How Saletore Reconstructed Vijayanagara History

This article is part 7 of 8 in the series B.A. Saletore

Saletore minces no words when he writes that the Hoysala kings who made grants to pay off Jiyza at Varanasi so that Hindu pilgrims could visit in peace was a harbinger of worse things to hit south India: "this compulsory levy only put off the danger for a worse day." Indeed, Hindus had learned nothing until their most sacred Vishwanatha Temple was finally destroyed by Aurangzeb five hundred years later.

On the other side, Saletore writes with undisguised pride that the year 1346 CE witnessed south India "rise out from a period of 68 years of struggle, during which the intrepid hoofs of alien soldiers had defiled the Hindu country." He says in so many words that the Vijayanagara Empire was not only the visible embodiment of national resistance against Muslims but was an unprecedented epoch whose criticality can be gauged in light of Hindu empires that had fallen like ninepins throughout northern India.

The greatest heritage of the Vijayanagara monarchs was creating an atmosphere of goodwill and harmony in an era of political conquests, sectarian hostilities, and intense literary activity.

After centuries of unremitting strife, it is only under the fledgling Vijayanagara power that all Hindus in the south presented a united front for the first time -- chieftains, governors, etc., instead of declaring independence, willingly united under a strong banner.

We can examine a few more such examples from his work. Saletore poses this important question: why was there no revolution against the new Vijayanagara rulers? And he answers it beautifully by detailing out the bloodless transfer of power from the Hoysalas to the Sangama brothers and concludes as follows:

The vanishing Hoysala rulers [and]…the common people realised that the honour of their homes and the destiny of the country were safe in the hands of the descendants of Sangama…especially by understanding the ideal which the founders placed before themselves.

Saletore marshals a wealth of evidence that shows how the Vijayanagara rulers maintained the continuity of the principles which had guided the affairs of the Tamil and Karnataka lands from the dawn of history till the 14th century and took “extreme care with which they introduced any change either in the social or the political sphere."

Perhaps the most central feature and contribution of Saletore’s work on Vijayanagara is this: he was the first scholar to conclusively prove that the Vijayanagara Empire was founded by Kannadigas. The whole section dealing with this aspect is a prodigious feat in which Saletore’s scholarship slaughters a series of Western researchers including
Francis Buchanan, H.H. Wilson, Mark Wilks, Robert Sewell, Vincent Smith, Walter Eliot, and Lewis Rice all of whom attributed non-Kannada origins to the Vijayanagara Empire. Saletore’s tasty evisceration of these Western worthies is in the same the delightful tenor of P.V. Kane who performs a similar scholarly surgery of say, Jolly, Pargiter, Jacobi, Fleet, and Keilhorn.

Saletore finishes this virtuoso performance with words that once again resonate his enduring love, devotion and attachment to the Kannada Desha and its people:

Thus did Karnataka vindicate to the rest of the Hindu world her honour by sending forth a little band of five brothers, who, far from being “a stupid instrument for the renovation and restoration of Hinduism,” stood out, Karnataka by birth and Karnataka in valour, as the champions of all that was worth preserving in Hindu religion and culture.

Now we can quickly examine a few aspects of the density and attention to detail that Saletore’s work contains. In fact, his cultural sensibility shines excellently when he does a brilliant and minute analysis of the Vijayanagara Empire's "flowers, birds, and animals when compared with the principles of the Hindu writers on polity." Then a whole section on horses and elephants apart from its details, is deeply moving in many places.

Equally if not more brilliant is the portion describing town planning, road network, etc. Saletore’s descriptions of the major cities of the Empire actually makes us want to visit them. Then there is something to be said about how Saletore devotes more than fifty pages to arrive at the founding of the city called Vijayanagara. This whole section is a tour de force of scholarship bringing a full range of his erudition that includes astronomy, historical dating, epigraphy, comparative histories, and a sweeping knowledge of several languages both in their old and new forms.

Before moving on to the next topic, here is a tidbit from Saletore’s assessment of the magnanimity and nobility of the Vijayanagara rulers. Writing about the view of the Vijayanagara citizens on paying taxes, this is what Saletore writes:

Thus did the people colour a purely governmental affair--i.e., paying taxes--with the sanctity of a religious obligation.

We can conclude this discussion by giving a first-hand picture of the kind of hardships Saletore had to face while researching the work. Here are his own words:

The kind of work that has gone in for so many decades to reconstruct Vijayanagara History is only a painful testimony to the kind of devastation that occurred. Almost nothing sequential or logical historical material has survived. This is piecemeal reconstruction using multiple sources, multiple perspectives and is still subject to revision and newer discoveries.

And yet, Saletore was able to achieve this magnificent outcome.

Indeed, this is a crying shame even after seventy-five years of attaining an alleged independence: had this Vijayanagara research work pioneered by exemplars like Saletore continued with a pace, passion, dedication and resources it demands, we should've had a comprehensive, if not complete and truthful history of this glorious world-empire in multiple languages.

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...