Amrit Kaal is an appropriate time to remember the golden era of our history that we have forgotten

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Beautiful architecture of ancient Hampi temple ruins at sunset, Karnataka, India

Photo: iStock

In this Azadi ka Amrit Kaal, when we recognize the importance of Bharatiya culture, let us endure the great Hindu empires of Bharat who were the guardians of the culture and value of Hindu civilization. To shape people’s consciousness and shape the character of successive generations, Amrit Kaal (next 25 years) is an auspicious time to undo the false narrative that glorified the invaders. At the time of the Islamic invasions, the Vijayanagar Empire created an era in Bharat history that overcame regionalism by promoting Hindu Dharma as a unifying factor. The Vijayanagar empire covered Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa and parts of Kerala in the southern part of Bharat and it succeeded in blocking the Islamic invasion in the south.

The glorious Vijayanagar Empire was established in 1336 by two brothers – Harihar and Bukka Raya – and lasted until 1646. The empire is named after its capital, Vijayanagar (modern Karnataka). Archaeological excavations in Vijayanagar and accounts from local and foreign travelers have revealed the power, wealth and rich architectural heritage of the empire, including Vijayanagar’s temple-building traditions and an architectural style whose imprint is visible in the southern part of Bharat. Efficient administration, flourishing foreign trade, and royal patronage of art and literature enabled the proliferation of languages ​​such as Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit.

Under the leadership of Swami Vidyaranya of Sringeri Matth, Harihara and Bukka Raya founded the kingdom on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Well protected by the hills of Hemakuta, Matanga and Malayavanta and its location where Tungabhadra turns north, is a sacred place in Hindu traditions. It was a large, well-built city, until it was ruthlessly destroyed by the armies of Islamic invaders.

Dev Raya carried the legacy of his great ancestors. Dev Raya came to power during Islamic invasions and a civil war in his country. While constantly fighting with Bahmani and other neighboring kingdoms, Dev Raya retained his control over the vast territories inherited by him. His outstanding reign initiated a period of continuous warfare against the empire’s traditional enemies and his success in expanding the kingdom.

With its temples, gardens and palaces, the capital city of Vijayanagar under the reign of Dev Raya took on a proportion and magnificence of unprecedented grandeur which continued to grow. The population grew with the increase in wealth and power, making the city the grandest in India. Dev Rayas I and II were great rulers, who did a lot to enlarge and beautify the city. They also expanded the empire and consolidated power. Vijayanagar has captured the attention of the world with its wealth, magnificence, people and advancement in all walks of life. There was no other city in the world that had such resources and power as Vijayanagar had at that time, and it was explained in the contemporary chronicles of Europeans, as well as native travelers.

The Italian traveler Nicolo Conti, who visited Vijayanagar during the reign of Dev Raya l, described: “In this city there are 90,000 men fit to bear arms…their king is mightier than all the kings of India”. The Persian traveler Abdur Razzak, who visited the capital in the 15th century, described: “The city of Vijayanagar is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like this, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there was anything to equal it in the world”.

In his book “A History of Vijayanagar: The Empire Never To Be Forgotten”, B Suryanarain Row, a Bharatiya scholar from Srikakulam, quoted: “The city is declared”, says Mr. R Sewell, “by a succession of visitors Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries, for having been marvelous in size and prosperity – a city with which, in wealth and magnificence, no known western capital could compare.

It was Dev Raya’s vision that the scarcity of water supply in the royal capital could limit growth, so he had the dam built on the Tungabhadra River in 1410 and commissioned a 24 km long aqueduct from the Tungabhadra River to the capital. The account provided by Fernao Nuniz, a Portuguese Jewish traveller, chronicler and horse trader who spent three years in Vijayanagar, details the projects undertaken by Dev Raya I which brought prosperity to the kingdom.

Dev Raya was a patron of Kannada art and literature. The scriptures on the life of the fifteenth Jain Tirthankar were written by the great court poet Madhura. A poem in tribute to Gommateshvara was also written during the reign of Dev Raya I. The Hazare Rama temple, known for its marvelous bas relics and panels illustrating the story of Ram, is an excellent example of Deccan architecture built during his reign.

The Shri Nagesh temple in Ponda (Goa) is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped in the form of ‘Linga’ as Nagesh. At the entrance, there is an image of Nandi facing the Shivalinga. There is a tank in front of the temple and a stone inscription of Dev Raya dating from 1413 AD in front of the temple in Devnagari script. A Jain Basti at Bandiwade in Ponda along with the temple is significant in two respects – firstly it appears to have been closely associated with the establishment of the Jain people in the village of Bandiwade and secondly the establishment of Jainism in Goa during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire.

There are records of Vijayanagar rulers giving grants to temples. These temples were not only the centers of religious activities but also imparted education to a large extent. Teachers were employed for the recitation of the Vedas. Documents in Tirupati speak of arrangements to keep part of the income from the villages for the chanting of the Vedas in the temple. Another record speaks of the gift of land, house and Vaishnava Brahmins who recited the Puranas known as Bhakti Sanjivani in the local Narasingapuram temple. The rulers of Vijayanagar gave grants whenever they visited any of the holy places in the empire. The inscriptions give a list of pilgrimage centers in Vijayanagar, few among them were Ahobalam, Srikakulam, Kalahasti, Tirupati, Kanchi, Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Kumbakonam, Srirangam, Jambukeshwara and Ananthasayanam and many others. Even the South Indian Maths, which were very important spiritual institutions, received care from the state and were maintained by the wealth they possessed.

The Kadamba kings patronized the temple of Saptakoteshwar (Goa). During the rule of Bahamani (1355 -66), the temple of Saptakoteshwar was destroyed. It was in 1391 AD that Madhava Mantri, who was a minister of the Vijayanagar empire and was appointed governor of Goa, re-established the temple with all the rituals. The temple was again destroyed by the Portuguese in 1540.

Despite persistent attempts by the Bahmani sultans to wipe out their Hindu neighbors, the descendants of the Vijayanagar empire not only still managed to maintain proper control but also greatly expanded their empire in all directions. Ferista admits that as early as 1366, the Rayas of Bijanagar (Vijayanagar) were infinitely superior to the Bahmani sultans. All of southern India and the east coast up to Orissa had recognized the supremacy of Vijayanagar. Goa and several other seaports were in their possession. They had a navy in Mangalore. Ambassadors from Ceylon, Tennasserim, and other kingdoms have brought rich gifts to the Rayas to insure their cooperation.

Suryanarain Row writes: “This most splendid capital of the Vijayanagar empire for three centuries also saw painful destruction by the combined forces of four Mohammedan sultanates. five months.

“They have slaughtered the people without mercy, demolished palaces and temples, and wrought such savage vengeance on the abode of kings, that excepting a few great temples and stone walls, only a heaps of ruins to mark the spot where the lordly edifices once stood… huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings and shattered their magnificent stone carvings. With fire and blood, with crowbars and axes, they continued, day after day, their work of destruction. Never perhaps , in the history of the world, never had such devastation happened and happened so suddenly in such a splendid city.

The plunder must have been simply incalculable and the harm this city had suffered at the hands of its savage Mohammedan conquerors has never been repaired. The conquerors plundered the remaining stores without conscience or scruples. The “Magnificent Ruins of Hampi”, as travelers call them today, seem to be the ruins of the most insignificant edifices which have been spared to posterity by the destructive hands of their Mohammedan conquerors. Time has wrought its own vengeance, too – and if these remains, after five centuries of decay and neglect, now appear grand and imposing, what splendor should the city have had when it was the capital of ‘a living empire honored by the courts of its mighty monarchs, whose resources were inexhaustible, whose mighty armies were feared throughout India. This city was also the ancient Kishkindha of Bali from the Ramayana.

The Vijayanagar Empire was born with the vision of creating an inclusive welfare governance model as prescribed by the ancient Bhartiya scriptures that have manifested themselves many times in our glorious past. The rulers of Vijayanagar were men of great spiritual knowledge with equal skill in the art of ruling. It would be more appropriate to celebrate the glorious heritage during ‘Amrit Kaal’ and pay homage to that golden time in our history that has been forgotten.

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