The year was 1565; the Vijayanagar empire had Sadasiva as it’s namesake King while the real power lay with the three brothers – Rama Raya, Tirumala and Venkatadri. It was Rama Raya also called Aliyar Rama Raya, who wielded power.
Rama Raya and Tirumala are believed to be son-in-law’s of the celebrated king Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529) and Sadasiva was the king’s nephew (son of Krishna Deva Raya’s brother Ranga).
Over the course of several battles fought across the centuries, the Deccan Sultans realised that they could not win individually over Rama Raya’s Vijaynagar and so they decided to form an alliance and march together against Vijaynagar. The place of battle is the small town of Talikota located in the present Vijayapura district of Karnataka.
All the sovereigns were present in person for the epic battle. Rama Raya was joined by his two brothers and faced the four Deccan Sultans – on the west Tirumala was facing the forces of Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur, Rama Raya was at the centre facing the forces of Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar and on the left was Venkatadri facing the armies of Ali Barid Shah of Bidar and Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah of Golkonda.
But Rama Raya was certain of victory. Robert Sewell in his book A Forgotten Empire writes “So confident was he of victory that it is said he had ordered his men to bring him the head of Hussain Nizam, but to capture Adil Shah and Ibrahim of Golkonda alive, that he might keep them for the rest of their lives in iron cages.”
In the course of the battle an elephant from Hussain Nizam Shah’s side, wild with the excitement of the battle, dashed forward towards Rama Raya. On seeing the charging elephant, Rama Rays’s palanquin bearers dropped him in terror and soon he was captured by Hussain Nizam Shah’s men. The Sultan ordered Rama Raya “to be decapitated and the head to be elevated on a long spear, so that it might be visible to the Hindu soldiers.” On seeing that their chief was dead, the Vijayanagar forces started to panic and retreat. The Sultans won and the Muslim forces destroyed everyone and everything in their wake.
With the victory at the Battle of Talikota, the Muslim allies head for the capital city Vijayanagar. By now, Venkatadri was also killed in the battle and Tirumala fled with the King Sadasiva further south to Penukonda and the capital was awaiting the enemies in terror. As per the accounts of the Italian traveller Cesare Frederici, the Sultans of Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmadnagar entered the capital city and remained there for six months plundering the city. This was the norm of the victors in every battle. Vijayanagar was a glorious city and they could have maintained it; but as per Frederici, the Sultans did not find this feasible as maintaining an opulent city such as Vijayanagar, away from their current capitals required vast resources and hence they departed to their kingdoms.
Tirumala later with King Sadasiva, tried to re-populate the Vijayanagar but failed. In 1568, Tirumala Raya murdered Sadasiva and became the ruler; he decided to set up his rule at Penukonda and then moved to Chandragiri, both places are in the current Andhra Pradesh. Vijayanagar was reduced to a city of silent ruins.
All that remains now are the solid masonry structures and these belonged to the king’s court, royal residences, military structures and temples. The ordinary folk lived in thatched roof houses made of wood or mud and these perish over time. This clearly defines what we can expect to see in the ruins of Vijayanagar.
John M Fritz and George Michell in their book Hampi Vijayanagara identifies the capital to be divided into three main areas – the innermost royal centre, the surrounding urban core and the sacred centre. The lines dividing the royal centre and the urban core are not clear and hence they can be clubbed together to make one trail in Hampi; the guides call it the royal trail. The second one is called the holy trail, consisting of the temple complexes situated along the sacred centre.
Two trails in two days are perfect; but we had only one day and we chose to walk along the sacred centre.
The sacred centre or the holy trail runs along the south bank of the Tungabhadra river stretching over a distance of 2.5km. The distance doesn’t seem much; but once you begin, you realise that the monuments dotting the landscape are so numerous and fascinating and… time flies !!
The authors further divide the scared centre into four independent quarters, each consisting of a temple complex namely – Hampi with the Virupaksha temple, Krishnapura with the Krishna temple, Achyutapura with the temple dedicated to Tiruvengalanatha and last the Vitthalapura with the Vitthala temple.
You can either start from the Vitthalapura temple or the Virupaksha temple; we started with the latter.
More in the next post, take care !!