Vijayanagara Empire was found by Harihara I. His reign might have ended after 1357. However, before he died he nominated his brother Bukka to succeed him. Harihara and Bukka were the sons of Sangama. They were first at the service of Prataparuda II. They gave up Islam and proceeded to set up an independent Hindu state. The general view is that his anti-Islamic movements disturbed the loyalty of the brothers to the sultan and the idea to serve their country and their ancestral religion arose. But because of their Muslim faith they were at first not accepted by the people. They then followed a policy of conciliation which pacified the people. Harihara and Bukka met the sage Vidyaraya and were enlightened by his teachings. They returned to the Hindu fold and accepted the mission of upholding the Hindu cause against the Islam.
It appears that ironically the two trusted Muslim lieutenants turned out to be the founder of the greatest Hindu states of the History. They founded a city opposite to Anegondi on the southern bank of Tungabhadra and named it Vijayanagara or ‘the city of victory’ and Vidhyanagara or ‘the city of learning’. Harihara’s coronation occurred in proper Hindu customary rituals on 18th April 1336. The capital of Vijayanagara was Gutti.
This great empire resisted the onslaughts of Islam and took up the cause of Hindu civilization and culture in the south and attempted to preserve the ancient tradition of the country and its policy and art.
Bukka I ruled for 20 years upto 1377. They were in constant wars with the Bahamani Sultans. Bukka’s most notable act was to send an embassy to China at the Ming Dynasty.
His son Kumara Kampana overthrew Madura Sultanate and was assisted by generals Gopana and Saluva Mangu. Kampana ruled as a viceroy in the southern region of the empire. He conquered Sambuvarayas and was able to enlist them in his campaign against Madura Muslims. Kampana died in 1374.
Bukka I was succeeded by his son Harihara II. Harihara II ruled for twenty seven years and was able to consolidate the supremacy of Vijayanagara Empire all over South India. The territory was extended in all directions. The ports of Goa, Chaul, Dabhol were annexed from the Muslims. The northern frontier of their empire was the river Krishna. Nellore and parts of Guntur too came under their possessions. An expedition by Virupaksha, Harihara II’s son took him to Ceylon. The Vijayanagara Empire had several wars and traditional rivalry with the Bahamani kingdom. Another such war took place in 1398-9, in which the army of Harihara II was pursued by Firuz, from the banks of Krishna. A large scale slaughter of Hindu population took place.
After the death of Harihara II in 1404, there were disputed between his sons for the throne. At first Virupaksha succeeded in securing the throne, but was ousted by Bukka II for two years. Afterwards, Devaraya I became the king.
The city of Vijayanagara was extended and walls and towers were raised for fortification. Even the construction of a huge dam in the Tungabhadra River is said to be done by them.
When Devaraya died in 1422 his son Ramacharana took over for some months. It was then followed by his brother Vira Vijaya Raya, who is said to have reigned for five years. Vijayaraya was succeeded by his son Devaraya II who was also known as ‘Gajabhetakara’ i.e. the Hunter of Elephants. Devaraya conquered Kondavidu and invaded Gajapati, a kingdom of Orissa. However, before any hostilities could proceed, Allada Redi of Rajahmundry intervened and brought peace between the two.
Devaraya also carried an expedition to Kerala. His long reign came to an end with his death in 1446.He was succeeded by Vijayaraya II and then very shortly by his son Mallikarjuna.
Mallikarjuna was regarded as a weak ruler. His reign was a period of confusion and dissension. He died some time in 1465 and left behind an infant son Rajashekara. But the throne was occupied by Virupaksha II, the son of Pratapadevaraya, younger brother of Devaraya II.
Under his rule large tracts of land were lost to their enemy including Goa Chaul and Dabhol. There was disruption and his central authority declined. Virupaksha II did not prove to a worthy leader. Fortunately enough the disruptions were prevented by the powerful provincial governors, especially, Saluva Narasimha, the ruler of Chandagiri rajya.
Virupaksha II ruled till the middle of 1485 until he was murdered by his eldest don. His younger son, Praudhadevaraya was thus crowned the king, who after accessing the throne ordered the death of the brother who murdered Virupaksha II.
Saluva Narasimha decided to assume the royal title himself in an attempt to save the traditional old kingdom. He hence ordered his general Narasa Nyaka to capture the city and thus Narasimha was raised to be a king. It is held that Narasimha and his supporters saved the empire from disruption.