Deva Raya's Kingdom as seen by Abdur Razzak

"The city of Vijayanagar is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon the whole earth...The jewelers sell their rubies and pearls and diamonds and emeralds openly in the bazaar"

Abdur Razzak was the ambassador of the Timurid ruler Mirza Shah Rukh (1405-1447) of Iran. In January 1442, he set out on an embassy to the Samoothiri (Zamorin) of Calicut. At the beginning of November, he reached Calicut. While he was at Calicut, the king of Vijayanagar, sent a messenger to the Samoothiri, asking to sent the ambassador to him. Razzak remarks, "Although the Samoothiri is not subject to the laws of the king of Vijayanagar, he nevertheless pays him respect, and stands extremely in fear of him; since this latter prince has in his dominions three hundred ports, each of which is equal to Calicut". As Ferishta stated, the Rayas of Vijayanagar greatly exceeded the Bahmani kings in power, wealth and extent of country (The Vijayanagara and Bahmani kingdoms emerged in the Deccan during the later years of the reign of Sultan Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq). Vijayanagar kingdom was well peopled, and the subjects were submissive to the Raya's authority. The Rajas of Malabar, Ceylon and other countries, kept ambassadors at his court, and sent annually rich presents. Vijayanagar was ruled over by four successive dynasties, namely, the Sangama dynasty, Saluva dynasty, Tuluva dynasty and Aravidu dynasty. The king of Vijayanagar bear the title of Raya. The king who summoned Razzak to Vijayanagar was Deva Raya II of Sangama dynasty.

Praudha Deva Raya also known as Deva Raya II, King of Sangama dynasty of Vijayanagar

Praudha Deva Raya also known as Deva Raya II, son of Vira Vijaya, was one of the greatest kings of the Sangama dynasty of Vijayanagar, who ruled between 1424 to 1446. He had a special title of Gaja Bentekara or hunter of elephants.


Razzak's Journey from Calicut to Vijayanagar: In the beginning of April 1443, Abdur Razzak departed from Calicut by sea; after reaching Mangalore, which was the frontier of Vijayanagar, he continued his journey by land. On the way, he saw a magnificent bronze temple which 'has not its equal in the universe'. It is an equilateral square, and upon which in the front stands a human figure of great size, made of gold; its eyes are formed of two red rubies, placed so artistically that the statue seems to look at you. At Belur, he saw another lofty temple with exquisite sculpture (most probably the Chennakeshava Temple). At the end of April, he reached Vijayanagar. The Raya sent a procession to welcome him and assigned a beautiful house for his residence.

Ganigitti jaina Temple and Pillar at Vijayanagara


Description of the City: The city was exceedingly large and populous, and the king was of great power and dominion. His kingdom extended from the borders of Serendib (Ceylon) to Gulbarga, and from Bengal to Malabar. About three hundred seaports belong to it. It has seven fortified walls, one within the other. The king's palace was situated within the seventh fortress. Between the first, second and third walls, there are cultivated fields, gardens and houses. From the third to the seventh fortress, shops and bazaars are closely crowded together. All the inhabitants of this country, whether high or low, down to the artisans of the bazaar, wear jewels adorned with precious stones, in their ears, necks, arms, wrists and fingers.

The Writing: It is of two kinds: they wrote letters with a kalam of iron upon a coconut leaf. In the second kind of writing they blacken a white surface, and write letters with a soft stone, which lasts a very long time.

Coins: They have three different kinds of gold coins mixed with alloy: one is called varaha; the second is perta; and the third is called fanam.

Copper Kasu Coin of Devaraya II

Elephant Stables: The king was very fond of elephants; he possessed one white elephant of an extremely large size, on whose body are scattered here and there grey spots. Every morning this animal is brought before the monarch, and the sight of him seems to act as a happy omen.
Meeting with Deva Raya: The king was seated in great state in the forty-pillared hall, and a crowd of Brahmans and others stood on the right and left of him. He presented the king, five beautiful horses and some presents of damask and satin. The king was clothed in a robe of olive-colored satin; around his neck he wore a collar, composed of pearls and other splendid gems. He had an olive complexion, of a spare body, and rather tall. On his cheeks might be seen a slight down, but there was no beard on his chin. His countenance was extremely pleasing. The king received the ambassador kindly, and seated him near him. When he took the letter of the emperor, he handed it to the interpreter, and said, "My heart is exceedingly glad that a great king has sent an ambassador to me." As Razzak was sweating from the intense heat, and the quantity of clothes he had worn, the king took pity upon him, and sent him a fan, similar to the khata which he held in his hand. Before his return, he was presented with two packets of betel, a purse containing five hundred fanoms, and twenty miskals of camphor.

His daily provision comprised two sheep, four couple of fowls, five mans of rice, one man of butter, one man of sugar and two varahas of gold. Twice in the week, the king sent for him, and put questions to him respecting Mirza Shah Rukh. The king said to him, "Your monarchs invite an ambassador, and receive him to their table; as you and we may not eat together, this purse full of gold is the feast we give to an ambassador". Razzak later mentioned that the Hindus do not eat in presence of one another.

The King's Harem: The king had a large seraglio containing as many as 700 princesses and concubines.

An Attempt to Assassin the King: Abdur Razzak mentions an attempt to assassin the king by his brother*. It happened between November 1442 and April 1443, while Razzak was at Calicut. The king's brother built a new house and invited the king and the chief nobles to an entertainment. The guests were seated in a large hall. At short intervals the host, or someone he sent, invited one of the nobles to come forward and and eat his part of the banquet. At the same time the drums, tymbals, trumpets and horns were beaten with great force. As each guest was conducted to the house, two assassins, placed in ambush, sprang out upon him, and cut him to pieces. From the noise of the drums not a soul knew what had occurred. Then they sent for another guest and in this manner everyone was murdered. The villainous brother went to the palace of the king and killed the guards also. He then advanced to the king and invited him to the entertainment. The king, according to the saying, powerful princes are divinely inspired, said that he was indisposed, and begged that his attendance might be excused. This unnatural brother, thus losing the hope of enticing the king to his house, drew his poignard, and wounded him severely, so that the king fell down behind the throne. The traitor, believing that the king was dead, left there one of his confidants to cut off the king's head. He rushed out to the portico of the palace, and exclaimed that he had slain the king, his brothers, nobles, ministers and other chiefs; and now he is the king. Meanwhile when his emissary had approached the throne to cut off the king's head, the king, seizing the seat behind which he had fallen, dealt with it a heavy blow upon the breast. The king then, with the help of one of his guards, who in alarm had concealed himself in a corner, slew this assassin. He went out of the palace and exclaimed: "Behold, I am alive and safe, seize the assassin" The whole crowd assembled together threw themselves upon the guilty prince, and put him to death. Only Danaik (Lakkhanna Dandanayaka), the vizier, was escaped since he had gone to Ceylon.

The Celebration of Mahanavami: The people of Vijayanagar, were fond of displaying their pride, pomp, power and glory, in holding every year a stately and magnificent festival, called the Mahanavami. Abdur Razzak explains the manner in which the king celebrated the festival of Mahanavami. The king assembled his nobles and chiefs at the royal palace from all the parts of his country. They brought with them a thousand elephants, arrayed in armour, and adorned with howdas, on which jugglers and throwers of naphtha were seated. On the foreheads, trunks and ears of the elephants, beautiful figures and pictures were traced with cinnabar and other pigments. In the month of September, the chiefs, Brahmans and the elephants were assembled on a broad plain magnificently decorated. On that beautiful plain were erected enchanting pavilions, on which were painted all kinds of figures that the imagination can conceive, of men, wild beasts, birds, animals, down to flies and gnats. Everything was drawn with extraordinary skill and delicacy. Some of the pavilions revolved, and every moment presented a new face to the viewer. In the front of this place, a pillared edifice was constructed of nine stories in height, ornamented with exceeding beauty. The throne of the king was set up in the ninth. In the seventh was allotted a place to the 'humble author of this narrative'. Between this palace and the pavilions there was an open space beautifully laid out, in which musicians and story-tellers, who sang and invented tales. Most of the musicians were women. Some young girls, with cheeks as full as the moon, and with faces more lovely than the spring, clothed in magnificent dresses, were seated behind a beautiful curtain, opposite the king. On a sudden the curtain was removed on both sides, and the girls began to move their feet with such grace, that wisdom lost its senses, and the soul was intoxicated with delight. The showmen and jugglers performed astonishing feats. All readers, story-tellers, musicians and jugglers were rewarded by the king with gold and garments. For three continuous days, this royal festival continued with great magnificence.

The throne of the king was of an extraordinary size, made of gold inlaid with beautiful jewels. It is probable that in all the kingdoms of the world, the art of inlaying precious stones is no where better understood than in this country. Before the throne there was placed a square cushion of zaituni satin, on the edges of which were sewn three rows of the most exquisite pearls. On the third day, when the celebration of the Mahanavami was over, the king summoned the ambassador, and asked him about Mirza Shah Rukh, his nobles, troops, the number of his horses and the peculiarities of the cities, such as Samarkand, Herat and Shiraz. He expressed towards the emperor sentiments of the greatest friendship, and said to the ambassador, "I am about to send a certain number of elephants and two tukuz of eunuchs, besides other presents, accompanied by an able ambassador, whom I shall dispatch to your sovereign."

Razzak mentioned that one of the king's courtiers asked him, what he thought of the beauty of the four embroidered sofas, implying that such could not be made in his country. He replied that perhaps they might be made equally well there, but that it is not the custom to manufacture such articles. Razzak says, "The king approved highly of my reply, and ordered that I should receive several bags of fanams and betel, and some fruits reserved for his special use."

Battle with Alau'd-din Ahmad Shah Bahmani:

During the second half of the year 1443, Danaik set out on an expedition to Gulburga. The reason was that Sultan Alau'd-din Ahmad Shah (1436-1458), upon learning the attempted assassination of Deva Raya, demanded a payment of seven lacs of varahas. The Raya became enraged and said, "Since I am alive, what cause of alarm can there be because certain of my servants are killed?" If a thousand of my servants die, what should I be afraid of? In one or two days I can collect a hundred thousand more such as they. When the sun is resplendent, innumerable atoms are visible. If my enemies have conceived that weakness, loss, insecurity, and calamity have fallen upon me, they are mistaken. I am shielded by a powerful and auspicious star, and fortune is favour­able to me. Now let all that my enemy can seize from out my dominions be considered as booty, and made over to his saiyids and professors; as for me, all that I can take from his kingdom I will make over to my falconers and brahmans." Troops were sent out on both sides, which made great ravages on the frontiers of the two kingdoms.

Ferishta's Account of the Battle: Ferishta says that Deva Raya held a council of nobles and Brahmins and asked them to find out the causes of victory of the Bahmani Sultans, though his country was larger in extent and had more population and revenue than the Bahmanis. Some pointed out that it was due to two reasons: they had stronger horses and excellent archers. As per their advise, the Raya enlisted Musalmans in his service and erected a mosque for them at Vijayanagar. He also ordered a Koran to be placed before his throne. He also made his soldiers to learn archery. In 1443, the Raya marched to Gulburga with 2000 Mohammedans and 60,000 Hindu archers, 80,000 thousand cavalry and 200,000 infantry. He took the fortress of Mudgal and plundered the country as far as Sagara and Bijapur. Alau'd-din marched with his army to oppose him. Malik-ut-Tujar was sent against the sons of Deva Raya, who were besieging Raichur and Bankapura. Three actions took place between Deva Raya and Alau'd-din Ahmad Shah, in two months. In the first action, both sides suffered heavy losses; in the second, Musalmans were victorious; and in the third action, the eldest son of Deva Raya was killed. The Raya's army fled into the fortress of Mudgal. Two officers of Alau'd-din, pursuing them, entered the fort; and the Hindus took them both prisoners.


Religious Tolerance: Deva Raya II was Virasaiva (worshipers of Shiva) in religion. They were tolerant of all religions and sects. When Danaik was on his expedition to Gulburga, the king appointed as a temporary substitute, a Christian named Nimeh Pezir or Hambah Nurir. As we have seen, the king also had Mohammedan officers in his service.

Rumours about Abdur Razzak: At this period, learning the king's favor towards the ambassador, some people of Hormuz, settled at Vijayanagar, told the vizier Hambah Nurir, that Razzak was not an ambassador sent by Mirza Shah Rukh, but a mere merchant. They spread these rumours throughout the kingdom so that Razzak was in a painful situation. He thus wrote, "But while labouring under this anxiety, I met the king several times on the road, who treated me with great condescension, and asked how I was going on. In very truth, he possessed excellent qualities".

Return of Danaik: As stated by Ferishta and Razzak, Danaik, after ravaging Gulburga, returned to Vijayanagar with many prisoners. According to Feishta, Alau'd-din wrote to the king that "if these two officers were killed, he would revenge the death of each by the slaughter of a hundred thousand Hindus". Upon this, Deva Raya sent a message to Alau'd-din, proposing to pay an annual tribute and release the two prisoners, on condition of his promising not to molest his territories in future.

Departure of Abdur Razzak from Vijayanagar: Khwaja Masud and Khwaja Muhammad, natives of Khorasan, who were settled in Vijayanagar, were appointed to go upon the embassy. On 5th December 1443, it was the day of the audience of his dismissal. The king said to him, "They have represented that you are not really the envoy of Mirza Shah Rukh; otherwise we would have paid you greater respect. If you come again on a future occasion into my country, you shall meet with a reception worthy of a king such as we are". In the letter addressed to Mirza Shah Rukh, the king communicated the malicious aspersions which had been spread by the Hormuzians, and observed, "We had the intention of seeking the good will of the emperor by some gifts and presents worthy of a sovereign. Certain persons, however, have assured us that Abdur Razzak was not in any way attached to the court of your majesty." He departed from Vijayanagar, accompanied by the ambassadors. He mentioned that Khwaja Masud, one of the ambassadors, died on the way at Mangalore.

The successors of Devaraya II were weak rulers. He was succeeded by his son Mallikarjuna, otherwise known as Immadi Deva Raya in 1447. The Italian traveler Nicolo Conti also visited Vijayanagar during the reign of Deva Raya II.

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