Jambudveep's Blog

May 15, 2010

Vijayanagar – Chapter 3

I have created rough graphics of Malik Kafurs invasion routes using in S Krishnaswami Iyengar’s description and with the help of Google Earth .I have modified Vijaynagar Chapter 2 to show the map for Kafurs invasion of Deogiri and Wrangal.

Vijayanagar –Empire of the Gods

Chapter 3

After   extracting tributes from two of the most powerful Hindu Kingdoms in India at that time, Ala-ud-dins gaze was naturally turned on the rich Hoysala kingdom in Karnataka and Pandya kingdom in Tamil Nadu.

The Hoysalas

The Hoysala kingdom was extensive and covered almost all of modern Karnataka and parts of western Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It was a rich and flourishing kingdom with revenues from sea trade, teak   etc. The Hoysala kings were known for their patronage of Kannada literature and fine architecture. Many temples from the Hoysala period still survive to this day and are outstanding examples with superb detail and exquisite craftsmanship.

The capital of the Hoysala’s was Dvarasamudram (modern day Halebid in Karnataka), a well fortified city. Veera Ballala III (ruled from 1291-1343 CE) was the ruler at the time of Kafurs raid on South India. He was a person with exceptional foresight, courage and   one of the mighty defenders of Hindu Dharma in troubled times of the fourteenth century. Even at the age of   eighty years this great king was still fighting against the Muslims, when he was treacherously murdered in 1343 CE by Sultan   Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani of Madurai.

The Pandyas

The Pandya kingdom was extremely rich and powerful, commanding the vital sea routes. It stretched from Quilon in Kerala to Nellore in Tamil Nadu. The capital of the Pandyan kingdom was Madurai and its second great city was Vira Dhavalapattanam (known to the Muslims as Bir Dhul).As it stood astride the major sea trading routes, it had a flourishing network of ports and a large fleet of ships.

The Pandya kings used to maintain a large cavalry force, sustained by constant imports from abroad. It must be pointed out here that India is not ideal horse country, the weather and climatic conditions render horses susceptible to a host of diseases and early death. Except for the hardy indigenous breeds of horses, foreign breeds had a very short life. This was why maintaining a large cavalry force was a luxury for most kingdoms .They needed to be constantly replenished and were a drain on resources. A good cavalryman in that age was worth his weight in gold. The Muslims in contrast had access to large cavalry forces straight from Central Asia.

The Pandyas also possessed a force of nearly thousand elephants, a large army with a contingent of Arab fighters as well. Elephants played a role on the battlefield much like battle tanks do today i.e.  steamroll   the opposition. War elephants   worked fine until they ran amok and turned on their own side.

The king ruling over this porsperous domain  just prior to the muslim invasion was Kulashekhara Pandya.He was an extremely capable and ambitious ruler. He defeated the Kakatiya’s and laid siege to the Hoysala capital of Dvarasamudram twice. Ceylon and other islands were subject to his power. After he was foully assassinated by his son Sundara Pandya, the Pandya kingdom fell on hard times.

A fratricidal war erupted between Sundara Pandya and his   younger brother Vira Pandya. Vira Pandya had been nominated by Kulashekhara as his successor. This was the reason why   Sundara Pandya killed his father and usurped the throne.

In a see-saw of battles the fortunes of Vira and Sundara Pandya rose and ebbed in turn. Thus on the eve of Kafurs attack the entire Pandya kingdom was in a state of chaos.

Attack on Dvarasamudram

Fig 1. Kafurs invasion route to Dvarasamudram and Madurai

In the map above I have charted out a rough route for Kafur’s attack on Dvarasamudram and Madurai based on the description given in in S Krishnaswami Iyengar’s book.

Malik Kafur reached Deogiri on 3rd February 1311 CE.As usual Rama Deva provided all the materials needed to help to the invaders.Rama Deva deputed one of his commander in chief Parshuram Dalavi to guide Kafur onto the right route for Dvarasamudram. Parshuram’s domains bordered Veera Ballala’s kingdom. Rama Deva had his own axe to grind against Veera Ballala III, as Veera Ballala had made repeated attacks on the Deogiri kingdom to seize territory.

Thus suitably provisioned, Kafurs force started from Deogiri on 7th February 1311 CE and reached a place called Bandir (as per S K Aiyangar this is Pandharpur in Maharashtra) on   22nd February 1311 CE. This was at the border of   Deogiri and the Hoysala kingdoms.

Like all good practitioners of warfare, Kafur had an intelligence wing in his army. Before penetrating into the Hoysala kingdom, Kafur despatched four officers(Bahram Karra, Qatlah Nehang, Mahmud Sartiha and Abaji Mughal), each accompanied by an interpreter to gather information about the enemy. The interpreters were fluent in the local language; I assume this was ancient Kannada.

Meanwhile Veera Ballala had decided to take advantage of the chaos in the Pandya kingdom and   was leading his army to try and take back territory lost by the Hoysala’s to Kulashekhara Pandya. As soon as Kafurs scouts reported this news, Kafur decided to head straight for   the capital Dvarasamudram.

Veera Ballala on his part learned of the Muslims at his rear and returned with great haste to Dvarasamudram.

En route one of Veera Ballala’s   Nayakas   attacked Kafurs   army, but was killed on the battlefield.

Following his tried and tested strategy of launching   surprise attacks straight on enemy capitals, Kafur reached Dvarasamudram on 25th February 1311 CE. In a short span of twelve days he had force marched his army straight to the gates of Dvarasamudram.

As per accounts initially Veera Ballala wanted to go into battle with Kafur. The Pandya king Vira Pandya had already despatched a force to help Veera Ballala. He however changed his mind on seeing the destructive capacity of Kafurs army. Before making up his mind he sent his advisor Kesava Mal to ascertain the strength of the enemy. Learning of the formidable strength of the enemy   Ballala decided to sue for terms. Veera Ballala was prepared to lose his treasure in order to safeguard his people and kingdom. He sent Ballapa Deva Nayaka who was known for his negotiation skills to Kafurs camp. Kafur made the same demands as before and extracted a heavy price from Veera Ballala.

There were two additional stipulations to the terms of surrender; one was that Veera Ballala’s son Veera Virupaksha Ballala was to accompany Kafur back to Delhi (possibly as a hostage to prevent Veera Ballala turning against Delhi) and that he should lead the Muslim army to Madurai.  With no way out of the quandary he was in Veera Ballala agreed to these terms.

Onward to Madurai

Guided by Veera Ballala, Kafur’s army reached the border with the Pandya kingdom on 15th March 1311 CE. The Pandyan princes mounted guerrilla warfare against the invaders almost as soon as they entered their territory.

Showing tactical ingenuity the Pandyas refused to fight set piece battles where Kafurs armoured cavalry would have an advantage. Instead they kept eluding Kafurs forces.

Kafur moved towards Veera Dhavalapattam, conducting savage massacres of defenceless Hindus along the way. Vira Pandya was in Veera Dhavalapattanam and he sent out a mixed force of Hindu and Muslim cavalry. A ferocious battle raged between the combatants from afternoon till sunset. In the might taking advantage of the lull in fighting Vira Pandya escaped with his family and treasure.

Furious at losing Vira Pandya, Kafur pursued him from place to place without any success. In the meanwhile rains had started and Kafur was obliged to stop as his army was in no position to fight.

As soon a Kafur made camp, Pandyan cavalry launched a fierce attack in the rain and were only repulsed after a terrible battle. Realising that making camp in the rains would make him a sitting target Kafur resumed Vira Pandyas pursuit.

With the entire landscape flooded by torrential rains, it was left to Veera Ballala to safely guide the Muslims across the waters. In the course of his pursuit Kafur came upon hundred and twenty elephants laden with Vira Pandyas treasure which he promptly appropriated.

After sacking the town of Kandur, Kafur’s forces fell upon the town of Marhatpuri in the night where every civilian was killed. In Marhatpuri the Brahmana’s and other courageous civilians had decided to defend the temples to their last breath and were killed to a man fighting Kafur’s forces. The temples in every case were razed to the ground.

Reaching Veera Dhavalapattanam on 1st April 1311 CE, Kafur destroyed the temples; even going to the extent of digging up their foundations to make sure no traces remained of them.

Kafur   reached Madurai on 10th April 1311 CE, but was unable to plunder it .Madurai was the seat of power of Sundara Pandya and was very well defended. Sundara Pandya had already fled Madurai.

Just when it seemed all was lost, a hurricane rose up which nearly destroyed Kafur and his band of thugs. Vikrama Pandya who was the younger brother of Kulashekhara Pandya took charge of the army. Vikrama Pandya was   eighty years old and with the help of his veteran Brahmana commander he marshalled the Pandya warriors to destroy the invaders ( to put the significance of this in context, try to imagine geriatrics like Manmohan Singh, Lal Krishna Advani etc taking up arms to defend India, can’t see that happening can you?!).

By now Kafur had overstretched himself and had penetrated too deep into the Pandya territory. Gathering a   vast force Vikrama Pandya attacked Kafur (I’m not sure of the location).The Pandyan warriors were incited to terrible fury by the heinous acts committed by Kafur. In the fury of their attack the Muslim cavalry was annihilated and most of Kafurs army destroyed.

Like other Hindu kings Vikrama Pandya fell short of completely annihilating Kafurs army and killing Kafur.

On his part Kafur managed to escape along with the treasure which had been despatched to Delhi. The battered remains of Kafurs army returned to Dvarasamudram and from there made their way to Delhi, reaching Delhi on 30th October 1311 CE.

Kafur took  Veera Virupaksha Ballala to Delhi where Ala-ud-din pleased with the help rendered by Veera Ballala, presented him with ten lakh tankas (silver coins) and sent him back to Dvarasamudram.

Thus Kafurs attack on the Pandya kingdom came to an ignomious end at the hands of the valiant Vikrama Pandya. Veera Ballala’s kingdom was left intact and he would be the last Hindu king left standing when the next wave of conquest started from Delhi.

For Chapter 4 click here.

References :

  1. The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, N. Venkataramanayya, edited by Prof. K A N Sastri, Madras University Historical Series, 1942. Available at http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandyan_Dynasty
  3. South India and Her Mohemmedan Invaders, S Krishnaswami Iyengar, S Chand & Co,1921, http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/
  4. The Never to be Forgotten Empire “Vijayanagar”, B Suryanarain Row,1905, http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/3601
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3 Comments »

  1. The book Vijaynagar, never to be forgotten empire by B Suryanarain Row, is it just the first part because the narrative breaks off in middle and does not cover a lot of aspects of later Kings of the 3rd dynasty and also in the front page it says Part 1. Any idea because I cant find the 2nd part.

    Comment by shankara — February 9, 2011 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

    • Shankara,

      i had exactly the same problem.I am looking around for the remaining parts.if i get my hands on the missing parts will post it on my blog ASAP.

      regards

      Comment by Yogeshwar Shastri — February 10, 2011 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  2. Your account is full of errors.

    Comment by Cool — June 22, 2012 @ 4:26 pm | Reply


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