The foundation of Vijayanagara Empire

Hampi is a boulder’s Land.

I belong to Hampi, a place with abundance of spectacularly shaped boulders in grey, ochre and pink tones, precariously placed on top of its surrounding hillocks. Tungabhadra River traverses this picturesque valley in North-Eastern direction forming cascades and rapids in its onward journey. During the course of its journey, it polishes the stones bordering its banks, creates lagoons, islands and small-pools. In the first look, you may feel that this landscape is created by an earthquake, may be by some equally powerful event, or by some giant superhero who was compelled by his inner self to unleash his creativity. However, this beautiful scenery of Hampi is the result of three-thousand million years of work of the three master-artists, the sun, wind and the rain. They worked relentlessly, in tandem to sculpt these smooth, round and detached boulders.

Tungbhadra River flows by Hampi.

The existence of the humans in this area is also believed to be from very ancient times, around three-thousand years ago from now, and they too are not behind in leaving their legacy. There exists pre-historic paintings of lions, bulls, antelopes along with the hunters on their horses carrying clubs and spears in their hand, inside some of the rock-shelters. On the Northern bank of Tungabhadra, in Anegondi, megalithic burial chambers are also seen.

Let me tell you about myself too. I am a boulder sitting on the top of a hillock in this city of granite from a time immemorial. My position on the top of this hill allows me to look far and wide. I am trusted by the writer to tell you the epic-story of Hampi, a place with an unbroken tradition of sanctity from ancient times. I am wondering where to start. It is not easy to decide. I have to start somewhere. So let me start the story of this place from its medieval past and take you to the Thirteenth century.

It is an immensely vast place to roam around.

It was one of the most difficult phases for the South India, ferocious Alauddin Khalji and his commander Malik Kafur were continuously attacking and invading it, crushing old center of powers. They were not interested in extending their territory, their primary mission was to loot and plunder. This phase of invasions and attacks continued under ambitious Muhammed-Bin-Tuglaq.

The threats of the whole region coming directly under his control were more pronounced when Muhammed-Bin-Tuglaq decided to move his kingdom from Delhi to Daulatabad. It was clear that he was in no mood to continue with Khalji’s legacy of loot and plunder, but was considering cementing his position in the South and rule the region.

Roam around in Hampi to find one after another of the monuments

In this phase of Turmoil, Mummadi Singa, an able warrior from Malnad, established a small kingdom at Kampila, around Nineteen km east of Hampi. He was able to get a foot-hold in the region. He was succeeded by Kampiladevaraya, who further strengthened his grip on the region by conquering Anantpur, Chitaldurga, Shimoga district, Raichur, Dharwar and Bellary area. In-fact he became so powerful that his empire in North expanded till Krishna River, which formed a natural boundary with the Maratha Empire. These early successes made Kampiladevaraya daring and gave wings to his ambitions.

Roam around to find your inner self in ancient temples

In strengthening his position and other administrative requirements, he was ably assisted by the five Sangma brothers- Harihara I (Hukka), Bukka, Kampana, Muddappa and Marappa.

One day I noticed a small unit of Muslim army moving towards Kampila. The unit appeared to be weak, tired and weather-beaten. There were women and children along with the unit; they did not look like invaders, nevertheless, I felt that some major event is about to unravel itself. I feared of war and bloodshed.

Kids love Hampi as if it is a treasure trove !

I learnt that the marching unit was led by Bahauddin Gharshasp, Governor of Sagar, who revolted against Muhammed-Bin-Tuglaq, his cousin. He came to meet and seek protection from Kampiladevaraya. The king of Kampila embraced him with his open arms; he not only allowed him to stay but also treated him as a royal guest and promised to save him at any cost.

Muhammed-Bin-Tuglaq had a deep hatred for his cousin who revolted against him. He got furious to know that Bahauddin was given refuge in Kampila. He sent an emissary to Kampiladevaraya’s court demanding to hand over Bahaunddin to him, or else be ready to face the consequences.

Kampiladevaraya was a man of his words. He declined the demand, ignored the threat and continued treating Bahauddin as his royal guest.

हम शहंशाहीको समझायें किन उनवान से
जो समंदर मे रहते हैं डरते नही तूफान से|

It is indeed a treasure to find any random boulder with relief works!!

This chivalrous act of Kampiladevaraya invited Tuglaq’s wrath. He ordered Malik Zada, his commander in South, to attack over Kampila and to capture Bahauddin alive. Malik Zada was unsuccessful in his first two attempts. In his third attempt he besieged the fort of Kampila with a massive army. The siege continued for sometime; slowly and slowly the food inside the fort started reducing. It was evident that Kampiladevaraya was left with no option but to open the gates of the fort and to face the enemy.

I was praying for him as I could see that Kampila’s army was highly outnumbered by the army surrounding the fort. Even in this highly adverse situation, Kampiladevaraya did not hand over Bahauddin to the invading army; instead he suggested his guest to run-away and seek protection from the Hoysala king Veer Ballala III. In the meantime, he promised, he would impede the advance of the Tuglaqi army till he safely reached out of their reach.

Leave the famous landmarks of Hampi to find your own landmarks.

Once Bahauddin managed to slip out of the fort, Kampiladevaraya shared the reality of impending defeat with the women-folk of the fort, who decided to engulf the pious fire of Jauhar to protect their honor. After securing the safety of the guest and the honor of the women-folks, the gates of the fort were opened; Kampiladevaraya met his end with grit and determination. The enemy was in no mood to give respect to the king who dared disobey them. His head was severed, taken in a procession and then sent to the Sultan to announce the victory. Malik Zada did not stop here; he knew that his mission was incomplete till he captured Bahauddin.

Veer Ballala III was never in friendly terms with Kampiladevaraya; he did not feel obliged to shelter Kampiladevaraya’s friend Bahauddin and risk his kingdom to an attack. He knew, the best way to avoid a clash with Tuglaqi army was to capture Bahauddin and to hand him over to Malik Zada. As soon as Bahauddin presented himself to Veer Ballala III, he was captured and presented to Malik Zada. Malik Zada appreciated Veer Ballala’s friendly gesture and returned back with his prized capture. Bahauddin met with a violent end; he was skinned alive and his body was later stuffed with straw and sent over all of Tuglaq’s realm for public display.

The Gopuram of Virupaksh temple is Hampi’s iconic scene.

The Sangma brothers were also captured in the battle. They were taken to Delhi as prisoners and thus ended the first attempt to establish a strong kingdom in the region.

As Tuglaq moved to Daulatabad, and kept his focus on South, a major turmoil erupted in North India. To avoid losing his control over North, Tuglaq moved to North India in 1329 with a significant amount of his troops.

It was an opportunity for the kingdoms in South. They realized the weak position of the Tuglaq’s empire and revolted against it. Malik Muhammed was the local commander left behind by Tuglaq to keep things under control. He felt the heat and suggested Tuglaq to send someone local who was preferably close to Kampiladevaraya and was well aware of the local conditions.

But boulders and Tungbhadra is more iconic to the wandering eyes.

In the meantime, the Sangma brothers were converted to Islam; with the oaths and pledges of loyalty, and with their conduct they won the trust of the Sultan. In this moment of need of someone local and trustworthy, Tuglaq decided to send the neo-converts to South, to take things under control. He felt that with their knowledge of local conditions, and good will of their past association with Kampiladevaraya, the king who was still respected by the locals, they were best suited to keep his position firm in the region.

According to another account, the Sangma brothers were not captured by the Tuglaqi forces, but they escaped during the battle with Malik Zada and joined Hoyasala king Veer Ballala III. As Tuglaq moved to North, they convinced the Hoyasala king to allow them to establish a kingdom near Kampila that could act as a first barrier to any attack from the North.
Whatever be the reason, it appears that the Sangma brothers and their troop of mobile warriors returned back to the area around Kampila and searched for a place to settle down.

Initially they led a nomadic life but soon got tired of it. One day they met Rishi Vidyaranya and on his suggestion founded VidyaNagar or VijayNagar at Hampi. It was not a small event, it turned out to be the foundation of an empire that ruled a large territory of South India for around three centuries, a long rule among the Indian kingdoms.

In the next article, I would talk about the meeting of two of the Sangma brothers – Hukka (Harihara I) and Bukka with the revered saint Maharishi Vidyaranya and how he convinced them to set the foundation of an empire in Hampi.

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