Vijayanagar Empire

Vijayanagar Empire

News: Salman Rushdie’s latest work, “Victory City” is a fictionalized telling of the story of Vijayanagara, one of the richest and most powerful kingdoms in medieval India.


Founded in 1336, the kingdom of Vijayanagara lasted for more than three centuries, a period in which it withstood multiple political stresses, and saw significant advances in art and economy.

Founded by Harihara I of the Sangama dynasty, Vijayanagara expanded from a strategic position on the banks of the Tungabhadra river.
The kingdom reached its peak under Krishna Deva Raya (reign 1509-1529), a period in which it enjoyed military superiority to its rival kingdoms such as the Bahmani Sultanate, the Golconda Sultanate and the Gajapatis of Odisha.

At its peak, the kingdom stretched from Goa in the Konkan coast to parts of southern Odisha in the east and all the way to the very tip of the subcontinent in the south.

What was the Economy like during Vijayanagar Empire?

While the economy of the kingdom was largely dependent on agriculture, trade thrived in its many ports on either coast.

Traveller Abd al-Razzaq Samarqandi chronicled how “the ports of Mangalore, Honavar, Bhatkal, Barkur, Cochin, Cannanore, Machilipatnam, and Dharmadam saw traders from Africa, Arabia, Aden, the Red sea, China and Bengal and also served as ship building centres.

The empire’s principal exports were pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, myrobalan, tamarind timber, anafistula, precious and semi precious stones, pearls, musk, ambergris, rhubarb, aloe, cotton cloth and porcelain.

Coins were minted by the state as well as by merchant guilds using gold, silver, copper, and brass, and their value depended on material weight.

What about the art and culture during Vijayanagar era?

Literature in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada as well as Sanskrit was produced in the kingdom, with new writing styles and methods emerging.

Vijayanagara architecture is “a vibrant combination and blossoming of the Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola styles.”

The Prasanna Virupaksha temple of Bukka I and the Hazara Rama temple of Krishna Deva Raya are striking examples of Vijayanagara’s characteristic style and intricate artistry.

Was it an Urbanized city?

From accounts of foreign travellers, by the beginning of the 16th century, Hampi-Vijayanagara was probably the second largest urban settlement on the planet (after Beijing) and among the most prosperous.

Vijayanagara’s capital Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today, known for its sophisticated fortifications as well as innumerable temples, beautiful gardens and other architectural marvels.

Vijayanagara has been remembered as an era of “cultural conservatism”, when classical forms of Hinduism were preserved amidst growing Islamization of the rest of the subcontinent, especially the North.

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