Empires inevitably fall, and when they do, history judges them for the legacies they leave behind.- Noah Feldman.“All empires fall, eventually.”
“But why? It’s not for lack of power. In fact, it seems to be the opposite. Their power lulls them into comfort. They become undisciplined. Those who had to earn power are replaced by those who have known nothing else. Who have no comprehension of the need to rise above base desires- Max Barry.In the great books of India, an empire spoke to us, nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence, which in another age and climate had pondered and thus disposed of the questions that exercise us- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Somewhere it had to begin, after reaching a zenith, the peak of it’s glory, the mighty Vijayanagara Empire would sooner or later have to face it’s hour of reckoning. Like other glorious empires before it, the Cholas, the Chalukyas, the Kakatiyas, the Hoysalas, this great empire too would have to end. And every ending has a beginning, a stage comes when you know that the end is right there around the corner. At least to those who are awake, to those who are asleep, they still continue to believe that their empire is immortal. There however was a difference, in the way the Vijayanagara Empire ended, unlike the slow decaying and death of other great empires, the end was sudden, it was like being hit with a hammer blow. Notwithstanding some losses, when Tallikota happened, Vijayanagara was still one of the larger empires down South, Aliya Rama Raya, though old was not weak, and it still had a huge army. But the combined might of the Bahmani Sultans at Tallikota, poor tactics by the Vijayanagara Army, betrayal by Muslim soldiers all added up to the defeat. And Hampi was still a thriving, bustling city, when Tallikota happened, and it took a good 3-4 days to competely burn, break and loot it.
After the glorious reign of Sri Krishna Deva Raya, and the heights Vijayanagara attained, in his reign, the fall seemed inevitable some time. Krishna Deva Raya had no immediate heir, his own son was an infant, and when he passed away in 1529, his younger brother Achyuta Deva Raya, became the ruler. It is said that Krishna Deva Raya himself hand picked Achyuta as his succesor, but in reality the power lay with his son-in-law Aliya Rama Raya. Going by accounts, Achyuta Deva Raya was often described as craven, cruel, addicted to pleasure, and not too popular, unlike his brother. Achyuta also had to deal with the fact, that in the last days of Krishna Deva Raya, many of the feudatories and enemies, had scented blood, and were waiting to strike back. Apart from the enemies outside, Achyuta also had to contend with Aliya Rama Raya, who literally was the defacto power behind the throne. The seeds for the destruction of Vijayanagara were sown then and there itself.
The first blow was from the Adil Shahis of Bijapur , who still were smarting under the loss of Raichur, and the heavy defeats they suffered at the hands of Sri Krishna Deva Raya. Ismail Adil Shah, along with Ummaid Shah, and Amir Barid, had already made preparations to recapture Raichur, Mudgal, and after a seige of 3 months, both those strategic forts, were back in the hands of the Bahmanis again. It is said that the Sultan, who vowed not to touch wine till they were captured, threw a lavish feast to celebrate both the death of Krishna Deva Raya, and the recapture of Raichur, Mudgal, with large amounts of wine. It did not help tha Achyuta Rama Raya himself was a coward, and his arrogant, tyrannical attitude, alienated many friends. The legacy of Vijayanagara built so painstakingly by many great rulers, taken to it’s height by Sri Krishna Deva Raya, was now being frittered away slowly.
In the meanwhile Ismail Adil Shah, consolidated his position defeating Ahmednagar, and he later died during a siege of Golkonda. After his death, his son Malu Asada Khan, became a ruler for a short time, before he was overthrown, and his younger brother Ibrahim Adil Shah, ascended the throne of Bijapur. Taking advantage of the chaotic conditions, the Portugese now began to assert their supremacy on the West Coast. They took over Diu, and in 1536, seized Goa, and two succesive expeditions from Asada Khan, were beaten back. It was only after a larger expedition, that the Portugese were forced to retreat from Goa.
While Vijayanagara was facing humiliation from the Bahmanis on one side, on the West Coast, the Portugese were steadily establishing themselves. While they were friendly with Vijayanagara, they had constant battles with other feudatories and the Samuris of Calicut. The Portugese were notorious for their atrocities against the native Indians, indulging in large scale massacre, looting and rape. Many of the richer temples on the West Coast were attacked and plundered by the Portugese, and they also planned to land by sea at San Thome, and attack the holy temple of Tirumala, which fortunately did not happen.
Achyuta Raya did have some military victories to his credit, he defeated the Qutub Shahis of Golkonda, the Gajapatis. What however went against him, was the constant infighting within the Vijayanagara kingdom. When Achyuta Raya patched up with Rama Raya, this angered, Saluva Vira Narasimha, who went and joined hands with the chieftains of Ummatur and Tiruvadi, revolting against him. Achyuta with his trusted general Salakaraju Tirumala managed to subdue the revolt, and imprisoned Saluva Narasimha. When Ismail Adil Khan passed away in 1534, Achyuya led an expedition to Bijapur, and defeated Malu Asada Khan, forcing him to sue for peace. The wily Rama Raya, however bided his time, and imprisoned Achyuta Raya, on his return from Bijapur in a palace coup of sorts somewhere in 1540.
This was when Ibrahim Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur was invited to Vijayanagara, ostensibly by Achyuta Raya, but some accounts say it was by Tirumala. Nagulapura, on the outskirts of Vijayanagara was razed to the ground by the Sultan, as a reprisal of Krishna Deva Raya’s sacking of Bijapur earlier. Ibrahim finally mediated the dispute between Aliya Rama Raya and Achyuta Raya, and where it was agreed that while Achyuta would be the ruler, Rama Raya would have total freedom. It was disastrous for Vijayanagara, first Rama Raya, having a free hand, replaced trusted soldiers, nobles, with his own family members. And frequent usage of Bahmani Sultans to mediate disputes meant, the vulnerability was being exposed to the enemy side. You could have umpteen differences within you, but exposing to the enemy was a big no. Ibrahim Adil Shah, returned from Vijayanagar, with huge sums of money, gifts,and Vijayanagara fell into further chaos.
Achyuta Raya was known to be a patron of literture and arts, the Kannada poet Chatu Vittalnatha, the great singer Purandara Dasa, the Sanskrit scholar Rajnath Dindima all received ample patronage from him. The Sanskrit works Achyutabhyudayam and Varadambikaparinayam give a good account of the life during thoes times. The Tiruvengalanatha Temple was also built during his time, and named after Achyuta Raya. He finally passed away in 1542, and was succeded by Venkatadri Raya, who whoever was killed by his maternal uncle Salakaraju Tirumala, and the latter assumed full powers. Sadashiva Raya, however managed to escape hiding in the fort of Gooty, and approached Aliya Rama Raya and his brothers Tirumala Raya, Venkatadri Raya for assistance. An alarmed Salakaraju invited Ibrahim Adil Shah to help him against Aliya and Sadasiva, the nobles however were outraged by this act, and played a tactical move, by which they promised to support Salakaraju, and asked him to send away Adil Shah. Salakaraju was overthrown by Rama Raya, in 1543, and Sadashiva was placed on the throne.
The damage however had been done, the mighty Vijayanagara Empire was now riven by factions, infighting, palace intrigues, what was worse, they took the help of their sworn enemies the Bahmani Sultans to achieve their objectives. Blinded by their own ego, vanity and short sightedness, the succesors of Sri Krishna Deva Raya, were now pulling down the great Empire. It was truly the beginning of the end.