Battle of Raichur
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Raichur is a small city in the south Indian state of Karnataka. The city had a hoary past and was a witness to many a battle between the kings of Vijayanagar empire and the muslim kings ruling from Bijapur and Gulbarga. The city is located in a doab flanked by the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra, which makes it fertile and well supplied with water. The battle of Raichur fought by Sri Krishnadevaraya, King of Vijayanagar empire and Ismail Adil Shah, the king of Bijapur. was a turning point in the history of south India.
The fort of Raichur was built by Kakatiya king Rudra in 1284 CE which passed on to the Vijayanagar kingdom after the decline of Kakatiyas. Ever since, the fort has been under dispute for nearly two centuries. The fort was captured by Bahmanis in 1323 CE. Saluva Narasimha Raya expressed a wish in his testament that the city of Raichur be recaptured. This has been in the mind of Krishnadevaraya since his coronation in 1509. In the year 1520 Krishnadevaraya sent Seyed Maraikar, a Muslim in his service to Goa with a large sum of money to buy horses. Maraikar instead went to Adil Khan with the money and offered his services. Krishnadevaraya made a demand that Maraikar be returned along with the money which was duly refused. During the period of peace Krishnadevaraya made extensive preparations for a grand attack on Raichur doab. After the court decided that Raichur should be attacked the king invited all commanders (Nayakas) in his service to take part in the battle.
Description of the Army
The King performed elaborate prayers in the temples and left the city of Vijayanagar with his troops. Fifty thousand scouts went three leagues (5.556 km is one league) in front of the army. Their job was to spy out the country in front and always maintain that distance. On the flanks of the scouts two thousand horsemen armed with bows advanced. A great number of merchants with necessary supplies for the army also accompanied. The army consisted of about a million of men, if the camp-followers be included. The fighting men numbered about 736,000 with 32,600 horses and 550 elephants.
The chief of the guard Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka (also known as Kamma Nayaka) led the advance with thirty thousand infantry (archers, men with shields, musketeers and lancers) and a thousand horse and his elephants. After him went the contingents of Timmappa Nayaka, Adapa Nayaka, Kumara Virayya, and Ganda Raya, the governor of the city of Vijayanagar. The other well-known nayakas were Rana Jagadeva, Rayachuri Rami Nayudu, Hande Mallaraya, Boya Ramappa, Saluva Nayudu, Tipparasu Ayyappa Nayudu, Kotikam Viswanatha Nayudu,Chevvappa Nayudu, Akkappa Nayudu, Krishnappa Nayudu, Velugoti Yachama Nayudu, Kannada Basavappa Nayakka, Saluva Mekaraja, Matla Ananta Raja, Bommireddy Nagareddy, Basava Reddy, Vithalappa Nayudu and Veerama Raja. All their soldiers were well armed, the archers and musketeers with their quilted tunics and the shieldmen with their swords and poignards in their girdles. The shields were so large that there was no need for armour to protect the body. The horses were in full clothing and elephants had large howdahs from which four men fight on each side of them. The elephants were completely clothed. Sharp knives were fastened to their tusks. Several cannon were also taken. About twenty thousand washermen and courtesans accompanied the army. In the rear with the king, but always on the road in front of him, twelve thousand men with leather water bags placed themselves along the road to give water to those in need.
The King proceeded until he arrived at the town of Mallayyabanda (Maliyabad), which is a league from the city of Raichur. A royal tent was pitched behind a makeshift hedge of brush-wood and thorns. The army was given rest to overcome the fatigue of the march.
The army upon nearing the fort of Raichur pitched the camp on the eastern side of that citadel and began the siege. After an interval Raya received intelligence of the arrival of Adil Shah on the north side of the Krishna, with an army of 140,000 horse and foot. The sultan rested his troops for a few days, crossed the river, advanced to within nine miles of Raichur and entrenched himself there leaving the river about five miles behind him.
Nuniz described the atmosphere in the camp of Raya:
“--where the supplies were so great that you could find everything that you wanted, where you saw the goldsmiths and artisans at work as if in a city, where you will find all kinds of precious stones offered for sale, and where no one who did not understand the meaning of what he saw would ever dream that a war was going on, but would think that he was in a prosperous city”.
On Saturday morning, May 19, in the year 1520 CE the forces became engaged. Raya’s army made a tremendous noise heralding the engagement. The extraordinary noise made by the drums, trumpets and shouts of the men was so great so that even the birds fell down into the soldiers' hands stricken with terror and “it seemed as if the sky would fall to the earth” and "if you asked anything, you could not hear yourself speak, and you had to ask by signs”.
Krishnadevaraya ordered an advance to his immediate front of the two forward divisions. Their attack was successful and the Muslims were driven back to their trenches. The Sultan opened fire from the guns that he had previously held in reserve and caused great loss in the close ranks of the Hindus. The Raya's troops fell back in face of formidable bombardment and at once the Muslims charged them. The retreat was changed to a rout, and for a mile and a half to their direct front the Sultan’s cavalry chased the Raya’s forces belonging to the first line. Krishnadevaraya, who commanded the second line, rallied the troops, collected about him a number of the nayaks, and determined to face death with the bravery that had always characterized him, plunged into the battle. Mounting his horse, he ordered a forward movement of the whole of his remaining divisions, and charged the now disordered ranks of the Muslims. This resulted in complete success and the Sultan’s army got scattered and fled before the Hindu onslaught way back to, and into the river, where a great slaughter took place.
Krishnadevaraya then crossed the river and seized the Shah's camp, while the Shah himself with the help of Asad Khan escaped and fled from the field on an elephant.
While being driven back towards the river, Salabat Khan, the Shah's general, made a valiant attempt to retrieve the fortunes of the day. Salabat Khan lost his horse, but at once mounted another and pressed on. The little force was, however, surrounded and annihilated. The general was made prisoner. Krishnadevaraya, flushed with victory, returned at once to the attack of Raichur and the fortress was captured. The assistance rendered by some Portuguese, headed by Christovao de Figueiredo was noteworthy in this context. The Portuguese with their arquebusses picked off the defenders from the walls, and thus enabled the besiegers to approach close to the lines of fortification and pull down the stones. Driven to desperation, and their governor being slain, the garrison surrendered.
When the city of Raichur surrendered Krishnadevaraya made a triumphal entry into it, and treated the garrison with kindness and consideration.But Krishnadevaraya was brutal towards Bahamani Generals of Raichur as they had violated human rights by killing many people belonging to Hindu community. Many Bahamani Generals lost their lands. The other Muslim kings sent envoys to the emperor on hearing of his success and received a haughty reply. Krishnadevaraya then returned to Vijayanagar and held a great celebration. An ambassador arrived from the defeated Shah and was treated with scant courtesy for more than a month. The king sent an answer that if Adil Shah would come to him, do obeisance, and kiss his foot, his lands would be restored to him. The submission never took place. Krishnadevaraya now led his army as far north as Bijapur and occupied it. He took prisoner three sons of a former king of the Bahmani dynasty, who had been held captive by the Adil Shah and he proclaimed the eldest as king of the Deccan. This attempt to subvert the rule of the five Sultans who had established themselves on the ruins of the single Deccan sovereignty only resulted in stiffening their hostility towards their common foe.
Krishnadevaraya began to make preparations for an attack on Belgaum, which was in Adil Shah's possession. Soon after, he fell seriously ill to carry out his project and died at the age of forty-five years, in the year 1530 CE. He was succeeded by Achyuta Deva Raya.
The battle of Raichur had far-reaching effects. The Hindu victory weakened the power and prestige of the Adil Shah. He turned his attention to make alliances with the other Muslim neighbours. The victory also caused other Sultans in Deccan to come together and consider a combination by the aid of which the Vijayanagar Empire was finally overthrown.
The war also affected the fortunes of the Portuguese on the west coast. Goa rose and fell simultaneously with the rise and fall of the Vijayanagar dynasty because their entire trade depended on Hindu support. This is a point frequently left unnoticed by writers on Portuguese colonial history. When Vijayanagar, with its grandeur, luxury, great wealth and its enormous armies, was at the height of its power, the foreign traders were eminently successful and when Vijayanagar fell, and the city became desolate and depopulated, the foreign traders had no market for their goods, and trade decayed.
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- K. A. Nilakanta Sastry, Further Sources of Vijayanagar History - 1946(https://archive.org/details/FurtherSourcesOfVijayanagaraHistory)