Rama Raya, popularly known as Aliya Rama Raya, was born in a Telugu family. His mother was Abbaladevi, and she was the daughter of a chieftain in Nandyal. The Aravidu family of Rama Raya was native to South Andhra. Rama Raya was the son-in-law of illustrious Sri Krishna Deva Raya, who was the greatest emperor of the Vijaynagar Empire. The term ‘Aliya’ means son-in-law and nephew in Kannada and that became his appendage. Rama Raya proved to be a capable general and administrator, often leading many victorious military campaigns under his father-in-law’s reign. After Krishna Deva Raya’s death, his stepbrother Achyuta Raya became the ruler and was challenged by Rama Raya.
Costly Mistake to Appoint Gilani Brothers
The tussle for power went on for some time, and after Achyuta Raya’s death, Sadasiva Raya became the emperor. However, Rama Raya wielded great power and, in fact, was a de-facto king from 1542 to 1565. Rama Raya removed many loyal servants of the kingdom and replaced them with officers who were loyal to him. He also appointed two Muslim commanders, the Gilani brothers, who were earlier in the service of the Sultan Adil Shah as commanders in his army, a mistake that would cost the empire the final Battle of Talikota.
Rama Raya managed the affairs of the empire for more than two decades and kept the Deccani Sultans at bay. Sultanates in the Deccan were constantly involved in internal fights and requested Rama Raya on more than one occasion to act as a mediator, enabling Rama Raya to push north of the Krishna river and expand his domains utilising the disunity of the Deccan Sultans. He also suppressed revolts of the chieftains of Travancore and Chandragiri. In fact, Rama Raya used to interfere in Sultanate’s affairs only upon the insistence of one Sultan or the other, just the way the Sultans had acted as parleys between Rama Raya and Achyuta Raya in earlier years. When the Nizam of Ahmednagar and Qutbshah of Golconda sought Rama Raya’s help against Bijapur, Rama Raya secured the Raichur doab for his benefactors. Later in 1549, when the Adilshah of Bijapur and Baridshah of Bidar declared war on Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Ramaraya fought on behalf of the Ahmednagar ruler and secured the fort of Kalyana. In 1557 Rama Raya allied himself with Ali Adilshah of Bijapur and Baridshah of Bidar when the Sultan of Bijapur invaded Ahmednagar. The combined armies of the three kingdoms defeated the partnership between Nizamshah of Ahmednagar and the Qutbshah of Golconda.
Vijaynagar defeated the Portuguese in the famous battle of 1558. The Portuguese-Vijayanagar War of 1558 is an important event in the history of India, being the first major defeat encountered by a European colonial power in the country. The war forced the Europeans to adopt a conciliatory policy and put off hostilities for a decade. From a military standpoint, it was the first time that the Asian Kingdom had been able to resist and completely defeat a colonising power. That this was in spite of the Portuguese possessing state-of-the-art weapons and tactics leads to an interesting comparison between the strategy and tactics of two opposing armies for students of military history. It forms an important part of the foreign relations of the Vijayanagar Empire-the Portuguese were major trading and military allies to start with, but events necessitated a military stand-off between the two empires.
The Vijayanagar rulers used to constantly change sides to improve their own position, eventually prompting the Sultanates to form an alliance. Intermarriage between Sultanate families helped resolve internal differences between Muslim rulers. The Battle of Talikota resulted from this consolidation of Muslim power in the northern Deccan.
Rama Raya removed many loyal servants of the kingdom and replaced them with officers who were loyal to him. He also appointed two Muslim commanders, the Gilani brothers, who were earlier in the service of the Sultan Adil Shah as commanders in his army, a mistake that would cost the empire the final Battle of Talikota
In 1565, a great battle was fought between the forces of the Vijaynagar empire led by Raja Rama Raya and that of the four Deccan Sultanates, Golconda, Bidar, Ahmadnagar, and Bijapur. The Sultans were determined to take vengeance on the Vijayanagar Empire and eliminate the empire as a threat. The Battle of Talikota would prove to be a major blow to Vijayanagar and would have far-reaching repercussions that affected its future viability. The battle took place in the modern State of Karnataka, not far from the Krishna River. Raja Rama’s forces included one-hundred war elephants and horses and foot soldiers. The Decan Sultanate had fewer foot soldiers but more cavalry and guns and cannons. The Deccan Sultanates also had superior weapons including the Malik-i-Maidan, which translates to the “Lord of the Battle Plain”. The Malik-i-Maidan was an enormous cannon, measuring 14 feet in length with a bore, the part of the cannon that shoots out the cannonball, measuring 2 feet, 4 inches. One can only imagine the kind of damage a canon of this size could cause to an enemy without the same access to superior artillery.
Rama Raya, however, was not intimidated, and for once, maybe he should have been. Many sources describe him as overconfident on the eve of battle. His goal was to keep the forces of the Deccan forces on one side of the river. However, the Deccan forces were able to find gaps where the river wasn’t being guarded.
Betrayed by Muslim Commanders
In the battle, Muslim commanders of Rama Raya betrayed him while victory for him was at sight. Rama Raya was captured and was taken to Hussein Nizam Shah of Ahmed Nagar, who immediately cut off his head. Hindu forces lost the battle, and Muslim armies stayed at Vijaynagar and vandalised Hampi and Vijaynagar to such an extent that it was abandoned soon. With this battle, the power and prestige of the empire were greatly eroded, although it was not destroyed. The empire survived for another 80 years before it faded out due to the treachery of its vassals. However, the position of emperor was an empty one, as the Vijayanagara Empire had de facto ceased to exist. The major feudatories of Vijayanagara, such as Mysore and Madurai, Keladi Nayaka, soon began to exert their independence in the period of anarchy that followed the rout of 1565, while various Muslim adventurers carved out their own fiefs under the nominal suzerainty of the Muslim overlords, being at first the Bahmani Sultans and later the Mughals. The historians have not given Rama Raya his due, although he struggled to keep the Hindu flag high during his reign.