I tend to start reading about people, places or things as soon as I develop a small interest in them, and then the interest tends to grow on me. It is as if I feel hungry, until a point where I realise that I have devoured every piece of information, or trivia that existed on the said topic – Bhimbetka was earlier this week (you can read here), and Amrapali the week before (you can read here).
However, the case of Hampi is completely different. I was on my second visit to Hampi within a year. And I did not understand the pull that Hampi exerted on me. Hampi was the capital of the mighty Vijayanagara empire. Having read megabytes about Hampi, to the point of obsession, the said pull never subsided. And no, it has got nothing to do with the other side of Hampi. And yes, recently, I cracked the curious case of the pull, the constant tugging that Hampi exerts on my mind, which I promise to reveal later in this post.
Ah, history books!
As a general practice, when reading about kingdoms, I tend to check what was happening in the Indian sub-continent, if not around the world, during the same time, hoping to chance upon a significant event, that might have mysteriously failed to appear in our history chapters. The more I read, the more I realise that we contemporary Indians have been made an ignorant lot. We, when focusing on any event in history, tend to ignore the events of a parallel time line, however significant those are. So do our history text books, conveniently.
The beginning of 16th century was a time of tremendous churning in North India. The Lodi Sultanate of Delhi was routed by a mere 12,000 strong Mughal army of Babur in 1526 AD, and Babur laid foundation of the Mughal empire in India, by defeating Rana Sanga of Mewar.
We all have read in our history books about Sultanates of Delhi and how Mughal empire was established, correct? What we haven’t read in our history books is this!
While Babur was ravaging North India, the lands to the south of Narmada were relatively peaceful. One man had subjugated the Sultans of Deccan, the Portugese on the west coast, the Reddys of Kondavidu, the Velamas of Bhuvanagiri and even the Gajapatis of Kalinga to the east. Though questionable, it is believed that Babur did not dare cross Narmada, fearing that one man and close to a million strong army the man commanded. May be, Babur preferred a buffer of sovereign states between his realm, and that of the man who could have easily become his nemesis. Krishnadevaraya was his name, most prominent Emperor of Vijayanagara, and the third one from Tuluva dynasty. He reigned for 20 years (1509-1529 AD), which is considered as the golden period of Vijayanagara, as well as southern India.
At a time when religious persecutions were common place elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent, mainly in the north, Krishnadevaraya ensured equal rights for every subject of his empire irrespective of the religion they practised. For a sovereign to prosper, its borders must be secured. He achieved this through his unmatched military acumen and diplomacy. He implemented many reforms that economically benefited all his subjects.
That’s not all! He was an accomplished poet, well versed in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Sanskrit. Art flourished in his reign, examples of which exist even today, either in the form of poetry composed by Krishnadevaraya himself or one of the many prominent poets who graced his court (Tenali Rama being most prominent of them), or in the form of exquisite sculptures that grace the temple ruins across Hampi. Vijayanagara emerged as the centre of intellect during Krishnadevaraya’s rule.
Vijayanagara empire ceased to exist after the battle of Talikota, in 1565 AD, when combined forces of Deccan Sultans defeated its army. The victorious armies plundered and pillaged Hampi for six long months.
There! A significant chunk of our own legacy that most of us are not aware of. I never read about the glorious Vijayanagara empire in my history books. And I bet, neither did most of you!
Finally, the promise kept!
Didn’t I promise in the beginning, to reveal the curious case of the pull, the constant tugging that Hampi exerts on my mind? Here it is!
Krishnadevaraya was the third from the Tuluva dynasty which ruled Vijayanagara empire from 1491 AD till its end. I recently discovered that rulers of Tuluva dynasty, were ancestors of the people that we know today as Tulus, primarily from the Udupi-Mangalore-Kasargod region of the Konkan coast. And my mother is a Tulu, that too from the warrior clan!
The pull or the constant tugging I was experiencing, was in fact of the people from the land of my mother!
In frame: A tourist exploring the ruins, in one of the many ancient gates of Vijaya Vittala temple, Hampi, Karnataka.
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© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.