From the middle of the sixth century A.D., the history of South India is virtually the story of mutual conﬂicts among three powers, each seeking constantly to extend its empire at the expense of its neighbours. This went on for about three hundred years. The three powers were the Chalukyas of Badami, the Pallavas of Kanchi and the Pandyas of Madurai.
All of them rose into prominence in the sixth century, but the Chalukyas quit the stage about a century earlier than the two other powers, their place on the political map being more or less exactly ﬁlled from the middle of the eighth century by their successors, the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (Malkhed). Besides the main house of Badami, the Chalukyas established themselves in two other branches, more or less independent of the main line: the Chalukyas of Lata and the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi. Together with the Gangas of Mysore, the Eastern Chalukyas took sides in the conﬂicts of the three kingdoms, sometimes with decisive results. The Cholas of the Tamil country had practically disappeared except that a line of Telugu rulers bearing their name and claiming a traditional connection with their capital at Uraiyur ruled in the area now known as Rayalaseema.
Political conﬂicts was, however, no obstacle to cultural growth. A vast and many-sided Hindu revival checked the spread of Jainism and Buddhism, created a great volume of soul-stirring devotional literature and advanced philosophic speculations. Under the stimulus of this religious impulse, remarkable advances were registered in architecture, sculpture, painting and music. All these inﬂuence over owed into the numerous Hindu colonies across the sea.
Vijayalaya Chola, who was probably a Pallava Vassal, rose out of obscurity during the middle of the 9th century C.E. Making use of the opportunity during a war between Pandyas and Pallavas, Vijaya- laya rose out of obscurity and captured Thanjavur in 848 C.E.
The Chola power recovered during Sundara Chola’s reign. The Chola Army under the command of the crown prince Aditya Karikala defeated the Pandyas and invaded up to Tondaimandalam in the north. Uttama, son of the previous Chola king Gandaraditya forced Sundara Chola to declare him heir apparent. Uttama Chola’s reign was conspicuous for the lack of any major initiatives and he was replaced by the great Rajaraja Chola in 985 C.E.
Although the early Chola monarchs had captured parts of Tondai-nadu, Kongu-nadu and Pandi-nadu, the empire had shrunk to the area around the Kaveri Delta in the year 985, when the 7th Chola monarch, Rajaraja, born Arulmolivarman, assumed the throne.
Rajaraja immediately embarked on a campaign of territorial expansion and captured Pallava and Pandya territory. He successfully fought the Chera rulers of Kerala and extended his rule over parts of modern Karnataka. He captured the island of Sri Lanka as a province of the Chola Empire; it remained under direct Chola rule for 75 years. Rajaraja built temples in his own name in all these areas. He conquered the Maldives Islands in the Indian Ocean and sent missions to the Indonesian Srivijaya Empire. He encouraged the Shailendra monarch of Java to build a Buddhist monastery at the Chola port of Nagapattinam.
Raja raja’s son Rajendra (r. 1012-1044) further consolidated Chola power. He created a Chola viceroyalty in Madurai, appointing his son as the ﬁrst Chola- Pandya vice regal prince. Rajendra next attacked the Western Chalukyas and their allies. Rajendra’s reign was marked by his expedition to the river Ganges (c. 1019 C.E.). The Chola army dashed through the kingdoms north of Vengi and engaged the Pala king Mahipala and defeated him. The victorious Chola army returned with the waters of the holy Ganges. In a series of campaigns he marched to north as to the river Ganga (Ganges). He brought back some of its sacred water in golden pots, emptied these into a tank named Chola-ganga and adopted the title of Gangai-konda (Capturer of the Ganges). However, he did not assume control over the Ganges region. The relationship with Srivijaya deteriorated to the point that Rajendra sent a naval expedition against the kingdom in order to enforce acknowledgement of Chola suzerainty. He sent two diplomatic missions to China.
In 1070, after three of Rajendra’s sons and one grandson had succeeded him, a new line of Chalukya- Cholas was established when the Eastern Chalukya prince Rajendra II (r. 1070-1125) ascended the throne. His mother and grandmother were Chola princesses. Rajendra II assumed the title of Kulottunga (Star of the Dynasty). During his reign, Sri Lanka gained independence from the Chola rule. However, trade ﬂourished with Southeast Asia. Another Chola embassy was sent to China, together with 72 merchants. Trade with Srivijaya was active too. The reign of Rajendra II was one of peace and prosperity.
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The Chola empire held together well until the end of the reign of Kulottunga III in 1216. However, it was not as extensive as in the days of Rajaraja I and Rajendra I.
As the Pandya monarchs to the south increased in strength and a group of feudatory chieftains aggressively pursued power in the 13th century, the Chola Empire shrank to the region around Thanjavur. The Chola dynasty came to an end in 1279 when Rajaraja III died and the Chola territory was easily absorbed into Pandya rule.
Chola Chalukya Wars
The History of Cholas from the period of Rajaraja was tinged with a series of conﬂicts with the Western Chalukyas. The Old Chalukya dynasty had split in to two sibling dynasties of the Western and Eastern Chalukyas. Raja raja’s daughter Kundavi was married to the Eastern Chalukya prince Vimaladitya. Stemming from this Cholas had a ﬁlial interest in the affairs of Vengi. Western Chalukyas however felt that the Vengi kingdom was under their natural sphere of inﬂuence. Several wars were fought and neither could claim mastery over the other. Cholas never managed to overwhelm the Kalyani kingdom and the frontier remained at the Tungabhadra River. These wars however resulted in a lot of bloodshed and the death of at least one monarch (Rajadhiraja Chola).
The whole empire was divided into ‘Mandalam’ (province) and these in turn into ‘Valanadu’ or Kottam and Nadu. Village was the basic unit of administration. The Cholas are best known for their local self-government at village level. Each village had an assembly to look after the affairs of the village.
The general assemblies were of three types:
1. Ura general assembly of the village consisting of taxpaying residents.
2. Sabha or Mahasabha – consisted of a gathering of the adult men in the Brahmana villages called ‘Brahmadeva’ and agrahara village granted to the Brahmanas and of the land was restricted to the Brahmans of the villages.
3. Nagaram was found in trading centres alone. The ‘Uttaramerur’ inscription (10th Century) describes how the local Sabha functioned. There was a close contact between the Central authority and the village assemblies. The Chola officials had only a supervisory role over these assemblies. The Mahasabha possessed the proprietary rights over community lands and controlled the private lands within its jurisdiction. The judicial committee of the Mahasabha, called the ‘Nattar’ settled both civil and criminal cases of dispute.
Famous committees of the Mahasabha:
- Variyam: Executive Committee of Sabha
- Thottavariyam: Garden committee
- Pon-Variyam: Gold committee
- Eri-Variyam: Tank Committee
- Alunganattar: Executive Committee of Ur
- Nyayattar: Judicial Committee
- Udasin-Variyam: Committee of Ascetics
- Samstua-Variyam: Annual Committee
Chalukyas of Vatapi/ Badami
This dynasty rose to power in the Deccan from the 5th to the 8th century AD and again from the 10th to the 12th century AD. They ruled over the area between the Vindhyachal and the Krishna River. The Chalukyas were the arch enemies of the Pallavas, another famous dynasty of the south.
A prominent ruler of the Chalukya dynasty was Pulakesin I. He founded the city of Vatapi (modern Badami in Bijapur district of Karnataka) and made it his capital. He is said to have performed Ashwamedha Yagna to attain supremacy as a ruler. The kingdom was further extended by his sons Kirtivarman and Mangalesa who waged many wars against the Mauryan rulers of the neighbouring Konkan region.
The best known specimens of Chalukyan art are the Virupaksha temple, (built by Queen Lokamahadevi in 740 AD to commemorate her husband’s victory over the Pallavas), and the Mallikarjuna temple both at Pattadakal, Karnataka.
Pulakesin II, son of Kirtivarman was the greatest ruler of the Chalukya dynasty, who ruled for almost 34 years. During his long reign, he consolidated his powers in Maharashtra and conquered parts of the Deccan stretching from the banks of the Narmada to the region beyond the Kaveri. His greatest achievement was his victory in the defensive war against Harshavardhan (A north Indian emperor with his capital at Kannauj) in the year 620 AD. In 641 AD, the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang visited the kingdom and paid glowing tributes to the king for his efficient and just rule.
Pulakesin II was defeated and killed by the Pal- lava king Narasimhavarman in 642 AD. His capital Vatapi was completely destroyed. Pulakesin was succeeded by his son Vikramaditya who was also a noble and just ruler. He renewed the struggle against his enemies and managed to restore the former glory of his dynasty to a certain extent. The Chalukyas were ousted by a chieftain Dantidurga, who laid the foundation of Rashtrakuta dynasty.
Considered the greatest of the Chalukya rulers of Badami not only because of the problems he had to face while coming to the throne, but also because of his subsequent military as well as diplomatic achievements.
• He had to wage civil war against his uncle, Mangalesa, who refused to hand over the power.
• Though Pulakesin succeeded in defeating and killing his uncle, this civil war shook the young kingdom and rebellions began to appear on all sides. But he was quite successful in the suppression of these rebellions. He defeated the rebel feudatory, Appayika, and pardoned his confederate, Govinda, when the latter offered his submission.
• Establishment of his suzerainty over the neighbours such as Kadambas of Banavasi, the Alupas of south Kanara, the Gangas of Mysore, and the Mauryas of north Konkan. Apart from the above rulers, the Latas, Malwas and Gurjaras also offered their submission to him because of their fear of Harshavardhana of Kannauj.
• His clash with Harsha, in which he was able to check Harsha’s design to conquer the Deccan.
• Conquests in the eastern Deccan-southern Kosala, Kalinga, Pistapura and the Banas of Rayalaseema offered their submission after their defeat at the hands of Pulakesin.
• Conflict with the Pallavas of Kanchi-his first expedition against the Pallav kingdom, which was then ruled by Mahendravarman I was a complete success, and he annexed the northern part of the Pallava kingdom. But his second expedition against the Pallavas, however, ended in complete disaster for himself as well as his own kingdom. The then Pallava ruler, Narasimhavarman I, who succeeded Mahendravarman, not only drove back Chalukya armies, but also invaded the Chalukya kingdom, killed Pulakesin II and captured Badami.
• Diplomatic achievement-he sent an embassy to the Persian king, Khusrau II, in AD 625 and also received one from him. The reception given to the Persian mission is, in fact, depicted in one of the famous Ajanta cave paintings.
• Visit of Hiuen Tsang – the description given by this Chinese pilgrim of the kingdom of Pulakesin is quite useful in knowing the social and economic conditions under the Chalukya rulers of Badami.
Chalukyas of Kalyani
Another branch of the Chalukyas established their supremacy under their ruler Tailapa II (973-997 A.D.), who was probably a feudatory of the Rastrakutas. He fought successful wars against the Latas of Gujarat, Kalchuris of Chedi, Parmars of Malwa and the Cholas of the South. The Parmara ruler Munja died ﬁghting him. Tailapa II died in about 997 A.D. His two immediate successors Satyashraya (997-1008 A.D.) and Vikramaditya V (1001-1016), however, suffered defeats at the hands of Rajaraja Chola and Bhoja Parmara respectively. The next Chalukya ruler Jayasimha II (1016-1042 A.D.) routed Bhoja Parmara but was in turn defeated by the Chola ruler Rajendra Chola I at the battle of Musangi. It was Somesvara who laid the foundation of a new town of Kalyani which henceforth became the capital of the Chalukyas. Vikramaditya VI won a great name for his dynasty by his all-round con- quests and cultural activities. He defeated the Hoyasala King (Vishnuvardhana) of Mysore and Rajendra Chola II and recovered some of the lost territories of his dynasty. The famous poet Bilhana and Vigyanesvara, the author of the well known work “Mitakshara” ﬂourished during his reign, After Vikramaditya VI’s death in about 1126 A.D. the Chalukya power began to decline rapidly. Many feudatory chiefs asserted their independence and in about 1190 A.D. Somesvara IV, the last ruler of this dynasty, was overthrown by the Yadavas of Devagiri.
Contribution of the Chalukyas:
Art and Architecture
• They developed the Deccan or Vesara style in the building of structural temples, which reached culmination, however, only under the Rashtrakutas and the Hoyasalas.
• It was the Chalukyas who perfected the art of stone building, that is, stones ﬁnely joined without mortar.
• Under their auspices, the Buddhists, the Jainas and the Brahmins competed with each other in building cave temples.
• Though the cave frescoes began earlier, some of the ﬁnest specimens belonged to the Chalukya era. The murals that were executed on the walls dealt with not only religious themes but also with secular ones. In the ﬁrst monastic hall at Ajanta, we notice a painting depicting the reception given to a Persian embassy by Pulakesin II.
Temples: The temple-building activity under the Chalukyas of Badami can be broadly divided into two stages. The ﬁrst stage is represented by the temples at Aihole and Badami. Aihole is a town of temples and contains no fewer than 70 structures, of which four are noteworthy.
• Ladh Khan temple is a ﬂat roofed building.
• Durga temple was an experiment seeking to adopt the Buddhist chaitya to a Brahmanical temple.
• Hucimaligudi is very similar to the Durga temple, but smaller than it.
• The Jaina temple of Meguti shows some progress in the erection of structural temples, but it is unﬁnished. Of the temples at Badami, the Melagitti Shivalaya is a small but ﬁnely proportioned and magniﬁcently located temple. A group of four rock-cut halls at Badami (three of them Hindu and one Jaina) are all of the same type. The workmanship in the caves is marked by a high degree of technical excellence. Though the front is very unassuming, the interior is treated with great skill and care in every detail.
The second stage is represented by the temples at Pattadakal. There are about ten temples here, four in the northern style and six in the southern style. In the Deccan both styles were used. There was even a tendency to combine the feature of the two styles.
• The Papanatha temple is the most notable among the temples of the northern style; it also reveals attempts to combine northern and southern features in one structure.
• The Virupaksha temple was built by one of the queens of Vikramaditya II. Workmen brought from Kanchi were employed in its construction. Hence it is a direct imitation of the Kailasanatha temple which had come into existence in Kanchi some decades earlier.
• The Sangameswaram temple, which was built some years before the above one, is more or less in the same style.
Pallavas of Kanchi
The Pallavas were the ﬁrst well-known dynasty which came into power in the South after the fall of the Andharas. But nothing deﬁnite is known about their origin. For about two hundred years from 550 to 750 A.D., the Pallavas were the dominant power in the South. Their rule extended over a vast region including the modern territories of Madras, Arcot, Trichinopoly and Tanjore but the whole of the South was under their inﬂuence. There were several branches of these Pallavas who ruled form different quarters such as Badami or Vatapi, Ellora and Kanchi. The most powerful dynasty of the Pallavas was the one which had its capital at Kanchi. The earliest Pallava ruler about whom we have some reliable information was Vishnugopa of Kanchi. With Simha Vishnu (575-600 A.D.) begins the most glorious epoch of the Pallava history. He is said to have defeated rulers of the three Tamil States of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas and also the ruler of Ceylon. Mahendra Varman (600- 625 A.D.) had to ﬁght a deadly and long drawn battle with the Chalukyas. Mahendra Varman was a great patron of art and literature. Formerly he was a Jain by faith but later on he was converted to Shaivism and then he built a large number of rock cut temples at various places (Dalavanur, Pallavaram, Vallam, etc.) in honour of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Mahendra Varman was succeeded by his son Narasimha Varman (625-645 A.D.) in about 625 A.D. He is perhaps the most important ruler of the Pallava dynasty. He defeated the Chalukya ruler Pulakesin II in about 642
A.D. and took hold of his capital Badami or Vatapi.
He also fought successful wars against the Cheras, Cholas and the king of Ceylon. It was during his reign, that the celebrated Chinese pilgrim Hieun-Tsang visited Kanchi in about 642 A.D. and stayed there for some time. Narsimha Varman was a great builder like his father. He built many rock-cut temples and laid the foundation of a new city, which was known as Mahabalipuram. He beautiﬁed this city with many wonderful shrines, the chief among them was the Dharmaraja Ratha.
After the death of Narsimha Varman in about 645
A.D. the Pallava Empire began to fall with a rapid speed. The successors of Narasimha Varman continued their rule upto the end of 9th century A.D. when under Aparajita Varman (876-895 A.D.) their territory was annexed by the Cholas in about 895 A.D
The Pallavas with their capital at Kanchipuram were a hereditary Hindu dynasty. They ruled between the 4th and the 9th Century. Under the Pallavas, their vast kingdom was exposed to increased inﬂuence of Sanskrit and the culture associated with it. During this period the cults of Shaivism and Vaishnavism became deeply embedded in the Tamilian culture.
Art and Architecture
The development of temple architecture, particularly Dravida style, under the Pallavas can be seen in four stages.
Mahendra Group: The inﬂuence of the cave style of architecture is to be seen in this group. Examples; are the rock-cut temples at Bhairava konda (North Arcot district), and Anantesvara temple at Undavalli (Guntur district).
Narasimha Group: They comprise the rathas or monolithic temples, each of which is hewn out of a single rock-boulder. These monolithic temples are found at Mamallapuram. The rathas, popularly called the Seven Pagodas, are actually eight in number. They are (1) Dharmaraja, (2) Bhima, (3) Arjuna, (4) Sahadeva, (5) Draupadi, (6) Ganesa, (7) Pidari and
Rajasimha Group: There are ﬁve examples of this group – at Mahabalipuram (Shore, Isvara and Mukunda temples), one at Panamalai in South Arcot, and the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi. Among all these, the most mature example is the last one.
Nandivarman Group: This group mostly consists of small temples except the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi and in no way forms an advance on the achievements of the previous age. But they are more ornate, resembling the Chola architecture. The best examples are the temples of Mukteshvara and Matagenswara at Kanchi, the Vadamalisvara at Orgadam (near Chingalput), and the Parasuramesvara at Gudimallam (near Renigunta).
The Pallavas also contributed to the development of sculpture in south India. The Pallava sculpture largely is indebted to the Buddhist tradition. It is more monumental and linear in form, thus avoiding the typical ornamentation of the Deccan sculpture. The best example is the ‘Descent of the Ganga’ or ‘Arjuna’s Penance’ at Mahabalipuram.
The Pallavas were orthodox Brahmanical Hindus and their patronage was responsible for the great reformation of the medieval ages. Most of the Pallava kings were devotees of Shiva, the exceptions being Simhavishnu and Nandivarman who were worshippers of Vishnu. Mahendravarman I was the ﬁrst to be inﬂuence by the famous Shaivite saints of the age. Besides worshipping Siva, he also showed reverence to other Hindu gods. Pallavas were tolerant towards other religions like Buddhism and Jainism. However, some of the sects like Buddhism were losing their former glory to Saivism. The Vedic tradition in general bossed over the local tradition. Shankaracharya in fact gave this stimulus to Vedic tradition.
Tamil saints of the sixth and seventh centuries AD were the progenitors of the bhakti movement. The hymns and sermons of the Nayanars (Shaivite saints) and Alvars (Vaishnavite saints) continued the tradition of bhakti. Shaivite saints were Appar, Sambandar, Sundarar, and others. Most remarkable thing about this age was the presence of women saints such as Andal (an Alvar).
Education and Learning
Education in the early days was controlled by the Jainas and Buddhists. The Jaina institutions were located at Madurai and Kanchi. But soon Brahmanical institutions superseded them. Ghatikas or Brahmin institutions were attached to the temples and mostly conﬁned to advance study. In the eighth century AD the maths also became popular. A math was an omnibus institution because of its being a rest-house, a feeding centre and also an education centre. In all these institutions, Sanskrit was the medium of instruction, because it was also the official language.
Early Pandya Kingdom
The Pandya kingdom started its career about the same times as the Pallava or a little later, but we know little of the history of its ﬁrst two monarchs, Kadungon (560-90) and his son Maravarman Avani- Sulaimani (590-620). There is no doubt, however, that they put an end to Kalabhra rule in their part of the country and revived the Pandyan power. The third, Sendan or Jayanta Varman, imposed his rule on the Chera country and adopted the title of Vanavan. The rock-cut cave temple at Malaiyadikurichi in Tirunelveli district was excavated by him. His son was Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman (650-700), whose inscription has been recently found in the Vaigai bed at Madurai, which points to his long and prosperous rule. He is identical with Nedumaran, the victor of Neyveli, celebrated in Tamil literature.
A great soldier, he fought many battles for the extension of Pandya power, among which his conquest of Nelveli is specially mentioned in epigraphs.
Arikesari Parankusa was succeeded by his son Koccadaiyan, also called Ranadhira (c. 700-30). This monarch waged aggressive wars against his neigh- bours and extended the Pandya power into the Kongu country. He also suppressed a revolt of the mountain chieftain Ay who occupied the hilly country between Tirunelveli and Travancore. His reign ended about 730, and his son Maravarman Rajasimha I succeeded him. Early in his reign Rajasimha formed an alliance with Chalukya Vikramaditya II, espoused the cause of Chitramaya, and after inﬂicting a number of defeats on Nandi Varman Pallavamalla besieged him in a place called Nandigram, i.e., Nandi-puram, near Kumbakonam. The able Pallava general Udayachandra, who encountered the Pandya forces in many battles, raised the siege of Nandigrams, beheaded Chitramaya, and thus made the Pallava throne secure for his monarch. He also dealt with other enemies of Pallavamalla like the Sabara king Udayana and the Nishada chieftain Prithivivyaghra who were probably acting in collu- sion with the Chalukya, Vikramaditya II.
Rajasimha I was succeeded by Nedunjadaiyan, popularly known as Varaguna Maharaja I, in the year 765 A.D. He gave a crushing defeat to Pallava ruler Nandi Varman II and his allies. He had the credit to annex the whole of the Kongn country. He also defeated Adigaiman of Tagadur or Dharmapuri and sent him into conﬁnement at Madura. He ﬁxed his camp at Idavai in the heart of the Pallava kingdom. Varaguna I had still other successes to his credit. He led an expedition into Venad, South Travancore, attacked the strongly fortiﬁed port of Vilinam and brought the country under his rule.
He also waged successful war against the Ay chieftain of the intervening mountainous country who had perhaps been friendly to the ruler of Venad. As a result of these wars, Pandya sway extended well beyond Tiruchirapalli into the Tanjore, Salem and Coimbatore districts, and all that lay South was un- der him. The expansion continued under his son and successor Srimarra Srivallabha (815-62) who invaded Ceylon in the reign of Sena I (831-51), ravaged the Northern province and sacked the capital. Eventually Sena made terms with the conqueror and the Pandya forces quit the island. Srimara had next to deal with a formidable combination formed against him again under the leadership of the Pallavas. But he was defeated on the bank of the River Arisil.
Srimara’s defeat at Arisil was, however, not an isolated event. His aggressive campaigns which had earned for him the title Parachakrakolahala (Cofounder of the Circle of his Enemies) naturally roused the hostility of his neighbours. Sena II (851- 855) of Ceylon, nephew and successor of Sena I, had allied himself with the Pallavas and a Pandya prince who sought his aid. This prince was probably Srimara’s son whose claim to the throne had been overlooked when his step-brother Viranarayana was made yuvaraja (c.860). Sena sent an expedition into the Madura kingdom at about the same time as the battle of Arisil and the invasion was a complete success. The capital was sacked, Srimmara died of his wounds, and his son Varaguna Varman II was enthroned in his place by the Simhalese commander in chief (862). Varguna II had to acknowledge the overlordship of Nripatunga.
This was the most famous empire in the history of southern India. The Vijayanagara Empire lasted for three centuries, thus indirectly checking the expansion of Islamic powers in the region. According to legends as well as historical sources, two brothers named Harihara and Bukka (Sons of Sangama, a chieftain at the court of the Hoysala rulers) had founded city of Vijayanagara on the southern bank of the river
Tungabhadra in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Two famous sages Madhav Vidyaranya and his brother Sayana became the main source of inspiration for the foundation of a Hindu empire in the region.
Harihar became the ﬁrst king of the newly founded empire. After his death Bukka succeded him. Bukka sent an emissary to China in 1374 as a diplomatic move. After Bukka’s death, Harihara II (son of Hari- har) ascended the throne. He expanded his domains by conquering almost the whole of southern India, including Mysore, Kanara, Chingalpet, Trichinopally and Kanchivaram (modern Kanchipuram). A staunch worshipper of Lord Shiva, Harihara II was fairly tolerant towards the followers of other faiths too. He became the ﬁrst king of the Vijayanagara empire to assume the title of Maharajadhiraja Rajaparmeshwara (the mighty, sovereign, king of kings).
In 1486, Vir Narasimha of Chandragiri, (who be- longed to the Tuluva dynasty) took over the reigns of the Vijaynagar empire. His son Krishnadeva Raya has been acclaimed the greatest ruler of Vijayanagara and one of the most famous kings in the history of India. A great warrior, he almost invariably won the wars which he waged throughout his period of kingship. He was known to have treated even his vanquished foes with honour.
During the period 1511-1514, he captured southern Mysore, Sivasamudram fortress and Raichur (Karna- taka), defeated Gajapati, the erstwhile king of Orissa and captured Udaigiri (Orissa), in that order. Still later, he captured Vishakhapatnam and abolished the authority of the rulers of Orissa. His most outstand- ing achievement was the defeat inﬂicted on one of the Bahamani rulers, Ismail Adil Shah on 19th March 1520. This landmark event put an end to the Muslim dominance in the southern part of the country.
During his later years, Krishnadeva Raya strongly focused on the organization of his empire and improving its administration. In order to maintain friendly relations with foreign powers (who were beginning to gain a foothold in India) particularly the Portuguese, he granted some concessions to the Portuguese governor Alphonsde de Albuquerque.
The reign of Krishnadeva Raya also witnessed tremendous growth and development in the spheres of literature, music, art and culture. Raya himself was an accomplished poet, musician, scholar and extremely well-versed in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada. He patronized many poets and authors notably the Ashtadiggajas (literally: poets of a gigantic stature) of Telugu language.
The famous scholar and wit Tenali Rama adorned his court. During this period there was also a spurt in art and architecture. The famous Vithalswami temple and the Hazara temple (literally a thousand) both at Hampi built during his reign are magniﬁcent specimens of Hindu Temple architecture, executed in the Vijaynagar style of architecture.
The Vijayanagar Empire witnessed the arrival of European traders (especially the Portuguese) in India. Krishnadeva Raya encouraged foreign trade which necessitated the use of currency. The coins of the Vijayanagara Empire were chieﬂy made with gold and copper. Most of the gold coins carried a sacred image on one side and the royal legend on the reverse. Some gold coins bore the images of Lord Tirupatis.
According to historical records, a rebel chieftain of Daulatabad, near Ellora, Maharashtra, which was under Muhammad Bin Tughlaq, founded the Bahamani kingdom. This chieftain, Allauddin Has- san, who was a man of humble origins, assumed the name of Gangu Bahamani, in memory of his Brahmin mentor. His kingdom comprised parts of present day Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. South of his kingdom lay the Vijayanagara Empire against which it had to ﬁght continuous wars for political reasons.
The most remarkable ruler of the Bahamani kingdom was Firuz Shah Bahamani (1397-1422 AD), who fought three major battles against the Vijayanagara Empire without any tangible results. He was a great scholar, well-versed in religious and natural sciences. He wanted to make the Deccan the cultural centre of India.
According to his court poet Ferhishta, Firuz Shah was a true Muslim in spirit, notwithstanding his vices – fondness for wine and music, both strictly forbidden by Islam. Firuz Shah was compelled to abdicate in favour of his brother Ahmad Shah I, who successfully invaded Warangal and annexed most part of it to his empire. The conquest of Warangal proved to be a shot in the arm of the Bahamanis. The kingdom gradually expanded and reached its zenith under the prime ministership of Mahmud Gawan (1466-1481 AD).
Mahmud Gawan arrived and settled down in Bidar from Persia in the year 1453. A great scholar of Islamic cultural traditions, he established and funded a Madarassa (college) which was modelled along the lines of the universities of Samarkand and Khorasan (both in Central Asia).
One of the major problems faced by Gawan was the unending dispute among the Bahamani nobles, who were divided into Deccanis (old timers) and Afaqis or Gharibs (newcomers).
Since Gawan himself was a newcomer (of Persian origin), he failed to win the conﬁdence of the Deccanis. His policy of conciliation failed to stem the ongoing strife amongst the noblemen. In 1482, Gawan, a septuagenarian was executed by Sultan Muhammad Shah, the last ruler of the undivided Bahamani Empire.
After Gawan’s death, the raging internal factions grew more intense and various governors declared their independence. The kingdom ﬁnally got fragmented into ﬁve parts— the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, the Qutub Shahis of Golconda, the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar, the Barid Shahi of Bidar and lastly the Imad Shahis of Berar.
The ﬁve kingdoms came together to wage a war against the mighty Vijayanagara Empire and inﬂicted a death-blow to it in 1565. A few years down the line, the Imad Shahi kingdom was conquered by Nizamshahis in 1574 AD; the Barid Shahi kingdom was annexed by Adil Shahis in 1619 AD.
These kingdoms continued to play a dominant role in the politics of the region till they were eventually merged in the Mughal Empire in the 17th century. After the death of Shivaji, Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, marched southwards, ﬁnally annexing Bijapur in 1686 A.D and Golconda in 1689 A. D; this sounded the death knell of the Bahamani kingdom. The Bahamani period witnessed the upsurge of secularism and communal harmony. Hazrat Banda
Nawaz (1321-1422 A.D) the great Suﬁ saint was patronized by the Bahamani kings and his Dargah located at Gulbarga in Karnataka, is a famous pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims alike.
In the ﬁeld of architecture, the Bahamani rulers evolved a distinct style by drawing heavily from Persian, Turkey, and Arabic architectural styles and blending it with local styles. One of the largest and most famous domes in the world, the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the majestic gateway Charminar at Hyderabad and the Golconda Fort near Hyderabad are the hallmarks of Bahamani architecture. The main source of income of the Bahamanis was the cultivated land, with the administration revolving around the assessment and collection of land revenue.
The Bahmanis of the Deccan ultimately left behind a rich, composite cultural heritage of Indo-Islamic art, language, besides Islamic faith and traditions.