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Vijayanagar, the capital of one of the largest Hindu empires ever, was founded by Sangama dynasty princes Harihara and Bukka in 1336. Its power peaked under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29), when it controlled nearly the whole of the peninsula south of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. Comparable to Delhi in the 14th century, the city, with an estimated population of half a million, covered 33 sq km and was surrounded by several concentric lines of fortification. Its wealth derived from the control of spice trade and the cotton industry. Its busy bazaars, described by travelers such as Portuguese Nunez and Paes, were centers of international commerce. The empire collapsed after the battle of Talikota in 1565 when the city was ransacked by the confederacy of Deccan sultans (Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar), thus opening up southern India for Muslim conquest.
The ruins are set in a strange and beautiful boulder strewn landscape with an almost magical quality. The undisputed highlight, the 16th century Vittala Temple, is a World Heritage Monument. Started by Krishnadevaraya, it was never finished or consecrated; its incredible sculptural work is the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art. The outer pillars are known as musical pillars as they reverberate when tapped. An ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard containing an image of Garuda. [- Adapted from Lonely Planet India, 1999]
[--VS Naipaul, An Area of Darkness, p218, 1962-64]
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