Aliya Rama Raya
Rama Raya (1485? – January 23, 1565 CE), popularly known as "Aliya" Rama Raya, was the progenitor of the Aravidu dynasty of Vijayanagar Empire. This dynasty, the fourth and last to hold sway over the Vijayanagara Empire, is often not counted as a ruling dynasty of that empire, for reasons delineated below. Rama Raya patronised the Sanskrit scholar Rama Amatya. He reigned from 1543 to 1565.
"Aliya" Rama Raya and his younger brother Tirumala Deva Raya were sons-in-law of the great Vijayanagara emperor Krishna Deva Raya. The word "Aliya" means "son-in-law as well as nephew" in the Kannada language. Along with another brother Venkatadri, the Aravidu brothers rose to prominence during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya. Rama Raya was a successful army general, able administerator and tactful diplomat who conducted many victorious campaigns during the rule of Krishnadevaraya. After the demise of his illustrious father-in-law, Rama Raya, as a member of the family, began to wield great influence over the affairs of the state. Krishna Deva Raya was succeeded in 1529 by his younger brother Achyuta Deva Raya, upon whose demise in 1542, the throne devolved upon his nephew Sadashiva Raya, then a minor. Rama Raya appointed himself regent during the minority of Sadashiva Raya. After Sadashiva Raya came of age to rule, Rama Raya kept him a virtual prisoner.
During this time he became virtual ruler having confined Sadashiva Raya. Rama Raya removed many loyal servants of the kingdom and replaced them with officers who were loyal to him. He also appointed two Muslim commanders, the Gilani brothers who were earlier in the service of the Sultan Adil Shah as commanders in his army, a mistake that would cost the empire the final Battle of Talikota. Rama Raya lacked royal blood of his own and to legitimize his rule he claimed vicarious connection to the 2 of the most powerful Empires of medieval India the Western Chalukya Empire and Chola empire.
During his rule, the Deccan Sultanates were constantly involved in internal fights and requested Rama Raya on more than one occasion to act as a mediator, enabling Rama Raya to push north of Krishna river and expand his domains utilizing the disunity of the Deccan Sultans. He also suppressed revolts of the chieftens of Travancore and Chandragiri. Some scholars have criticised Rama Raya for interfering in the affairs of the Sultans too much, but scholars like Dr. P.B. Desai have ably defended his political affairs indicating that Rama Raya did whatever he could to increase the prestige and importance of the Vijayanagar empire, ensuring no single Sultanate would rise above the others in power hence preventing a difficult situation for Vijayanagar empire. In fact Rama Raya had interfered in Sultanate affairs only upon the insistence of one Sultan or the other, just the way the Sultans had acted as parelys between Rama Raya and Achyuta Raya in earlier years. When the Nizam of Ahmednagar and Qutbshah of Golconda sought Rama Raya's help against Bijapur, Rama Raya secured the Raichur doab for his benefactors. Later in 1549 when the Adilshah of Bijapur and Baridshah of Bidar declared war on Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Ramaraya fought on behalf of the Ahamednagar ruler and secured the fort of Kalyana. In 1557 Ramaraya allied himself with Ali Adilshah of Bijapur and Baridshah of Bidar when the Sultan of Bijapur invaded Ahmednagar. The combined armies of the three kingdoms defeated the partnership between Nizamshah of Ahmednagar and the Qutbshah of Golconda. This situation of Vijayanagar ruler constantly changing sides to improve its own position made the Sultanates form an alliance. Intermarraige between Sultanate families helped solve internal differences between Muslim rulers. This consolidation of Muslim power in the northern Deccan resulted eventually in the Battle of Talikota.
Battle of Talikota
Rama Raya remained loyal to the legitimate dynasty until it was finally extinguished by war. In 1565, it was Rama Raya, as the pre-eminent general of the Vijayanagar army, who led the defense against the invading army of Deccan Sultans (i.e. Husain Nizam Shah, Ali Adil Shah and Ibrahim Qutb Shah) in the battle of Talikota. This battle which seemed an easy victory for the large Vijayanagar army was a disaster following the surprise capture and death of Aliya Rama Raya who led the forces, a blow from which it never recovered. The city of Vijayanagara was thoroughly sacked by the invaders and the inhabitants were massacred. The royal family was largely exterminated. Vijayanagara, once a city of fabled splendour, the seat of a vast empire, became a desolate ruin, now known by the name of a sacred inner suburb within it, Hampi.
In the wake of this disaster, Rama Raya was killed in the battlefield and his brother Tirumala Deva Raya fled from the battle to Vijayanagar. He carried the major portion of the wealth of the Empire along with the puppet king Sadashiva Raya to Penugonda and tried to re-establish order in the empire. Later he shifted his capital to Chandragiri. With the massacre of nearly all other prominent members of the royal family, and given the prestige that Rama Raya had long enjoyed at court and among the nobility, it soon came to pass that his family inherited by default the position held hitherto by the royal family. Thus was the "Aravidu" dynasty of emperors born.
The position of emperor however was an empty one, as the Vijayanagara Empire had de facto ceased to exist. The major feudatories of Vijayanagara, such as Mysore and Madurai, Keladi Nayaka, soon began to exert their independence in the period of anarchy that followed the rout of 1565, while various Muslim adventurers carved out their own fiefs under the nominal suzerainty of the Muslim overlords, being at first the Bahmani Sultans and later the Mughals.
While the later Aravidu dynasty rulers never actually wielded power over the erstwhile empire, they nevertheless enjoyed immense prestige in the land, and often received homage from the great satraps of the empire. They were always treated with much honour and ceremony even by major rulers, such as the Kings of Mysore and Madurai. Even to this day, the "Raya of Anegundi" who belongs to the "Aravidu" dynasty enjoys honour among the princes of India.
South India in the post-Vijayanagara period
The five Bahmani sultanates that had united for the single purpose of laying Vijayanagara waste were soon at odds with each other, and were unable to establish their authority much beyond the vicinity of the erstwhile capital city. They were soon extinguished by the Mughal's under the leadership of Aurangzeb, who spent nearly the whole of his long life attempting in vain to add the Deccan and South India to his empire. This effort, and Aurangzeb's religious bigotry, drained the Mughal empire of both resources and support, and the Mughal empire crumbled into anarchy upon the death of Aurangzeb in 1707.
The Marathas were the primary cause for this sudden decline of the Mughal empire. Chhatrapati Shivaji's spiritual preceptor, Swamy Samarth Ramdas, had been deeply moved by the ruins of Vijayanagara. Shivaji himself was deeply impressed by the resistance offered by the Vijayanagar Empire to Muslim rule in South India. The Marathas under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji were successful in ousting from the land those forces that had caused the collapse and ruin of Vijayanagara, and the Peshwas extended the Maratha empire all the way to Delhi within 150 years of Talikota. The relations between Vijayanagar and the Hindu Pad Padshahi of the Marathas can be found elsewhere as well. In a lecture given by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he says that the land revenue system of the Marathas was taken from Vijayanagar. In this way, one great Hindu empire passed on the baton to the next.
The main powers in South India in the post-Vijayanagara period were rulers of Madurai, Mysore Travancore, Keladi, Chitradurga, the Marathas, including the rulers of Kolhapur and Thanjavur and the Mughals, represented by the rulers of Hyderabad and Arcot. They were gradually either co-opted or supplanted by the British who held sway until the Independence of India in 1947.
- A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives by Richard M. Eaton p.99
- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, Concise History of Karnataka, 2001, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)
Tirumala Deva Raya