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History of Vijayanagara

Founded in the middle of the 14th century in the wake of the invasion of South India by the armies of the Delhi sultans, Vijayanagara became the seat of a line of powerful Hindu emperors. During the next 200 years, they established their authority over a territory that encompassed the diverse populations of southern India, including present-day Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. As the capital grew in wealth, size and splendour, its fame attracted foreign visitors who wrote vivid accounts of the city and empire. The rulers competed with the rajas of Orissa and the sultans of the
Deccan kingdoms that lay immediately to the north. In 1565,
the Vijayanagara army lost a major battle, and the capital was subsequently abandoned and sacked. The court shifted to southern Andhra Pradesh where the emperors ruled over their dwindling domains until the middle of the 17th century.

In the following pages we first sketch the prehistory and early history of the region in which the city was founded. We then recount the history of Vijayanagara capital, as well as that of the empire that bore its name. We also describe how the memory of Vijayanagara survived the city’s destruction, inspiring antiquarians, travellers, photographers and, eventually, archaeologists to visit the ruins. As well, we suggest how the memory of the city has figured in narratives of religious, social and political history with present-day consequences.

For a summary of scholarly approaches to Vijayanagara’s history link to Davison-Jenkins 1997, ‘'The Kingdom of Vijayanagara'’ or to Verghese 1995, ‘'Introduction: Historical, Religious and Archaeological Background'’. For early 20th century histories, see Sewell 2000, A Forgotten Empire, and Longhurst 1995, Hampi Ruins; for modern histories, see Stein 1989, The New Cambridge History of India, Vijayanagara, and Eaton and Wagoner 2014, Power, Memory, Architecture; for sources on Vijayanagara history see Krishnaswamy Aiyangar, 2003, Sources of Vijayanagara History, and Nilakanta Sashtri and Venkataramanayya 1946, Further Sources of Vijayanagara History; for art and culture in historical context, see articles in Rao 2006, Sangama; for sensitive evocations of the concerns of poets, saints and philosophers see Jackson 2005, Vijayanagara Voices; all in Bibliography.

Excavated Palace

Excavated Palace

Last updated February 9, 2014 - ©2014 Vijayanagara Research Project