Summary and Keywords
Founded in central Karnataka in the mid-14th century, the Vijayanagara empire eventually extended over the southern Deccan and much of the Tamil country. Frequent battles over territory were fought with the Bahmani Sultanate and its successors that lay to the immediate north and, during the 15th century, with the Gajapati kingdom on the east coast. Three of the empire’s royal dynasties ruled from a capital called Vijayanagara, but the city was abandoned after a massive defeat in 1565 at the Battle of Talikota; the fourth dynasty retrenched in southern Andhra and survived until the mid-17th century as no more than a regional power. Because the original capital remained largely uninhabited, it has offered an unusual opportunity for archaeological and art-historical research in recent decades. The city contains distinct zones: a sacred center along the Tungabhadra River, an urban core that contains a walled royal center, and a strip of irrigated agricultural land in between. Although Vijayanagara was previously characterized as a Hindu state hostile to Muslims, recent research has emphasized its cosmopolitanism. The secular structures of the capital, built in an innovative style combining elements of Islamicate and Indic architecture, are among the clearest attestations to Vijayanagara’s multicultural nature. The early empire’s control over its distant territories was loose and tenuous, but inscriptions and foreign travel accounts indicate that the political structure of the state changed dramatically in the late 15th century. From that time on, Vijayanagara’s commanders and officials were remunerated with revenues from assigned territories and required to supply a set number of troops for military service. Many of the commanders who were assigned territories in the Tamil country were from the southern Deccan, leading to a greater integration of these areas of South India. The extensive migration and trade activities of the Vijayanagara era also created closer networks within South India.
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