnatic provinces were so devastated that it took ages for them to recover back.
Muhammad Shah I, died in 1375 and was succeeded by his son Mujahid Shah, who shortly after his accession, wrote to Bukka Raya I, that he should limit himself up to the Tungabhadra River, and all the eastern side along with the fort of Bankapur, in Haveri district to be given to him. Bankapur was strategically important in the Deccan, as it lay on the route connecting Vijayanagar to the sea, and having control over it, would mean cutting off their trade. Bukka Raya replied back, saying that the Sultan should vacate the whole of the Krishna-Tungabhadra doab, and give back Raichur and Mudgal forts as they belonged to Anegundi. Mujahid declared War against Vijayanagara, and once again Bukka Raya I, made a tactical retreat to Sandur, near the capital. Using a network of secret routes in forests, Bukka managed to evade Mujahid, and reach Vijayanagara safely. Mujahid however managed to reach up to Vijayanagara, through the Sandur valley which now connects Vijayanagara and Bellary. The Sultan first attacked a temple, near Vijayanagara, which enraged the Hindus to attack back. The Vijayanagara Army initially suffered reverses, and were on the verge of defeat, but Bukka’s brother Kampana, arrived with a huge force, and a fierce battle was again fought. The Vijayanagara forces soon captured all the crucial positions and forced Mujahid to retreat back. He again besieged Adoni, but after a 9 month long siege that yielded no results, Mujahid retreated back to Gulbarga. Mujahid was soon assassinated by his own uncle Daud Khan in 1378, along with a group of other disgruntled nobles, and the Bahmani kingdom was soon plunged into chaos. Daud himself was killed a month later, and Bukka Raya now taking advantage of the internal dissensions, captured the entire Doab area, as well as the fortress of Raichur.
Another feature of Bukka’s rule was the wars against the Madurai Sultanate, which were carried out by his son Kampana. Prior to that there was the issue of Tondaimandalam, to east of Vijayanagar,a strategically important kingdom, which the Bahmanis eyed. The ruler of Tondaimandalam, Champaraya, refused to ally with Bukka Raya I, which gave him no option but to attack him. Kampana attacked the fort of Rajagambhira where Champaraya took refuge, and the latter was soon killed in the battle. With Tondaimandalam, secured, Kampana now turned his attention to Madurai, Srirangam, and he declared war on the Sultan. The Sultan’s general died, and soon Kampana captured Madurai, Srirangam, and became the Governor of the Southern part of Vijayanagara. Kampana’s exploits in Madurai were recorded by his wife Gangambika in the Sanskrit book Madhura Vijayam. Bukka also captured Goa, Odisha, forced the Zamorins of Malabar and the rulers of Jaffna to pay tributes to him. During his reign, the kingdom extended from the Western Coast to Odisha, and all the way up to Rameshwaram.
As a ruler Bukka ensured freedom of worship, and harmony between all religious sects. He mediated in the disputes between the Jainas and Srivaishnavites, emphasizing that both of them were equally important, and such quarrels would only help the Bahmanis who were seeking to capture Vijayanagara. Vidyaranya Swamy wrote Vedartha Prakashika, for a more simpler understanding of the Vedas, while many Jain authors also flourished during his reign.After a long reign, Bukka finally passed away in 1377.
In the next post, we shall look at some of the other Sangama rulers.
Robert Sewell’s A Forgotten Empire
Suryanarayan Rao’s The Never to be Forgotten Empire: