Vijayanagara Empire: Literature & Architecture (UPSC)

In this article, you will get to know about the 300 Glorious years of the Vijayanagara Empire, and how it became the undisputed Kingdom of Southern India & in the end, you will see the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire for UPSC.

The Vijayanagara Empire was a powerful kingdom that existed in medieval India. Further, it was known for its impressive architectural achievements and cultural patronage and was considered one of the most significant empires of its time. The empire was ruled by a series of powerful kings, and its capital was the city of Vijayanagara. Despite facing challenges from neighboring kingdoms, the empire was able to maintain its power and influence for several centuries.

EmpireVijayanagara Empire
Time Period1336 – 1646 AD
Founded by Harihara and Bukka
Powerful RulerKrishnadevaraya
Total DynastiesFour
Sangama dynasty 1336–1485
Saluva dynasty 1485-1505
Tuluva Dynasty 1506-1570
Aravidu Dynasty1570-1646
Vijayanagara Empire

History of Vijayanagara Empire (1336 A.D to 1646 A.D.)

Mohamad Tuglaq, a sultan of the Tughlaq Dynasty, expanded the Delhi Sultanate up to Madurai. But, due to their few mistakes, the Delhi Sultanate suffered heavily and their control in the South became weak. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Harihara and Bukka established Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 on the river of Tungabhadra.

Four dynasties rule over Vijayanagara Empire:

  1. Sangama Dynasty
  2. Saluva Dynasty
  3. Tuluva Dynasty
  4. Aravidu Dynasty

When the kingdom was at its peak, its kingdom extended from the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin to the end of the southern peninsula. The Vijayanagar Kingdom existed for 300 years in the midst of dominating the Mughal empire. According to Duarte Barbosa, in the Religion of the Vijayanagar Empire, rulers had secular approaches to public policy and every person had religious freedom.

The capital of the Vijayanagara empire was Hampi. Moreover, it is a heritage site and very famous because of its architecture. Persian Ambassador Abdur Razaaq said, he did not see a city like Hampi in the entire world.

  • Following are the points of the Political History of the Vijayanagara Empire for UPSC:
    • Harihara and Bukka were the founders of the Vijayanagar Empire. HariharaI was the first ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, he successfully annexed Hoyasala territory.
    • After that, Bukka Raya was the second king, he captured Madurai and gain full control of the complete peninsula. After the decline of the Delhi Sultanate, Bahmani Kingdom declared Independence and came into power in the Deccan.
    • Bahmani acted as the biggest obstacle in the north. The rivalry between the Bahmani Kingdom and Vijayanagar Empire started at the time of King Bukka Raya and continued till the 14th century.
    • Further, the rivalry for Tungabhadra doab and Krishna-Godavari Delta was for its fertile land but Konkan was in conflict because of its horses. Bahmanis block horses that are coming from north India. So, goa port became crucial for Vijayanagara Empire.
    • As Deva Raya I came into power in 1404, he restarted the war over Tungabhadra doab with new zeal. But, a treaty between Warangal and Bahmani kingdom changed the balance of power in southern India. Due to this, Firoz Shah Bahmani defeated Deva Raya in 1408.
    • As compensation, Deva Raya had to marry his daughter to king Firoz Shah Bahmani. After this, Deva Raya signed a treaty with Warangal which changed the balance of power. In this treaty, they divided the Reddy Kingdom.
    • In 1420, Deva Raya defeated Firoz Shah Bahmani and recaptured the lost territories. In 1425, Deva Raya II came into power, he was the most powerful ruler of the Sangama dynasty.
    • According to Fernao Nuniz, the kings of Sri Lanka, Pegu, ad Malaya paid their tribute to Deva Raya II.
    • Deva Raya II gave a lot of wealth to two Muslim arches to get his shoulder trained and organized strong cavalry
    • The most important ruler, Krishnadeva Raya of the Tuluva Dynasty came into power in 1509. He was a contemporary of Babur.
    • The Kingdom was at its peak during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. Moreover, he was an able military general who lead the battle from the front & took care of his injured soldiers personally. Further, Krishnadeva Raya defeated Bijapur Sultanate.
    • During the rule of Krishnadeva Raya, the Portuguese started visiting India. The Portuguese governor, Albuquerque, was a good friend of Krishnadeva Raya.
    • In addition, the Portuguese gave military aid to Krishnadeva Raya, and they got permission to build Bhatkal Fort. The Vijayanagara period was the golden age of Literature during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya.
Vijayanagara Empire Map
Vijayanagara Empire Map
  • Administration:
    • Kingdom had a unique political innovation called the Nayankara system, which was inspired by the Iqta system of the Delhi Sultanate.
    • In this system, a military commander named Amara Nayaka ruled certain territories named Nayakattam on the king’s behalf.
    • King had the authority to transfer these Amara Nayaka.
    • In the 17th Century, some of these Amaranayaka started to establish their own independent kingdoms which became one of the reasons for the decline of the Vijayanagar empire.
  • Society:
    • It had a unique social structure in which Vaishanavites were the right-hand caste and Shavitites were the left-hand caste.
    • Women in Vijayanagar Empire: The position of women was good in the kingdom because women were holding positions of Accountant and Judge.
    • But, there was the existence of child marriage, Sati and Devdasi.
  • Economy:
    • The main source of revenue was land revenue. In addition to this, some other taxes include property tax, Industries tax, professional tax, etc.
    • Vijayanagar was known for the exports of diamonds. Nuniz says,” Diamond mines of Vijayanagar were the richest mines of the world.”

Literature of the Vijayanagara Empire

The Vijayanagara Empire, which thrived in South India from the 14th to the 17th century, witnessed significant literary flowering. The reign of Krishna Deva Raya, one of the most illustrious kings of the Vijayanagara Empire, is often referred to as the golden age of literature. During his rule, the empire experienced remarkable patronage of Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil literature, with Krishna Deva Raya himself being an accomplished poet.

Krishna Deva Raya’s contributions to literature:

  • He was an accomplished poet and played a pivotal role in promoting and supporting Telugu, Kannada, and Tamil literature.
  • He encouraged and patronized several renowned poets and scholars, known as the “Ashtadiggaj” (Eight Elephants).
  • Krishna Deva Raya’s court became a hub of literary activities, fostering the development of various literary genres.

One of the notable literary contributions of Krishna Deva Raya is the Telugu poetry collection called ‘Amuktamalyada‘ (The Giver of the Worn Garland). This work, written in the Prabandha style, depicts the story of the marriage of the divine princess Andal with Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. ‘Amuktamalyada’ is renowned for its poetic beauty, lyrical style, and portrayal of devotion and love.

In addition to ‘Amuktamalyada,’ Krishna Deva Raya also patronized and encouraged other works of literature:

  1. Jambavati Kalyanam‘ (The Marriage of Jambavati): A composition that narrates the marriage of Jambavati, a queen of Lord Krishna, highlighting love and devotion.
  2. Madalasa Charita‘ (The Story of Madalasa): An epic that showcases the life and virtues of Madalasa, a noble and virtuous queen.
  3. Satyavadu Parinaya‘ (The Marriage of Satyavati): A play that explores the theme of love and marital relationships.

Krishna Deva Raya’s court was adorned with several renowned Telugu poets and scholars, often referred to as the “Ashtadiggaj” (Eight Elephants). These esteemed individuals contributed significantly to Telugu literature during the Vijayanagara period. Notable members of the Ashtadiggaj include:

  • Allasani Peddana
  • Nandi Thimmana
  • Madayyagari Mallana
  • Dhurjati
  • Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu
  • Pingali Suranna
  • Tenali Ramakrishna (popularly known as Tenali Rama)
  • Ramaraja Bhushanudu

Tenali Ramakrishna, a member of the “Ashtadiggaj,” is particularly well-known for his wit, humor, and intellectual prowess. He was considered the Birbal of the southern courts, and his stories and anecdotes showcasing his cleverness and wisdom continue to be popular in South Indian folklore.

Architecture of the Vijayanagara Empire

The architecture of the Vijayanagara Empire played a crucial role in establishing it as a great empire. The city of Hampi, a designated World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to the grandeur of Vijayanagara architecture. With over 1600 structures, Hampi showcases the architectural prowess of the empire.


  • The city of Hampi boasts numerous architectural marvels, reflecting the empire’s grandeur and architectural achievements.
  • Notable structures in Hampi include palaces, temples, markets, water tanks, and fortifications.
  • The seven-tiered fortification of Hampi, as described by Abdur Razzaq, a Persian visitor, was an impressive feature that demonstrated the empire’s strategic planning.
  • Inside the fortified area, agricultural lands and canals were constructed, serving the purpose of ensuring food security during times of warfare.

Temple Architecture

  • Temple architecture was a significant aspect of Vijayanagara innovations, characterized by unique features and elaborate ornamentation.
  • Notable elements of Vijayanagara temple architecture include:
    • Mandapas (long pillared halls) provided space for religious ceremonies and gatherings.
    • Raya Gopurams (towering gateways) served as monumental entrances to temple complexes.
    • Chariot streets, wide and well-paved roads that facilitated processions during religious festivals.
  • The Vijayanagara temples displayed intricate carvings, sculptural artistry, and attention to detail, showcasing the empire’s artistic skills and devotion to religious architecture.

Virupaksha Temple

  • The Virupaksha Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, served as the main temple of the Vijayanagara rulers.
  • During the reign of Krishnadeva Raya, the Eastern Gopuram (tower) of the Virupaksha Temple was constructed, adding to its architectural splendor.
  • The temple complex exhibits the distinct architectural style of the Vijayanagara Empire, with intricate carvings, pillared halls, and elaborate structures.

Musical Pillars

  • One of the architectural wonders found in Hampi is the musical pillars.
  • These pillars, located in certain temple complexes, produce musical sounds when struck.
  • The intricate craftsmanship and acoustic engineering of these pillars showcase the empire’s attention to detail and architectural ingenuity.


After the death of Krishnadeva Raya in 1529, the struggle for succession started between Achyuta Deva Raya and Aliya Ram Raya. Deccani sultan started to intervene in the power struggle. Achyuta died in 1542 and Ram Raya helped Sadashiv Raya to come into power, who established Aravidu Dynasty. Rama Raya lead many successful battles and defeated Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmednagar.

In 1565, Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmednagar made a united force and defeated Vijayanagar Empire in the Battle of Talikota. After the Battle of Talikota, the capital was shifted to Penukonda and the kingdom existed for the next hundred years. This was all about the decline of the Vijayanagar Empire. Further, the glorious history of the Vijayanagara Empire ended in 1565, but the official kingdom ends in 1646.

In this, we have discussed everything about the Vijayanagara Empire for UPSC. This topic is very much important for UPSC Prelims and Mains exam.

Thank You!

Related Links:

Bahmani KingdomKrishnadevaraya

Who is the founder of the Vijayanagar kingdom?

Harihara & Bukka were th founder of Vijayanagara Kingdom. They establish the Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 on the bank of the Tungabhadra River.

What are the 4 dynasties of the Vijayanagara Empire?

Four Dynasties rules over Vijayanagara Empire:
1. Sangama
2. Saluva
3. Tuluva
4. Aravidu

Who was the first king of Vijayanagara?

HariharaI was the first ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, he successfully annexed Hoyasala territory.

Who defeated Vijayanagara Empire?

In 1565, Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmednagar made a united force and defeated Vijayanagar Empire in the Battle of Talikota.

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