Bharat Ek Khoj

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The Vijayanangar Empire
(Episode 28)

Nehru records how, late in the 14th century. Timur Lang the Turk, swooped down from the north and smashed up the Delhi Sultanate. After this terrible affliction, North India remained weak and divided into small potentates. But south India was comparatively well off with Vijaynagar as the largest and most powerful of the southern kingdoms. This stste and the city attracted many Hindu refugees from the north. From contemporary accounts, it appears that the city was incredibly rich and beautiful, Said Abdur-Razzak, a traveler from Central Asia: the city is such that eye has not seen nor ear hard of any place resembling it upon the whole earth. There were arcades and magnificent galleries for the bazaars, and rising above them all was the palace of the king, surrounded by many rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even...

With splendid aerial views of Vijaynagar, we can hear Nehru approvingly quoting Domingo Paes, the Portuguese visitor who came in 1522AD after visiting the Italian cities of the Renaissance: The city of Vijaynagar is as large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight; its is full charm and wander: with its innumerable lake and waterways and fruit garden. Its is the best-provided city in the world and ivory trying abounds. the chamber of the place are a mass of every, with roses and lotuses carved in ivory at the top; Its is so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find any where another such...

In the issuing ensuing drama, Krishna, Deva Raya is seen occuping the throne after some place intrigues up standing the aspirant Achyuta Deva Raya. Nehru quotes Paes : his the most fear and prefect king that could possibly be, cheerful of this position and very merry: he is one that seeks to honour foreigners, and receive them kindly, asking about all their affairs whatever the condition may be. We witness the king watching classical Kuchipudi dance presenting mandodari Sabdam and eulogising Ravana in same breath as the king and confabulating on expanding the northern boundaries to Bijapur. To "honour the foreigner" is evidenced in receiving the Portugese delegation and their gifts. Deals are stuck with their Governor Albuquerque of goa to procure horses and guns, besides trade relation, in preference to the Arab trade for horses.

Events noted in the Portuguese diary are: retention of an outstanding swordsman from Malaysia for training the infantry and arrangements made with Albuquerque to get Portuguese expertise for improving Vijaynagar's water distribution system. Bijapur is subjugated and so is Kalinga, with the latter's prince held captive. In the widespread kingdom, many temples are built with the king emerging to represent godhead. The hughty Kalinga prince duel with the Malaysian swordsman results in the former's defeat, followed by suicide. Bijapur's recalcitrant rebel Adil Khan is subjugated. The ageing king is taken ill and his attempts to fix the succession issue prove futile, with the vast empire showing signs of decay. Even when the Deccan king began terming up among themselves, the sprawling empire refused to read the signs on the wall.