The Battle of Talikota Kannada ತಾಳಿಕೋಟೆ(or Tellikota) (January 26, 1565), a watershed battle fought between the Vijayanagara Empire and the Deccan sultanates, resulted in a rout of Vijayanagara, and ended the last great Hindu kingdom in South India. Talikota is situated in northern Karnataka, about 80 km to the southeast of the city of Bijapur.
The throne of the Vijayanagara Empire had passed from Achyuta Raya
, upon his death, to Rama Raya
, who according to many scholars interfered in the affairs of the neighbouring Muslim
Sultanates. Though this tactic worked initially to his favor, it backfired later and finally the Sultanates decided to unite and destroy the Hindu kingdom. Inter-family marriages between Sultans solved many of their internal conflicts and they finally united against the Vijayanagara empire, which was seen as the common enemy.
On January 26
the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar
, who had formed a grand alliance, met the Vijayanagara army at Talikota
between two villages called Rakkasa and Tangadi, on the alluvial banks of the Krishna River
, in present day Karnataka
state. It was one of the few times in medieval
Indian history that a joint strategy was employed. The sultanates were also aided by some minor Hindu kingdoms who held grudges against the Vijayanagara Empire. The Deccan kings had a grand total of 80,000 infantry
and 30,000 cavalry
. Vijayanagara, on the other hand, had 140,000 foot soldiers, with another 10,000 on horseback. The armies also had large numbers of war elephants
. This decisive battle was fiercely fought. Fighting in a rocky terrain, the invading troops launched a classic offensive strategy. First they softened up the primary lines of the Vijayanagara army using cannon
fire. The concentrated artillery
took its toll, and the massive frontal attack by the combined armies finished the job. The battle ended in a complete victory for the sultanates, with the raja being beheaded
and put on display as a trophy. What followed was pillage
and the plunder
The battle spelt the death knell for the large Hindu kingdoms in India
, and it also ended the last great southern empire in India. What followed was a victorious army along with hordes of robbers
dwellers falling upon the great city, looting, robbing, murdering and pillaging the residents. With axes
, fire and sword the victorious armies went about the task of bringing to rubble
the city of Vijayanagara which never recovered from the onslaught. The highly diminished Vijayanagara empire now tried to stage an unsuccessful comeback with its capital at Penukonda
. Tirumala however could not lay claim over Vijayanagara as local support was to make the younger brother of Aliya Rama Raya
, also called Tirumala, the regent. It was another six years before Tirumala could claim regency over the former capital of Vijayanagara. During this time, anarchy had spread. Aliya Rama Rayas
habit of nominating family relatives to key positions of the former kingdom instead of loyal officers became a reason for family feuds and rebellion
. The Polygar
) system (local chieftains
) which had been so successful earlier was also a reason for break away factions. The Nayaks
speaking regions; Gingee
, Madurai Nayaks
and Tanjore Nayaks
were flexing their freedom and in fact Tirumala Deva Raya had to tacitly accept the independence of these Nayakas in order to keep their friendship in an hour of impending invasions from Bijapur. Later, the Vijayanagara empire shifted capitals to Chandragiri
and eventually to Vellore
during which time the other feudatories, the Kingdom of Mysore, Nayakas of Keladi in Shimoga
and Nayakas of Vellore
also became independent. As a result of the Vijayanagara empire's collapse, the political system of the southern areas disintegrated. However, it left a residue of Telugu
enclaves and local elites scattered over most of South India
country lost its united identity for the coming four centuries, with the creation of smaller states such as the Kingdom of Mysore
, Keladi Nayakas
, Nayakas of Chitradurga
, the latter two eventually merging with the Kingdom of Mysore. For the Sultanates and Muslim rulers of the south, victory seemed temporary as they continued to engage in squabbling and fighting amongst themselves which ultimately resulted in their capitulation to the Mughals
and later the British Empire
. Some Kannada speaking regions became part of Hyderabad Karnataka
ruled by the Nizam
of Hyderabad and Bombay Presidency
governed by Maratha
chieftains all of whom came under the British
Causes of defeat
Historians have debated over the cause of the defeat with much enthusiasm. Apart from epigraphal
analysis, historians also have at their disposal writings of European
travellers to the kingdom around the time of the war.
- It has been suggested that while the Vijayanagara armies had relatively lesser number of cavalry on horseback and depended on commanders riding war elephants making them slower on battlefield, the Sultanate armies had many more swift Persian horses used by key sections of the army and commanders. This gave the them an edge.
- It is also well known that all the three main commanders of the Vijayanagara army including Aliya Rama Raya were aging compared to the young commanders of the Sultanate armies.
- While the Vijayanagara infantry depended on bows made of bamboo, the Sultanate armies used crossbows made of metal which were much more lethal in accuracy and distance. Also, the Vijayanagara army was overconfident and used long spears and javelins while the Sultanate armies used long spears while riding horse back. This gave them a clear advantage.
- The Sultanate armies had a much better prepared artillery division manned by gunners from Turkestan, who were at that time considered the best at artillery warfare while Vijayanagara depended on European mercenaries who were not as well trained.
- In spite of all these disadvantages, historians agree that the biggest reason for the defeat was the betrayal by two key Vijayanagara commanders, the Gilani brothers who had thousands of soldiers under their command. These commanders were defectors from the Adil Shahi kingdom and later employed by Aliya Rama Raya. The Gilani brothers are known to have fled the battlefield at a key juncture. This has been strongly supported by the writings of two European travellers, Frendricci and Frenchman Anquetil Du Perron who visited Vijayanagar in 1567 C.E.
- Hauma Hamiddha, "Ramaraya and the Battle of Talikota", India-Forum.com (25 November, 2004)
- India Today Collector's edition of History
- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath, A concise history of Karnataka, 2001, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)
- Prof K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, Oxford University Press, New Delhi (1955; reprinted 2002)