Vijayanagara, A Once Mighty City which Ruled Over the Indian Subcontinent
The city of Vijayanagara (“the city of victory”), located in Southern India, was the capital of an empire by the same name. This empire held power in the 14th to 17th centuries and covered half of the Indian subcontinent. Its existence is due to the power vacuum left behind by the Delhi Sultans, who wreaked havoc and then abandoned the region. Using the threat of encroaching Muslims as an incentive to bring all the Hindu people together, the first Vijayanagaran rulers managed to create an empire capable of holding rival Sultanates in check.
The capital of the empire, as described by Dr. George Michell, “Was perhaps the most complete example of an imperial city… situated in one of the most extraordinary landscapes to be found in Asia, not just in India…” A granitic landscape through which the Tungabhadra River flows allowed the people to build irrigation canals, while at the same time offering natural protection from surprise invasions. The region also holds tremendous religious importance for the locals.
Eyewitness accounts, provided to us by Persian and European visitors, paint a picture of life in Vijayanagara as well as the magnificence of the local Maha Navami festival. Among the lavish palaces and temples, archeologists have found the remnants of army garrisons and elephant stables. With the major defeat of its army in 1565 AD at the hands of the Muslims, the city was abandoned and burned to the ground. Unlike most Indian settlements, Vijayanagara was never repopulated, despite multiple attempts to do so.