The Vijayanagara kingdom was founded by Harihara and Bukka of the Sangama dynasty in 1336. At the instance of their guru Vidyaranya, they established their kingdom with its capital at Vijayanagar.
Harihara became the first ruler, and by 1346 the whole of Hoysala kingdom passed into the hands of the Vijayanagara rulers.
Bukka succeeded his brother on the throne of Vijayanagara in 1336 and ruled till 1337. By 1337, the Sultanate of Madurai had been annexed.
The interests of the Vijayanagara rulers and the Bahamani kingdom which had come into existence in 1347, clashed in three separate and distinct areas: in the Tungabhadra doab, in the Krishna- Godavari delta and in the Marathwada country.
The beginning of the Vijayanagar-Bahmani conflict started on a large scale during the reign of Bukka I in 1367. He also sent an embassy to the Emperor of China. Under Harihara II (1377-1406) Vijayananara Empire embarked upon a policy of eastern expansion. He was able to maintain his position in the face of the Bahmani-Warangal combination. He invaded Ceylon.
Deva Raya I (1406-22) was defeated by the Bahmani ruler Firoz Shah in 1407. He had to give his daughter in marriage to Firoz Shah. He defeated the Reddis of Kondavidu and recovered Udayagiri. In 1419, he defeated Firoz Shah.
Deva Raya II (1422-1446) was the greatest ruler of the Sangama dynasty. He began the practice of employing Muslims in the army. He was called Immadi Deva Raya. In his inscriptions he has the title of Gajabetekara (the elephant hunter). Dindima was his court poet. Abdur Razzak of Persia visited his kingdom. Deva Raya II is the author of two Sanskrit works Mahanataka Sudhanidhi and a commentary on the Brahmasutras of Badrayana.
There was confusion in the Vijayanagara Empire after the death of Deva Raya II. Since the rule of primogeniture was not established, there was a series of civil wars among the contenders. After some time, the throne was usurped by the king’s minister Saluva Narsimha and the Saluva dynasty was established.
Saluva dynasty (1486-1505):
Vira Narsimha (1503-04) the regent of Immadi Narasimha, usurped the throne after his assassination and laid the foundation of the Tuluva dynasty in 1505.
Tuluva dynasty (1505-1570):
Vira Narasimha had the title of Bhujabala (1505-09). After his brief reign, he was succeeded by his younger brother Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30 A.D.) who was the greatest ruler of the Vijayanagar Empire. Under him, Vijayanagara emerged as the strongest military power in the south. He defeated the rebellious chiefs of Ummattur, the Gajapatis of Orissa and Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur.
He successfully invaded Gulbarga and Bidar and restored the puppet Sultan Mahmud to the throne. To commemorate this act of restoration he assumed the title of’ Yavanarajya Sthapanacharya’ (The restorer of the Yavana kingdom). He conquered almost the whole of Telangana from the Gajapati king Pratapraudra and the Sultan of Golcunda.
Krishna Deva Raya maintained friendly relations with Albuquerque, the Portuguese governor whose ambassador Friar Luis resided at Vijayanagar. His relations with Portuguese were governed by two factors:
(a) Common enmity with Bijapur.
(b) The supply of imported horses by the Portuguese to Vijayanagar.
Krishna Deva Raya was also a great patron of art and literature, and was known as Andhra Bhoja. He was the author of the Telugu work Amuktamalyada and one Sanskrit work Jambavati Kalyanam. His court was adorned by the Ashtadiggajas (the eight celebrated poets), of whom, Allasani Peddana was the greatest.
His important works include Manucharitam and Harikatha Saramsamu. Krishna Deva Raya also built the famous temples of Krishnaswamy, Hazara Ramaswamy and Vitthalaswamy at his capital. Foreign travellers like Nuniz, Barbosa and Paes speak of his efficient administration and the prosperity of his empire.
After the death of Krishna Deva Raya, the struggle for succession followed among his relations. After the uneventful reigns of Achyuta Raya and Venkata, Sadasiva Raya ascended the throne in 1543. But the real power was in the hands of Rama Raja, the son-in law of Krishna Deva. The Bahmani rulers except Berar combined to inflict a crushing defeat on Vijayanagar in the Battle of Talikota or Rakshasa- Tangadi in 1565.
This battle is generally considered to mark the end of the great age of Vijayanagara. Although the kingdom lingered on for almost one hundred years under the Aravidu dynasty founded by Tirumala Raya with its capital at Penugonda, it came it to an end in 1672.