Battle of Talikota
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|Battle of Talikota|
|Part of Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent|
|Commanders and leaders|
|80,000 infantry (Beydurs)
several dozen artillery cannons
|140,000 foot, 10,000 horse and over 100 War elephants|
|Casualties and losses|
|70,000 - 80,000||100,000 including Rama Raya|
The Battle of Talikota (26 January 1565), a watershed battle fought between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Deccan sultanates, resulted in a defeat of Vijayanagara, and ended in greatly weakening one of the greatest Indian Empires originating from Southern India before the Maratha Empire. Talikota is situated in northern Karnataka, about 80 km to the southeast from the city of Bijapur.
The throne of the Vijayanagara Empire had passed from Achyuta Raya, upon his death, to Rama Raya. The Sultanates were in constant fear of a much bigger Vijayanagara Empire united against it, which was seen as the common enemy. The excessive pride of Vijayanagara in its strength and internal conflicts also added to the cause of the battle.
By 29 December 1564 the first battles broke out. Qutb Shah and Nizam Shah, who were friends, decided to go on their own first and led their divisions to clash with Tirumala Deva Raya's division. The Hindu army inflicted defeat on the Muslims and the Sultans fled in disarray losing thousands of men in the encounter. The Sultans were shaken by this encounter and asked Adil Shah to forget previous arguments and stand by them for the intended Hindu counter-attack. The Sultans met secretly and decided that the only way to succeed was to resort to stratagem. Nizam Shah and Qutb Shah decided to parley with the Raya who was now planning a large counter-thrust into the Muslim flanks. At the same time Adil Shah sent a false message to the Hindu commander that he wished to remain neutral. As a result of these parleys Ramaraya delayed his counter-thrust giving a small but critical time window for the Muslims to regroup. Sultan Imad Shah of Berar made the first thrust by attacking Tirumala Deva Raya 's division guarding the Krishna ford. Tirumala fell upon him with his full force and in a short but intense encounter destroyed the Sultan's army and sent him fleeing for life. However, the sultans Nizam Shah, Qutb Shah, Barid Shah on one side and Adil Shah on the other used this distraction to cross the Krishna and attack the main Hindu divisions.
Rama Raya, though surprised, rapidly responded. Despite being in his 70s he decided to personally lead the Hindu armies and took to the field in the center. He was faced by Nizam Shah's division. Ramaraya's first brother Tirumala hurriedly returned to form the left wing of the Hindu army that was countered by Adil Shah and traitorous Hindus under the Maharatta chief Raja Ghorpade. His second brother Venkatadri formed the Hindu right wing that was opposed by Qutb Shah and Barid Shah, strengthened by Nizam Shah`s auxiliaries as the battle progressed.
On 23 Jan 1565, the armies clashed on the plains near the villages of Rakshasi and Tangadi. Several reports claimed that over a million men were involved. Venkatadri struck early and within the first two hours the Hindu right wing`s heavy guns fired constantly on the ranks of Barid Shah. As the ranks were softened the Hindu infantry under Venkatadri ploughed through the divisions of Barid Shah annihilating them. The assault was so vigorous that it looked like a Hindu victory was imminent. Qutb Shah was also in retreat, when Nizam Shah sent his forces to shore up the ranks of the Sultans. Nizam Shah himself was then pressed hard by the heavy cannonade from Rama Raya`s division and was facing a Hindu infantry thrust with Ramaraya at the helm. At this point the Sultans signaled to the Muslim officers in the Vijayanagaran army to launch a subversive attack. Suddenly Ramaraya found his rear surprised by the two Muslim divisions in his ranks turning against him. About 140,000 Muslim troops had opened a vigorous rear attack on the Hindus and captured several artillery positions. Several cannon shells landed near Ramaraya's elephant and he fell from it as his mount was struck by a cannon shard. Ramaraya tried to recover but Nizam Shah made a dash to seize him.
The battle seems to have been decided by the Deccan sultanate`s artillery and the capture and execution of the ruling Hindu minister Rama Raya. Venkatadri was also killed as the Qutb Shah, Nizam and Barid put all their forces together and launched a concerted punch. Tirumala tried to stiffen the center but at that point the whole division of Adil Shah that was waiting all the while made the final assault on the rear of Tirumala Deva Raya's division. The Vijayanagar artillery had by then been exhausted and was blasted by the Adil Shah's artillery and the Hindus faced a rout.
Tirumala Deva Raya, seeing the rout, fled to Vijayanagara and taking up the treasury on 1500 elephants fled south towards Penukonda. The looting of Hindu Vijanagara by the victorious army of the Muslim sultanates is supposed to have gone on for six months, after which the sultans set fire to the city. The heat from the burning of the city is supposed to have been so intense that it left cracks in the granite hills on its periphery.
Assessment of the battle's outcome
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- The betrayal by two Muslim commanders (Gilani Brothers) of Vijayanagara Army at a key point in the battle was the chief cause of the defeat.
- The Vijayanagara armies had fewer cavalry on horseback and depended on commanders riding war elephants, making them slower on the battlefield. The Sultanate armies had many more swift Persian horses used by key sections of the army and commanders. This gave them an advantage.
- The three main commanders of the Vijayanagara army, including Aliya Rama Raya, were aging compared to the younger commanders of the Sultanate armies.
- While the Vijayanagara infantry depended on bows made of bamboo, the Sultanate armies used crossbows made of metal which were much more effective in accuracy and distance. Also, the Vijayanagara army used 7 feet (2.1 m) long spears and javelins while the Sultanate armies used 15 feet (4.6 m) long spears while riding horse back. This gave them an advantage.
- Aliya Rama Raya's policy, of placing his family members at key public posts, led to civil unrest.
- The Vijayanagara armies had pillaged their neighboring empires and had formed alliances with imperial forces, also sowing dissention.
- The Sultanates' armies had a much better prepared artillery division manned by mercenary gunners from Turkestan. At that time they were considered the best at artillery warfare, while the Vijayanagara forces depended on European mercenaries who were not as well trained.
Despite all these disadvantages, the greatest factor was the betrayal of the Vijaynagara Army by two Muslim commanders (Gilani Brothers). At the critical point of the war, Muslim officers in the Vijayanagara army launched a subversive attack. Suddenly Rama Raya found himself surprised when the two Muslim divisions in his ranks turned against him. The Muslim troops of the Vijaynagara army had opened a vigorous rear attack on the Hindus and captured several artillery positions. Several cannon shells landed near Rama Raya’s elephant and he fell from it as his mount was struck by a cannon shard. Rama Raya tried to recover, but Nizam Shah made a dash to seize him.
During the battle Tirumala was standing before Adil shah, Venkatadri before Qutb shah, and Rama Raya was facing Nizam shah. Rama Raya had ordered his soldiers to capture Qutb shah and Adil shah and behead Nizam shah. First honors were enjoyed by Hindu forces.
At one point of time Nizam shah and Qutb shah thought of running away from the battle field, as Tirumala and Venkatadri had given such a mortal blow to both of them. Suddenly there was confusion in the ranks of the Hindu troops. They were dumb-struck that they were being attacked from behind. That was the deciding moment of the war. Two Muslim soldiers, the Gilani brothers, had betrayed the Hindu troops. They had been expelled from Adil shah's army for betraying him but were offered a higher status in Rama Raya's army.
A day before the war, they were secretly invited by the Muslim troops and were instigated to betray the Hindus. The same thing happened. No one knew what was going on, an intelligence failure on the part of Rama Raya. Cannons fired continuously from the front end, leaving thousands of Hindus dead, and at that point an elephant belonging to Ahmadnagar pushed Rama Raya out of his litter. He was taken prisoner and was produced before Adil shah. Rama Raya was soon beheaded and his head was exhibited to the troops. Seeing that their king was dead, and in utter confusion, the Hindu troops turned their backs to the battlefield and ran away.
There was no one to lead the troops, though the army consisted of lakhs of soldiers. They had traveled almost 160 km from the capital city. The Muslim soldiers chased Hindu troops and butchered them on their way. More than one lakh soldiers were killed that day.
The people at the capital city received the news that Rama Raya was killed and that the army had lost the war. But they would not believe the news because they had never seen such a scenario nor heard the news of Vijayanagar being defeated in war for the past 200 years. The troops entered the city along with Tirumala and Venkatadri, having been defeated. Tirumala and Venkatadri slipped into the palace and took whatever they could before the Muslims came and killed them too. They fled along with their family members. Those who remained loyal to the throne followed them. The others, who didn't want to leave their motherland, stayed there, waiting for the Muslims to enter the city and kill them. There was another pitched battle at that juncture, but in vain.
The Muslim troops waited and rested outside the capital for three days. During those three days there was the scenario of theft and robbery in the city.
After three days, Muslim troops entered the city. There was no one to stop them. They looted, plundered and destroyed the city. Men, women and children were killed. Shops, temples and houses were burnt and the Hindu idols were destroyed. This destructive episode continued for six months. Robert Sewell, in his book The Forgotten Empire, concludes thus - "With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description." Robert Sewell (1845–1925) worked in the civil service of the Madras Presidency during the period of colonial rule in India. He was Keeper of the Madras Record Office and was tasked with responsibility for documenting ancient inscriptions and remains in the region. As with other British administrators of his type at that period, his purpose was not scholarly but rather to bolster administrative control by constructing a history that placed British rule as a virtue and a necessity rather than something to be denigrated. A portrayal of historic factionalism among local figureheads and dominion by alien despots would, it was thought, enhance the perception that only the British could rescue the country from its past.
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A victorious army along with dwellers then fell upon the city. Using axes, crowbars, fire and sword the victorious armies went about the task of destroying the city of Vijayanagara which never recovered from the onslaught. The highly diminished Vijayanagara empire now tried to stage an unsuccessful resurgence with its capital at Penukonda. Tirumala however could not lay claim over Vijayanagara as locals instead supporting the younger brother of Aliya Rama Raya, also called Tirumala, the regent. It was another six years before Tirumala could claim regency over the former capital of Vijayanagara. During this time, anarchy had spread. Aliya Rama Raya's habit of nominating family relatives to key positions of the former kingdom instead of loyal officers became a reason for family feuds and rebellion. The Polygar (Palyagar) system (local chieftains) which had been so successful earlier was also a reason for break away factions. The Nayaks of Tamil speaking regions; Gingee, Madurai Nayaks and Tanjore Nayaks were flexing their freedom and in fact Tirumala Deva Raya had to tacitly accept the independence of these Nayakas in order to keep their friendship in an hour of impending invasions from Bijapur. Later, the Vijayanagara empire shifted capitals to Chandragiri and eventually to Vellore during which time the other feudatories, the Kingdom of Mysore, Nayakas of Keladi in Shimoga and Nayakas of Vellore also became independent. As a result of the Vijayanagara empire's collapse, the political system of the southern areas disintegrated. However, it left a residue of Telugu enclaves and local elites scattered over most of South India. Kannada country lost its united identity for the coming four centuries, with the creation of smaller states such as the Kingdom of Mysore, Keladi Nayakas, Nayakas of Chitradurga, the latter two eventually merging with the Kingdom of Mysore. For the Sultanates and Muslim rulers of the south, victory seemed temporary as they continued to engage in squabbling and fighting amongst themselves which ultimately resulted in their capitulation to the Marathas and later the British Empire. Some Kannada speaking regions became part of Hyderabad Karnataka ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad and Bombay Presidency governed by Maratha chieftains all of whom came under the British umbrella.
After the fall of Vijayanagar, some historians believe that Tirumala, the brother of Rama Raya made an attempt to revive the city but failed. It is believed that there was a conflict between him and his nephew Pedda Tirumala over the control of the city and hence he decided to abandon it. With the Vijayanagar army in shambles, Rama Raya's nepotism at the expense of traditional Hindu civil officers left the whole kingdom in a state of chaos. Muslim horsemen roved over the countryside extorting money and goods from the people. There was also a profusion of robberies and plundering operations by gangs of warlords in the Telugu country. In the Tamil country Nayakas of Madurai, Tanjavur and Gingee established independent kingdoms, which to a great extant restored local stability in these regions. It took Tirumala a whole six years to restore civil administration and rebuild an army. He attacked Portuguese horse traders and seized horses from them to raise a cavalry. He made Penukonda his capital and started heavily fortifying it to prepare for a major defensive war.
Imad Shah of Berar suffered massively and his kingdom soon ended within a few years of Talikota. Barid Shah of Bidar, founded by the Turk Qasim Barid from Azerbaijan, and Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar were also considerably weakened. Adil Shah, who had recovered from the Talikota war, marched southwards again in 1567 to continue the conquest of the Vijayanagaran kingdom. Pedda Tirumala entered into negotiations with the Sultan and directed the invader against his uncle Tirumala, whom he feared. But the Sultan in brushed him aside and took Vijayanagar and then marched on Penukonda. Tirumala dispatched his commander Savaram Chennappa Nayaka to repulse the Sultan. The Nayaka inflicted a defeat on the Muslim forces through a surprise sally when the Sultan was expecting a defensive reaction from the fort of Penukonda. Tirumala made Chennappa commander of the Vijayanagar army and resorted to diplomacy to buy some time for himself. Tirumala thought that his negotiations would result in Nizam Shah and Qutb Shah forming a common cause against Adil Shah. A twin Muslim army attacked the Vijayanagarans at Adoni and Penugonda. Hard pressed in Adoni the Hindu armies capitulated but Tirumala and Chennappa put up a strong resistance at Penukonda and repulsed the Muslim forces from the Telugu country. Tirumala then initiated negotiations with the Nayakas of Gingee, Tanjavur and Madurai and unified them to his cause of the defense of the South against the Turushkas. He appointed his 3 sons, Sriranga, Rama and Venkata as viceroys at Penukonda, Shrirangapattanam and Chandragiri to respectively administer the Telugu, Kannada and Tamil divisions of the kingdom. He then strengthened his army to deter any further Muslim attacks and finally ascended the throne with the title: "Reviver of the decadent Karnata empire". In 1572, he felt he was too old to rule and retired to a religious life of Vishnubhakti (Devotion to God Vishnu).
But by 1576 Adil Shah had vastly strengthened his army and fortified Adoni as a base to launch a "non-stop war" on the Vijayanagarans. A huge Mohammedan army suddenly set forth from Adoni to attack Penukonda from different directions. The capital and treasury lay in great peril, so Sriranga I retreated with the treasury to Chandragiri and from there established a supply line for Chennappa Nayaka to defend Penukonda. One of the generals in the Muslim army was a Rigvedi Maharashtrian Brahmin, Yamaji Rao. Chennappa sent a message to him appeal to his duty to the Dharma against the Mlecchas and Turushkas. Yamaji Rao accepted the message and joined the Vijayanagar side with the Hindu troops in the Shah?s army and critical intelligence. Chennappa immediately struck with great vigor. On 21 December 1576, the holy solisticial day for the Hindus, Chennappa advanced heavy guns against the Muslim flanks and opened an intense simultaneous bombardment from the Penukonda ledges and the flanks. Adil Shah's army broke up very rapidly and retreated in disarray. Sriranga I sent reinforcements to tear apart the disarrayed Muslim ranks and they retreated. In the mean time Shriranga negotiated peace with Qutb Shah who did not send any reinforcements to Adil Shah allowing the Vijayanagarans to completely evict him. However, Qutb Shah soon appointed Murari Rao, the Brahmin brigand, as his commander-in-chief, and he began strengthening the Golconda army. In 1579 Murari Rao launched a sudden plundering operation and the head of a large Muslim army. His hordes began systematically ravaging the territory south of the Krishna with great ferocity. In late 1579, he appeared near the great Narasimha temple at Ahobilam, which had been enormously endowed by several generations since the Reddis and the Vijayanagarans. Along with his Muslim troops he ransacked the temple and laid waste to it. He uprooted an ancient ruby-studded pure gold idol of Vishnu and sent it to the Sultan as gift.
Sriranga I, hurried to parry the attack and defeated Murari Rao and his Golconda raiders. Finally, by 1580, he turned the tide and started chasing the Golconda army northwards recovering the territory they had seized. In the process Murari Rao was captured but his life spared because of this brahminical origins. Ibrahim Qutb Shah was furious and decided to settle the matters himself and invaded Kondavidu with the rest of his army and took the fort. Then he launched a massive raid on Udayagiri. But Sriranga I kept the fight on and repulsed the Muslim army from Udayagiri after an initial retreat. Unfazed Qutb Shah struck at Vinukonda and seized the fort. Sriranga I along Chennappa rushed to counter the attack. After much fierce fighting the Muslim army was forced to retreat. The Hindus stormed the fort of Vinukonda after intense fighting. Then Chennappa stormed Kondavidu and died fighting even as he forced the Islamic army to retreat. But Sriranga I got into an internecine conflict with his brothers, who refused to cooperate in the national struggle. Qutb Shah took advantage of this and in late 1580 captured Kondavidu firmly and died in Golconda shortly after that. His son, Muhammad Quli became Qutb Shah thereafter.
In 1586 Sriranga I died without issue and his younger brother Venkata II became the king. Venkata was faced with the new Qutb Shah. The Qutb invaded Kurnool in Andra and seized the territory shortly after Venkata II came to power. Then he ravaged Cuddapah and having completely laid waste to it, marched on Anantapur burning and plundering the district. Next a large Muslim army of the under the Qutb?s personal command besieged Penukonda. Another Muslim division under the fierce Turk Rustam Khan ravaged Gandikota and Gutti and annexed them. Venkata II realized the deep crisis that had dawned on the Hindus and decided to resort to stratagem. He sent a delegation to the Shah stating that he was suing peace and accepting him as the overlord of the conquered territory. The Shah thought the Hindu was brought to his knees and pleased with his conquests decided to consolidate them rather than stand a long siege before Penukonda. Venkata II, moved very rapidly to strengthen Penukonda to withstand a long siege and declared war on the Muslims. The Sultan hurried back to renew the siege. The Venkata II waited till just before monsoon and launched a strong artillery barrage on the Muslim army. The Muslims began to retreat and the monsoons began swelling the Krishna river and cut off their escape route. The Hindus fell upon the Muslim army and soundly trashed it. Qutb somehow escaped the attack and retreated to Kondavidu. Then Venkata II attacked the Muslim garrison at Gutti and destroyed it to re-conquer the fort. Then from Kondavidu a large Muslim force advanced to provide relief to the garrison at Gandikota. But the Venkata II intercepted the army, destroyed it and stormed Gandikota to liberate the territory that was earlier taken by Qutb Shah. Qutb Shah decided to put an end to the Hindu resistance and sent his ace general Rustam Khan with Muslim army of around 100000 men to smash Venkata. Venkata II quickly prepared for their charge and prepared an ambush for them between Gandikota and the Penner River. Rustam Khan believed that the Hindus were not reacting and fell into the Vijayanagaran ambush in mid-1588. The Hindus opened artillery fire and after having softened the Muslim ranks fell upon them with their infantry and cavalry divisions. A carnage followed, Rustam Khan?s head was cut off, and over 50,000 Muslim troops were exterminated in the battle of Penner. It was great win for the Hindus and the Sultans men were on the retreat everywhere. Venkata II followed this up with a strike on Udayagiri and liberated it from the stranglehold of the Muslim troops. After this the Vijayanagar recovered the territory lost to the Qutb Shahs and repulsed them beyond the Krishna. Thus, till the end of Venkata?s rule the Muslim advance was pushed beyond the Krishna. For another 28 years, Venkata II ruled and did much to restore the rest of South India that was under his control to great prosperity.
However, the Hindu chiefs remained much disunited and after his death there was a long period of internal instability. But the measure of Venkata II had kept out Muslims till Adil Shah recovered and sent Abdul Wahabi to attack Kurnool. But the Vijayanagar general Gopalaraja defeated and repulsed this attack in 1620. Then another Adil Shahi general Randhula Khan finally overcame the Hindu resistance, and with help from some Hindu traitors took Bangalore in 1641. In 1645 the Mughal Emperor of Delhi instructed the Sultans of the Deccan to eliminate Vijayanagara, in fact a Mughal commander Mustafa Khan led an expedition. The last Hindu ruler of Vijayanagara Sriranga III was too weak to do much and was driven into exile. The Brahmins met at Tirupati to use to wealth from temple donations for organizing a national defense against the Muslims. The women too donated their jewels for this national movement. They called upon the Nayaks to fight for the Dharma and inflicted a defeat on Mustafa Khan. But Muslim powers combined their forces and pressed on again with the expedition with Sardar Mir Jumla strengthening Mustafa Khan's assault. The Hindus put up their last fight in very fiercely fought battle at Virincipuram. While they suffered heavy losses in the engagement, Muslims too suffered heavy losses and could not pursue their conquests immediately. However, even as Sriranga III was vanishing into oblivion in 1649 another Hindu power was slowly growing up in the form of Marathas. They started their victory march in 1659 and by 1761 brought almost entire Indian subcontinent under their control crushing the domination of Deccan Sultans & Mughals forever. Thus Hinduism survived in India.
- India Today Collector's edition of History
- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath, A concise history of Karnataka, 2001, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)
- Prof K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (1955; reprinted 2002)
- Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India, https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3310 .
- India Today Collector's edition of History
- Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 110. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
- A concise history of Karnataka, pp 170-173, Dr. S.U. Kamath.
- K A Nilakanta Shastri History of South India pg267
- "A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India".
- Elite Formation in 19th Century South India - An Interpretative Analysis by Robert Eric Frykenberg
- A Concise History of Karnataka, pp 171-172 by Dr. S.U. Kamath