Jambudveep's Blog

January 14, 2013

Vijayangar Chapter 6: The Great war of Liberation

As seen in the previous chapters the low point in the history of India came in the 1320’s. Long standing dynasties such as the Kakatiya’s of Warangal, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri,the Pandya rulers of Madurai were overthrown or extinguished by the Islamic war machine. The only Hindu kingdom left standing in South India was the Hoysala kingdom of Karnataka led by Veera Ballala III.

The just and equitable rule of the Hindu kings was replaced by an oppressive and merciless administration. The land was parcelled out to various Amirs, Maliks and Muslim jehadi’s from around the world. These parasites sucked the blood of the common people and destroyed the traditional way of life. The terrible sufferings of the people are illustrated in the Madhuravijayam and the Vilasa grant of Prolaya Nayaka. Temples fell into disuse and the old system of endowments was discontinued in favour of extorting money from the people. With the disappearance of the agraharas the Vedic system of learning was strangulated.

But the typhoon of Hindu revival in the South was coming…


6. The Eleven year war of Liberation (1325-1336 CE)

Fig. 6.1 Map of the war of Liberation

No sooner had the dust settled on the Tughlaq invasions that the Hindus of South India mounted a ferocious counter offensive. Out of the ashes of the fallen kingdoms arose a confederacy of Hindu chiefs, each determined to drive the Turuksha’s into the ground. The table below give the names and brief details of the prominent Hindu leaders of this great war of liberation.

Name of Hindu King/Chief Brief Description Area of Operations Year active from
Veera Ballala III Hoysala ruler of  Karnataka Karnataka, extending upto river Ponniyan in Tamil Nadu 1324-1342
Prolaya Nayaka (Musunuri family) One of the chief Nayaka of the erstwhile Kakatiya kings. Coastal Andhra with headquarters at Rekapalli 1325-1333
Kapaya Mayaka (Musunuri family) Cousin of Proalaya Nayaka and leader of confederacy of 75 Nayaka’s. Coastal Andhra,western Andhra and Telangana 1325-1367
Prolaya Vema Reddi Powerful Nayaka and founder of the  Reddi kingdom of Kondavidu. Region around Kondavidu in Andhra. Initial base at Addanki. 1325-1353
Chalukya Somadeva, Chalukya prince and ancestor of the Aravidu emperors of Vijayanagar Western Andhra with base at Kurnool. 1325- ?
Ariyseti Annamantri Surviving general of the erstwhile Kakatiya kingdom. Coastal Andhra 1325-?
Kolani Prataparudradeva Surviving general of the erstwhile Kakatiya kingdom. Coastal Andhra 1325-?
Racherla Singama Nayaka, Founder of the Velama kingdom of Rachakonda. Telangana 1325-1361
Ekramnath Sambuvararaya Ruler of Rajgambhira rajyam Headquarters at Kanchipuram. Kingdom comprised of  North Arcot district in Tamil Nadu and parts of Chittor district in Andhra Pradesh. 1325- ?

                 Table  6‑0‑1 The Main Leaders of the War of Independence


The below table gives the main opponents of the Hindus in the Deccan and the south:

The Hindu Confederacy Their Tughlaq Opponents
1. Veera Ballala III

2. Kapaya Nayaka and 75 Nayakas’s

3.Prolaya Nayaka


5. Ekramanth Sambuvararaya

6. Prolaya Vema Reddi

7. Racherla Singama Nayaka

8. Kolani Prataparudradeva

9. Ariyseti Annamantri

1. Mohammed Tughlaq, Sultan of Delhi.2. Malik Muhammad, governor of Kampili.

3. Malik Maqbul,governor of the Warangal division of Telanagana.

4. Shihab Sultani, governor of the Bidar division of Telangana.

5. Qutlugh Khan, governor of Devagiri (1335-1342).

6. Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah,kotwal of Madura

Table 6‑2  The chief opponents from the Hindu and the Muslim side.

6.1 The war of liberation in Karnataka

In Karnataka the core area around Mysore right upto Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu was in the hands of Veera Ballala III. By 1328 CE, he was back in action and directing operations against the Muslim garrisons ensconced in Tamil Nadu. In 1327 CE, the situation was made serious by Muhammad Tughlaq shifting his capital to Devagiri from Delhi. This put enormous Muslim armies dangerously close to the Hoysala capital of Dvarasamudra.

To check the danger emanating from the north, Veera Ballala entrusted the task of defending the Northern frontier of the Hoysala kingdom to the five Sangama brothers of which Harihara and Bukkaraya are the most famous.The Sangama brothers who were Mahamandaleswara’s (Provincial governors) later went on to establish the Vijayanagar empire.

As a further precaution, Veera Ballala had established three capitals: Dvarasamudra,Kundani and Tiruvannamalai.This enabled him to mount a mobile defence against the Islamic incursions from Devagiri in the North, as well as secure his rear against the Muslims in Madurai. Tiruvannamalai was bang on the main road which linked Madurai to the North. For nearly fifteen years (1328-1342 CE) this city was his base of operations against the Muslim garrisons in Tamil Nadu. In the region of Anegondi and Kampili ferocious battles raged to drive out the Muslims.

6.1.1 A comparison of the armies of Veera Ballala and Mohammed Tughlaq

What was the strength of the army of Veera Ballala? From Ibn Batutas account, in 1342 CE Veera Ballala had 1, 00,000 infantry and 20,000 Muslim mercenaries in his army. In 1328 CE it is difficult to gauge his military strength, but it must have been considerable to go up against Mohammed Tughlaq.

To get an idea of the impossible odds facing the Hindus here are some numbers for Muhammad Tughlaq’s army:

Component of army

Estimated numbers

Horsemen (cavalry)


War elephants


Turkish Mamluks




Eunuchs (all armed)


Bashmaqdars ( a type of bodyguard)




 Table   6‑3 The strength of Muhammad Tughlaq’s army.

Out of the nine lakh horsemen, the bulk accompanied Tughlaq on his campaigns while the rest were posted in various provincial garrisons around the country. In addition he could raise large forces for temporary expeditions .e.g. sometime before 1333 CE he raised and maintained an army of 3,70,000 horsemen to support his invasion of Khorasan (in Iran).This had to be disbanded after a year due to maintenance costs running in crores of tankas ( the currency of the day).

6.2 The war in Andhra desa

The final battle of the Kakatiya kingdom took place near Rajamahendravaram in 1323 CE. The cream of the kshatriya’s of Andhra perished in this terrible battle against Mohammed Tughlaq’s forces. But within two years of this disaster the banner of freedom was unfurled by the Musunuri chief Prolaya Nayaka and his cousin Kapaya Nayaka. With their headquarters at Rekapalli, they gathered around them 75 Nayakas (military chiefs) of the erstwhile Kakatiya kingdom. Promiment amongst the seventy five Nayakas were Prolaya Vema Reddi, Kopplua Prolaya Nayaka, Recharla Singama Nayaka and Manchikonda Ganapati Nayaka. In this heroic endeavour they were joined by surviving generals of the Kakatiya’s such as Ariyeti Annamantri and Kolani Rudradeva.

Prolaya Nayaka revived the old endowments and patronised Vedic learning. He also restored those temples which suffered destruction at the hands of the Islamic invaders. This liberating army of the Hindus moved swiftly and by 1328 CE coastal Andhra was liberated from the clutches of the Muslims. In western Andhra by 1329 CE they were joined by the Chalukya prince Somadeva, who from his base in Kondanavolu (Kurnool) launched attacks on the Muslim garrisons in the Bellary and Rayalseema regions. After fierce fighting, he retook the forts of Anegondi,Mudgal,Musalimadugu,Satanikota,Etagiri,Kunti and Sara. In concert with him, Veera Ballala attacked Kampili. Malik Muhammad the Tughlaq governor of Kampili was now facing simultaneous attacks from Somadeva and Veera Ballala. Somadeva defeated Malik Muhammad in a series of battles and managed to capture him along with his 6000 cavalry. However Muhammad managed to secure his freedom by making false promises.

By 1333 CE the position of the Muslims in Andhra had become precarious. The survivors retreated to Warangal which was under Malik Maqbul. At the same tine in 1335 CE, Muhammad Tughlaq descended into the Deccan to subdue the revolt of Jalal-ad-din Ahsan Shah (the kotwal of Madurai). Ahsan Shah had declared himself as an independent Sultan of Madura and minted coins in his own name. When Tughlaq was encamped in Warangal (or Bidar as per another account) a plague struck the city of Warangal .A majority of the Hindu population of that city perished along with a great part of Muhammad Tughlaqs army. Many seniors Malik’s and Amirs also perished due to the plague. Muhammad Tughlaq himself was taken sick and had to beat a hasty retreat. Ahsan Shah was left to his own devices in Madurai.

By 1336 CE the stage was clear for the liberation of Warangal. Like a hurricane Kapaya Nayaka swept into Telangana and liberated Warangal in 1336 CE. In this he was aided by Veera Ballala who sent forces to reinforce Kapaya. Warangal the declared as the capital of the short lived but glorious Musunuri kingdom. In Kondavidu, Prolaya Vema Reddi began to lay the foundations of the kingdom of the Reddi’s.

6.3  A bird’s eye view of the Scene at Delhi…

The period from 1325 CE   onwards was one of a general collapse of the Delhi sultanate. Till his death in 1351 CE Muhammad Tughlaq was constantly running from one end of his  short lived empire to the other, constantly fighting rebellions and uprisings. By 1336 CE the major part of South India was back in Hindu hands. The only aberration was the Sultanate of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.

Like the rule of other Muslim sultans, Muhammad Tughlaq’s rule was marked by extortionate taxation and oppression of the Hindu’s. The years from 1325 to 1340  CE were of one long famine in North India, especially in the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh. The doab region is one of the most fertile regions in India. Muhammad Tughlaqs oppressive policies had exacerbated the drought into a deadly famine. Hindus abandoned their lands and fled into the safety of the jungles. For this Muhammad Tughlaq organised hunts to kill them like wild animals. The decision to move the capital of the Sultanate to Devagiri in 1327 CE was dictated by many factors:

i. Primary amongst them was to check the wave of Hindu resurgence sweeping South India. Far flung places like Madurai were six months march from Delhi. Devagiri had the advantage in being centrally located and within striking range of the main centres of the liberation struggle i.e. Karnataka and Andhra.

ii. The famine in the countryside  had finally affected Delhi, as the supplies of corn into the city were disrupted by chaos in the countryside.To ease the  suffering of the Muslims in Delhi ,Mohammed Tughlaq ordered the evacuation of the Muslim residents of Delhi to prosperous Devagiri. The fact that it was exclusively the Muslim population that was transferred is indicated in the sources. Delhi had become a parasitical city whose prosperity depended on the exploitation of the Hindu countryside.

iii. The threat of Mongol invasions still loomed over Delhi. The geographical location of Delhi makes it inherently vulnerable to a straight thrust from the side of the Punjab. Once the buffer of Punjab is gone it is only a matter of time before the invader reaches Delhi. (As a side note: Punjab during this time was decimated by the rapacious policies of the  Delhi Sultans and the ravages of the Mongol invasions . During this period i.e. 1328 CE, famines stalked Punjab and the rivers changed their courses leading to thousands of people perishing in the ensuing cataclysmic floods.)

In 1329 CE the Mongol ruler Tarmashirin swept over  Delhi. At this crucial juncture most of the officers of the Tughlaq administration were in Devagiri. Mohammed Tughlaq had to buy Tarmashirin off with a huge bribe which nearly emptied the treasury. To make up for the bankrupt state Mohammed Tughlaq issued copper coins thus effectively devaluing the currency. This led to large scale forgeries and the hoarding of gold and silver by the people.

By 1333 CE rebellions had broken out all over the Tughlaq empire. The most pertinent for us is the declaration of indepence by the Jalal-ud-din Ahsan Shah; the kotwal of Madurai in 1335 CE.

The heroism of Veera Ballala, the tenacious bravery of Kapaya Nayaka,the foundation of the Vijayanagar empire, its life and death struggle against the Bahmani Sultanate and the Sultanate of Madurai will form the ensuing chapters.



1. Vijayanagar,Never to be Forgotten Empire; Suryanarayan Row.

2. The Qarnuah Turks, Ishwari Prasad.

3.South India and her Muhammadan invaders; S.K.Aiyangar.

4.The History of the Reddi Kingdoms; Malampalli Somasekhara Sarma.

5. Prof.N.Venkataramanayya’s articles in Vijayanagar history in Itihaas, the journal of Andhra Pradesh State Archives,vol II,no.2,1975, Prolegomena to the Study of Vijayanagar.

6. Social and Political Life in the Vijayanagara Empire, B.A.Saletore,Vol I & II

December 2, 2012

Rethinking our concept of Bharatiya history : The case of the Yadava’s of Devagiri

While flipping through the pages of a book on inscriptions found in Andhra Pradesh, I came across two interesting inscriptions which give a jolt to certain notions I had about the Seuna Yadava rulers of Devagiri. These raise a lot of questions regarding the kind of history we are taught in our schools and colleges.


1.A little background…

But I will digress here for a bit to give a brief background on the subject. Devagiri (modern day Daulatabad fort and its surroundings) was the seat of power of the Yadava rulers who ruled most of present day Maharashtra from 1173 to 1317 CE.It was a prosperous kingdom and a golden age in the history of Maharashtra. The conventional view of how the Yadavas of Devagiri fell to the Islamic onslaught is briefly like this:

In 1297 CE, Ala-ud-din Khilji conducted a surprise raid on Devagiri with a small cavalry based force. After defeating intital resistance near Baglana he besieged the capital itself. The Yadava king Ramachandra Deva had to shut himself in the fort as there were very few troops at hand.Most of the army was campaigning under his son Simghana down South against Veera Ballala III.On hearing of the Muslim attack Simghana rushed back to his fathers aid with a force of 20,000 soldiers.They are almost on the verge of finishing Khilji off when Ala-ud-dins reinfoircements arrive.Thinking that the entire Delhi army is attacking the Yadava army breaks and is defeated.Ramachandra has to empty his treasury and give his daughter in marriage to Ala-ud-din.Gradually the kingdom loses its independence till the last ember of freedom is extinguished by Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Khilji in 1317 CE.The entire royal family of the Yadavas is massacred and Haripala Deva (the son in law of Ramachandra Deva) is skinned alive and hung from the gates of Devagiri fort.

The inferences drawn from the above account are :

1. The Yadavas were utterly incompetent in matters of intelligence and their communication system was flawed. Otherwise how could Ala-ud-din penetrate right upto the capital without being detected?

2. They were so busy fighting senseless wars with their Hoysala and Kakatiya neighbours that they  lost sight of the Islamic monster looming in the horizon.

To my mind something was missing from the narrative. It did not gel that a powerful kingdom which excelled in every sphere of life (arts, culture, music etc) could be so blind to the intentions of the Islamic vandals who had entrenched themselves at Delhi for over a hundred years.


2.The Panagallu Inscription of Sarangapanideva

The inscription I talked about earlier is by Sarangapanideva,a son of the Yadava ruler Simghana I who ruled Devagiri from 1200-1247 CE.For unknown reasons this prince had migrated to Wrangal and was made administrator of the Panumganti sthala (area) by the kakatiya king Rudradeva. The inscription records a gift of wet land to the temple of Chhaya Someshwara. The most interesting aspects of the inscription are some of the titles assigned to Sarangapanideva:

i.Prarajya-rajya-Turuhkopaplavamedini-Samuddharana : which means “ protector of the great kingdom from the trouble of the Turushka (Muslim) armies.”

ii. Gurjararaya-varana-ankusa : which means the ankush (controller) of the king of Gurjara desa.

iii.Malaviya-mana-mardana : Destroyer of the pride of the Malavas (Malwa,central India).

iv. Gambhira-abhira-prachanda : Very ferocious for the yadavas (cow herds).

The government epigraphist has mentioned that Sarangapanideva probably inherited these titles from his father Simghana I as in an inscription found near Dharwad ,Simghana I has nearly the same epithets.

Additionally there is one more epithet found in the Dharwad incription of Simghana I  dated from 1239 CE : “Turushka kopa pralaya maharnava magna medini samuddharana maha varaha.” Which means “incarnation of Lord Vishnu (in his varaha avatar) in lifting the earth from the deluge of the muslims.”

3.Inferences drawn from the inscriptions

The most obvious inference is that Simghana I ( and probably his sons) crossed swords with the Islamic jihadis pouring out from Delhi and defeated them. Their most likely adversary was Shams-ud-din Iltutmish  who ruled over the Delhi sultanate from 1211-1236 CE. There is no record of the Islamic hordes having crossed the Vindhyas at this early date. This means that Simghana I  most likely battered the Islamic armies in central India and Gujarat.In this period the Chaulukyas of Gujarat were actively assisting the survivors of Prithviraj Chauhan’s Ajmer kingdom in their freedom struggle. The inclusion of Malwa and Gurjara regions in the titles indicates that Simghana assisted these regions in throwing back the muslim offensive or defeated the muslims in his campaigns against these regions.

This militates against the view that the Yadavas sealed themselves off from the events overtaking northern India.

4.Questions raised by the inscriptions

1. Why was Devagiri unable to muster resources to fight the Islamic offensive? In previous decades it had clearly taken the offensive to the muslims, what happened in a fifty year period that sapped its aggressiveness?

2.Was there a natural calamity such as a long drought followed by famine that diminished the resources of the kingdom?

3.The fact that the Seuna Yadava’s could mount offensives beyond the Vindhya mountains indicates that they had some kind of an intelligence and communications system. Did it break down by 1297 CE? If so for what reasons?

4. The period from the 1290’s onwards was one in which the Islamic offensive of the Delhi sultanate gained new power and many large Hindu kingdoms ceased to exist by the 1320’s.This included Gujarat,Devagiri,Jalor,Ranthambor etc. Is there something we are not seeing in this pattern of collapse?

June 26, 2010

Battle of Raichur

The pdf of the following article is available here: Battle of Raichur


The battle of Raichur was fought   in 1520 CE between the Vijayanagar Empire and the Bijapur sultanate. Given the miserable state of our education system, this will be unknown to a vast majority of my countrymen. I have tried to give a Hindu perspective to the narration, as the narratives for the battle are only from Portuguese (Christian) and Muslim sources. The Portuguese narration   based on an account by Fernao Nunes (a Portuguese horse trader) is the closest we can get to an eyewitness account. The Islamic narrative written by Ferishta (Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah) is unreliable, given his convenient habit of overlooking defeats sustained by the Islamic Ghazis.

You might ask: What about the Hindu narrative? Most likely these can be found in Kannada and Telugu records   and published works. At present I am hampered in not being able to access the works written in these languages. Once I can get access to the relevant works, rest assured I will update this narrative. This is essentially a work in progress, I will keep updating and correcting as more details come to my knowledge.

There could be other reasons for the lack of Hindu records. The foremost that comes to mind is the destruction of   records when the city of Vijayanagar was annihilated (there is no other word to describe the destruction wrought by the Islamic barbarians) by the confederation of Deccan sultanates in 1565 CE. Or the manuscript could be gathering dust in a family collection or lying unread in a library due to a lack of scholars to decipher it.

In the following passages I will endeavour to try and present details of the battle as given in Nunes account and do a critical analysis. I neither claim to be an expert nor a specialist; my   endeavours are only motivated by the ardent desire to see our history written by us and not by foreigners.

A note on the maps: Except for the Google Earth Map and the   shaded relief map of India (I have used as a background to show the extent of   Vijayanagar empire, taken from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_relief_location_map.jpg,  many thanks to the person who took the trouble to create the shaded relief map) all the other maps have been drawn/traced by me using the US Army topographic map of Raichur. (Available for free download: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/).I have tried to be as accurate as possible when depicting locations on the map, however errors will exist.Images of the Portugese sailing ships have been taken from the Wikipedia pages of the same.

1. Raichur: Location &Significance

1.1 Where is Raichur?

Figure 1 Location of Raichur, Vijayanagar & Bijapur

Raichur city is   located in Raichur district in Karnataka (location coordinates: latitude 16.200000, longitude 77.370000Address:).The Google Maps snapshot above gives a good idea of the location of Raichur relative to Vijayanagar and Bijapur.

1.2 Background & History

Raichur district falls in a doab created by Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. The land is extremely fertile and yields many types of crops including oilseeds, cotton, sesame, sorghum, pulses, chillies, groundnut etc. Since historic times Raichur has been famous for growing cotton. Even today Raichur is primarily known for its cotton and cotton processing mills.

Figure 2  Rough Map of Raichur and Surroundings

Its fertility made Raichur a strategic asset for any Kingdom. Having control over the Raichur doab meant   access to plentiful revenues.  The key to controlling the doab was to have possession of Raichur city and its formidable fort.

Historically Raichur belonged to the Hoysala kingdom of Karnataka. After the dissolution of the Hoysala kingdom in the fourteenth century Riachur’s possession was hotly contested by the Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga and the Vijayanagar Empire. Starting from 1490 CE onwards the Bahmani Sultanate split into five different sultanates i.e.  Adil Shahi (Bijapur),  Qutb Shahi (Golconda), Imad Shahi (Berar), Barid Shahi (Bidar) and Nizam Shahi (Ahmednagar). The most powerful of theses sultanates was Bijapur founded by Yusuf Adil Shah. Raichur changed hands many times in the course of two centuries till the battle of Raichur in 1520 CE and even beyond.  Please see fig 3 below to get an idea of the extent of Vijayanagar empire and the Deccan sultanates.

Figure 3 Extent of Vijayanagar Empire

2. What is the Importance of the Battle?

The significance of the Battle of Raichur in the history of India is due to the following factors:

2.1 Use of Modern Gunpowder Artillery

For the first time on the Indian mainland extensive use was made of European (Portuguese) and Ottoman Turkish artillery and firearms. This battle preceded the first battle of Panipat (between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi in 1526 CE) by six years. A general misconception has been created that gunpowder cannons were used for the first time by Babur. Gunpowder use was not unknown in South India. Both Vijayanagar and the Bahmani sultanate used explosive mines, cannons and firearms in their wars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (FIRISHTA).

But this was the first time that the most technologically up to date artillery was used by both the opponents. The way in which artillery was procured by Vijayanagar and the Bijapur sultanate was different albeit arising from the same set of circumstances: the arrival of the Portuguese in India.

Bijapur was able to access the latest innovations in artillery by employing expert Ottoman gunners   and manufacturers. How the Ottoman gunners came in Bijapur service is an interesting story.

2.1.1 Sources of European & Ottoman Artillery

The appearance of the Portuguese with their imperial ambitions led to the introduction of the latest innovations in artillery in India.

In the early 1500’s the Portuguese were actively trying to gain control over the spice trade from India and the lucrative horse trade of the Arabs. To gain control over the spice trade they had to neutralize the power of  Saamoothirippād (anglicised as Zamorin) who was the ruler of Calicut. The Saamoothirippād was a powerful Hindu sovereign and   maintained excellent relations with the Muslims states such Egypt who were his partners in the spice trade. The Portuguese unsuccessfully tried to assault Calicut but were beaten back. However their superior ocean going ships managed to wreak havoc on the sea trade. They also terrorised fishermen and   trade ships with senseless acts of brutality.

The Saamoothirippād realised early on that he could not take on the heavily armed Portuguese caravels (small highly manoeuvrable sailing ships, see fig.3) and carracks[i] (four masted ships, see fig.4) and. To decisively end the Portuguese menace, he asked for the aid of the Mamluk sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri of Egypt. Egypt was among the main trading partners of Calicut and in the scenario of the Portuguese gaining dominance over the spice trade they would suffer the most. Additionally Sultan Mahmud Begada (Abu’l Fath Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah I) of Gujarat also allied with the Mamluk forces against the Portuguese.

Figure 4  A typical Caravel

Figure 5 . A typical Carrack

Mamluks lacking the sea power appealed to the Ottoman sultan   of Turkey Bayezid II. The Ottomans at this point in history were the leaders in the application and development of gunpowder artillery. Their military might was threatening Europe itself.

Thus an alliance comprising   of the Saamoothirippād’s forces, Ottoman, Mamluk’s and the Sultanate of Gujarat’s forces prepared for a decisive face off with the Portuguese.

Subsequently two decisive   naval engagements took place, one near the port of Chaul[ii] (Maharashtra) in 1508 CE and the second one off the coast of Diu[iii] in 1509 CE. The Portuguese were defeated in the first battle but were victorious at Diu in 1509 CE. This led to the dispersal of the Ottoman and Mamluk forces.

Many of the Ottoman gunners and craftsman then landed at Goa and   took up service with the Sultan of Bijapur (Previously Goa was in the hands of the Bahmani Sultans, succeeded later on by the Bijapur sultans)[iv]. A gun foundry was established at Goa and   Ottoman gunners manned the Bijapur sultan’s artillery.

The most direct impact of the Portuguese victory was that they came to control the trade in horses on which the Deccan sultanates and Vijayanagar Empire relied. In fact after the capture of Goa in 1510 CE the Portuguese viceroy tried to play the Sultan of Bijapur and Krishna Deva Raya in a bidding war for the horses!!

In 1510 CE with the tacit approval of Vijayanagar the Portuguese captured   Goa (only the city known as Velha Goa or Old Goa) from Bijapur. On capturing Goa, the gun foundry established by the Bahmanis fell into their hands.

2.1.2 Artillery of   the Sixteenth Century

Before going further, it would be pertinent to briefly understand the nature of   artillery in the early sixteenth century. By artillery I am specifically referring to cannons.

When we think of artillery the picture that comes to our mind is of a large   calibre gun which can fire off   multiple rounds in quick succession. For   e.g. the Bofors FH-77B   155mm self propelled howitzer which the Indian Army uses, can fire upto 10 rounds a minute[v]!!

The artillery of the early sixteenth century was nothing like this. The rate of fire was at most   8-12   rounds in an hour[vi].Plus due to imperfections in manufacture; cannons were liable to explode and kill the gun crew.

A   large cannon was a logistical nightmare which could weigh hundreds (sometimes thousands) of kilos and require many animals to transport it to the battlefield. The cannons had to be mounted on carts and transported to the battlefield. (Nunes does speak of gun carriages being used in the Bijapur army. Whether these were modified carts or proper  gun carriages is not known). Depending on its size a cannon would need anywhere between three and ten men to operate it. The Indian cycle of seasons meant they had to be used during the dry season. In the rainy season it was impossible to move and fire the cannons.

Being extremely heavy and immobile, artillery was vulnerable to attack by fast moving cavalry and infantry. Typically artillery was protected by means of erecting wooden stockades and trenches or placing it behind carts   and chaining the carts together (this tactic was used by Babur at the battle of Panipat in 1526 CE)[vii].Infantry had to be stationed to protect the artillery position.

Artillery was thus closely clustered together and its primary role was to deliver a devastating barrage and break up tightly packed masses of infantry/cavalry. Once the enemy was in a state of disorder, fast moving cavalry would mow them down[viii].

But here was the catch: if the first barrage did not have the intended effect, long reloading times made it possible for enemy   cavalry to overrun the artillery position. The fleeing army usually used to leave the guns on the battlefield, as there would have been no time to retrieve them.

2.2 The Number of Men Involved

The total number of combatants involved exceeded one million. The table below gives   the numbers of soldiers etc for the Vijayanagar Empire and the Bijapur armies.

Combatant Infantry Cavalry Heavy cannons Smaller Calibre Cannons War Elephants Camp Followers Total Strength(includes only Infantry & Cavalry)
Bijapur 120,000 18,000 400 500 (?) 150 Unknown 138,000
Vijayanagar 581,000 60,600 Unknown Unknown 551 Unknown 641,600[1]

Table 1  A comparison of the Vijayanagar and Bijapur armies

From the above table it can be seen that the total number of fighting men on both sides came close to a million. The above figure does not include any camp followers. Adding camp followers the figure easily touches a million .Camp followers on the Vijayanagar side included 20,000 courtesans, 12,000 water carriers, merchants, washer men etc.

Each cannon would require a crew of at least ten men to operate it. Nunes mentions that several cannon were carried by the Vijayanagar forces into war, but does not elaborate on the exact number of cannon in the Vijayanagar camp.

The total number of cannon on the Bijapur side was nearly nine hundred. Nunes mentions the fact that the Bijapur army left all the artillery on the   battlefield after the battle and that there were nine hundred gun carriages abandoned by the fleeing army.

2.3 Weakening of Bijapur

Ismail Adil Shah barely escaped with his life and   his army was virtually annihilated in the course of the battle. Till he was alive he did not dare to make a move on Vijayanagar and the annual jihad was more or less abandoned. The extent to which he feared Krishnadeva Raya is illustrated by the fact that in 1523 CE Krishnadeva Raya marched upto Bijapur and occupied it, Ismail Adil Shah having fled in advance of the invading armies[ix].

2.4 Supremacy of Vijayanagar

This   battle cemented   Vijayanagar’s power for another forty five years till the catastrophe at Rakshaka- Tangadi (better known as Talikota) in 1565 CE. Even after   the destruction of Vijayanagar city in 1565 CE, the weakened empire protected Southern Hindus till the death of the Sriranga III in 1672 CE. Sriranga III was the last of   this glorious line of the defenders of Dharma.

But by the time the exhausted Sriranga breathed his last he had the satisfaction of seeing Deccan back under Hindu rule after a span of three hundred years under the lion of Sahyadri: Chattrapati Shivaji. It is only due to the protection of Vijayanagar that Hindu culture remained intact in South India, remaining relatively uncorrupted from the influence of Islam .The extent to which Islamic rule can subvert and corrupt   Hindu society is seen from those parts of North India which were under Islamic rulers for long periods of time.

3. The Main Protagonists

3.1 Tuluva Sri Krishnadeva Raya (ruled 1509-1529 CE)

Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana Krishnadeva Raya was one of the greatest   emperors in Indian history who ruled over an empire that covered all of south India (including Sri Lanka) and parts of Orissa( see map above). He saved Vijayanagar empire at a   critical    juncture   of   its history. Sri Krishnadeva Raya was the second ruler of the Tuluva line (also known as the third dynasty) of Vijayanagar kings who ruled from 1505-1542 CE. He was chosen by his half brother Vira Narasimha (ruled 1505-1509 CE) to succeed him to the throne of Vijayanagar. His   coronation day was on 10th August 1509 CE, which was Janmashtami.

Coronated   in his early twenties, he was an extraordinary figure by all accounts. Almost every account left about this great king extols his virtues on and off the battlefield. To quote   the Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes, Sri Krishnadeva Raya was “gallant and perfect in all things” (Sewell). Leading his armies from the front, Sri Krishnadeva Raya exhibited fearlessness in face of   mortal danger. Loved by his people, he was a man of great justice. A master strategist and a humane ruler, Vijayanagar reached the zenith of its prosperity under his stewardship. His rule is considered to be the golden age of Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit literature in the middle ages. Fluent in many languages, Krishnadeva Raya authored many scholarly works. He reorganised the army and turned it into an effective fighting force.

The empire at the time of his coronation was in crises. The Bahmani sultanate which was nearing dissolution was still a powerful enemy. The Bahmani sultanate conducted a yearly jihad starting from 1501 CE against Vijayanagar, in which by some accounts 100,000 Hindus were slaughtered every year. The aggression by the Gajapatis of Orissa and the revolt of the chief of Ummattur only added to the empires troubles. The arrival of   Portuguese on the scene further complicated matters.

The first task was to repel the Bahmani army which had entered Vijayanagar’s boundaries in 1509 CE with intent to wreak large scale destruction. In an engagement near Diwani the Muslim army was routed and the Bahmani Sultan narrowly escaped being killed. The founder of the Bijapur dynasty Yusuf Adil Khan was killed in battle at Kovilkonda. This had the salutary effect of putting a stop to the annual jihad against Vijayanagar. Krishnadeva Raya did not stop here; in further engagements he took Raichur, Gulbarga and captured Bidar from the Barid Shahi sultan.

By 1512 CE the rebellious chieftain of Ummattur Gangaraya was subdued and died while trying to flee Sivanasamudram. The problem of the aggressive Gajapatis of Orissa was solved in   a series of brilliant campaigns beginning in 1513 CE and culminating in the surrender by the Gajapati king Prataparudra in 1516 CE. However while the Orissa campaign   was ongoing, Ismail Adil Shah (the Sultan of Bijapur) recaptured Raichur.

3.2 Ismail Adil Shah (ruled from 1511-1534 CE)

Ismail Adil Shah (Sultan Abul Fatah Ismail Adil Khan) was the son of   Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah. Like quite a lot of Muslim tyrants he was born to a Hindu mother. His mother   was the sister of Mukund Rao, a Maratha chief   who had risen against Yusuf Adil Shah. Mukund Rao was killed and his family captured by Yusuf Adil Shah.

Ismail came to the throne in the blood soaked fashion typical of the Muslim sultanates. After Yusuf’s death in 1509 CE while fighting Krishnadeva Raya, Ismail was put on the throne of Bijapur. He was between 13 – 14 years old at this time. But the real power behind the throne was the regent Kamal Khan, a person who himself had imperial ambitions .Kamal Khan came very near to usurping the throne, but Ismail’s mother  had him assassinated in 1512 CE. Kamal Khans son Safder Khan attacked the young prince in his palace but was killed in the fight that followed.

Meanwhile the fledgling Bijapur sultanate was already under attack from the Sultans of Berar, Ahmednagar, Golconda and Bidar. The combined forces of the four sultanates prepared to lay siege to Bijapur.  The leader of this motley force was Amir Barid; the sultan of Bidar. The young Ismail faced his opponents with a force of 12,000 cavalry and in the battle that followed defeated them. With the rival sultans pacified he looked towards recapturing Raichur, which was now in the possession of Vijayanagar. The opportunity came in 1516 CE when the bulk of Vijayanagar forces were fighting in Orissa. The   recapture of Raichur sowed the seeds for the decisive battle of   Raichur in 1520 CE.

Ismail Adil shah was no different from the other Deccan sultans in the persecution of Hindus. Much like the Muslim nobility of the Deccan he looked towards Persia and Turkey for inspiration. It must be remembered that for most part the Deccan ruling elite were either foreigners or Hindu converts to Islam (frequent fights used to occur between these two rival parties). Gribble has described him as a prudent, patient and generous man. He also is said to have been skilled in poetry and music[x]. These traits of character were reserved only for fellow Muslims, not for Hindus who formed the vast majority of his subjects.

The condition of Bijapur was such that the nobility used to live in great luxury whereas the numberless Hindu peasants of the countryside were barely able to survive. The lot of the Hindus under the Deccan sultanates was miserable with their lives at the tender mercies of the genocidal sultans.

4 .Causes of the Conflict

4.1 Possession of Raichur

Raichur had historically been part of the Hoysala kingdom of which Vijayanagar was a natural successor. In the tectonic upheavals’ of Deccan in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries Raichur changed hands many times between the Vijayanagar and Bahmani Sultanates.

Krishnadeva Raya had recaptured Raichur in 1510 CE. But while he was on his Orissa campaign, Ismail Adil Shah saw his chance and recaptured Raichur.

4.2   Syed Maraikar

The most direct reason for the invasion of Raichur by Vijayanagar was the theft of 40,000 gold coins by a Muslim merchant called Syed Maraikar. Syed Maraikar had been entrusted by Krishnadeva Raya with buying horses from the Portuguese at Goa and was given forty thousand gold coins for this purpose.

But the faithless Maraikar promptly absconded to Bijapur with the money. An enraged Raya requested Ismail Adil Shah to hand over the merchant along with the gold. In spite of the peace treaty in force between Vijayanagar and Bijapur, Ismail on the counsel of his advisors refused to apprehend and hand over Syed Maraikar. His decision no doubt was based on the fact that Syed Maraikar was a Muslim. One cannot discount the possibility of the Sultan keeping some gold in return for giving Maraikar refuge.

Ismail also helped the merchant to escape to Dabhol (Goa). When the facts of the matter were brought to the Raya’s notice, he decided to launch a major campaign to win back Vijayanagar’s territory and teach Adil Shah a lesson.

5. The Battle of Raichur

The description given by Nunes is extremely graphic and as Sewell has pointed out it seems he was an eyewitness to the battle or knew someone who was present at the battle.

I have divided it into different stages to make for easier comprehension. I have quoted mostly ad verbatim from Nunes and have also attached my own analysis after the description of the battle.

5.1 Stage One: Departure from Vijayanagar & Arrival at Raichur

Figure 6  Stage One: Arrival of Vijayanagar army at Raichur

Sri Krishnadeva Raya seems to have left Vijayanagar sometime in early February 1520 CE [xi].The entire army was divided into different columns depending on the Nayaka (chief) who commanded them. The following table gives the order in which the different contingents marched, their break up and their Nayaka. The leading contingent is at the top and the last contingent to leave the city at the bottom.

Leader of Contingent Infantry Cavalry Elephants Notes
Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka(Kama Nayaka) 30,000 1000 6 Kama Nayaka was the Chief of guards (commander in chief)
Trimbicara(?) 50,000 2000 20 This is the Portuguese version of the Indian name .I have not been able to find the proper Indian name
Timappa Nayaka 60,000 3500 30
Adapa Nayaka 100,000 5000 50
Comdamara(?) 120,000 6000 60 This is the Portuguese version of the Indian name. I have not been able to find the proper Indian name
Ganda Raja 30,000 1000 10 Ganda Raja was the governor of Vijayanagar city
Three eunuchs (?) 40,000 1000 15 No names are given
Krishnadeva Raya’s page 15,000 200 No name is given
Kumara Virayya 8000 400 20 Kumara Virayya was Krishnadeva Raya’s father in law and the chief of Srirangapatanam
Sri Krishnadeva Raya 40,000 6000 300

Table 2   Breakup of the Vijayanagar contingents.

In addition to the above were contingents of various chiefs, but Nunes has not given any names. From the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Raichur, I got the names of the following chiefs who accompanied the main army: Rana Jagadeva, Rayachuri Rami Nayudu, Hande Mallaraya, Boya Ramappa, Saluva Nayudu, Tipparasu Ayyappa Nayudu, Kotikam Viswanatha Nayudu,Chevvappa Nayudu, Akkappa Nayudu, Krishnappa Nayudu, Velugoti Yachama Nayudu, Kannada Basavappa Nayudu, Saluva Mekaraja, Matla Ananta Raja, Bommireddy Nagareddy, Basava Reddy, Vithalappa Nayudu and Veerama Raja[xii].

Also accompanying the army were dancing girls, washer men, water carriers and merchants. Twelve thousand water carriers stood at the sides of the road to supply water to the thirsty soldiers and camp followers. Approximately fourteen kilometres ahead of the main army were fifty thousand scouts who kept a watch for the enemy ahead of the army.

Nunes has given a detailed description of the armour and clothing worn by the warriors. To quote Nunes, “All were equally well armed, each after his own fashion, the archers and musqueteers with their quilted tunics and the shieldmen with their swords and poignards (curved daggers) in their girdles; the shields are so large that there is no need for armour to protect the body, which is completely covered; the horses in full clothing, and the men with doublets, and weapons in their hands, and on their heads headpieces after the manner of their doublets, quilted with cotton. The war-elephants go with their howdahs from which four men fight on each side of them, and the elephants are completely clothed, and on their tusks they have knives fastened, much ground and sharpened, with which they do great harm. Several cannon were also taken” (Sewell).

The army arrived near Malliabad and set camp there for a few days.  Sri Krishnadeva Raya allowed his men to rest and set off for Raichur after the Brahmana’s confirmed it was auspicious to do so. Fig.5 above shows the arrival of the army at Raichur.

5.2 Stage Two: Commencement of the Siege of Raichur Fort

Figure 7 Siege of Raichur begins

As per Nunes, on arriving  at the outskirts of Raichur, Kama Nayaka was the first to set up camp near to the defensive ditches which encircled Raichur fort. The siege was begun from the eastern side of the fort as it was here that the fort was weakest. He was shortly followed by other Nayakas (chiefs) and the siege of Raichur began in earnest.

Raichur was a heavily defended fortress with three lines of fortifications and the main citadel stood on top of a hill inside the fortifications. The fort was well provided with water due to a perennial spring which ran inside and fed   many tanks and wells. The provisions inside the fort were enough to last five years. The garrison was composed of eight thousand men, four hundred cavalry, twenty elephants and thirty trebuchets (also known as manjaniq-imaghribi). The trebuchets of that age could hurl stones between 1000-2000 kgs in weight causing great destruction in enemy ranks. More importantly the battlements and towers of the fort had over two hundred heavy artillery (cannons) and a number of smaller cannon (presumably for anti personnel use).Additionally the walls were manned by musketeers, archers and soldiers armed with flintlocks. All of these combined to launch a devastating battery on to the besieging army. The main gate    of the city was sealed after letting in some reinforcements which had arrived from Bijapur.

As per the description given by Nunes, the firing of artillery from the fort took a heavy toll of the brave Vijayanagar soldiers   who were trying to assault the city. The soldiers were apparently paid between 10-50 fanams (silver coins) to remove the stones from the fort walls. Many perished in the process   due to the incessant   fire from the fort battlements, but the courageous men continued their work relentlessly.

The siege continued in this manner for three months till the arrival of Ismail Adil Shah’s army in May 1520 CE. Long sieges were normal for those times e.g. the Moguls with all their firepower and army were only able to capture the fortress of Jinji in Tamil Nadu after a long siege of seven years[xiii]!! This was in 1698 CE, more than a hundred and seventy years after the Battle of Raichur.

We will divert here for a brief description of the camp set up by the Vijayanagar army. The entire camp was more like a large city and was divided into different sectors to accommodate the different contingents. Along the streets were craftsmen and merchants who sold gold, jewels, clothes, weapons etc. The logistical train was so good that there was no shortage of fodder for  animals even in a barren terrain like Raichur. To quote Nunes, Indeed no one who did not understand the meaning of what he saw would ever dream that a war was going on, but would think that he was in a prosperous city” (Sewell).

5.3 Stage Three: Arrival of Adil Shah

Figure 8 Arrival of Adil Shah

As the siege was in progress, news came that Ismail Adil Shah had arrived with his forces and was encamped across the Krishna River (see fig 8 above). The besieging Vijayanagar army was at this time 15 miles from the river. The movement of the Bijapur army was carefully monitored by Vijayanagar’s scouts.

It seems Adil Shah   expected Krishnadeva Raya to attempt an attack as soon as he heard news of the arrival of Bijapur army. The Bijapur plan was to attack   when the Vijayanagar troops would be in the middle of the river crossing. But Krishnadeva Raya being a master strategist did not rise to the bait and on his part made no effort to make the first move.

This threw the Bijapur camp into confusion   and after lengthy debates it was decided to cross the river and give battle. As enumerated in table 1 the Bijapur army was numerically inferior to the Vijayanagar forces, but qualitatively equal and in some aspects even better e.g. the Bijapur cavalry. From Nunes narrative it seems Adil Shah set great store on his   artillery which numbered nearly nine hundred pieces, both big and small[xiv].

Crossing the river Adil Shah pitched his camp close to the river bank to have ready access to water supplies. Strengthening   his camp by digging large trenches around it, he arranged his cavalry and infantry in battle positions. Artillery which was supposed to deliver a decisive victory to Bijapur was positioned in the front line. As explained before with artillery of the age you could at most get   8-12 shots in an hour. This meant that the first artillery barrage had to be devastating enough to cause   the maximum damage in enemy ranks.

5.4 Stage Four: The Battle

Krishnadeva Raya divided his army into seven wings. Kumara Virayya who was his father in law as well as the Nayaka (chief) of Srirangapatanam was given the honour of commanding the vanguard of the army. Kumara Virayya with his sons (he had thirty sons as per Nunes) and his forces pitched camp about 4.8 km from Adil Shahs frontline.

On the advice of the Brahmana’s it was decided to launch the attack on  Saturday May 20th 1520 CE. The reason being it was an auspicious day. Krishnadeva Raya instructed the two divisions under Kumara Virayya to be   battle ready at the first crack of dawn on Saturday morning.

While the Vijayanagar forces were preparing for battle, a small force of Bijapuri cavalry and infantry sneaked out from Raichur fort. It comprised of two hundred horses, unknown infantry and some elephants. The Bijapuri noble who led this troop was a eunuch and decided to shadow the Vijayanagar forces from a safe distance, all the while keeping close to the river bank. His plan seems to have been to ambush the Vijayanagar army at a turning point in the battle, either on its flanks or from the rear.

With the first crack of daylight   entire atmosphere resounded with the   sounds of  martial music played by war drums, orders being shouted, excitement of animals and the trumpeting of elephants. Nunes describing this says, “It seemed as if the sky should fall to the earth (because of the noise)” and “if you asked anything you could not hear yourself speak and you had to ask by signs (Sewell).”

By the time the entire camp had moved forward it was already 8 or 9 am of Saturday morning. At this point Krishnadeva Raya   ordered his two forward divisions to commence the attack and destroy the enemy.

Figure 9 Kumara Virayya’s attack on the Bijapur frontline

The brave Kumara Virayya launched a vigorous attack on the Bijapur army forcing it into the defensive trenches it had dug in the fields (see fig 9 above).

Adil Shah expected the great Raya to attack with all his forces and not just send two divisions in front. Adil Shahs game plan was to sacrifice a large part of his army to the Vijayanagar attack. He was certain that a large body of his troops would be cut to pieces in the initial onslaught. It is interesting to note that Adil Shah himself stayed safely at the back of his army and took no part in the battle.

Adil Shahs confidence rested on his trump card: his considerable artillery .At a crucial point in the battle when the main body of   Vijayanagar troops including Krishnadeva Raya would be completely exposed, all the nine hundred large and small cannons would open simultaneous fire. This tremendous artillery barrage would could large scale destruction amongst the Vijayanagar troops and most probably quite a few of the leading chiefs would be killed. Krishnadeva Raya himself might be killed and Vijayanagar troops would flee the battlefield.

But Krishnadeva Raya did not play by Adil Shahs rules and kept five divisions in reserve. Meanwhile the Muslim defences were crumbling under the vigorous   attack by Kumara Virayya’s forces.

Figure 10 Bijapur’s devastating artillery barrage

Ismail Adil Shah saw that unless he brought his artillery into play now, he risked the complete rout of his army. Accordingly the entire Bijapur artillery opened simultaneous fire into the densely packed masses of Vijayanagar infantry, cavalry and elephants (see fig.10 above).

The artillery bombardment killed and wounded considerable numbers of Vijayanagar troops and as a consequence they began to retreat from the battlefield. Sensing victory, Bijapur cavalry and infantry pursued the retreating army, slaughtering everyone in their path.

At   this crucial moment in the battle, the great Raya rallied all his remaining divisions and moved to attack the enemy (see fig 11 below). The fleeing frontline stabilised on seeing the entire army move forward. As per Nunes, Krishnadeva Raya gave orders to his troops to cut down any of the frontline that were fleeing the battlefield. This does not seem consistent with the Raya’s nature.

The fleeing frontline now turned back on its pursuers.  Bijapur troops flush with the prospect of victory   and in hot pursuit were in a complete state of disarray. They were swept aside much like the rising tide sweeps away flotsam.

Figure 11 Vijayanagar’s Counter Attack

Nunes says, “The confusion was so great amongst the Moors (Muslims) and such havoc was wrought (in their ranks) that they did not even try to defend the camp they had made so strong and enclosed so well; but like lost men they leaped into the river to save themselves. Then after them came large numbers of the King’s troops and elephants, which latter worked amongst them mischief without end, for they seized men with their trunks and tore them into small pieces, whilst those who rode in the castles (howdahs) killed countless numbers” (Sewell).

The Bijapur artillery does not seem to have had the time to reload and fire a second barrage. Bijapur camp followers which included women fled towards the river .In the melee many   were drowned   and countless slaughtered by the Vijayanagar troops.

Salabat Khan who was the commander of the Bijapur forces tried in vain to stop his army from fleeing. He managed to collect a band of five hundred Portuguese mercenaries   and in a desperate battle   cut his way through the Vijayanagar army. This motley band almost reached near the Raya’s personal bodyguard before it was exterminated. Salabat Khan was badly wounded and taken prisoner. Nunes is profuse in praising the bravery of Salabat Khan and the Portuguese.

While all this was going on, the “brave” Adil Shah had already fled the battlefield escorted by his confidant Asad Khan. The wily Asad Khan seeing that defeat was certain, helped the Sultan escape on an elephant. In this he was accompanied by four hundred horsemen. Contrast the conduct of the great Raya who led his troops from the front and fought alongside them, with Adil Shah who did not participate in the battle at all!!

With the Bijapur army completely routed, Krishnadeva Raya occupied Adil Shahs tent and asked his Nayakas to desist from further slaughter of the defeated army. Even though  general opinion amongst the Nayakas was to pursue and completely exterminate the Bijapur army, Krishnadeva Raya remained firm and tasked his men with getting back to besiege Raichur.

Befitting a man of his stature, Krishnadeva Raya was extremely humane with the captured prisoners. He made sure the captured women were not molested and made arrangements to return them. This was in stark contrast to the behaviour of the Muslims, for whom it was common practice to dishonour captured Hindu women and distribute amongst themselves ( the last time this took place on an enormous scale was during the partition riots of 1946-47 and during the genocide of nearly 2 million Hindus in Bangladesh in 1971).

The war booty captured was considerable, including four hundred large cannons, many small ones, nine hundred gun carriages, four thousand Arabian horses, countless pack animals (oxen, mules etc) and camp equipment (tents, pavilions etc).

The casualties on the Vijayanagar side were approximately 16,000 dead. There is no number for the dead on the Bijapur side, but taking even the most conservative estimate of 30% of their army being destroyed, it amounts to nearly 42,000 dead. Of course the real toll would have been much greater as many drowned in the river in the course of their desperate flight.

Sri Krishnadeva Raya oversaw that those warriors of Vijayanagar who had attained Veeragati were cremated with honour. The great Raya also distributed alms in memory of the martyrs.

5.4 Stage Five: Raichur falls

After the battle, the Vijayanagar army got back to the siege of Raichur. As per Nunes at this point the entire complexion of the siege was changed by the arrival of Christovao de Figueiredo along with a troop of twenty musketeers. Christovao was a Portuguese captain who was in Vijayanagar to deliver horses. Seeing the defenders on the walls of Raichur fort firing with impunity upon the Vijayanagar soldiers, Christovao offered his services to Sri Krishnadeva Raya.

The Portuguese musketeers picked off the defenders on the battlements one by one, till it became near impossible for the defenders to use the wall without being shot. This allowed Vijayanagar soldiers to bring down portions of the fort wall without   fear of getting shot. The cannons mounted on the fort wall were in fixed positions and could not be manipulated to fire on the Vijayanagar sappers working at the foot of the fort walls.

The governor of the fort was killed by a musket shot when he tried to look over the battlements in order to observe the Portuguese musketeers. This led to a complete collapse of   moral within the fort and the city surrendered soon after.

According the Nunes, Christovao was richly rewarded by Sri Krishnadeva Raya for his efforts. Sri Krishnadeva Raya treated the people of Raichur with great kindness and did not allow any looting to take place. Those soldiers who resorted to looting were suitably punished.

6. Aftermath

Sri Krishnadeva Raya departed for Vijayanagar after ensuring that the damage to the fort was repaired and leaving behind a strong contingent to guard the fort.

The complete defeat of Bijapur sent shockwaves throughout India, as it was known to be a powerful sultanate. The people most concerned   were the other Deccan sultans i.e. Nizam Shah, Qutb Shah, Barid Shah and Imad Shah. Even though they had no love for Bijapur, they feared  Sri Krishnadeva Raya would attack them next. Accordingly they sent a message to Sri Krishnadeva Raya asking him to return Raichur or they would combine in battle against him. Sri Krishnadeva Raya wrote back saying they should not take the trouble of marching to Vijayanagar, for he himself would come to their kingdoms!!

Ismail Adil   Shah sent an ambassor to the Raya’s court to demand that everything he had lost be restored. The ambassador had to wait a month before he was allowed to see Sri Krishnadeva Raya. Adil Shah’s message was typically arrogant and put the blame for the conflict squarely on the Raya’s shoulders. The great Raya relied   that he would restore everything back to the Adil Shah if he came and kissed his feet!!

Predictably Adil Shah dilly dallied till Krishnadeva Raya marched onto Bijapur itself. But that goes beyond the scope of this article.

7. Analysis of Nunes Account

Nunes account of the siege raises   serious doubts that he deliberately downplayed the role of Vijayanagar artillery to give undue importance to his fellow Portuguese. The following points have come to my attention while reading the translation done by Robert Sewell:

Artillery:  On one hand Nunes is meticulous about the numbers he gives for the cannon/firearms in the service of Bijapur. On the other he says nothing about the number of cannon carried by the Vijayanagar forces, except a single statement that “there were many cannon”!! It is quite inconceivable   that he would not have known the numbers of artillery carried by Vijayanagar. Artillery in that century much as today was definitely quantifiable. Nunes has gone to the trouble of putting precise numbers to the innumerable infantry, cavalry and elephants in the Vijayanagar army. But fails to put his finger on the nature of Vijayanagar artillery, even though he was clearly alive to the importance of artillery on the field.

Artillery required an extensive support mechanism, with large cannon taking upto ten people to maintain it and the slow movement of the artillery carriages slowed down the main army as well. What was   the point of taking all the trouble to drag artillery to the battlefield and not use it? This is equivalent to India taking the trouble to develop the Arjun tank, deploy it on the borders and when war breaks out do nothing with it!!

Siege of Raichur:  The mention of   Vijayanagar soldiers being paid to chisel out stones from the fort walls is incomprehensible. By the 1500’s siege weapons had already matured and   Vijayanagar was definitely in possession of siege weapons such as trebuchets etc. These would have been complemented by teams of sappers to mine the fort walls. To assume that the richest empire in Asia (if not the world) did not have any siege machinery and had to rely on its soldiers chiselling out stones is unbelievable. And to further imply that a few Portuguese mercenaries were responsible for the fall of a formidable fortress is laughable to say the least!

Krishna Deva Raya was the most far sighted and visionary monarch of his time. It simply does not fit into his character that he would not use Vijayanagar’s artillery to launch a counter bombardment of Raichur fort. He would have been alive to the fact that the Bijapur sultans had built up a formidable artillery arsenal .To counter this he would have secured up to date artillery from the Portuguese, who were eager to sell arms and horses to the highest bidder. Ferishta himself talks of cannons being used in the Vijayanagar-Bahmani sultanate wars of the late 1400’s[Y1] .

The “Kiss my Foot” anecdote: The incident of Sri Krishnadeva Raya asking Ismail Adil Shah to come and kiss his feet is inconsistent with the character of such a magnanimous and large hearted ruler. If Krishnadeva Raya wanted to humiliate Adil Shah he would have followed up immediately after the battle and completely destroyed Adil Shah. It must be remembered that Nunes was a horse trader and not an ambassador at the court of Vijayanagar. As such   some parts of his narrative would be coloured by common gossip and rumours.

And supposing the great Raya did send this answer, I fail to see what is wrong with that. Muslim sultans are routinely excused of any excesses whether rape, mass murder or loot. Whereas a Hindu emperor who has won a brilliant victory is accused of arrogance when he asks his defeated adversary to come and submit to him. When Hindus assert themselves they are portrayed as arrogant, selfish and deserving of whatever bad happens to them!! Talk about intellectual perversion.

Directly related to the above is the opinion of historians like Robert Sewell,that the alliance of the Deccan sultanates which led to the defeat of Vijayanagar at Talikota in 1565 CE arose from the “arrogance” of the Hindus after Raichur.

This would be a complete misreading of the situation. The Deccan sultanates were offspring of the Bahmani Sultanate which was unremitting in its objective to carry out destruction of Vijayanagar. Even though the   Deccan sultans fought amongst themselves and struck alliances even with Vijayanagar at times, their overall objective never changed i.e. the despoliation and destruction of Vijayanagar at the first opportunity.

In fact the prime cause of the defeat at Rakshaka- Tangadi (Talikota) can be directly traced back to   the pursuit of a number of short sighted policies by Aliya Rama Raya (the then emperor of Vijayanagar and successor to Krishna Deva Raya) which included:

1. Hiring a large number of Muslims in the army and appointing them to strategic positions. This was the prime reason why the battle of   Rakshaka- Tangadi (Talikota) was lost in 1565 CE. The Muslim contingents of the Vijayanagar army switched sides at a crucial moment at Talikota and attacked their former employer[xv]. The confusion that followed enabled Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar to capture and behead Sri Rama Raya, which was followed by the Vijayanagar army fleeing the battlefield. Another tragic occasion in our history when we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!!

2. Instead of   completely destroying the sultanates one by one, Sri Rama Raya kept playing them off against one another. It was only a matter of time before they united against the kafir Hindus!!

8. In Conclusion

It is telling of the double standards employed by western historians that Ferishta’s account is rightly called into question, but Nunes is taken at face value!! Even for a person like me with a very superficial knowledge of Vijayanagar, entire parts of Nunes chronicle seem out of sync with contemporary reality.

This is what happens when foreigners whether whites or Muslims write our history. No wonder Hindus are cast as villains and ever ready to be conquered, when the reality is exactly the opposite.

[1] The total given by Robert   Sewell for Vijayanagar comes to 736,000 .I have come to the above by totalling the numbers given by Nunes in the translation by Robert Sewell. The higher number would be due to the other chiefs joining the main army on route to Raichur.


FIRISHTA, M. K. (n.d.). Persian Literature in Translation–History of India,Volume 6. Retrieved June 11, 2010, from PHI Persian Literature in Translation: http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main

Sewell, R. (n.d.). A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): a contribution to the history of India. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from internet Archive: http://www.archive.org/details/aforgottenempire03310gut


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrack

[ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chaul

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Diu_%281509%29

[iv] Pg.157,The Book of Duarte Barbosa, Volume 1,Mansel Longworth Dames, retrieved from http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/2543

[v] http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/Equipment/Artillery/354-155mm-Bofors-Fh-77b.html

[vi] Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire, Jos Gommans, Routledge, 2002. The author states the rate of fire of Mughal artillery to be 2-3 shots every   fifteen minutes. In the chaos of battle this would probably be lower.

[vii] Pg.157, Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and High Roads to Empire ,Jos Gommans,Routledge,2002

[viii] Pg.62, Firearms: A Global History to 1700, Kenneth Chase, Cambridge University Press, 2003. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in why the western world was able to gain technological superiority in firearms.

[ix] A History of South India, page 285, Prof KAN Shastri, Oxford University Press, Third Edition, 1966.

[x] Pg.167,History of the Deccan ,J.D.B Gribble,1896,available at http://www.archive.org/details/ahistorydeccan00pendgoog

[xi] The distance from Vijayanagar to Raichur is approximately 165 km. Such large armies would have been very slow to move e.g. the rate at which a fully equipped Mughal army could march was only 6-8 km a day. Provided it was dry season and the ground was firm.

[xii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Raichur

[xiii] Pg.50-109,History of Aurangzib, Jadunath Sarkar, retrieved from http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/7549

[xiv] A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): a contribution to the history of India, Robert Sewell, retrieved from http://www.archive.org/details/aforgottenempire03310gut

[xv] A History of South India ,page 295,Prof KAN Shastri, Oxford University Press, Third Edition,1966

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