Vijaynagar Empire- Overview, Renowned Rulers, Architectural Wonders, Social Status, Religious Practices

An Overview Of The Vijaynagar Empire

Situated to the south of the Bahamani kingdom in the Deccan was the majestic Vijaynagar empire established by the two sons of Sangama – Harihar, and Bukka. With Hampi as the capital city, the two brothers laid the foundation for the future Vijaynagar empire in AD 1336 by the banks of the River Tungabhadra. Renowned for their administrative system, the Vijaynagar empire had a cabinet of ministers to help him run the affairs of the state, with the king as the head of all departments. The whole empire was segregated into six provinces with a Naik to manage the administration of the affairs of the provinces. The provinces were then further branched out into districts and then villages. 


Renowned Rulers Of The Vijaynagar Empire

To better understand the monarchial reign of the Vijaynagar empire, we have segregated the empire by the four dynasties which ruled the Deccan plateau with the year of their reign. The four dynasties include –

  1. Sangama Dynasty
  2. Saluva Dynasty
  3. Tuluva Dynasty
  4. Aravidu Dynasty

The below list mentions the prominent rulers of the Sangama dynasty with the year of their reign.

Rulers Of The Sangama DynastyYear Of Their Reign
Harihara I1336 -1356
Bukka Raya I1356 – 1377
Harihara Raya II1377 – 1404
Virupaksha Raya 1404 – 1405
Bukka Raya II1405 – 1406
Deva Raya I 1406 -1422
Ramachandra Raya1422
Vira Vijaya Bukka Raya1422 – 1424
Deva Raya II1424 – 1446
Mallikarjuna Raya1446 – 1465
Virupaksha Raya II1465 – 1485
Praudha Raya1485

The below list mentions the rulers of the Saluva dynasty with the year of their reign.

Rulers Of The Saluva DynastyYear Of Their Reign
Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya1485 -1491
Thimma Bhupala1491
Narasimha Raya II1491 – 1505

The below list mentions the rulers of the Tuluva dynasty with the year of their reign. 

Rulers Of The Tuluva DynastyYear Of Their Reign
Tuluva Narasa Nayaka1491 – 1503
Vira Narasimha Raya1503 – 1509
Krishna Deva Raya1509 – 1529
Achyuta Deva Raya1529 – 1542
Venkata I1542
Sadasiva Raya1542 – 1570

The below list mentions the eminent rulers of the Aravidu dynasty with the year of their reign. 

Rulers Of The Aravidu DynastyYear Of Their Reign
Aliya Rama Raya1542 – 1565
Tirumala Deva Raya1565 – 1572
Sriranga I 1572 – 1586
Venkata II1586 – 1614
Sriranga II1614
Rama Deva Raya1617 – 1632
Venkata III1632 – 1642
Sriranga III1642 – 1646

Architectural Wonders From The Vijaynagar Empire

Hazara Rama Temple and Vithalswami Temple with sculptures of the reigning deities, Rama and  Krishna, and Shiva. Architecture during the Vijayanagar empire can be indexed into religious, defence, civilian and secular types to understand better. Religious architecture implies the practice of inscribing on the temple walls with bas relics of the fables of the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha was initiated by the rulers of the Vijaynagar empire. An amalgamation of the Chalukyas, Pandya, Hoysala and Chola architectural styles contributed to the Vijaynagar style of construction. The Provida style of construction developed, which accommodated many columns and piers surfaced around this time. 

Mandapams which housed more than 100 pillars, were used to facilitate seating areas for the idols of the deities during religious occasions. With reference to the defence architecture, the empire consolidated the forests, agricultural fields, and the city with seven layers of fortress walls for protection with various entrances to the city on the square bulwarks. The primary entrance was heavily guarded and flanked by defensive walls on either side. Whereas civilian and secular architecture was chiefly designed for the use of the royals and the commoners. The civilian architecture can be characterized by the Indo-Islamic influence of the domes with an arch. Examples of this kind of design include the Queen’s Bath and the Lotus Mahal built in rubble masonry. The secular architecture consisted of both the subsidiary and palatial buildings with elements of the Indo- Saracenic, primarily due to the increasing influence of Muslim architects during that era.  

Social Status Of  The Population During The Reign Of The Vijaynagar Empire 

Much of the historical events were documented by the travelling scholars and nomads from across the world to visit the Vijaynagar empire. Their journals give us an insight into the lives of the commoners and those of the nobility. Even though the caste system prevailed, it was as severe when compared to the other dynasties. Most of the caste segregation occurred with regards to the occupation the individuals took up. The higher the position of a person, the more important they were viewed as, regardless of the caste. This also meant that members of the same family could be treated differently based on their significance in society, especially if they held a high position. Domingo Paes, a Portuguese sojourner during his stay, identified an increase of the higher class of the Brahmins in the military and army troops compared to their usual job profiles that dealt with administration and governance. 

The practise of polygamy, child marriage, and sati was prevalent under the reign of the Vijaynagar empire. Evidence of the tradition of sati has made several appearances in the travelogues of the foreign ambassadors to south India and the inscriptions from the Satikal. Being the only empire that employed women for government posts, women’s status was heavily upgraded by the reigning authorities under the Vijaynagar empire’s rule. South Indian women could hold military posts and go into battle, which men previously could only handle. Women were trained in defence and warfare, including wrestling, poetics, literature, astrology, administration, economics, politics, accounts, and even music. The emergence of Carnatic music evolved during this era, mainly because of the kings who took an interest in these areas. 

Religious Practices During The Reign Of The Vijaynagar Empire

Even though the rulers of the Vijaynagar empire were staunch worshippers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, they were incredibly tolerant of the other religious sects under their control. The kings were also patronized saints who were practitioners of the philosophy of dualism, also known as the Dvaita Order. As an effort brought by the influence of the Turkish-Mughals in the northern part of India and also because of the increasing trade with the Arab lands, the contact with Musalmans became extensive, to the point where they married and settled in the indigenous parts of south India. With the existence of the Islamic culture during the Rashtrakuta period, it was easier for the culture and faith to spread around the neighbouring regions. Towards the latter part of the 15th Century, with the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch settlements, the growth of the western faith of Christianity became more prominent. 


With the invasion of the neighbouring territories and due to the lack of proper leadership, the once affluent Vijaynagar empire began to lose its remaining clout. With the collapse of the empire in 1614, the remaining kingdoms in south India tried to gain independence and became separate entities. 


Who were the founding fathers of the Vijaynagar empire?

The sons of Sangama, Harihara, and Bukka established the kingdom of Vijaynagar in AD 1336.

What was the capital of the Vijaynagar empire?

The capital city of Vijaynagari was the magnificent Hampi.

What was Vijaynagar famed for internationally?

The diamonds of Vijaynagar were highly acclaimed worldwide and were regarded as the international business centre for trading diamonds.

Which religion did the rulers of the Vijaynagar empire devote themselves to?

The rulers of the Vijaynagar dynasty were staunch worshippers of Shaivism and Vaishnavism and were also tolerant of other religions like Islam, Jainism, and including Christianity.


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