Beginning of the End- Aliya Rama Raya

Aliya Rama Raya

In the previous post, we have seen how the Vijayanagara Empire began to slowly decline after Krishna Deva Raya. The brief reign of Sadasiva Raya, who was in effect controlled by Aliya Rama Raya and his brothers Tirumala Raya and Venkatadri Raya, was soon over. Not much is really known about early life of Aliya Rama Raya,   except that he was the son of one Ranga Raya, and was married to Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s daughter, while his younger brother Tirumala Deva Raya, was also married to another daugther. The term “Aliya”  means son in law as well as nephew in Kannada, and that became his appendage too. Aliya Rama Raya proved to be a capable general, administrator, often leading many of the victorious military campaigns under his father-in-law’s reign. However when Sri Krishna Deva Raya passed away,  Aliya Rama Raya, assumed defacto powers and controlled the affairs. When Achyuta Raya passed away, there was a power struggle within the empire, with Rama Raya, assuming all powers, as the succesor was a minor, and on the other side, there were the nobles, and the queen, who wished to see the rightful heir on the throne. Rama Raya’s  overbearing attitude, put off many nobles, who now began to break away from the empire.  The Queen on the other hand, asked the Sultan of Bijapur,  Adil Shah, to come to the aid of her son, which the Sultan promptly took advantage of.  The nobles however fought back, and soon Adil Shah, was driven back, the incident though however created deep fault lines within the empire, that would sooner or later, explode to disastrous effect.


Aliya Rama Raya started this practice of playing off one Bahmani Sultan against another, not a wise policy in hindsight, as sooner or later, it made them collaborate strategically.  In 1543, the Ahmednagar Sultan, Burhan Nizam Shah, allied with Rama Raya, and the Golkonda Sultan, Jamshid Qutub Shah, to attack the Adil Shah of Bijapur, who was the most powerful of all the Bahmani kingdoms. The Bijapur Sultan however managed to make peace with Nizam Shah, offering him the Solapur region, through his loyal general Assad Khan, who later routed the Qutub Shah, right on his home turf of Golkonda, injuring him griveously.  During this time the Portugese began their campaign of loot and burn, on the Western Coast, and attacked  Bhatkal, defeating the queen there, and massacring the Hindus en masse.

Rama Raya, however did not seem to have learnt much from his misadventures, and he again instigated Nizam Shah to attack Adil Shah, this time the former was routed badly. In the meantime the Bijapur empire was facing an internal struggle between Ibrahim Adil Shah and his brother Abdullah, who fled to Goa, taking refuge with the Portugese Governor, Affonsa De Sousa. Ibrahim promised De Sousa, Salsette, Bardes, and Belgaum, if he could send away Abdullah forever. De Sousa, accepted the conditions, but however double crossed, keeping Abdullah in Goa, and his succesor, De Castro, refused to surrender Abdullah. In 1547, the Sultan attacked Goa, but had to retreat after a stubborn resistance by the Portugese. De Castro, then secured treaties with Vijayanagara and Ahmadnagar, as a tripartite alliance against Bijapur, and a large attack was made, that caused a crushing defeat to the Adil Shah. Later De Castro had a more favorable agreement with Bijapur and Bhatkal.

Ibrahim Quli Qutub Shah

In the meantime, Ibrahim Qutub Shah, the younger brother of Jamshid Qutub Shah, fled from Golkonda, after a violent dispute with his brother and took refuge in Vijayanagara, under Rama Raya. In a cruel irony, though Ibrahim Qutub Shah, would be the one to kill Rama Raya later at Tallikota.  Later on Ibrahim became the Sultan of Golkonda in 1550.  And in the year before that, he also had alliances with Bijapur, and Ali Barid, the ruler of Bidar. The short sightedness of Rama Raya’s strategy to play off the Bahmani Sultans against each other was apparent.  He however continued the same policy, when in alliance with Ahmednagar Sultan, Burhan Nizam, attacked Bijapur, and in 1551, managed to recapture the Doab forts of Raichur and Mudgal. During Rama Raya’s absence, his brother rebelled, and took control of Adoni, following which he again took the help of Ibrahim Qutub Shah to quell that revolt.

Ibrahim Qutub Shah, also faced a revolt from one of his earlier subordinates Ain-Ul-Mulkh, who defeated him, and he was forced to take refuge in Bijapur. Once again Ibrahim, requested Aliya Rama Raya’s help to subdue the revolt,following which he sent his brother Venkatadri to expel the enemy. With prior intelligence reports, Venkatadri,  put his troops on high alert, asking them to hold long torches. On the arrival of  Ain-ul-Mulkh, the torches were lit up, and the rebel army was taken by surprise. The rebel army was routed, and Ain Ul Mulkh along with another rebel Salabat Khan, just about to managed to escape. They took refuge in Ahmednagar, but were killed by the Nizam Shah there.

Meanwhile in Bijapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah, had to face resistance from Abdullah, who was supported by the Portugese and he took the help of Rama Raya in quelling that rebellion again. Ibrahim died in 1557, and was succeded by his son Ali Adil Shah, who formed an alliance with Rama Raya. However Rama Raya’s arrogant behavior, angered Ali Adil Shah, who swore to pay back some day.  The Vijayanagara forces later assisted Ali Adil Shah, in his war against Ahmednagara over the recovery of his territories, in 1558.

Goan Inquisition


On the other side, the Portugese, under the new Viceroy Dom Constantine De Braganza, carried out a policy of expansion along the West Coast, looting, burning many towns, and massacring Hindus all along the way. Mangalore was sacked in 1559, all of it’s inhabitants were killed, and many other towns in Malabar were laid to waste. The most horrific episode though was in 1560, when the See of Goa became an arch bishop, and the Inquisition was established. The Goan Inquisition, exceeded even the horrors of the Spanish one,  those who refused to embrace Christianity were tortured and killed. Sailors were beheaded, some of them were sewn up in sheets and thrown overboard. An estimated 2000 sailors who refused to convert were massacred by the Portugese in the most gruesome way.  Revolts broke out against the Portuguese atrocities, and it was met with equally severe reprisal, that devastated most of the Western Coast.

The South after years of peace, stability and prosperity was now sliding into chaos and anarchy. Open rebellions, massacres, factional fights were the order of the day, and the tragic ending would soon manifest itself 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.

1 Response to Beginning of the End- Aliya Rama Raya

  1. saiswaroopa says:

    One common thing we see among the cases where an empire starts crumbling is when it is inherited by someone who has not participated much in its development. The posts and what I read about Rama Raya kind of confirms my guess. Another aspect which is the cause of this result is that the previous king has spent so much time onto establishing/expansion of the empire that he overlooked the intrigues of succession thereby giving the empire of hard work in a platter to someone who is not prepared (or does not deserve) to handle it. If I am not wrong, the early empires of Pratiharas and even Cholas came down because of similar reasons. In the epic literature, there is a considerable emphasis on handing over the empire to the one who really deserves it. But such aspects (like the Bharata in Mahabharata making an unrelated Bhuvmanyu his successor because the latter deserved it) often go un emphasized and under-read.

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