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Hemu, the ephemeral Hindu Sultan of medieval India

From about 1193 A.D. onwards Delhi was ruled by Turks belonging to various dynasties till 1451 when the Afghans under Bahlul Khan Lodi captured Delhi. In 1526 Babur defeated the Afghans in the first battle of Panipat and commenced the Moghul rule in India. His son Humayun was overthrown by Sher Shah Sur in 1540 and he re-established the Afghan rule over Delhi. But within ten years of Sher Shah’s death his descendants lost their empire through family quarrels and rebellion by nobles. The last Sur ruler Adil Shah was entirely devoid of energy or capacity and devoted himself solely to the pursuit of pleasure and handed over the responsibility of governance to his prime minister, Hemu.

From Hawker to Diwan

Hemachandra or Hemu Bhargav was born in a poor family in Machheri in Alwar (Rajasthan) and later shifted to Rewari (Haryana). His father Puran Das was a man with religious bent of mind who left his home to Mathura when Hemu was still in his teens. Hence Hemu had to sell salt in the streets of Rewari to support his family. Later he went to Delhi and became a weighman and in due course a government contractor. In his new capacity he came in contact with the highest officials of the state and also Islam Shah, the successor of Sher Shah; who impressed by Hemu’s intelligence and sincerity appointed him as superintendent of markets (shahana-i bazar). It was an important post and Hemu used to inspect and examine all the important commodities. He also prepared rate lists and inspected weights, etc. Beside he got an opportunity to pay frequent visits to the king in order to apprise him of the trade and commerce situation in the country. The king sought his advice not only in matters relative to trade and commerce but also in those pertaining to diplomacy and statesmanship. Later Islam Shah appointed him as the head of the department of intelligence and post (daroga-i-dakchouki). Adil Shah, the successor of Islam Shah was a weak, indolent, pleasure seeking and sensual king. He handed over the responsibility of governance to Hemu by appointing him as Diwan (Prime Minister). Taking advantage of the incompetency of Adil Shah a number of Afghan chiefs revolted against him. Punjab became independent under Sikandar Shah, Delhi and Agra under Ibrahim Shah and Bengal under Muhammad Shah. Only the region from Agra to Bihar remained in the hands of Adil Shah. Each of these four rulers were anxious to establish his supremacy over the others. Sikandar Shah marched against Ibrahim Shah and after defeating him took control over Delhi and Agra. Hemu had to fight constantly in order to put the rebel chiefs and always won victories sometimes against heavy odds.

An efficient administrator and general

Hemu was a highly efficient civil administrator and possessed much more intelligence than the average administrators of the martial races. He was also a military genius and wielded the sword better than the Rajputs and Turks. Far sighted in his strategic plans, keen-eyed and quick in his tactical decisions, cool in holding his strength in reserve and fearless of danger in encouraging his troops by his personal example, he fought 22 battles on behalf of his master and was victorious in all of them. Among those defeated by Hemu was Ibrahim Sur who after being driven out of Delhi and Agra by Sikandar Sur challenged Adil Shah who sent Hemu to face him. Hemu defeated him twice; once near Kalpi and again near Khanua and compelled Ibrahim Sur to seek refuge in the fort of Bayana which was also besieged by Hemu. But as Muhammad Sur of Bengal marched against Adil Shah, Hemu was recalled to face the former. Hemu defeated Muhammad Sur at Chhapparghatta twenty miles from Kalpi and Muhammad Sur fled. Others defeated by Hemu include chiefs like Taj Kararani and Rukn Khan Nuhani.

Humayun returns back

The rivalry and hostility among the Afghans afforded Humayun who was living in exile a good opportunity to recover his throne. From Kabul he started his Indian expedition in November 1554 and occupied Lahore without any opposition in February 1555. He then marched towards Delhi and defeated the Afghans first at Dipalpur, then at Machiwara and finally at Sirhind and took possession of Delhi in July 1555. But in January 1556 Humayun died Akbar was formally proclaimed Padshah at Kalanaur. Tardi Beg was appointed governor of Delhi. Adil Shah sent Hemu to reconquer Delhi and retired to Chunar. Hemu advanced by way of Gwalior and Agra to old Delhi. Iskandar Khan Uzbeg, governor of Agra took fright and retired towards Delhi without fighting and losing about 3000 of his men during the retreat. Hemu occupied Agra with its treasure and equipment’s and proceeded towards Delhi. Tardi Beg Khan, governor of Delhi offered feeble resistance at Tughlaqabad five miles east of the Qutb Minar on 7th October 1556, but was defeated. He fled with Iskandar Khan towards Sarhind. Ali Quli Khan Shaibani, governor of Sambhal also abandoned his charge and joined the fugitive.

Hemu ascend the throne of Delhi

The entire country from Gwalior to river Sutluj passed under the control of Hemu. He distributed the spoils of war among the Afghans and with their concurrence, declared his independent status in a practical manner by ascending the throne, with the imperial canopy raised over his head, issued coins in his name and assumed the historic name Vikramaditya. Hemu became the first and the only Hindu to occupy the throne of Delhi during the medieval period of our history.

According to A.L.Srivastava, European scholars along with medieval Muslim chroniclers find fault with Hemu for usurping power. But Hemu only repudiated Adil Shah’s authority, though rebellion and even use of force is legitimate against foreign rule. If foreigners like Humayun and the descendants of Sher Shah could advance claims to the sovereignty of India, Hemu who was a real native of the soil, had an equally legitimate if not better claim to rule over his ancestral land. No praise can be too great for Hemu’s bold endeavour to re-establish indigenous rule at Delhi after more than 350 years of foreign domination.

Second Battle of Panipat

The news of the fall of Delhi and Agra alarmed the Mughuls and they advised their sovereign then encamped at Jalandhar to retire immediately to Kabul as their number was not more than 20,000 while Hemu’s army was reputed to be one lakh strong and was flushed with its recent success. But Bairam Khan decided in favour of recovering Delhi and Akbar agreed. Akbar left Jalandhar on October 13th to face Hemu. At Sarhind the governor of Agra, Delhi and Sambhal joined Akbar and counselled him to retreat to Kabul. Bairam Khan however took prompt steps to silence them by putting Tardi Beg Khan to death.

Hemu sent forward his advance guard with a pack of his artillery to encounter that of Akbar’s which was proceeding rapidly under the command of Ali Quli Khan Shaibani. But Hemu’s advance guard was defeated and his artillery captured.

Within a week or so the two armies met on the historic field at Panipat on November 5th 1556. Bairam Khan commanded 10,000 strong Moghul army from a long distance in the rear and placed Ali Khan Quli in charge of the centre, Sikandar Khan Uzbeg in charge of the right wing and Abdulla Khan Uzbeg in charge of the left wing and Akbar was kept at a safe distance behind the army. Hemu’s fighting force consisted of 30,000 Rajput and Afghan cavalry and 500 war elephants which was protected by the plate armour and had musketeers and cross bowmen mounted on their back. However, he had no guns. Hemu took his position in the centre and gave charge of his right wing to Shadi Khan kakkar and left wing to Ramyya, his own sister’s son. In spite of the loss of his artillery in the preliminary engagement, Hemu boldly charged the Moghuls and overthrew their right and left wings. He then launched an attack on their centre and hurled his war elephants against them. But the defeated Moghul wings collected themselves and moving to Hemu’s flanks attacked them. Hemu’s advance was also barred by a deep ravine in front of it. Ali Quli Khan made a detour and attacked Hemu’s centre from behind. Hemu continued fighting fiercely when a stray arrow struck his eye and blood started oozing out. But Hemu pulled the arrow out, bandaged the eye with a scarf and ordered the fight to go no but later fell down into the houda unconscious. His army presuming that its leader was dead was seized with panic. An Indian army never could survive the loss of its leader on whose life its pay depended. Hence Hemu’s soldiers at once scattered in various direction and made no further attempt at resistance. Hemu’s elephant driver tried to take his unconscious master beyond the reach of the danger but was overtaken by a Moghul officer named Shah Quli Mahram who conducted Hemu to Akbar.

Akbar the ‘Ghazi’

Bairam Khan desired Akbar to earn the title of Ghazi or slayer of the infidel by flashing his sword on the captive. Akbar obeyed his guardian and struck Hemu on the neck with a short sword. The bystanders also plunged their swords into the bleeding corpse. Hemu’s head was sent to Kabul to be exposed and his trunk was hung at one of the gates of Delhi. The official story of magnanimous sentiment of unwillingness of Akbars part to strike a helpless prisoner seem to be a late invention of court flatterers. This view is also reiterated by V.A.Smith who writes that at the time of the second battle of Panipat, Akbar was a boy merely 14 years of age and that since his birth he had been reared among scenes of violence and bloodshed by Muhammadans who regarded the killing of a Hindu infidel as a highly meritorious act whether the killing took place in the heat of a battle or in cold blood. Is it possible that the boy Akbar in such a position would have felt any scruples, doubts V.A.Smith. Bairam Khan was the young prince command-in-chief, his personal guardian and the only man who could convert his potential kingdom into a reality. Is it likely that in the circumstances a boy of 14 would set up his private opinion against that of his guardian and all the bystanders, questions V.A.Smith

Hemu’s father refuse to convert to Islam

After Hemu’s death an unsuccessful attempt was made to capture his wife and she escaped to the jungle of Bejawada. Hemu’s aged father was captured and brought before Nasir-al-Mulk who asked him to convert to Islam. Hemu’s father answered that for eighty years he has been worshipping his god and why should he change it now that too merely from fear of losing life. He was immediately killed.

Greatest of the Great

Rana Pratap and Shivaji defied the Moghuls and won an everlasting fame. No doubt they were great, but Hemu was greater still as he occupied the throne of Delhi; the choicest treasure of India which is considered a rare thing achieved by a Hindu during medieval times. Also, unlike Rana Pratap and Shivaji, Hemu did not had a martial background or like Rana Pratap inherited a kingdom nor like Shivaji had a father who was a high-ranking military officer in the court of Bijapur. Hemu by sheer merit and personality without any advantage of birth or fortune dominated the political stage of north India during the heydays of Muslim rule in India. Hence Raoji Nemchand Shah opines that Hemu deserves to be remembered for all times not because he was a monarch of Delhi but because he had the courage and nobility and had set an example that Hindus are not easily threatened and that they too can conquer and defeat the Moghuls. In the words of K.R.Qanungo, no Hindu had ever been covered with so many glorious wounds on the field of battle except Maharana Sanga and no Rajput wielded the sword so bravely against foreign invaders as this humble Hindu of Rewari did on the field of Panipat. It was not easy to command the Afghans and the Turks who were religious fanatics. Moreover, the Afghan nobles were highly individualistic and fiercely loyal towards their respective tribes. If at all they worked under Hemu, it was because he was sagacious, courageous, confident and possessed administrative skills and leadership qualities. Despaired due to continuous brutal subjugation by successive Muslim rulers of Delhi, Hindus saw a silver lining in Hemu. If not for an accident in the battle which turned victory into defeat, Hemu might have founded a Hindu ruling dynasty instead of the Moghuls in Delhi. If he had succeeded, the history of India would have been different but destiny proved otherwise.

A forgotten Hero

Hemu who was born in humble life, made his way to the throne of Delhi by dint of sheer ability and military skill- a unique episode in the history of India during Muslim rule. Unfortunately, Hemu’s history has been written almost wholly by his enemies who dreaded him most and far from doing justice to his greatness, they have tarnished his name. According to Jadunath Sarkar Hemu’s honesty and devotion to the interests of the state and his strictness in putting down slack and corrupt public servants antagonised the degenerate old official nobility and his memory has been blackened by their false aspersion and the partisan writings of Akbar’s court flatterers. Hence R.C.Majumdar opines that it is time to resuscitate the memory and give a true account of the life of Hemu, really a great hero, whose dreams and achievements have been forgotten by his countrymen.


  • R.C.Majumdar- Himu: A Forgotten Hindu Hero in The History and Culture of the Indian People, The Mughul Empire, vol vii, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan
  • Jadunath Sarkar – Military History of India, Calcutta, 1960
  • K.R. Qanungo – Sher Shah and his Times, Orient Longmans Limited, 1965
  • Kripal Chandra Yadav – Maharaja Hema Chandra, A Profile in Haryana: Studies in History and Culture, Kurukshetra University, 1968
  • Vincent A Smith – The Death of Hemu in 1556, after the battle of Panipat, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, July, 1916
  • Raoji Nemchand Shah – Shah Hemu Vikramaditya, the Emperor of India, Bharatiya Vidya vol x, 1949
  • A.L.Srivatsava – The Mughul Empire, Shivlal Agarwal & Co, Agra, 1959
  • H.A.Phadke – Haryana: Ancient and Medieval, Harman Publishing House, New Delhi, 1990

A brief account of the Naga tribe, Naga royal families and the Naga cult

The Nagas were a powerful and wide-spread people who appear to have been living in different parts of India from very early times. From Kashmir, Tibet or Nepal to the Malabar and Konkan coast in the south; from Gujrat to Bengal and Assam; from Ceylon to Java, Sumatra and Cambodia, there are very few places indeed where we do not meet frequently with individual or local names of which the word Naga forms a part, or where the ruling dynasty is not believed sometimes to have been associated with a Naga clan.

Origin of the Naga tribe

In the early period of Indian civilization people were divided into totem-groups. In Sanskrit literature we find such totem-names as the Vanaras – the monkey tribe, the Ajas – the goat tribe, the Vrshnis – the ram tribe, the Matsyas – the fish tribe, the Garudas – the kite tribe and the Nagas – the serpent tribe, etc. Of these, the Nagas seems to have been widely prevalent as we find them in historic times occupying the north-east, the north-west, the central and the south Indian provinces.

The Sanskrit word Naga means a snake. In post-Vedic early Sanskrit literature the Nagas are referred to as a class of semi divine being with their bodies half-man and half-snake and classed along with other semi divine being like Kinnaras, Gandharvas and Yakshas. They are described as possessing immense wealth, living in luxurious and magnificent cities in the neither region and their women noted for their enrapturing beauty and charm. The Nagas were martial, matriarchal and seafaring people. Holding both banks of the great river Sindhu, the Nagas along with Asuras must have access to the sea from a very early period. The churning of ocean is an allegorical description of sea borne commerce in its early days and Mandara mountain, said to have been used in the churning process represented a ship.

Children of Kashyapa and Kadru

According to the Puranas the race of the Nagas is said to have sprung from Kadru, the wife of sage Kashyapa. They inhabited Patala (the regions below the earth) or a portion of it called Nagaloka of which the capital is Bhogavati. The Nagas supported both the Devas (Manavas) and the Asuras depending upon their relations with them. Sesha and Vasuki Nagas were the allies of Vishnu. In Rigveda there is reference to Naga rishis like Arbudkadraveya Naga (Rig Veda 10/94), Jatakarna Erwata (Rig Veda 10/76) and Sarprajni (Rig Veda 10/183) who composed hymns.

In Buddhist scriptures the Nagas are depicted as a highly civilized race and many of them converted by the Buddha to his faith. The erection of ancient monuments is attributed to them for they were regarded as clever architects and artificers. They are spoken as the custodians of the relics of the Buddha.

Patala or Rasatala, the abode of Nagas

The abode of the Nagas is said to be Rasatala and its capital was Bhogavati. According to Nundolal Dey, the Nagas were Huns living in Rasatala, which is the Sanskritised form of Rasa – tele, the valley of the Rasa or the Jaxartes. Hence Rasatala is a place situated on the north and west of the Hindukush mountains and it comprised the valley of Oxus and Jaxartes. The capital of the Nagas, Bhogavati is a Sanskritised form of Bakhadhi mentioned in the Avesta which was the ancient name of Balkh.

Original inhabitants of Kashmir

According to Nilamata Purana, the first occupants of Kashmir were the Nagas who were living in the mountains surrounding the lake Satisar (lake of Sati) and their king was Nila. The valley of Kashmir was once a big lake and was drained by Lord Shiva and Kashyapa was asked to people the land thus claimed and Kashyapa is said to have settled the Nagas in Kashmir valley. A demon Jaladbhava (born of water) was living inside a vast lake Satisar and killing the Nagas living in the mountains. The Nagas appealed to sage Kashyapa who drained the lake and Vishnu killed the demon. Hence the valley that emerged from under the water was Kashmir, a name said to be the corrupt form of Kashyappur or Kashyap Mar.

Matrimonial alliance with other tribes

The Nagas were living in the Vindhya region and were constantly at war with their traditional enemy, the Gandharvas. Later Ikshavaku king, Purukutsa, son of Mandhata sided with the Nagas and defeated the Gandharvas and married a Naga princess, Narmada.

Later the Haihaya king Kartavirya Arjuna captured Mahishamati from the Karkotaka Nagas and made it his capital. During the Mahabharata period we have reference to Aryaka, a Naga chief who was the grand-father of Sura, the king of Surasenas. Sura was the father of Kunti and Vasudeva, the latter being the father of Sri Krishna. Arjuna had married Ulupi the daughter of a Naga king at the foot of the Himalayas near Haridwar and had a son Iravan. Later he married Chitrangada, daughter of Chitravahana, the Naga king of Manipur by whom he had a son Bhabruvahana.

Nagas invade Hastinapura

Taking advantage of the weakened condition of the Pauravas as the result of the Mahabharata war, Takshaka king of Nagas marched against Hastinapura and king Parikshit died in an attempt to check their advance. However, M.S.Mate give a different version for the conflict between the Nagas and the Pauravas. The region of Khandavprastha was the home of the Nagas and Dhritarashtra allotted the land between Yamuna and Khandavprastha to Pandavas and in order to acquire space for their capital, Arjuna and Krishna set fire to the forest and it destroyed not only trees but also numerous Naga inhabitants. Parikshit also attempted to acquire some forest land for expansion of the capital and this led to a dispute with the Nagas and Parikshit lost his life. Parikshit son Janamejaya to avenge his father’s death invaded Takshashila and slaughtered countless Nagas. It was through intercession of Astika (Astika was the son of Janatkaru, (sister of Vasuki, the king of Nagas) and sage Jaratkaru) that Janamejaya stopped this slaughter. Takshaka appears to have escaped safely. This slaughter of innumerable Nagas has been mythologized into the sarpasatra (snake sacrifice) of Janamejaya.

Naga Royal families in historic period

The existence of the Nagas in different parts of India in the earliest and medieval period is evidenced not only by epigraphic, numismatic and literary records but also by numerous localities named after the Nagas and a large number of families including many royal houses with the cognomen Naga. According to scholars one of the earliest historical Naga royal lines was the dynasties represented by Shishunaga and Naga Darshaka kings of Magadha.

The Bharasiva Nagas of Padmavati

The Nagas began their political career sometime the close of the 2nd century A.D. and emerging into prominence when the foreign Kushana power was disintegrating, succeeded in driving them out from the Gangetic valley. The Naga house probably originated at Vidisha in east Malwa from where they moved to the north up to Padmavati, Kantipuri and Mathura and were on of the leading powers in ousting the Kushanas from the Gangetic valley. Vrisha was the first prominent Naga ruler of Padmavati and was followed by some eleven rulers, the last being Ganapati Naga exterminated by Samudra Gupta. The Vakataka record mention Maharaja Bhavanaga as the maternal grand-father of Rudrasena I, whose grand-son was a contemporary of Chandragupta. According to A.S.Altekar, this Bhavanaga belonged to the Bharasivas Naga family of Padmavati and must have flourished from 310-345 A.D. The Bharasiva Nagas were one of the most important powers that flourished on the ruins of the Kushana empire. According to K.P. Jayaswal, the Naga rulers became the leaders of a movement for freedom from the Kushan rule and revival of Hinduism. They revived Ashvamedha sacrifice after a lapse of some four centuries, popularised the nagara style of architecture and restored the sanctity of river Ganga and made worthy to be sculptured at the doors of the temples of the Vakatakas and the Guptas as a symbol of purity.

The rise of the Guptas saw the end of Naga dynasties and the Allahabad Pillar Inscription mention that Samudra Gupta exterminated Naga rulers like Ganapatinaga and Nagasena.

Nagas in Central India

The next important revival of the Nagas particularly in central India seems to date about 9th century A.D. In 800 A.D., Maharaja Tivaradeva of Sripura in Kosala most probably defeated a Naga tribe. Sometimes after this period we also note two references to Nagas in the inscriptions of Bengal. The Ramganj record of Mahamandalika Ishvara Ghosha introduces us to a Ghosha Naga family of Dekkari which was to be assigned to 11th century A.D. The Bhuvaneshvara Prashasti of Bhatta Bhavadeva, the minister of Harivarmadeva in 12th century A.D. also refers to destruction of Naga kings by him. It was in the period 10th to 12th century A.D. that the different branches of the Sendraka, Sinda or Chindaka family which called themselves Lords of Bhogavati and Nagavamshi gradually spread themselves over different portions of central India particularly Bastar.

Naga Royal families in the South

After their fight with the Haihayas, one set of Nagas went to Assam and the rest to Kerala. Later they assisted Parashurama in his fight against Kartavirya Arjuna. The Keralotpatti says that Brahmanas settled by Parashurama in Kerala were driven out by the Nagas and Parashurama resettled the Brahmanas after conciliating with the Nagas by giving some lands to them and by making Brahmanas take to their system of serpent worship. In south India Kerala was the headquarters of the Nagas and Naga worship still prevails here and, in the garden, attached to the houses of the Nayar community a sarpa kavu that is a Naga shrine is invariably found.

According to Kanakasabhai Pillai, the earliest inhabitants of south India were the Villavar (bowmen) and Minavar (fishermen) and they were conquered by the Nagas and only later south India was occupied by the Dravidians. It is also said that in the course of time the Nagas were subdued in course of time by the powerful kings from the north and eventually lost their individuality by intermarriage with the foreigners. The Pallava king Vira Kurcha married a Naga princess. Killi Chola married the Naga maiden Pilivalai, the daughter of Valaivanan. From the evidence of early Tamil works it appears that Puhar, the Chola capital at the mouth of river Kaveri was in more ancient times the capital of the Nagas.

It is believed that the Shatavahanas were Brahmanas with a admixture of Naga blood. The Naga connection is suggested by names like Naganika and Skanda Naga Shataka.

However, Karunakana Gupta says that the mere use of Naga symbols or the use of the appellation Naga in their nomenclature does not justify our identification of any particular dynasty with the Naga kula (tribe). This is because many dynasties which described themselves as Naga kulas did not necessarily use the word Naga as part of their names, for instance the Ghosha dynasty of Bengal. Also, those dynasties not belonging to the Naga kula issued coins with Naga symbols.

Assimilation of the Nagas

From the end of the first millennium references to Nagas, Naga ruling families and Naga rulers become extremely rare. In the early part of 20th century scholars who showed interest in documenting the various tribes/races of India or census reports failed to mention the Nagas except those living in the North-East. (The Nagas of North-East are of Mongolian origin and their beliefs, customs shows that they are in no way even remotely connected to the Nagas mentioned in ancient Indian literature). This shows that the original Nagas were assimilated into the Hindu fold and they were probably given the status of Kshatriya caste. The Nagas were assigned important roles into Hindu iconography via Hindu mythology. Shesha Nag became the bed of Vishnu while Vasuki was coiled around Shiva’s neck.

The Naga cult

Snake worship was the earliest form of religion prevalent among men in all parts of the globe as serpents are indigenous almost everywhere. The chief factor in the universality of this phase of superstition is the dread inspired by a mysterious creeping creature; silent and stealthy in its movements and able to cause almost instantaneous death by merely pricking the skin of its adversary. Thus, the Naga cult originated due to the fear of snake bite. Buddha also figures as advising the Bhikshus to worship the royal families of the Nagas to get protection against snake bite. The Naga cult probably arose among the cave-dwellers of the hill country and later in south India was coalesced with that of Murugan who was identified with Subramanya of the Vedic people.

Archaeological evidence of Naga cult

The earliest evidence of the serpent cult in India has been reported from the archaeological excavation at Chirand, a Neolithic site in Bihar. Among the host of terracotta figurines of animals and birds found at Chirand the discovery of the terracotta figurine of a snake is very significant. This terracotta figurine has been identified as the earliest representation of the serpent cult dating back to the early part of the third millennium B.C. Some form of Naga worship was also practised at Harappa as among the finds there we find a clay amulet which depicts a snake before a low stool on which some offering perhaps milk is placed. A faience tablet shows a seated deity, worshipped on either side by a kneeling man. Over the head of the deity a cobra with head raised and hood expanded is shown. A snake appears on painted pottery. These representations indicate that the cult of snake veneration was prevalent in Harappa.

Ahi Budhnya acquires divine status

In the Rig Veda Vritra is represented as one of the most powerful enemies of Indra and the Devas and identified with Ahi or the serpent. Towards the end of the Rigvedic period the snake god is absorbed in the Vedic pantheon in the form of Ahi Budhnya. Hence U.N.Mukerjee argues that Naga worship as we know it today originated in the Vedic period and reference to Ahi Budhnya the serpent of the deep has been made twelve times in the Rigveda itself. This Ahi Budhnya is a divine being and is invoked to rejoice and gladden the hearts of his worshippers. His blessing is desired as a boon for suppliants.

In the Atharva Veda and the later Samhitas, serpents appear as semi-divine beings and in the Asvalayana Grihya Sutras the divine serpents have been for the first time termed as Nagas. Sarpabali or sacrifice to the serpents is distinctly laid down here and the ritual has been described in detail in this sutra. The Naga was regarded sometimes as the spirit of the departed ancestor and sometimes as the guardian of treasures in later times. Probably the serpent worship was so popular that not only Shaivism, but also Vaishnavism, Buddhism and even Jainism had to admit the serpent in a subordinate capacity in their own religious system. Many Naga images have been found in Mathura, Rajagriha and other places. Most of the Naga images found at Mathura belong to the Kushana period. The Nagas were propitiated for progeny and for healing diseases particularly loathsome one like leprosy, sores, etc.

The important Nagarajas

Eight lords of the Nagas are mentioned in the Agamas, the chief of those is Ananta or Shesha or Adisesha on whose fold Lord Vishnu is supposed to sleep. In an inscription of the 12th century A.D. (Madras Epigraphical Report for 1910, page 117, para 60) the eight Nagas, Sesha, Vasuki, Takshaka, Karkotaka, Abja (Padma), Mahambuja (Maha Padma) Sankhadhara and Kulika are invoked to decide about the auspicious or inauspicious nature of the grant.

Among the Nagarajas, Shesha or Ananta figures first. Eldest among the children of Kadru he is the chief of the Nagas. He became an ascetic and sought refuge in penance. He is also associated with Varaha or Adivaraha, an incarnation of Vishnu. Next to Shesha is Vasuki who is associated with Lord Shiva and is represented as hanging freely around his neck. The cult of Vasuki is very popular in regions like Gujarat, the Delhi area and in the valley of western Himalayas. Similarly, the worship of Naga Karkotaka is popular in Nepal, Kashmir and parts of Uttar Pradesh. A dynasty of kings who ruled over Kashmir for about two centuries from 7th to 9th trace their descent from Naga Karkotaka. Another popular Nagaraja is Takshaka who has a shrine near Naoli in Madhya Pradesh and is worshipped along with Dhanvantri, the tutelary deity of Hindu medicine.

Naga Pratishtana

In south India the Naga Pratishtana rites are performed wherein a cobra (Naga) is engraved on a granite stone and consecrated in temples and other places on a specially prepared platform (Naga Katte) under the shade of the pipal and the margosa trees. A ceremony called ‘the marriage of the pipal tree’ is performed amidst great rejoicing. The connection of the Nagas with the pipal and margosa trees is evidently a relic of the ancient tree and serpent worship.

Naga Panchami, the festival of Nagas

Naga Panchami the great festival of snakes is celebrated all over India on the fifth day of the Hindu month of Shravana (July-August) in honour of the sons of Kadru who were believed to be born on the fifth day of the Shravana. On that day women offer flowers and fix incense sticks at snake holes (ant hills) and pour milk into them.

The famous serpent temple of India

Kumara, Muruga or Subramanya has close association with the snake and the most famous serpent temple of India situated in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka is itself called Subramanya. Subramanya is an appellant of the serpent king Sesha in south India. In the Hindu month of Margashira (November-December) an annual festival called Subramanya Shashti or Kukka Shashti takes place where people of all caste participate. Here a dance ritual called Nagamandala takes place in honour of the snake god. This dance accompanied by music takes place round about a huge mandala which is a design drawn on floor in coloured rangoli depicting an enormous snake coiled and entwined.

The names – Nagaraja, Nagamani which Hindus of present day keep, place names like Nagpur, Nagapattanam which exists even today in India and the celebration of festival like Naga Panchami all over India shows the strong legacy left by the once Naga community, one among the inhabitants of ancient India.


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  • K.Shivaram Karanth – Dance rituals of Kanara, QJMS, vol- XLVIII, 1957-58
  • Nundolal Dey – Rasatala or the Underworld, Calcutta, 1927
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Varuna, the pre-eminent God during the formative Vedic religion

The adherents of Vedic religion had classified their gods under three spheres namely aerial, celestial and terrestrial. Judging the popularity of the gods on the basis of the number of hymns addressed to them, Indra, the god belonging to aerial sphere comes first followed by Agni and Soma. But during the early phase of the Vedic religion, Varuna though celebrated only in ten hymns reigned supreme among the gods worshipped by the Vedic people. The reason for this was because Varuna, a god belonging to the celestial sphere symbolised the sky. The sky pours water and bring life in the vegetation. The sky holds the sun, the moon and the stars and brings the day by bringing the sun out from beneath the sea. So, the Varuna or the sky was adored as a great deity. In the next stage of evolution, we find the pantheon comprises of two gods, the Varuna and the Mithra. The Mithra is the sun and the usherer of the day and giver of light and life. From this time onwards the dual deity Mithra-Varuna came to be the favourite god of the Vedic people and there are about 23 hymns in the Rigveda addressed to Mithra-Varuna together. Both Mithra and Varuna are spoken of as righteous and promoters of religion.

A Universal Monarch

In the Rigveda, Varuna is called king of both gods and men. He is a universal monarch (samraj) with several epithets like ‘asura’, ‘mayin’, ‘rtavan’, ‘dhrtavrata’, etc. As an upholder of the physical and moral order, Varuna has attributes of a higher moral character than any other gods and hence men call upon him for pardon and purity. He is the upholder of ordinances which are fixed and unassailable. The Varuna hymns which are predominantly ethical and devout in tone give us the most exalted poetry in the Rigveda. In the Mahabharata and the Puranas, Varuna is referred as the son of Aditi and called lokapala. His father sage Kashyapa installed him in the west as the ruler of all directions, aquatic animals and waters. Varuna is also called Pracetas, Amburaja, Jalapati, Uddhama, Yadahpati, Viloma and his vahana (vehicle) is Makara (crocodile). Varuna is also worshipped for the sake of rain. There are two special reasons for Varuna’s connection with water- the first one is his characteristic punishment for the wrongdoer is dropsy- which is formation of water in the cavities inside the middle region of the body and second reason is the setting sun whose presiding deity is Varuna, appears to go down into the sea.

Identified with Serpent God

According to Manomohan Ghosh, Varuna originally was a serpent god and Varuna panchami described in Nilamata Purana is in reality identified with the festival of Nagas, Nagapanchami. Varuna has been mentioned as Nagaraja in Buddhist works like Mahavyutpatti and the Jatakas. In a Napalese legend also Varuna appears as a great Naga.

Varuna cult superseded by Indra cult

The Varuna cult in the Vedic religion is more ancient than the Indra cult. With regards to the evolution of the Indra cult R.N.Dandekar opines that Indra was a human hero who attained godhood by virtue of his miraculous exploits of defeating the sworn enemies of Devas (Manavas) that is the Asuras. A critical study of the Rigveda shows that there are three distinct phases of relation between the ancient Varuna religion and the new Indra religion. Some passages in Rigveda glorify Varuna as the world sovereign which represent the first phase. In the second phase we find hymns in the Rigveda which clearly indicate that Varuna religion was being pushed into the background and the Indra religion was aggressively coming to the forefront. We find hymns which refer to Agni abandoning Varuna and going over to Indra. In the third phase the followers of Varuna tried to bring about an honourable compromise between the two religions. They argued that after victory is won by the war god Indra, Varuna is needed to establish law and order and thier slogan was Indra conquers and Varuna rules. This attempt to compromise was made particularly by the Vasishtas. Though superseded by Indra, Varuna continued to be the deity for whom rituals were held for the expiation of faults. In Atharvaveda, Varuna is conceived of as a God who chastises the sinners as well as pardons those who ask for forgiveness.

Mazdaism inspired by Varunaism

Manmohan Ghosh opines that the cult of Varuna was carried to Iran sometimes in the Vedic age or before and Zarathustra’s conception of Ahura Mazdah was inspired by Varuna’s cult minus some of its unacceptable features like human sacrifice. As we know the Shunashepa legend recorded in the Aitareya Brahmana points to human sacrifice offered to Varuna. Zarathustra suppressed the name of Varuna as it was associated with bloody rites like human sacrifice and applied to his Supreme deity the generic name of Asura (Ahura), the title of Varuna with Mazdah (the wise).

Varuna identified with Supreme Reality

There are about eleven hymns in Rigveda in which Indra and Varuna have been invoked together. In these hymns Indra and Varuna are called the two monarchs of the universe who are called upon to render assistance in battle and grant victory. According to Usha Choudhuri, in the Vedic vision as well as in the entire subsequent thought, the bright aspect (Sathvika) of the Reality is considered to be the Supreme. As Indra represented the bright aspect, the Purusha, in comparison to Prakriti represented by Varuna, the former gained supremacy over the latter. From the philosophical point of view, Indra and Varuna when explained on microcosmic lines represent the Jivatman and the Kundalini Shakti respectively; that is, one is consciousness (soul) and the other is the gross form of consciousness (body). Thus, Indra and Varuna represent the positive and negative aspects of the cosmic reality. This positive and negative aspect are complementary to each other and at the same time identical with the Supreme Reality.


  • Swami Sankaranand- RGVedic Culture of the Pre-historic India, Vol-II, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, Calcutta, 1944
  • Usha Choudhuri- Indra and Varuna in Indian Mythology, Nag Publishers, Delhi, 1981
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  • Manomohan Ghosh – Varuna : His Identification, The Indian Historical Quarterly, vol -xxxv, December 1959, no-4

Kampila Deva, the First Hindu chief to challenge the mighty Delhi Sultans

Normally when we think of Hindu kings who fought against the tyranny of Muslim rulers in India, the names of Rana Sangram, Rana Pratap and Shivaji comes to our mind. But much before these rulers, a ruler of a small principality in Karnataka which flourished for a period of only fifteen years challenged the mighty and ruthless Sultans of Delhi that too with limited resources and refused to submit before them and preferred death to dishonour. This lion-hearted ruler was Kampila Deva who was assisted by his equally valiant son Kumara Rama.

The origin of the Kingdom

The kingdom of Kampili came into existence during the troublous years of the fourteenth century when south India had to face a series of Muhammadan invasion under the leadership of the Khilji and Tughlaq sultans of Delhi. Mummadi Singa, a nobleman working under Ramachandra, the Sevuna ruler of Devagiri established the kingdom of Kampili probably around 1306-07. It was during that period that Devagiri was captured by Malik Kafur, who sent its ruler Ramachandra to Delhi to pay obeisance to the Sultan. The history of Kampili as an independent kingdom must have commenced in 1313 after the death of Shankara Deva, son of Ramachandra who had succeeded to the Devagiri throne after the latter’s death in 1312. In the beginning the principality of Kampili was limited in extent and extended a few square miles of land around Kummata. Mummadi Singa was ruling from Doravadi in Kurugodunadu which corresponds to the Bellary and Hospet taluks of Bellary district in Karnataka state. Mummadi Singa probably died in 1314 and was followed by his son Kampila Deva.

Expansion of the kingdom under Kampila Deva

Kampila Deva was born to his queen Mahanayakiti (Manchale Devi) after long prayers to God Someshvara of Kampili. Under Kampila Deva’s rule the kingdom was extended and it included large parts of Bellary, Chitradurga, Raichur, parts of Ananthpur, Shimoga and Dharwad districts. The capital of the kingdom appears to have and been shifted constantly owing probably to the extension of the territory and the requirement of strategy. The earliest was Kampili, two and half miles to the east of Hampi. Kummata and Hosadurga also were their important power centres. After the death of Sevuna Ramachandra in 1312, his son Shankara Deva defied Delhi’s rule and as a result Alauddin Khilji sent his general Malik Kafur to subdue him and in 1313 Shankara Deva attained martyrdom. Later Malik Kafur took steps to bring into submission the feudatories of the Sevunas who did not accept Delhi’s suzerainty and that included the ruler of Kampili. Malik Kafur laid siege to Kummata for a week but as he was recalled returned to Delhi. After the death of Harapala the last Sevuna ruler in 1318, Kampila Deva claimed its right over tracts of territory of the Sevunas on the basis of being their one time subordinate. This led to war with the Hoysalas and trice in 1320, 1321 and 1325 both fought without any party gaining any decisive advantage. Kampila Deva had several wives of which the famous Kumara Rama was born to his queen Hariyala Devi after prayers to Jatinga Rama.

Defied Muhammadan authority

Kampila Deva was actively hostile towards the Tughlaq from the beginning. He is said to have demolished the imperial palanquin which was sent with the officers of the imperial state for demanding tributes and chastised the chiefs who attempted to avenge the insults heaped upon the Sultan. Kampila Deva also gave shelter to fugitives who fled the from Warangal after it was captured by the Turks.

The reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq as Sultan of Delhi saw widespread rebellions. His own cousin Bahauddin Garshasp, the governor of Sagar who had some personal grievances against the Sultan, laid claim to the Delhi throne and revolted in 1326. Muhammad ordered Malik Ahmad Ayaz, the governor of Gujarat and Majir-Abu-Rija, governor of Devagiri to deal with Garshasp and he was defeated somewhere on the banks of Godavari. Garshasp then retreated to his fort at Sagar and was pursued by his enemies. Seeing his chances of success bleak, he fled towards Kampili kingdom with his wives and children and begged Kampila Deva to offer him protection. Kampila Deva promised him protection even if by this act he brought death upon himself and ruin upon his kingdom. Meanwhile Muhammad had taken the field in person and had come to Devagiri and hearing the news of the defeat of Garshasp and his flight to Kampili, he ordered the destruction of the kingdom of Kampili. But the task was not so easy as he expected it to be.

Defeated the imperial army twice

Muhammad bin Tughlaq had to send three expeditions against the ruler of Kampili before he could subdue it. The first one was led by Malik Ruknuddin who besieged Kummata. Kampila Deva’s two sons Katanna and Ramanatha fell upon them and the Muslim forces suffered heavy losses both in men and material and Malik Ruknuddin had to retreat.

The defeat suffered by Ruknuddin lowered the prestige of the imperial army and broke the spell of the invicibility of the might of Islam. The second expedition was led by Qutbul Mulk and once again Kummata was besieged. Kumara Rama charged the Muslims and unable to bear the vigorous onslaught of Ramanatha most of the Muslim officers were slain or taken prisoners and this led Qutbul Mulk to flee. The Sultan felt humiliated of a second defeat and then despatched a third expedition under Ahmad Ayaz Malik Zada, one of the ablest of his officer who laid siege to Kummata which lasted for over two months. Though Kampila Deva came out of the fort and tried to fight they were defeated and had to return back to the fort. When Kampila Deva found Kummata could not be defended he resolved to abandon it and retire to Hosadurga. He slipped out of Kummata along with Bahauddin Gurshasp to Hosadurga. But there he found difficulty in feeding thousands of non-combatants and therefore retaining 5000 ordered others to evacuate the town. Malik Zada after taking Kummata arrived at Hosadurga. Scarcity of food and other provisions forced Kampila Deva to send Gurshasp to the care of Ballala III and make final preparation for facing the enemy.

Preferred death to dishonour

To protect the honour of his womenfolk who if captured would be dishonoured by the Muslim soldiery Kampila Deva commanded a huge pyre to be erected in front of the palace and invited his wife, daughters and other women of the royal family to enter it. They readily agreed and after taking bath, applied sandal wood paste on their bodies, kissed the ground, bowed before Kampila Deva and threw themselves upon the fire. The wives and daughters of the nobles, ministers and chief men of the Kingdom followed their example.

Then Kampila Deva ordered the opening of the gates of the fort and advanced upon the enemy and caused havoc in their ranks until at lost overcome by weariness and numerous wounds dropped dead. His head was severed from the body and stuffed with straw and sent to the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq. His sons Kumara Rama and Katanna also perished fighting against the Turks. Kampili was annexed and Malik Muhammad was appointed as its governor. Soon after the fall of Kampili, Baichappa, who had been the prime minister of Kampili kingdom under Mummadi Singa and Kampila Deva took measures to safeguard the wealth of Kampili including its golden throne and later helped Vidyaranya and Harihara in the establishment of Vijayanagara empire. The golden throne of Kampili was passed to the Vijayanagara rulers.

Was it a Sacrifice for a futile cause?

It should be noted that Bahauddin Garshasp was one among the numerous Turk nobles who came to south India to wage war against the Hindu kingdoms. Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s suppression of Garshasp’s rebellion would had decreased one Turk noble whose hands had been strained with the blood of numerous Hindus who had fought to protect their independence. Hence the chivalrous act of Kampila Deva unnecessarily culminated in the end of a Hindu kingdom ruled by a valiant king like him and ended in the life of his equally valorous son Kumara Rama. Instead of involving himself in the mutual fights between the Turks, Kampila Deva could have had used his energy to drive them out of south India. But the sacrifice of Kampila Deva, his son and his followers did not go in vain for in the ruins of the kingdom of Kampili rose the mighty Hindu empire of Vijayanagara. Kampila Deva was the forerunner among the rulers of south India who fought against the Turks tyranny and rulers like Ballala III, Kapaya Nayaka and Sangama brothers followed his footsteps resulting in the annihilation of the Muslim rule in south India by 1378.

Immortalised in folklore

Several centuries have passed since the martyrdom of Kampila Deva and his son Kumara Rama. But the heroic deeds of this father and son duo have become legendary and are preserved in folklore.


K.Abhishankar edited – Bellary District Gazetteer, 1972

K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, N.Venkataramanayya – Further Sources of Vijayanagara History, University of Madras, 1946

N.Venkataramanyya- The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, University of Madras, 1942

M.H.Rama Sharma – The History of the Vijayanagar Empire, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1956

M.H.Rama Sharma – Studies in Vijayanagara History, Quarterly Journal of Mythic Society, vol XX, October 1929, No.2

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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