Legacy of Vijayanagar

Legacy of Vijayanagar

Education and Literature

Vijayanagar rulers showed less interest for the growth of education.  Even then education flourished at various centres.  In the absence of the definite system, people depended on local scholars to get their education.  Generally the development of education in this kingdom was based on castes and industrial growth.  Scholars like Madhavachariyar, Vedandha Desikar, Dhattachariyar, Vijasaraya Thirthar, Appaya Deksidar were to be remembered.

Village Schools

Traditional system of education flourished in villages.  In this system, the range of knowledge and subjects taught and learnt were limited.  Such education was provided by scholars in the villages.  The society permitted only men to learn in the Vijayanagar period.  The subjects of study followed in this period varied from place to place and person to person.  The teacher in the Vijayanagar period was called Asiriyar, Asan and Uvattiyar.  The student was called Manavan or Pillai.  Teachers collected a large number of students and organised education.  The school of this period was known as Palli.  The Tinnai of the house of the teacher was used as Palli.  Classes were also conducted under the shadow of the trees.  The students used to write in the palm leaves.  This leaf was called Olai and its bundle was known as Suvadi.  Elutanni was used as pen.  Floor writing also developed in this period.  Sand was spread on the floor and the student was directed to write on it.  The teacher-student relation in this period was cordial.  The student was the disciple of the teacher.  Importance was giv3n to religious education.  Martial training was also given to them.  Students also studied fine arts, like music, dance, drama, painting, building architecture, sculpture etc.  oral teaching was done.   The teacher used to sit on a dais.  The pupils showed keen interest in the teaching of the Uvattiyar.  The students studied the lessons by heart.  Proper training was given to memorise the lesson.  They cultivated the habit of reproducing the subject learnt by heart.  Less importance was given to writing.  The teacher was remunerated by the student.  It was paid in cash or kind.  An ideal student always stayed with the teacher and rendered necessary assistance to him.  The parents never interfered in the dealings of the teacher.  Some students stayed with the teachers and others stayed in rest houses.  They came out schools with his blessings.  By this system of education, only a limited high caste students were benefitted.  So the majority in the village were uneducated.

In addition to oral education, importance was also given to technical education.  The technical groups functioned at various centres of the village provided technical education to the youth.  The parents taught to their children, the traditional industry which was familiar to them.  Hence traditional industries flourished in the Vijayanagara period.  The account of the foreign travellers gave glimpses of information about the system of education in this period.

Contributions of Christian Missionaries to Education

The Christian missionaries came to India in the 16th century contributed much for the growth of education.  Prominent among them were the Jesuit missionaries.  They constructed numerous schools with a view to provide education to common people.  Popular among them was the school constructed by Dr. Fernandez at Madurai.  Fr. Nobile also rendered meritorious service for the growth of education.  He came to Madurai in 1619.  Another Christian missionary who visited Madurai, was Dr. Bemande.  He visited the school at Madurai and presented gifts to the students with a view to encourage them.  He also started a school at Mylapore and taught Tamil and Telugu to the students.

Hindu Religious Education

The temples in south India contributed much for education.  They gave importance to traditional education.  The educational institutions attached to the temple provided education and arts related to Hindu religion.  These schools flourished with the patronage of kings and governors.  The king granted lands and necessary articles for such schools.  Among them, the most important school was constructed in the premises of Kalkandesvara temple in Adayapalam in North Arcot district.  This school gave primary importance to Vedic education.  It interpreted the principles of Srikandapashyam to common people.  The madam in Kanchi Arulala Perumal also served as educational institution.  It preached Hindu religious principles to the people.  The teacher of these schools were Brahmins.  Separate schools were constructed for Brahmins, mainly to teach Vedams and Sanskrit, and commonly Brahmins acted as the protectors of education.

Literary Development

     During the reign of Vijayanagara rulers, various scholars contributed to the development of literature in Sanskrit.  Telugu, Kannada and Tamil.  Due to lack of paper they selected palam leaves.  Elutanni was used to write on palm leaves.  The bundle of palm leaves was called as Suvadi.  They were kept preserved in the temples.  Separate place was allotted in the temple for the preservation of Suvadies.  Such places were called ‘Saraswathi Pandarams’.  For the preservation of such centres Vijayanagara ruler granted lands.

The Vijayanagara rulers paid special interest for the development of Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada literatures.  They showed less interest for the development of Tamil literature.  Even then, Tamil literature developed due to the patronage of provincial governors.  Religious oriented Puranams and Prabandams were also composed during this period.  Most of them were philosophical and interpretative.

Irattai Pulavar

Elam Suriyan and Muthu Surilyan were the Irattai Pulavar.  One of them was blind and the other was lame.  They travelled together.  The lame sat on the shoulders of the blind.  The lame directed the way.  They denied pleasures of the world and were devoted more to Hindu religion and literary activities.  Their scholarliness never diminished due to the deformity.  They sang a number of songs.  The songs contained four lines.  The first two lines were sung by one and the next two were sung by the other.  The feelings of the first two lines were kept up in the reply.  They also sung individual poems.  It contained deep meanings.  Some of them were poems of humour and ridicule.  They became famous in singing Kalambaham.  The Sambavaraya ruler patronised them.  In addition to individual songs, they also sang Thillai Kalambagam, Kanchi, Ekambaranatharula and Thiruvamuthu Kalambagam.  Most of their works were religious oriented.  They revealed the social and religious life and political history of Vijayanagar period.


Villiputhurayar was another famous poet of this period.  He was patronised by Thirukovalue Vakkaphakai Varapathi Yalkondan.  He composed Bharatham.  It contained four thousand and three hundred poems.  He was famous in singing Puram songs.  The scenes of Bharatha war were depicted in Tamil with great precision.  His poems contained a lot of word from north Indian language (Sanskrit).  His works were religious-oriented.  They were useful to know the history of Vijayanagar period.

Vedantha Desikar         

Another poet of this period was Vedantha Desikar.  He composed twenty five Tamil works in Manipravala style.  These works were useful to understand the social and religious condition of the Vijayanagara period.

Tholkappiya Devar

The next poet was Tholkappiya Devar.  He had sung a collection of songs.  Many of them were songs sung in praise of a God of Thirupathyputhoor.  His poems were purely religious.  The Irattai Pulavar praised his poems.


The most important poet of this period was Kalamekapulavar.  He had a gift of singing poetry with full of pun.  Saluva Thirumaliyayar patronised him.  He composed traditional poems like Thirvanaikaula, Chitramadal etc.  He had sung a few songs humorously and ridiculously, finding fault with gods.  His songs attracted the attention of the readers.  He belonged to 15th century.

Athi Veerapandyar

Adi Veerapandyar was a ruler who administered Thenkasi regions.  He was a scholar in Sanskrit and Tamil languages.  He belonged to 16th century.  He translated Hyshadam into Naidam in Tamil.  It elaborated the life story of Nalan who ruled Nishdatha kingdom.  Kodampapuranam and Sivalingapuranam were his Puranic works.  He also composed Vettiverkai.  It was a Neethinool.  His work Kasikandam contained 2525 poems.  It praised Kasi.  His works were religious oriented.  His work Vettiverkai, Narunthokai had great appreciation from the people.


Paranjothi wrote Thiruvilayadal Puranam scholars appreciated this work.  The Viruthapakkal, he composed, were nearly 3360 in number.  He described the nature attractively.

In addition to the above poetry, Purana Thirumalainathar.  Thattuva Prakasar, Arithasar, Kanchi Nanaprakasar, and Nalloor, Veera Kavirasar also composed Prabandams and individual songs.

Reference: A.Devanesan

Keywords:  Rekshasi-Tangadi battle, Ramaraya, Thirumalai and Venkatadri, Toppur Battle, Venkatadri II, Varadharaja Perumal temple, Kaval Gopurams, Paranjothi Thiruvilayadal Puranam, Adi Veerapandyar, Kalamekapulavar, Tholkappiya Devar, Vedantha Desikar, Irattai Pulavar, Dr. Fernandez, Fr. Nobile, Dr. Bemande.