A proclaimed glorious reign by any monarch always marks the beginning of the end of an empire and the story is no different for Vijaynagar. The Vijayanagar empire was at the peak of it’s prestige and power during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529). He was succeeded by his half-brother Achyuta, continuing the line of the third (Tuluva) dynasty of Vijayanagar.
As recorded by Fernao Nuniz the Portuguese horse-trader who was at Vijayanagar from 1535 to 1537, Achyuta and two other brothers of Krishna Deva Raya along with a nephew was confined to the fortress in Chandragiri to prevent dissension in the kingdom. Most kings while ascending the throne ensure that there are no other contenders to their claim by putting to death or blinding all the other aspirants.
Achyuta Raya ascended the throne of Vijayanagar is 1530. Nuniz goes on to say that the new king Achyuta Raya was a despot and a coward and his rule marked the beginning of the end of the Vijayanagar empire. There is an interesting incident that occurred during Achyuta Raya’s reign.
We have the reason to remember Achyuta Raya; the magnificent temple constructed during his reign in 1534 now commonly referred to as the Achyutaraya temple. But contrary to the name, the temple was built by Tirumala. It’s an abandoned temple, no devotees and surprisingly nil tourists too. But it’s magnificent😘 !!This maybe because to reach this temple, you need bipedals, either feet or a cycle; plus this temple does not have any prized monuments like the Stone Chariot in the Vitthala temple or the Narasimha statue in the Krishna temple.
And maybe due to the lack of visitors, the remains of this huge temple is still in good condition. You can roam about every nook and cranny of this place in peace and quiet and simply marvel at the enormous magnitude of it’s construction or admire the beautiful carvings seen everywhere. It’s magical 🤗!! And that’s exactly what we did 😘
Back to our flash back and in the palace at Vijayanagar, we have some new faces; Rama and Tirumala were son-in-laws of the earlier king Krishna Deva Raya. They were three brothers – Rama, Tirumala and Venkatadri. Rama Raya wanted to rule and worked to secure the throne with the support of the people and the nobles. The nobles though preferred the continuation of the royal blood line and hence backed Achyuta Raya. But soon they found themselves unable to bear the tyranny of the new king and rebelled, inviting Rama Raya to claim the throne.
Meanwhile in the northern part of the empire, Ismail Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur fought and won back Mudgal and Raichur, (in present north Karnataka, between the rivers Tungabhadra and Krishna) both being under the Vijayanagar empire for seventeen years (ie during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya). Subsequently, Sultan Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur died in 1534 and in 1535 Ibrahim Adil Shah, his second son became Sultan of Bijapur after a short spell of misrule by his elder brother who was then blinded on the orders of his grandmother❗️
Back in the capital, unable to control the dissension in his kingdom, Achyuta Raya invited Ibrahim Adil Shah to march into the city of Vijayanagar and help him quell the rebellion, promising him tributes. And so in 1536, the once enemy marched into the city of Vijayanagar and was greeted with pomp and show by the king. With the presence of the enemy in their midst, once again the people, the nobles and Rama Raya with his brothers promised to accept Achyuta Raya’s sovereignty.
But as soon as the Sultan of Bijapur left Vijayanagar, Rama Raya and his supporters decided to kill the king. Firishtah (in the book A Forgotten Empire by Robert Sewell) records the following about king Achyuta Raya “…seeing he was betrayed, shut himself up in the palace and becoming mad from despair, blinded all the royal elephants and horses and also cutting off their tails, that they might be of no use to his enemy. All the diamond, rubies and emeralds and other precious stones and pearls which had been collected in a course of many ages, he crushed to powder between heavy millstones and scattered them on the ground. He then fixed a sword blade into a pillar of his apartment and ran his breast upon it with such a force that it pierced through and came out at the back, thus putting an end to his existence…”
Achyuta Raya died in 1542, leaving behind a son Venkata who was subsequently assassinated. But again in compliance with the wishes of the people, a royal was put on throne ie Sadasiva became king in 1542. He was the son of Ranga, another half brother of Krishna Deva Raya. King Sadasiva was the last monarch of the Tuluva dynasty to rule Vijayanagar. But king Sadasiva remained a puppet ruler while the all the power was welded by Rama Raya and his two brothers, more 👉Hampi chronicles: Beginning with the end 🌄 (Starting the Hampi trail🚶🏻♀️)
Back to the present now; the temple is situated at the foot of the Matanga hill on the west, facing north. The entrance to the temple is an incredibly wide road bounded on both sides by colonnaded structures. You have to walk down the middle of this road to feel the vastness of the place !!
The colonnaded structures are remains of the once bustling market in front of the temple. This street is popularly called the Courtesan street and is the widest of the bazaars of Vijayanagar. Going back to the words of R K Narayan who brings to life this street “…the sound of laughter and music filled the air, as men and beautiful women, pleasure-seekers, poets, artists, scholars and philosophers, jostled along, in their palanquins, on horses or on foot and the bells of the elephants in their stables tinkled all day long.”
Before you proceed down the erstwhile Courtesan street to the Achyutaraya temple, you will see a small dilapidated temple by the side facing east, it’s called Hastagiri Ranganatha temple. We didn’t go in as there were people seen sleeping inside.
It’s small gopuram stood out and on closer inspection, there was an almost ruined carving of reclining Vishnu (called Ranganatha) with his consorts; but’s its almost ruined (pic below).
As you walk down, the enormous front doorway of the Achyutaraya temple looms in front. You simply gape at the sight of the temple entrance; it’s size and the intricate work done on the it !! It’s a unique sight and an incredible feeling !! It’s something like the scene from the Gladiator movie and when Maximus first sees the imposing Colosseum !
It’s not just the bazaar, the temple has another grand structure that catches your attention – a stepped tank with a pavilion in the center. It must have been a beautiful sight in the hey days !!
You can click a ton of photos here. Everything looks novel and amazing !! It’s well past noon, we have been walking since morning; but you can’t stop now; there is a thrill of discovery and excitement, you have no idea what’s inside the temple ‼️ More treasures from inside the Achyutaraya temple in the next post !!
Take care !!