The emergence of the Vijayanagar Empire was the result of Hindu reaction against the Turkish domination of the Deccan. Towards the end of the thirteenth century, that is, on the eve of Ala-ud-din Khalji’s invasion of the Deccan, the territories south of the Vindhyas were ruled over by four Hindu dynasties.
- The Yadavas of Devagiri ruled over whole of western Deccan from the Tapti to the Krisha,
- The Kakatiyas of Warangal were masters of eastern Deccan.
- The Hoysalas of Duarasamudra and
- The Pandyas of Madura divided between themselves the rest of the peninsula.
Economically all these great Hindu kingdoms were well off and the kings possessed immense riches, gold, silver, diamonds and pearls. Agriculture and commerce were in a flourishing state and the cities were beautiful and were centers of trade and culture. Every South Indian prince spent lavishly on temples and buildings.
Clash of interests of the rival dynasties hindered harmonious progress of the country. The Yadavas fought against the Kakatiyas, the Kakatiyas were at war with the Pandyas, the Pandyas fought with the Hoysalas and the Hoysalas against the Yadavas. This internecine quarrel rendered them weak against the Muslim invaders from the north, yet it took three decades to establish any Muslim hold on the south. The hold of the Central Government on the subordinate Hindu kingdoms of the south was lost almost after each conquest, and they paid tributes to Delhi only when it could be enforced.
In any case the triumph of the Muslims over the south was short lived and when Malik Kafur intrigued to secure supreme power and eventually hastened Ala-ud-din Khalji’s death, and usurped power, the state was plunged into chaos. The Hindu kings of the south took advantage of the situation and immediately asserted their independence. But the set-back in imperial interests was only temporary and with the assassination of Malik Kafur within a short time, the south was recovered to the Delhi Sultanate.
The Hindu princes of the south did not rest in peace; there were repeated attempts at independence and followed by repeated assertion of imperial authority over the south. It was under Muhammad bin Tughluq that the entire peninsula from Tapti to Cape Comorin came under Turkish rule and in 1327 the Sultan decided to transfer his capital from Delhi to Devagiri, renamed by him Daulatabad.
Extension of the Turkish power in the south while disastrous to the Hindus, was lacking in any attempt at organizing a permanent administration.
All this had set the stage for a great revolution among the Hindu kingdoms. Barani and Ferishta give some description of the freedom movement of the Hindu princes of the south. The freedom movement spread westwards to Kampili. Harihara who had earlier taken to Islam reverted to his ancestral faith and asserted his independence and laid the foundation of Vijayanagar under the inspiration of Madhava Vidyaranya, a sage and a scholar.