Vijayanagar Rule in Tamil Nadu

Vijayanagar Rule in Tamil Nadu


Vijayanagar Empire was founded on the advice of the Hindu saint Vidyaranya on the banks of the river Tungabhadra very near to Chirunkeri madams founded by Adhi Sankarachariya.  Vidyaranyar served as its head at the time of founding the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Vijayanagar Empire was founded in 1336 and flourished in South India up to 1565, till its decline in the battle of Talikotta.  The Vijayanagar Empire was ruled by the rulers of Sangama, Saluva, Thuluva and Aravidu dynasties.  Among them, the rulers of Sangama and Thuluva dynasties were prominent.  The empire flourished during their administration.


Harihara was the first great ruler of the Sangama dynasty.  He ruled only a portion of Telugu and Kannada territories.  The Vijayanagar Empire was expanded during his reign.  He annexed certain portion of Hoysala and Kadamba kingdoms with his empire.  Then the Vijayanagar army invaded Tamil Nadu.  Scholars viewed that this expedition took place between 1336 and 1346.  When Qurbat Hasan Kangu ruled Madurai, Vijayanagar invaded Tamil Nadu.  To visualise his aims, he sent his brother Bukka I to Tamil Nadu with an army,   the army defeated the Madurai sultan for a short period then the sultan of Madurai acted independently.

Conquest of Tondaimandalam

During administration of Harihara I, the sultan of Madurai defeated the ruler of Sambuvaraya kingdom and imprisoned him.  So with a view to protect him.  Harihara sent an army to Sambuvaraya kingdom. The army defeated Madurai sultan and enthroned the Sambuvaraya ruler on the throne.  After the occupation of the throne, he refused to accept the supremacy of Vijayanagar ruler, hence Harihara was waiting for an opportunity to teach him a lesson.

War with Bhamini Kingdom

Bukka I succeeded Harihara I.  During his reign war started between Vijayanagar empire and Bhamini kingdom. At this critical situation, the sultan who ruled Madurai supported Bhamini kingdom against Vijayanagar Empire.  So after the completion of north and north east expeditions, Vijayanagar ruler invaded Tamil Nadu with a view to punish Sambuvaraya of Tondaimandalam and to annex the sultanate of Madurai.  At this expedition, Bukka I sent an army under the command of his son Kumarakampana.

The Expedition of Kumarakampana

Sources of Information        

Kumarakampana was the son and successor of Bukka I by his queen Depayi.  His wife was Gangadevi.  Literary source (1) Madhuravijayam by Gangadevi says about the life and achievements of Kumarakampana, (2) Saluvabhyudayam by Rajanatha Dindima says about the southern expedition of Kumarakampana.  About 132 inscription found in south India says about these expeditions i.e. inscription in Tondaimandalam gave valuable information about southern expedition.

Conquest of Rajagambirarajyam

Tondaimandalam ruled by Sambuvaraya was called Rajagambirarajyam.  Virinchipuram was its capital.  They served as chieftain under the Chola Empire.  After the decline of the Chola Empire they got independent.  They became popular after the expedition of Malikkafur and founded the kingdom, Tondaimandalam.  It comprised of the present districts of Chengelpet and north and southern portions of Arcot districts.  The rulers of Tondaimandalam assumed the title ‘Ventumankondan’.  The first ruler who assumed the title was Ekambaranathan or Ventumankondan.  He was the founder of the kingdom.  He ruled the kingdom between 1321 and 1339.  Tondaimandalam flourished during his administration.  The next ruler of the kingdom was Rajanaroyana Sambuvaraya (1339 – 1369).  He was the son of Ekambaranathan.  It was during his period Kumarakampana made an expedition against Tondaimandalam.

Kumarakampana with an army started his expedition from Mulbagal.  He crossed Palaru and reached Virinchipuram, the capital of Tondaimandalam in 1363.  In an encounter, Rajanaroyana Sambuvaraya was defeated and Virinchipuram was captured.  The defeated Rajanaroyana took refuge at ‘Padaiveedu’ the hill fortress at Rajagambiramalai.  The army of Kumarakampana surrounded and ravaged the fort.  Rajanaroyana came out from the fort and fought a duel with Kumarakampana.  Madhuravijayam mentioned that in the duel Rajanaroyana was murdered.  But the contemporary inscriptions repudiated the death of Rajanaroyana Sambuvaraya.  On the order hand, they accepted that Rajanaroyana was forced to accept the supremacy of Kumarakampana.  With the conquest of Tondaimandalam, the northern boundary of Vijayanagar Empire was up to Kollidom.

Conquest of Kongudesam

The Vijayanagar army entered Kongudesam after the conquest of Tondaimandalam, without much difficulty.  Kongudesam was brought under the domination of Vijayanagar Empire.  At this venture, Kumarakampana was ably assisted by his general Gandarakulimaraya Nayaka.

March towards Madurai

After the conquest of Tondaimandalam and Kongudesam, the Vijayanagar army entered Madurai to put an end to the Muslim rule.  In 1370, the army of Kumarakampana stared its journey from Chenji in South Arcot district.  The Hindu army defeated the Muslim forces decisively at Samayavarm near Srirangam and captured Kannanur Kuppan, one of the strongest fortress of the Muslims.  In an encounter between Tiruchirappally and Madurai, the sultan of Madurai Bakhruddin Mubarak shah was defeated.  He was murdered in April 1371, in a duel fight.  It was held between Kumarakampana and Mubarak shah.  As a result of the conquest of Madurai sultanate, the authority of Vijayanagar Empire extended up to Ramesvaram.

(I)Administration of Kumarakampana

Kumarakampana during his reign introduced various administrative measures with a view to enforce law and order.  He also gave new imputes to Hindu religion.  Various measures were also introduced to improve the socio-economic and administrative conditions of the state.

  Temple Administration

Kumarakampana was not only a great warrior but also an efficient administrator.  During his reign, he gave due importance to temple and its administration, the temples were brought directly under his control.  Huge amount was allotted for the maintenance of the temples at Srirangam, Chidambaram and Madurai.

He enforced Varnashramadharma during his administration in Tamil Nadu.  As a part of it, he invited more and more Brahmins from northern part of Tamil Nadu.  Separate lands were allotted for their settlements.  As a result the number of Agraharas increased considerably during his administration.  They were honoured by giving respectable posts in temples and politics.  Utilising the opportunity, the Brahmins established their domination in temples and society.  They enjoyed all privileges and were considered as high castes in the society. He appointed the specially invited Telugu Brahmins to conduct pujas and sacrifices in the temples.

Devadhana and Brahmadhana lands were donated to the temples for their day-to-day administration.  He improve the conditions of the temples and to regularise their activities, he donated lands and wealth to them.

Most of the temples of the ancient period possessed Devadhana and Brahmadana lands and huge wealth in the form of idols, jewels and precious stones.  They were solely owned by the Brahmins.  Thus the Brahmins acted as landlords in Tamil Nadu.  The temples contained various types of officials to look after their day-to-day administration.  They were deeply involved in corruption and they showed less interest in temple administration.  So the temple administration deteriorated.  So Kumarakampana adopted a series of steps to put an end to the evil practices in temples.  Severe actions were taken against them.  Corrupt officials were removed from service.  In their place highly qualified and efficient officials were appointed.  Among the new officials Karuvakkaradhasan and Azhakiya were prominent.

The steps taken by Kumarakampana for the development of temple activities attracted the attention of the common people.  In addition to temple Sevantsm Kaikolas also rendered meritorious service for the development of temple activities.  The Kaikolas were settled in Thirumadavilagam, which was located very near to temples.  Thus temples flourished during the administration of Kumarakampana.

(II)Provincial Administration                     

The Vijayanagar rulers paid special interest in the administration of conquered territories.  The kingdom which extended to the south of Krishna River was divided into various provinces.  The provinces were known a Rajyas or Mandalams.  Controversy existed among the scholars with regard to the number of Mandalams in Tamil Nadu during the administration of Vijayanagar rulers.  The princess or the close relatives of rulers were appointed as governors.  They were called as ‘Mahamandalesvara’.  During the reign of Bukka I he appointed his son Kumarakampana as Mahamandalesvara to look after the administration of Tondaimandalam, Kongudesam and Madurai regions.  Likewise, Harihara II also appointed his sons as Mahamandalesvara to look after the provinces.  Particularly, he appointed Viruppanna Udayar as governor of Tamil Nadu.

Though the members of the royal family were appointed as governors, on certain occasion the ministers were also appointed as governors.  For examples, Elakkanna Dannayaka, the minister of Devaraya II and Saluva Dimar, the minister of Krishnadevaraya were appointed as governors of the provinces in Tamil Nadu.

Powers of the Governors

The governors enjoyed enormous powers.  For the convenient of administration, governors constituted a council similar to that of the council in the capital.  It contained ministers and high officials.  Generally the provinces functioned as small central government.  The ministers in the council advised the governor whenever, he required advice.  The governor maintained law and order in the province.  He maintained a standing army to protect the province from external attack.  He also controlled finance and regularised justice.  The central government never interfered in the internal affairs of the province unnecessarily.  But it supervised the finance of the province.  The governors were directed to send their account related to income and expenditure to the centre.  It rendered military assistance to the centre at the time of external wars.

Coins were in circulation. Two types of coins were in circulation.  Vijayanagar rulers and provincial governors minted coins.  The governors minted low valued coins other than gold.  Whereas, gold coins like Varagans were minted by central government.  Gold coins were mainly used for external trade.

Governors gave due importance to the revenue administration of the provinces.  They levied various taxes.  As the old system of tax collection was full of confusion, the governors introduced new taxation policy in the provinces.

The taxes collected form the people were utilised for various purposes.  The major portion of the revenue was spent for the construction and renovation of temples, maintenance of army and other charitable works.  A portion of the revenue was sent to the central government as tribute.  It was remitted regularly in the first week of every September.  The revenue officials behaved inhumanly to collect taxes from the people.  Those who delayed or refused to pay the taxes were punished severely.  The contemporary evidences clearly mentioned the method of collection of taxes from the people.

The officials served under the Governors

Various officials served under the governors.  They looked after military and civil administration.  Among the officials, Mahapradhani Dannayaka Olainayagam, Adaippam and Kangani were important.

Anagondi Vittappar succeeded Somappa Nayaka as Pradhani.  He served under Kumarakampana as a treasury officer.  He worked under Kumarakampana.  Another important officer was Gopanarya Gopananga.  Later Kumarakampana appointed him as the governor of Chenji.  He was responsible for the restoration of the idol of Ranganatha at the Srirangam temple and for the re-construction of the Tillai-Govindaraja shrine at Chidambaram.  Saluva Mangu is the one of the important general of Kumarakampan’s.  He played a prominent role in Kumarakampan’s expedition against the sultan of Madurai in 1371 A.D.

Reference: 1. Devanesan,

  1. K.L.Khurana, Medieval India,

Keywords: Vidyaranyar, Talikotta, Sangama, Saluva, Thuluva, Aravidu,        Harihara, Qurbat Hasan Kangu, Bukka, Bhamini kingdom, Kumarakampana, Madhuravijayam, Gangadevi, Saluvabhyudayam, Rajanatha Dindima, Rajagambirarajyam, Ventumankondan, Virinchipuram, Samayavarm, Devadhana, Brahmadhana, Kaikolas, Mahamandalesvara