Vishnuvardhana (Kannada: ವಿಷ್ಣುವರ್ಧನ) (1108–1152 CE) was an emperor of the Hoysala Empire in present day Indian state of Karnataka. Originally a follower of Jainism and known as Bitti Deva, he came under the influence of the Hindu philosopher Ramanujacharya. Consequently, he converted to Hindu Vaishnavism and took the name Vishnuvardhana. Vishnuvardhana took the first steps in creating an independent Hoysala Empire in South India through a series of battles against his overlord, the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI. He also recovered Gangavadi province from the hegemony of the Chola empire. The Hoysalas gained the dignity of a kingdom starting from his rule.
|Hoysala Kings (1026–1343)|
|Nripa Kama II||(1026–1047)|
|Veera Ballala I||(1102–1108)|
|Veera Ballala II||(1173–1220)|
|Vira Narasimha II||(1220–1235)|
|Veera Ballala III||(1292–1343)|
Vishnuvardhana worked closely with his elder brother Veera Ballala I in matters of administration and military campaigns. Vishnuvardhana's first major conquest was the Cholan territory of Gangavadi in 1115, which is now a major portion of south Karnataka. Vishnuvardhana's general Gangaraja wrested the territory from the Cholas.
Vishnuvardhana now assumed the title Talakadugonda and Veera Ganga, minted coins with these legends and in celebration of his successes against his overlords the Chalukyas, he built the Kirthinarayana temple at Talakad and also initiated construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur. Chola commanders like Adigaiman may have helped Vishnuvardhana in his conquest. Being Vaishnava Hindu by faith, the Chola commander may not have been treated well by Kulothunga Chola I. One Hoysalan epitaph notes that Vishnuvardhana burned the Gangavadi city of Talakad and polluted the waters of river Kaveri by throwing the corpses of his enemies into it. This pollution of the Kaveri is mentioned in multiple inscriptions in the Hassan district where he identifies his contemporary on the Chola throne and one of his opponents as Rajendra Chola. He claims to have burnt the chief of the Gangas and polluted the waters of the Kaveri by throwing the corpses of his enemies into it and thus drove Rajendra Chola to use the wells in the vicinity. He also claims to have captured Talakkad and burnt the hearts of the Tulu kings. This Rajendra Chola is none other than the Eastern Chalukya king Kulothunga Chola I who also called himself Rajendra Chola. Vishnuvardhana assumed many titles like Buja bala ganga, Vira ganga, Nolambavadigonda, Talakadugonda, etc. and minted coins with his title in 1117.
The Hoysalas defeated Chalukyan king Vikramaditya VI at Kennagala in 1118, and at Hallur in 1120. Vishnuvardhana captured the fort of Hanagal, subdued the Kadambas of Banavasi. However Vishnuvardhana suffered reversals at the hands of Chalukya commander Achugi of Gulbarga and had to submit to the Chalukya overlordship. After the death of Vikramaditya VI in 1126 Vishnuvardhana recaptured Hanagal, Uchchangi, Bankapura and Banavasi-12000 province and marched up to Lakkundi in Gadag district.
Towards the end of his life, Vishnuvardhana had wrested many territories that were hitherto under the control of other ruling dynasties. Though not fully able to conquer South India from the Chalukyas, Vishnuvardhana was able to rise the territory to the dignity of a real kingdom and laid the foundations for the conquests that were to follow by his successors Veera Ballala II and III.
There is controversy regarding the year in which Vishnuvardhana died. Though some historians claim he lived up to 1152. the proof from Yalladahalli inscription shows that his younger son Narasimha I was already the king in 1145. The demise of Vishnuvardhana is fixed at 1141 by other scholars.
Art & Religion
Scholars believe that Vishnuvardhana was originally a Jain known as Bittideva. Under the influence of the Hindu philosopher Ramanujacharya, Vishnuvardhana converted to Sri Vaishnavism, a forerunner of a major sect of modern Hinduism. Numerous Vishnu temples were built during his reign at Belur, Talakad and Melkote. However, Vishnuvardhana's chief queen, Shantala Devi remained a devout Jain, and set a precedent of religious tolerance in the kingdom. Many of Vishnuvardhana's generals, including Gangaraja, were Jains. According to historian Alkandavilli Govindāchārya, Bitti Deva and his chief queen Shantala Devi had a sick daughter. She was possessed by an evil spirit and the Vaishnavite saint Ramanuja is said to have cured this daughter. After this episode it is said that Bitti Deva embraced Vaishnavism. But from his inscriptions in the Hassan district, his daughter by one of his queens called Shantala Devi, died during his reign.
The famous Chennakesava Temple at Belur is attributed to him. He built this temple to commemorate his victory against the Cholas of Tamil country. The famous Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu was also built during his time.
According to research scholar M. S. Mate of the Deccan College, the devotee Pundalik—who is assumed to be a historical figure—was instrumental in persuading Vishnuvardhana alias Bittidev to build the Pandharpur temple dedicated to Vishnu. The deity was subsequently named as Vitthala, a derivative of Bittidev, by the builder-king.
Upon Vishnuvardhana's death in 1152, his son Narasimha I ascended to the Hoysala throne.
Vishnuvardha built a fort called Veerabhadra fort at Santhy pety (bikkanahally) Tamil Nadu.
- The life of Râmânujâchârya: the exponent of the Viśistâdvaita philosophy, page 180
- It has been noted by Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise History of Karnataka, Bangalore, 2001.
- In the opinion of Arthikaje, History of Karnataka.
- Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District, page xii, 130
- The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, page 37
- The history of Andhra country, 1000 A.D.-1500 A.D, page 65
- Volume 3 of International Numismata Orientalia, page 116
- According to Prof William Coelho, (The Hoysala Vamsa, 1950), A Concise History of Karnataka, Dr. S.U. Kamath
- Dr. P.B. Desai, Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri and Prof. S.K. Aiyangar claim this in their research, A Concise History of Karnataka, Dr. S.U. Kamath
- Rice (1895), p295
- Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District, page xvi
- The Hoysaḷa vaṁśa, page 112
- Sand, Erick Reenberg (1990). "The Legend of Puṇḍarīka: The Founder of Pandharpur". In Bakker, Hans. The History of Sacred Places in India as Reflected in Traditional Literature. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 38. ISBN 90-04-09318-4.
- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore, 2001 (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041
- K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, 1955, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002), ISBN 0-19-560686-8
- Rice, Benjamin Lewis. Mysore: A Gazetteer Compiled for Government. 1895, A. Constable.
- The life of Râmânujâchârya: the exponent of the Viśistâdvaita philosophy By Alkandavilli Govindāchārya
- Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District By Benjamin Lewis Rice, Mysore (India : State). Archaeological Dept, Mysore Archaeological Survey
- The Hoysaḷa vaṁśa By William Coelho
- Volume 3 of International Numismata Orientalia
- The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi By N. Ramesan
- The history of Andhra country, 1000 A.D.-1500 A.D. By Yashoda Devi
Veera Ballala I