A visit to the cradle of the Vijayanagar empire resonates with myriad tales

Great civilizations and dynasties are all founded on streams of blood. The birth of a dynasty is replete with battles fought and won. It is the same with the Vijayanagar empire, except that there are several stories here and various versions. But, the location remains the same — a river bed with a fortification on one bank.

This was the principality of Anegundi, ruled then by a Hoysala chieftain. When the Delhi Sultans laid siege to the Hoysalas and Kakatiyas, the latter fell, leaving South India vulnerable to attack. Our story begins here in the 14th Century.

Brothers-in-arms

Sitting in a coracle and enjoying the ride around the Tungabhadra, I heard a guide narrate the story of Vijayanagar to a group of tourists.

“When the Delhi Sultans invaded Warangal, two brothers, Hakka or Harihara and Bukka, escaped and landed here in Anegundi,” he said pointing to the town on the other side of the river. The brothers, who were under the Kakatiyas, started serving the local chief. Meanwhile, the chief gave refuge to Bahauddin, a rebel nephew of the Delhi Sultan, Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.

City of victory

“The Sultan plundered Anegundi and the brothers escaped again, and this is when they met Vidyaranya, a seer from the Sringeri Shankaracharya Mutt who asked them to build a city on the other bank of the river. He called it Vijayanagar, or the city of victory, though we also call it Vidyanagar after the seer,” the guide added.

The story, however, does not end here. The brothers raised a small army and revolted against the Sultan, who returned the kingdom to them.

The seeds of the Vijayanagar empire, which went on to rule all of South India for over 350 years, had just been sown.

And yet everything about Hampi is not about Vijayanagar. I was looking forward to going towards the Pampa Sarovar on the other side.

After all, Pampa is older than Hampi or Hampe, as it was called, and this was the Kishkinta of Ramayana where Rama gets the support of Sugriva and Hanuman and kills Vaali.

It is no wonder that Jambhavan, the lone bear in Sugriva's army, comes alive in Daroji, the sloth bear sanctuary located close to Hampi.

As dusk dawned in the Vittala temple, I was lost in the silence, when a familiar voice greeted me. It was the guide and his lot of tourists.

As I walked away, I could hear him say: “This is the greatest empire of all times. People compare it with Rome, but let me tell you that Vijayanagar is even more majestic than Rome.”

But, there is one similarity between the two cities — a river and two brothers.

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