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Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646 A.D.) – History, Important Dynasties and Rulers

History of the Vijayanagar Empire

Established in 1336 CE on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River in present-day Karnataka, India, the Vijayanagara Empire, also known as the Karnata Kingdom or Vijayanagara Samrajya, had its capital in the city of Hampi (currently in Karnataka). Hampi has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Geographically, it is situated near the Deccan Plateau in South India.

The founders of the Vijayanagara Empire were brothers Harihara and Bukka, members of the Sangama Dynasty. They hailed from a pastoralist cowherd community, claiming Kuruba lineage. Both Harihara and Bukka had previously served under the Hoysala King, Vira Ballala III. The Vijayanagara period marked a golden age of literature in South India.

Geographical Spread of the Vijayanagar Empire

  • The Vijayanagara Empire, at its height, significantly influenced the ruling families of almost all of South India.
  • The rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire expanded their control by pushing the Deccan Sultans beyond the Tungabhadra-Krishna River Doab region.
  • The empire annexed modern-day Odisha (formerly Kalinga) from the Gajapati Kingdom of Kalinga, Odisha.
  • The peak of the empire coincided with the rule of Krishna Deva Raya, characterized by the consistent victories of the Vijayanagara armies.

Important Rulers of the Vijayanagar Empire

The list of Important Rulers of the Vijayanagar Empire is as follows:

Harihara (1336 – 1356 A.D.)

  • Harihara, along with his brother Bukka Raya, founded the Vijayanagara Empire.
  • In 1336 CE, Harihara I assumed rulership of the Sangama Dynasty.
  • During his reign, he conquered Mysore and Madurai from the Southern Empires.
  • Harihara I was succeeded by Bukka I in 1356 CE.

Krishnadeva Raya (1509 – 1529 A.D.)

  • Also known as ‘Andhra Bhoj,’ Krishnadeva Raya belonged to the Tuluva Dynasty.
  • Ruled over the Vijayanagar Empire from 1509 to 1529 CE.
  • Regarded as the most prominent and famous king of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes described him as “the most feared and perfect king.”
  • Successfully captured Sivasamudram in 1510 CE and Raichur in 1512 CE.
  • Extended Vijayanagar Empire’s territory with the capture of Orissa and Warangal in 1523 CE.
  • Under Krishnadeva Raya, the Vijayanagar Empire spanned from the river Krishna in the north to the River Cauvery in the south and from the Arabian Sea in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east.

Important Dynasties of the Vijayanagar Empire

Listed below are the significant dynasties of the Vijayanagara Empire:

  • Sangama Dynasty (1336 CE – 1485 CE)
  • Saluva Dynasty (1485 CE – 1505 CE)
  • Tuluva Dynasty (1491 CE – 1570 CE)
  • Aravidu Dynasty (1542 CE – 1646 CE)

Contributions of Krishna Deva Raya to the Vijaynagar Empire

  • He was an efficient administrator, and he also built large tanks & canals for irrigation.
  • He also created extensive naval power, which boosted the overseas trade of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • He also maintained cordial relations with the Portuguese and Arab traders.
  • All this helped him to enhance the revenue of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • Krishnadeva Raya was also a learned & great scholar.
  • He also patronised art and architecture extensively.
  • The Vijayanagar Empire reached its highest growth point during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya.

Eight Scholars in the Court Krishna Deva Raya

  • Allasani Peddanna: Renowned for writing ‘Manucharitam’ and known as the ‘Andhra Kavitapitamaha.’
  • Nandi Thimmana: Author of ‘Parijatapaharanam.’
  • Madayyagari Mallana
  • Dhurjati
  • Ayyalaraju Ramabhadra Kavi
  • Pingali Surana
  • Ramaraja Bhushana
  • Tenali Ramakrishna
  • Explore the notes on the Sunga Dynasty for further study.

Administration of Vijayanagar Empire

  1. The Vijayanagar Empire boasted a well-organized administrative structure.
  2. The King held paramount authority, serving as the ultimate decision-maker on all state matters.
  3. A Council of Ministers supported the King in administrative duties.
  4. The empire was divided into 6 provinces, each governed by a designated Governor known as ‘Naik.’
  5. Provinces were further subdivided into districts, which, in turn, were segmented into villages.
  6. Villages were under the jurisdiction of hereditary officers such as accountants, watchmen, weight men, and those overseeing forced labor.
  7. An officer named ‘Mahanayakacharya’ acted as a liaison between villages and the central government/administration.


  • The military of the Vijayanagar Empire comprised Infantry, Cavalry, and Elephantry.
  • A Commander-in-chief held the overall command and authority over the entire army unit

Revenue Administration

  • Land revenue stood as the primary income source for the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • Thorough land surveys were conducted to determine taxes, taking into account the soil’s fertility.
  • Emphasis was placed on agricultural development through the construction of numerous dams and canals.

Judicial Administration

  • The King held the role of the ultimate judge in the system.
  • Severe punishments were prescribed for those found guilty.
  • Offenders faced appropriate penalties, including fines for law violations.

Position of Women in the Vijayanagar Empire

  • Women enjoyed a prestigious status in the Vijayanagar Empire.
  • They played crucial roles in the social, political, and literary spheres of the empire.
  • Women received education on par with men, including training in wrestling and the use of diverse weapons.
  • Instruction in music and various fine arts was also part of their education.
  • Some women had access to advanced education opportunities.
  • According to Nuniz, female astrologers, clerks, accountants, guards, and wrestlers were appointed by the kings.

Social Life in Vijayanagar Empire

  1. The Vijayanagar Empire adhered to a structured societal framework.
  2. Common practices included child marriage, polygamy, and sati.
  3. Despite these practices, women occupied a significant and esteemed position in the Vijayanagar Empire.
  4. The kings of the Vijayanagar Empire promoted religious freedom.

Economic Conditions in Vijayanagar Empire

  • The Vijayanagar Empire’s economic strategies were predominantly shaped by their irrigation policies.
  • Various industries, including textiles, mining, metallurgy, and perfumes, flourished within the empire.
  • The Vijayanagar Empire maintained extensive commercial ties with islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as Abyssinia, Arabia, Burma, China, Persia, Portugal, South Africa, and the Malay Archipelago.

Contribution of the Vijayanagar Empire to the Architecture and Literature

  • Krishnadeva Raya was responsible for the creation of both the Ramaswami Temple and the Vittalaswami Temple.
  • Another notable masterpiece from the Vijayanagar Empire is the Bronze Image of Krishnadeva Raya.
  • The period witnessed the development of vernacular languages like Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.
  • Sayana, a writer of the time, penned commentaries on the Vedas.
  • Krishnadeva Raya, representing the Tuluva Dynasty, authored works such as Amuktamalyada in Telugu and Usha Prinayam and Jambavathi Kalyanam in Sanskrit.

The Decline of the Vijayanagar Empire

  1. The successors of Krishnadeva Raya were perceived as lacking strength.
  2. Consequently, the rulers of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda, and Bidar joined forces to launch a unified assault on the Vijayanagar
    Empire during the reign of Aliya Rama Raya.
  3. The outcome was a decisive defeat for Aliya Rama Raya, resulting in his and his supporters’ brutal demise.
  4. Consequently, the Vijayanagar Empire witnessed its ultimate decline during the Battle of Talikota in 1565, when it succumbed to the combined forces of the Deccan Sultanates.

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What is Vijayanagar famous for?

It is the home of the former capital of the famous Vijayanagara Empire and it's capital Hampi.

What is Vijayanagar called now?

The city of Vijayanagar (now known as Hampi) is situated on the northern bank of the river.

What are the 4 dynasties of Vijayanagara Empire?

The Vijayanagara Empire was ruled by four dynasties, namely Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva, and Aravidu.

Who was the king of Vijayanagara Empire?

The most famous king of the Vijaynagara Empire was Krishnadeva Raya.

Who defeated Vijayanagara Empire?

The empire lasted until 1646, although its power greatly declined after a major military defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the combined armies of the Deccan sultanates.

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