‘Vijayanagar rulers showed unity is achievable’
BANGALORE: There are many historians who are critical of the view that the rule of Sri Krishnadevaraya saw a “Hindu defence” against the Bahamani sultans or other Muslim rulers, and there is encouraging evidence of resistance to communal interpretation of history, said the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Chairman Sabyasachi Bhattacharya.
Taking time off his busy engagement with the ICHR seminar on Vijayanagara and Sri Krishnadevaraya, Dr. Bhattacharya told The Hindu that the view that the Vijayanagara empire was established to protect “Indian traditional values” from “foreigners” was unacceptable. “Because, it is difficult to say exactly what were ‘traditional values’.
After all, within the Hindu tradition there were many different traditions, such as Shaivas, Shaktas and so on.”
Dr. Bhattacharya said that such an argument was historically unacceptable to modern scholars because Krishnadevaraya was hailed as a ruler who played a role in establishing Muslim kingdoms north of his empire.
Not an idealist
In fact, he had appointed Muslim governors, chieftains and soldiers in his huge army. He made treaties with the Portuguese and purchased horses from them. Of course, he was not a secular idealist in the modern sense of the term, but he did not allow religious prejudices to influence his policies.
“He was a practical and pragmatic ruler,” said Dr. Bhattacharya.
A professor of Indian Economic History at Jawaharlal Nehru University and former Vice-Chancellor of Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan, Dr. Bhattacharya said the Vijayanagara empire was a highly researched subject and many new questions were being asked following excavations in the area and reinterpretation of historical sources.
Krishnadevaraya was able to rule vast areas stretching up to Tamil Nadu and Orissa sitting in Hampi, and unite people of different political traditions, languages and faiths.
The Vijayanagara rulers showed unity was achievable, and it would be a pity if no attention was paid to achieving unity in diversity in the country, the professor said.