Chapter 19: VIJAYNAGAR AND BAHAMANI KINGDOMS
Both these kingdoms arose when the control of the Sultanate
over the Deccan became weak during the reign of Muhammad-
bin-Tughlaq. Both were founded by officers who had rebelled against the Sultanate.
By the 15th and early 16th centuries, the Sultanate in the north
had given way to a series of regional kingdoms viz, Gujarat,
Malwa, Jaunpur, Delhi itself and Bengal. More-over in
the Deccan and peninsular India. the Sultanate incursions
had overturned existing regimes, opening the way for new
kingdoms to emerge.
Shortly after Muhammad bin Tughluq,
whose efforts to expand South were more intensive, withdrew
from the capital he had established at Daulatabad in the
Deccan. the Bahmanid kingdom also dominated by Muslims,
was established in 1345.
After roughly a century and a half.
the Bahmani kingdom, like the Sultanate, gave way to more
localised powers across the Deccan, and these kingdoms—
Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, and Golconda—persisted
as Muslim dynasties from the late 15th century well into the
Zafar Khan. also known as Bahman Shah became the
founder of an important dynasty in 1345, which ruled the
Deccan for nearly two centuries. He made Gulbarga his capital
instead of Daulatabad.
He had to ﬁght various remnants of
Muhammad Tughlaqs troops as well as the Hindu rulers of
Orissa and Warangal who had also expanded their spheres
of influence as soon as Muhammad had left the Deccan.
Rajas of Vijavanagar had established their empire almost at
the same time as Bahrnan Shah had founded his sultanate. They
now emerged as his most formidable enemies. The reasons
were that: (a) they both claimed the Raichur Doab : the fertile
land between the Krishna and Tungabhadra, as part of their
territory which laid between the two kingdoms; (b) Golconda
in the Bahmani kingdom had diamond mines and the kings
of Vijayanagara were eager, therefore to conquer Golconda,
and the rulers of both these kingdoms were very ambitious
and wished to control the peninsula.
Zaman Shah, before he took his title was called Hasan Gangu. He was apparently
the servant of a Delhi Brahman called Gangu. By chance, while
ploughing his patch of land, Hasan unearthed a cache of gold coins
whereupon Gangu, in his capacity as an astrologer, predicted a
great future for him, he also made him promise not to forget his
Encouraged by such predictions and by his evi-
dent good fortune, has an headed for the land of opportunity tn
the Deccan. There he rose rapidly in the service of Muhammad
bin Tughlaq and when, at the end of the latter's reign, both Gujarat and the Deccan deﬁed Delhi’s authority, Hasan emerged from
the subsequent confusion as the choice of his fellow commanders
to assume the sultanate of his breakaway Deccani kingdom.
Enthroned at Daulatabad, and now known as Bahaman Shah, he re-
membered his promise to his Brahman patron and duly summoned
Gangu to south to become finance minister of the new kingdom.
Even though Hasan was of Afghan birth he
adopted the name Gangu as one of his titles in honour of the Brahman, and as then used on all public documents and remained engraved on the royal seal of the dynasty until its extinction.
Despite their many wars Sultan Muhmnmad Shah and his successors could not expand the sultanate very much:
they just about managed to maintain the status quo. Around
1400, the rulers of Vijaynagar, even established an alliance with
Bahmani sultan’s northern neighbours — the sultans of Gujarat
and Malwa — so as to check his expansionist policy. But in
1425 the Bahmani sultan subjected Warangal and thus reached
the east coast. In the 15th century, the capital of the Bahmani
sultanate was moved from Gulbarga to Bidar. However, only
a few years later the new Suryavamsha dynasty of Orissa
challenged the sultanate and contributed to its downfall.
Athanasius Nikitin, a Russian traveler who spent four years
in the sultanate, from 1470 to 1474 left us a report, which is one
of the most important European accounts of life in medieval
The Bahmani Kingdom reached the height of its glory
under Mahmud Gawan in the Bidar period. He served as prime
minister and genera] to several sultans from 1461 to 1481.
He conquered Goa, which had been captured by the rulers of
Vijayanagar. The sultanate then extended from coast to coast.
Gawan also introduced remarkable administrative reforms and
controlled many districts directly. State ﬁnance was thus very
much improved. But his competent organisation ended with
his execution, ordered by the sultan as the result of a court
intrigue. After realising his mistake the sultan drank himself
to death within the year. thus marking the beginning of the end
of the Bahmani sultanate.
After Gawan's death the various factions at the sultan's
court started a struggle for power that was to end only with
the dynasty itself; indigenous Muslim courtiers and generals
were ranged against the ‘aliens’ — Arabs, Turks and Persians.
The last sultan, Mahmud Shah (1482-1518) no longer had
any authority and presided over the dissolution of his realm.
The governors of four most important provinces — declared
their independence from him one after another.
Bahmani sultans lived on in Bidar until 1522, they were mere
puppets in the hands of the real rulers of Bidar, the Barid
Shahis, who used them to put pressure on the other usurpers
of Bahmani rule.
Bijapur proved to be the most expansive of the successor
states and annexed Berar and Bidar. Ahmadnagar and
Golconda retained their independence and finally joined
hands with Bijapur in the great struggle against Vijayanagar.
Embroiled in incessant ﬁghting on the Deccan, Bijapur lost
Goa to Portuguese in 1510 and was unable to regain this port,
even though attempts at capturing it were made.
The armies of Vijayanagar were a match for the armies of
Bijapur. However, when all the Deccan sultanates pooled
their resources, Vijayanagar suffered a crucial defeat in 1565.
Subsequently the Deccan sultanates succumbed to the Great
Mughals: Ahmadnagar, being the northern most, was annexed
ﬁrst; Bijapur and Golconda survived for some time, but were
finally vanquished by Aurangzeb in 1686-7.
Vijaynagar and Bahamani Empires declared their
independence due to the weakness of central authority under
Muhammad bin Tuglaq.
The Vijaynagar kingdoms were ruled by Sangam,
Suluvu, Tuluva and Aravidu. The kingdom was initially
under influence of Kakatiyas of Warangal.
The decline of Hoysala kingdom enabled them to
grow. The kingdom was in conflict with Bahamani kingdoms for Krishna
Tungabhadra doab and Krishna Godavari delta.
The Sangama, Saluvu couldn't win against the
Bahamani kingdom. Then came the Tuluvus.
King Krishna dev raya:
He was the most powerful Tuluvu king. He was an
able commander. He was the greatest Tuluvu king. He kept the
invading Bahamani army in check. The Bahamani were replaced by
the Delhi sultanate.
These were defeated by Vijaynagar army. Krishna dev
raya also captured the Raichur doab and Bidar. He captured whole
of Telangana and maintained friendly relations with Portuguese.
The king was a great patron of literature and
encouraged Telugu work. He also was a Vaishnavaite but respected
He built and repaired many temples. But after his
death the forces of Bidar, Golconda, Bijapur and Ahmednagar
combined forces and defeated Vijaynagar. The reason for this was
that the king Ramaraya tried to pit one sultan against
the other. They also destroyed the great city. After this the Aravidu
dynasty continued the Empire for another 100 years.
The king was the highest authority. Hereditary
succession was practised. The king was assisted by a council.
For efficient administration, the Empire was
divided into mandalam, nadu, sthala and gram.
The land revenue was source of income along with
customs and taxes.
The punishment system was harsh and mutilation or
death by throwing to elephants was seen.
Well maintained standing army was kept.
Fig 1: Vijayanagar empire
Caste system was prevalent – Brahmins enjoyed
Splendor of houses and buildings was great.
Silk and cotton clothes were used.
Sati and polygamy was seen. Devdasi system was
common. Thus women had an inferior status in society.
Religious freedom was given. Muslims could build
mosques and work in the administration.
The agriculture was the most common profession.
Kings undertook reforms like irrigation system for it.
The peculiar feature of Vijayanagar kingdom was
Walled cities, multiple layers of walls and Agriculture fields
enclosed inside the walls. This was useful during seiges to
ensure regular food supply.
The internal and overseas trade was carried out and
gold coins were used.
Art of shipbuilding was developed. The trade was
with Persia, South Africa, East Asian countries.
1. Vijayanagar style of temple building had some
characteristic style like Gopuram and Mandapas with carved
pillars. The Mandapas were used for seating the deity.
Music, dancing was patronized.
Casting of metal images and metal castings were
Languages like Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil
flourished in the period.
Fig 2: Vijayanagar style of temples
The kingdom extended from Arabian Sea to Bay of
Bengal. It extended in west from Bombay to goa and in east from
Kakinada to mouth of the river Krishna. The bahamani minister Mahmud
Gawain was the reason for the increase in the kingdoms
strength. Gawain suggested administrative reforms to improve
control of sultan over nobles. The nobles disliked him and
convinced the sultan to execute him. After gawans execution, the
Empire weakened. The provincial governors declared autonomy.
Thus five kingdoms were formed in 1526 viz. Ahmed nagar,
Golconda, bidar, bijapur and Berar.
Fig 3: Bahamani kingdom
The Vijaynagar empire collected more land tax than its predecessors,
helped by a growing monetisation of the economy and an
expansion of agricultural production through investment by
chiefs and temples. Its core region was large and productive of
cotton and livestock. But, with its low rainfall and dependence
on tank irrigation, there were limits to its capacity to increase
agricultural output. Moreover, the decentralised political and
administrative structure restricted the proportion of revenue
that reached the centre. Vijayanagara needed the tribute from
the richer lands to the east.
There was another source of income. Control of the
western seaboard gave Vijayanagara access to the growing
Arabian sea trade. sponsored by Islamic power in pepper,
textiles, sandalwood and other Indian produce. Customs and
commercial dues were collected at ports and in the cities.
Vijayanagara itself was noted for its merchant houses and
Architecture in Vijaynagar and Bahmani Kingdoms
The capital cities of the Bahmanis, Gulbarga and Bidar boasted
of many fine buildings. Some of these continued on the older
style of architecture. Others like the Jama Masjid of Gulbarga
and Madrasa at Bidar were built on the Persian style. Perhaps
the best known of these buildings was to be the Gol Gumbaz
at Bijapur the tomb of one of the Bijapur kings. Its dome
is said to be one of the largest in the world.
forts, the kings of the Deccan built magnificent buildings. The
forts at Daulatabad and Golconda are examples of this.
The new city Vijayanagar, now in ruins, built by its rulers
is represented by the well known site of Hampi. What we
know about it is from the accounts of foreign travellers, Marlo Polo
and Abdur Razzaq.
New elements were introduced in the
temple architecture. In addition to the main shrine, a smaller
temple was built in the north-west called Amma Shrine where
the lord or main deity‘s consort resided.
This practice, which
began in the late Chola period now became the rule. The other
building was known Kalyanmandap. This was an open
pillared-pavilion with a raised platform where the main deity
and his consort were shown on important ceremonial ocea-
sions. To this was added the with or the temple car, a chariot
usually made of stone. A massive wall was built around the
shrine as a safeguard against intruders.
The important features
of Vijayanagara style of temple architecture are monolithic
pillars, ornate bracelets and decoration on the exterior side of
the walls. Besides paintings. the outer walls were decorated
with images or ﬁgures made out of stone.
from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other sacred works
were portrayed on the walls. They renovated and rebuilt some
of the Chalukyan temples and even constructed the temples of
Vitthala and Pattabhirama.