Kumara Kampana, the Vijayanagara Prince who liberated Tamilnadu from Turk’s Tyranny

In 14th century A.D. when the people of Tamilnadu were under the yoke of Muslim tyranny, two persons from Karnataka took up the responsibility of liberating them. The first one was the Hoysala king, Ballala III who in his attempt to liberate Tamilnadu from the Turkish rule lost his life and the other was Kumara Kampana who not only succeeded in his attempt but also avenged the death of Ballala III.

Kumara Kampana was the son of Bukka I (the co-founder of Vijayanagara Empire and who ruled the kingdom between 1356-77 A.D.) and queen Devayi. Kampana was so named because his enemies quaked with fear at the very mention of his name. Kampana was ruling over the region of Mulbagilu as governor when Bukka commanded him to end the Muslim rule over Tamilnadu.

Genesis of Turkish rule in Tamilnadu

After conquering Devagiri, Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi led an expedition to Dwarasamudra and Ballala III made peace with him by paying tributes. Meanwhile in Tamilnadu dispute over the throne led Sundara Pandya seek aid from Malik Kafur against his brother Vira Pandya. According to K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, Malik Kafur proceeded towards Tamilnadu (1311 A.D.) not with an intention to help Sundara Pandya but to seek booty as this is substantiated by Muslim historians, Amir Khusru and Barani who mention the sack and plunder of temples, resulting in the capture of great booty by Malik Kafur.

In 1323 Muhammad bin Tughlaq undertook an expedition to Tamilnadu and established a Muslim garrison at Madurai or Ma’bar as the Pandyan country was called by the Muslim historians and had probably appointed Jalauddin Ahsan Shah as its governor. In 1335 Jalauddin Ahsan Shah rebelled against the Delhi authorities and declared his independence and assumed the title Sultan of Ma’bar and ruled till 1340. He was followed by sultans like Allauddin Udauji (1340-41), Qutubuddin Firoz Shah (Forty days), Ghiyasuddin Dhamagani (1341-42 or 43), Naziruddin (1342 or 1342), Adil Shah (1357), Fakruddin Mubarak Shah (1359-1368) and Allauddin Sikandar Shah (1368-1378). These sultans ruled over the present Trichinopoly, Madurai and Ramnad districts of Tamilnadu.

Atrocities on Hindus

The period of the Sultanate was a period of terrible oppression and tyranny. Accounts of Ibn Batuta and inscriptions speaks of the suffering and distress endured by Hindus during the misrule of the Muhammadans in Madurai. The temples of Srirangam and Chidambaram suffered worst during their rule. According to the Madurai Sthanikar Varalaru, the Siva and Vishnu temples and the tanks (pushkarnis) were destroyed, images mutilated and temple treasures were plundered. A pathetic picture of the state of Madurai under the Muslim rule is given by Ganga Devi in her work Madhura Vijayam. She says that while staying in Kanchi after the conquest of Shambuvaraya, Kampana had a dream in which goddess of the Pandyan country appeared before him and described how in her lands, temples had fallen into neglect and become the haunt of jackals, how the worship in them had ceased, how the sacrifices and chants of the Vedas had everywhere given place to the foul roasty of the flesh and rioting of the Muslims, how the coconut trees in the garden of Madurai had been cut and their spaces covered with rows of stakes from which swung numerous human skulls strung together and how the river Tambraparni had been flowing red with the blood of slaughtered cows. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta visited Madurai during the rule of Ghiyasuddin Dhamagani who was also his brother-in-law. Ibn Batuta writes in his memoirs that he had accompanied Ghiyasuddin to a forest where every Hindu found was taken prisoner and the next day, they were impaled on stakes along with their wives and children. Ibn Batuta says that this shameful act of the sultan hastened his (Ghiyasuddin) death. On another occasion Ibn Batuta says that he along with a kazi were having food with the sultan when a Hindu along with his wife and son aged seven were brought before the sultan who ordered all their heads to be cut. It was this same Ghiyasuddin who had killed, flayed the skin of Ballala III and stuffed it with straw and hung upon the walls of Madurai after capturing him. Ibn Batuta found his brother-in-law to be a cruel tyrant and observes that he was a demon in human form. In short, the occupation of south India by the Muslims created a feeling of great horror among the Hindus. It was during this state of affairs that Kampana undertook an expedition to Madurai and put an end to the atrocities heaped upon the Hindus by the Turks.

Liberated Tamilnadu from cruel clutches of the Turks

Kampana began his southern campaign by first leading an expedition against Rajanarayana belonging to Shambuvaraya family and ruling the kingdom Rajagambira rajya, comprising of Chinglepet, North and South Arcot districts of present Tamilnadu. Kampana captured his fortress Rajagambiramalai and took Rajanarayana as prisoner. However, he was released and reinstated in his original possession as a subordinate of Vijayanagara and took the title ‘Sambuvaraya Sthapanacharya’. This happened in December 1362 A.D. Kampana then subdued the Vanvyarajas (or forest kings) of the south. For some time Kampana made Kanchipuram as his capital and ruled from there as per his father’s order and gained the goodwill of the people. Meanwhile Kampana’s general Gopanna who was in charge of Gingee province attacked the Muslim chief of Srirangam who had shifted his head-quarters to Kannanur and fortified that place with the stones obtained by demolishing the outer enclosures of the Srirangam temple. This Muslim chief who had degenerated by drink and debauchery and who had become thoroughly powerless to resist an attack was defeated by Gopanna in 1370-71. Gopanna then brought the image of Ranganatha from Shingavaram and reconsecrated the idol in the temple at Srirangam. It may be recalled that as soon as the Mohammadans had reached near Srirangam, the image of Sri Ranganatha was carried away by pious Hindus and taken to Tirupati. When Gopanna then in charge of Gingee province heard about it, he brought the image to Gingee and kept it in a shrine at Shingavaram near his capital. Later Gopanna’s services were also utilized in restoring the image of Govindarajasvami at Chidambaram.

Ganga Devi in her Madhura Vijayam writes that it was during his stay in Kanchipuram that the Goddess of the Pandyan country appeared in Kampana’s dream and gave him the mighty sword of the Pandyan sovereignty entrusted to her by the custodian of Tamil culture, sage Agastya and extorted him to use it fearlessly for the restoration of the dharma. This was followed by Kampana’s expedition against Madurai and the defeat of its sultan. After this victory Kampana administered the Tamil country as the viceroy of Vijayanagara Empire. Thus, Kampana is represented to have restored Hindu sovereignty in the Madurai kingdom as a lawful successor of the Pandyan kings. Somappa, Gopanna, Virupaksha and Saluva Mangi were some of the famous generals who assisted Kampana in his military campaigns.

Date of conquest of Madurai

It is difficult to fix the exact date of Kampana’s invasion and conquest of Madurai. Though we get a fairly good number of coins issued by the sultans of Madurai, there is a break of about twelve years in them from 1345-1357. It has been suggested that such a long break could not have been due to a mere accident and that during period Kampana must have invaded the Madurai country and inflicted such crushing defeats on the sultans of the place that they could not have been bold enough even to mint coins. But this period (1345-1357) seems to be too early for the invasion of Madurai by Kampana and the earliest mention of Kampana in the inscriptions of southern Tamil districts is 1363-64. An inscription of Srirangam dated 1371 mentions that the idol of Ranganatha was reconsecrated by Gopanna the general of Kampana. It appears that the campaigns started by Kampana in 1361-62 in the region south of river Kaveri was completed in 1371. Father Heras thinks that Madurai could have been conquered only about 1377 on the ground that we have coins of the last sultan Alauddin Sikandar Shat dated 1377. But by that time Kampana was not alive and had died in 1374. Hence K.A.Nilakanta Sastri and T.V.Mahalingam infers that it is not necessary to hold that Kampana finished all his work of conquest in one expedition. Even after 1371 the last Muslim ruler of Madurai might not have completely disappeared from the region and therefore could have issued some unauthorised coins for a few years. But the political power of the Muslims of Madurai appears to have been broken by 1371 at the latest. and the last sultans maintained a feeble struggle against the growing power of Vijayanagara till 1377-78.

Restorer of Hindu Temples

Kampana came to Tamilnadu as a champion of Hinduism and as a preserver of south Indian temples. Hence after his victory over the Turks at Madurai, he revived worship in many temples in south India which had remained in a decadent condition during the Muslim rule. For instance, the Meenakshi temple at Madurai which had remained closed without any worship were reopened for public worship. He also revived the worship at the historic Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi by giving liberal grants. He appointed officials to look after the affairs of the temples and revived the various activities connected with the temple and settled some of the long-standing disputes among the temple servants and redressed their grievances. He renovated, repaired and remodelled a number of temples which had suffered during the Muslim rule. For instance, temples in places like Kannanur, Kuraiyur and Sadayampalayam had been converted into mosques and during Kampana’s rule were rebuild and reconsecrated with the idols. Also grants of cows, gardens, villages and vast sums of money in gold were made which helped the temples to celebrate festivals.

Patron of scholars and saints

The period of Kampana’s rule in south India witnessed great commercial activities. There were colonies of merchants both in the Tamil country and Karnataka which was known as Paradesis and Nanadesis. Periodic fairs held gave stimulation to trade and commerce. Kampana also patronised men of letters and inscriptions refer to a poet by name Bayakara Allalanath who was patronised by Kampana. His queen Ganga Devi composed Vira Kamparaya Charitam or Madhura Vijayam in Sanskrit. It was only after Kampana had established himself Tamilnadu that the great Srivaishnava saint Vedanta Desika returned to Srirangam from his retreat at Satyamangalam and praised Gopanna (who had reconsecrated the idol of Sri Ranganatha at Srirangam) in two Sanskrit verses which were engraved on the eastern wall of the first prakara of the Ranganatha temple. Kampana was the follower of the famous Kashivilasa Kriyashakti belonging to the Pashupata sect. Kampana probably died around 1374 and his son Jammanna or Empanna succeeded him as viceroy of Tamilnadu.

Incarnation of Vishnu

Kumara Kampana never deviated from the path of dharma and hence he was able to establish the Vijayanagara rule on an alien land with the willing consent of the people of the land. He won the hearts of the people and his subjects considered him as another incarnation of Vishnu and his fame spread far and wide after he established himself at Kanchi. K.Krishnaswami Pillai hails Kumara Kampana as the restorer of the indigenous culture and the preserver of the ancient religion.


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