Vijayanagara Empire- The fall of the Sangamas

So far in the series, we have seen the rise of the Sangama dynasty, and reaching it’s peak under Deva Raya II. Now we shall look at the decline of the Sangamas, post Deva Raya II.   With Deva Raya II, passing away, Vijayanagara Empire entered a stage of confusion, chaos and anarchy. Like most other dynasties, weak,inefficient rulers, who had no ability to rule, the Sangama dynasty began to decline after Deva Raya II. Another factor was that since there was no rule of primogeniture, succession usually resulted in bloody civil wars, with brother against brother, and sometimes taking the help of the Bahmanis too. Following Deva Raya II’s death, Mallikarjuna Raya ascended the throne in 1446, inheriting a kingdom that stretched from Odisha to the South. While Mallikarjuna Raya, initially had some successes against the Bahmanis and Gajapatis, he was pretty much a weak, corrupt ruler. Under him, Vijayanagara lost a whole swathe of territories, starting from Rajahmundri, which the Gajapatis recaptured in 1454. And in 1464, when the Gajapatis took back Kondavidu and Udayagiri, the entire Coastal Andhra strip was lost.  The other event of note was the massacre of 10,000 Muslims in retaliation for having sold Arab horses to the Bahmanis,  and in turn the Bahmanis attacked, Vijayanagara,  and by 1450, they were in control of a whole lot of territories near Hampi. The Portugese on the other hand, captured the ports on the Western Coast, reducing the once mighty Vijayanagara empire to a rump.  Mallikarjuna Raya was eventually succeeded by his nephew Virupaksha Raya II in 1465.


Kondapalle Fort

Virupaksha Raya II, proved to be as ineffective, and weak as his uncle, losing huge swathes of territory to other rulers.  In his case it was an assault from both the sides, the nobles in his own kingdom, as well as the enemy rulers. In 1469, Mahmud Gawan, the minister of Muhammad Shah, the Bahmani ruler, marched to the West coast, and the entire Konkan was capture from Goa to Dabhol.  This was also a revenge for the massacre of the Muslims by Mallikarjuna Raya,  following which many fled to the West Coast.  The Krishna-Tungabhadra Doab also fell into the hands of the Bahmani sultans, while the Gajapatis captured Tiruvannamalai. Virupaksha Raya’s increasing unpopularity among the nobles, his own weakness, made large parts of  Vijayanagara revolt, and the empire began to break up.  He was overthrown by his own son Prauda Deva Raya, in 1485, effectively the last ruler too of the Sangama dynasty.  Apart from the fact that he wrote a book on erotica called Ratiratnapradipika, Prauda’s rule was equally undistinguished, and he was finally overthrown by his commander Saluva Narasimha Raya, who also founded the Saluva dynasty.

Break up of Bahmani

At the same time, Vijayanagara was going through, chaos, confusion and anarchy, the Bahmani rulers too were facing the same predicament.  In 1458 Allauddin Shah passed away and his son Humayun ascended the throne. Known for his cruel nature, Humayun’s reign was marked by brutality and tyranny. He made an attack on Devarakonda( now in Nalgonda), but had to retreat however, following a stout resistance.  He passed away in Sept, 1461 and was succeeded by Nizam Shah, who in turn was succeeded by his brother Muhammad Shah in 1463.  More than Muhammad Shah, it was his minister Mahmud Gawan, who played a vital role in the kingdom.  Gawan led a highly succesful campaign on the West Coast, recapturing ports of Goa, from Vijayanagara and giving a vital advantage to the Bahmanis.  During 1470, a terrible famine broke out in the Deccan, and the inhabitants of Kondapalle, revolted, overthrew the then Muslim Governor. They invited the Gajapati rulers to aid in their battle, however the Sultan, managed to defeat them, and also led the campaign into Odisha, that resulted in wanton destruction and slaughter. Kondapalle was singled out for harsh punishment, with temples razed to the ground, Brahmin priests massacred en masse, and mosques built over it.  Rajahmundry too suffered utter devastation. However the murder of the loyal and wise Mahmud Gawan, angered the nobles and people, among whom he was popular, and soon Muhammad Shah was overthrown. While Muhammad Shah II, took over in 1482, he was quite a weak and ineffective ruler, revolts broke out all over the kingdom, and many of the territories asserted their independence. The Governor of Goa was one of the first, as he broke away from the kingdom, and captured most of the important ports.  Gulbarga was hit by civil war, and soon the chieftains saw this as an opportunity to assert their own independence.

Ahmadnagar Fort


Gawligarh Fort


Bidar Fort



Yusuf Adil Khan, a slave under Muhammad Shah, and he originally hailed from Georgia, but was bought in Iran.  His exploits in the battle field, saw him being appointed Governor of Bijapur, and when the Bahmani empire declined, he asserted his independence, and founded the Adil Shahi kingdom at Bijapur in 1489. Of all the Bahmani kingdoms this was the strongest among all, as he waged continous battles with both the Vijayanagara and other Bahmani rulers. Unlike Adil Khan, the founder of the Barid Shahi kingdom at Bidar, Qasim Barid was a Turk, and served as the mir jumla( Prime Minister) under Muhammad Shah. He was the defacto ruler in a way, and following the death of Muhammad Shah, he became even more powerful. His son Amir Barid, literally controlled the last rulers of the Bahmani dynasty, and when it ended in 1527, Bidar became an independent kingdom. In 1490, Imad- Ul- Mulk, Governor of Gawli( now in Amaravati district, Maharashtra),  too asserted his independence, and founded the Imad Shahi dynasty at Berar. In the same year, Malik Ahmed Shah Bakri, Governor of Junnar, declared his independence, defeated the Bahmani Army led by Jahangir Khan, and established the Nizam Shahi dynasty which would later rule from the city of Ahmednagar.  And in 1518,  Quli Qutub Ul Mulk, the Governor of the Telangana region, declared independence, and the Qutub Shahi dynasty was established at Golkonda. And so the once monolithic Bahmani empire, was now broken up into 5 kingdoms- Adil Shahi of Bijapur, Imad Shahi of Berar, Barid Shahi of Bidar, Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar and Qutub Sbahi of Golkonda.

It is pertinent to note that the decline of the Sangamas and the break up of the Bahmani kingdom happened around the same time period, leading to chaos, confusion and anarchy. While Vijayanagara managed to recover it’s glory once again under Saluva Narasimha Raya, the Bahmani kingdom was now 5 different kingdoms, each of whom fought against each other, as well as against the Vjayanagara rulers.  The rulers of Vijayanagara on the other hand, began to play off one Bahmani Sultan against another, through a series of alliances, for their own tactical benefit, an approach, that was counter productive, as seen at Tallikota.






About Ratnakar Sadasyula

Blogger with a passion in movies, music,books and history. A techie by profession, and a writer at heart. Author of City of Victory a book on Vijayanagar Empire
This entry was posted in Indian History, Medieval India, Vijayanagara Empire and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vijayanagara Empire- The fall of the Sangamas

  1. saiswaroopa says:

    Good post Sir,

    Cant wait for Krishna Deva now. BTW, this Prauda Raya guy had the time to write a book amidst confusions, should be an inspiration to those suffering from Writer’s block 🙂

  2. Pingback: Vijayanagara Empire- Saluva and Tuluva | History Under Your Feet

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