|Battle of Talikota|
|Part of Islamic invasion of India|
|The Vijayanagara Empire||The Deccan sultanates|
|Rama Raya||Deccan Sultanite Kings & Generals|
|140,000 foot, 10,000 horse and over 100 War elephants||80,000 foot, 30,000 horse and several dozen cannons|
|Unknown but very heavy including Rama Raya||Unknown but moderate to heavy|
The Battle of Talikota (or Tellikota) (January 26, 1565) constituted a watershed battle fought between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Deccan sultanates, resulting in a rout of Vijayanagara, ending the last great Hindu kingdom in South India. Talikota situates in northern Karnataka, about 80 km to the southeast of the city of Bijapur.
Throughout the onslaught of invading armies of Muslims, Mughals, and Christians, the Hinduism of southern India remained strong and resilient. Even after Muslim sultanates defeated the armies of the Vijayanagara empire in the 1560s C.E., devastating the royal city and sacred sites, Hinduism remained the strongest religion of the Indian continent.
Why the Vijayanagara empire, possessing such military power, a vigorous economy, powerful religious traditions, and natural defensive features, fell to the Muslim sultanates after only two centuries is puzzling. The Battle of Talikota, in which the Muslim sultanates demolished the armies of Vijayanagar, may hold the key to explaining the fall.
The rulers of the Vijayanagara empire, seated in the capital city of Vijayanagara, had become complacent and over confident. They had mistreated their Muslim neighbors, who finally joined a league against them. Although outnumbering the Muslim army 150,000 to 110,000, the Vijayanagar empire fell in a short, intense battle. The Muslim calvary, and younger leaders, proved superior to the Vijayanagar foot soldier-based army with elderly generals. Overconfidence and arrogance may have been the reason for the down fall of the Vijayanagar empire and the sack of Vijayanagara.
The throne of the Vijayanagara Empire had passed from Achyuta Raya, upon his death, to Rama Raya who, according to many scholars, interfered in the affairs of the neighboring Muslim Sultanates. That tactic, although working initially to his favor, backfired later. Finally, the Sultanates decided to unite together and destroy the Hindu kingdom. Other scholars disagree that Rama Raya interfered with Sultanate affairs but, rather, used the disunity of the Sultans to the advantage of Vijayanagara. Later, inter-family marriages between Sultans solved many of their internal conflicts and they finally united against Vijayanagara empire, seen as the common Hindu enemy.
On January 26, 1565, the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda formed a grand alliance to met the Vijayanagara army. They met at Talikota situated on the alluvial banks of the Krishna River, in present day Karnataka state, between the two villages Rakkasa and Tangadi. The battle represented one of the few times in medieval Indian history that factions employed a joint strategy. Some minor Hindu kingdoms who held grudges against the Vijayanagara Empire aided the sultanates.
The Deccan kings had a grand total of 80,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry. Vijayanagara, on the other hand, had 140,000 foot soldiers, with another 10,000 on horseback. The armies also had large numbers of war elephants. The decisive battle proved brief and bitter. Fighting in a rocky terrain, the invading troops launched a classic offensive strategy. First, they softened up the primary lines of the Vijayanagara army using cannon fire. The concentrated artillery took its toll, and the massive frontal attack by the combined armies finished the job. The battle ended in a complete victory for the sultanates, with the raja being beheaded and put on display as a trophy. Pillage and the plunder of Vijayanagara followed.
The battle spelled the death knell for the large Hindu kingdoms in India, ending the last great southern empire in India. A victorious army, along with hordes of robbers and jungle dwellers, fell upon the great city, looting, robbing, murdering, and pillaging the residents. With axes, crowbars, fire, and sword, the victorious armies went about the task of bringing to rubble the city of Vijayanagara, which never recovered from the onslaught.
The highly diminished Vijayanagara empire staged an unsuccessful comeback with its capital at Penukonda. Tirumala failed to lay claim over Vijayanagara. The younger brother of Aliya Rama Raya, also called Tirumala became regent through local support. Six years passed before Tirumala could claim regency over the former capital of Vijayanagara.
Anarchy spread during that time. Aliya Rama Rayas' practice of nominating family relatives to key positions of the former kingdom, instead of loyal officers, fueled family feuds and rebellion. The Polygar (Palyagar) system (local chieftains), which had been so successful earlier, became the source of break away factions. The Nayaks of Tamil-speaking regions; Gingee, Madurai Nayaks, and Tanjore Nayaks exercised their independence, Tirumala Deva Raya having to tacitly accept the independence of those Nayakas 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 that time, 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. 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, through 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 Mughals 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.
Historians have debated over the cause of the defeat of Vijayanagara with much enthusiasm. Apart from epigraphal analysis, historians also have at their disposal writings of European travelers to the kingdom around the time of the war. From those sources, the following reasons have been forwarded:
First, while the Vijayanagara armies had relatively lesser number of cavalry on horseback and depended on commanders riding war elephants making them slower on battlefield, the Sultanate armies had many more swift Persian horses used by key sections of the army and commanders. That gave the them an edge. Second, all of the three main commanders of the Vijayanagara army, including Aliya Rama Raya, had been elderly, whereas the Sultanate armies had younger commanders.
Third, while the Vijayanagara infantry depended on bows made of bamboo, the Sultanate armies used crossbows made of metal, which proved more accurate, gave greater distance, and, ultimatley, more lethal. In addition, the Vijayanagara army felt overconfident, using seven foot long spears and javelins while the Sultanate armies used fifteen foot long spears while riding horse back, giving them a clear advantage.
Fourth, the Sultanate armies had a much better prepared artillery division manned by gunners from Turkestan, at that time considered the best at artillery warfare, while Vijayanagara depended on less well trained European mercenaries. Fifth, in spite of all those disadvantages, historians agree that the betrayal by two key Vijayanagara commanders, the Gilani brothers, who had thousands of soldiers under their command, stood as the biggest reason for the defeat. Those commanders had defected from the Adil Shahi kingdom and later had been employed by Aliya Rama Raya. The Gilani brothers fled the battlefield at a key juncture. That has been strongly supported by the writings of two European travelers, Frendricci and Frenchman Anquetil Du Perron, who visited Vijayanagar in 1567 C.E.
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