There are many stories leading to the origins of the Vijayanagar empire, too many in fact; but they all have some converging points. A broad outline of these narratives is aptly outlined by Srinivas Reddy in his book Raya stating ” It is a tale of two brothers, a sacred geography and one legendary sage.” And it’s very interesting !!
As mentioned in the prior post, we are covering the sacred centre of Hampi also called the holy trail as it consists of the major temple complexes here 👉 Hampi chronicles: Beginning with the end 🌄 (Starting the Hampi trail🚶🏻♀️)
We started at the most visible structure in Hampi – the Virupaksha temple; the first among the four major temple complexes in the trail. The Virupaksha temple is the only working temple and hence to enter, you have to remove your shoes. There was quite a crowd at the temple on the Monday morning.
The entrance to the Virupaksha temple is from the eastern side, marked by a towering gopuram. But this gopuram is a recent addition compared to the other centuries old antique structures inside.
The Virupaksha temple is located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river and is one of the oldest temples in the area, even pre-dating to before the advent of the Vijayanagar empire and hence we have to break for a flash back to understand the developments.
The two brothers credited with the founding of the Vijayanagar empire were Hakka (Harihara) and Bukka.
In the beginning of the 13th century the Muslim Delhi Sultanate was ruling north India and the Deccan and further south was divided broadly among four Hindu kingdoms – the Yadavas (in present Maharastra) with their capital at Devagiri, the Kakatiyas (in present Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) with their capital at Warangal, the Hoysalas (in present Karnataka) with their capital at Dwarasamudra (now called Halebid) and the Pandyas (in present Tamil Nadu) with their capital at Madurai.
In the 14th century after firmly establishing themselves in the north, the Delhi Sultans turned their sights on south India. From 1308 to 1311, Malik Kafur the celebrated general under Alauddin Khilji marched south defeating one kingdom after another and plundering their capital, finally returning back to Delhi carrying with him immense wealth and bounty.
From then on the expeditions to the Deccan and south intensified and with this the established kingdoms of the south started disintegrating. In 1325, Muhammad bin Tughlaq ascended the throne in Delhi. In south, Dwarasamudra, the capital of the Hoysalas was sacked in 1310 by Malik Kafur and while attempting to rebuilt a capital again at nearby Belur, Muhammad bin Tughlaq razed it to ground in 1326. The rule of Muhammad bin Tughlaq has many incredulous stories, but talking about them will be digressing.
Meanwhile on the northern bank of the river Tungabhadra in present Karnataka, there existed a Hindu stronghold called Kampila; the rulers here were feudatories of the Hoysala kings. The brothers Hakka and Bukka were serving the ruler of Kampila; they were five brothers in all and were sons of Sangama.
And finally Muhammad bin Tughlaq attacked Kampila. The reason is interesting depending on whose version you are hearing “According to the the Hindus, it was a war undertaken from pure greed of conquest; according to the Muslim story, it was a campaign against a rebel” – the ruler of Kampila gave shelter to Baha-ud-din Gushtasp, the rebel and nephew of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
Whatever the reason, Muslims captured Kampila; the ruler was killed, the women committed jauhar (mass self immolation) and the brothers were taken prisoners and converted to Islam.
But later, the brothers were sent back south to rule; they renounced Islam and began to rule from the fortified town of Anegundi nearby Kampila, again on the northern bank of Tungabhadra.
On one hunting expedition on the southern bank of the river, the brothers were witness to an ominous sight – a hare chasing their dogs. ” The hare instead of fleeing from the dogs, flew at them and bit them.” (This hare chasing dog story forms the basis of origin of many old capitals in India and Vijaynagar is one among them!). Following this they soon chanced upon a sage called Vidyaranya, at the base of Mount Matanaga who apparently have been waiting for them !! He explained to them the meaning of the omen.
“According to the scared traditions of this place, it’s impossible for anyone – no matter how strong he might be – to harm the weak here. It’s because of the curse of the great sage Matanga. A long time ago, the mighty monkey king Vali lived in Kishkindha with his younger brother Sugriva. Once they had a fight and Sugriva ran away to this hill. The invincible king Vali came chasing right behind him, but the great sage Matanga cursed Vali so that he couldn’t climb up the hill. And ever since that time, no strong fellow – whether animal or man – has been able to do his strong mans’s business up there. So you see, no matter how strong someone is, when he comes to this place, he ends up powerless.” from the book Raya by Srinivas Reddy
The brothers were inspired by the sage’s story and decided to set up their new capital there. These lands are known by many names – Kishkindha, the mythical forested home of Hanuman, Vali and Sugriva, Pampakshetra, the land through which the river Pampa flows, Vidyanagar the City of Knowlwdge (in honour of Vidyaranya) and finally Vijayanagar, the City of Victory.
The sacred Matanga mount sits opposite to the Virupaksha temple; maybe that’s the reason why only this temple was spared during the pillaging and plundering of the capital in 1565 ⁉️ The longstanding curse protected the temple while all the other three temples enroute were sacked. Seems surreal ‼️
And so, the city of Vijayanagar was established in 1336, by the two brothers and Harihara I (Hakka) became the first king of the empire with the same name. Thus began rule of the Sangama dynasty at Vijaynagar. He was succeed by his brother Bukka Raya I (Raya used for Raja).
The presence of sages on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra also means that there must have been small shrines there. The Virupaksha temple must have begun as a small temple on the river bank and over the course of centuries expanded with several new constructions under the auspicious of various kings of Vijayanagar.
Three posts on Hampi and we have not set foot inside a monument yet 😂.
Inside the Virupaksha temple in the next post🤞.
Take care !!