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The early life of Bukka as well as his brother Hakka (also known as Harihara I) are relatively unknown and most accounts of their early life are based on various theories (see the Vijayanagara Empire article for more extended descriptions of these). The most widely accepted theory states that Bukka and Hakka were born in the badaga clan and were commanders in the army of the Kakatiya King of Warangal. After the King of Warangal was defeated by Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Bukka and his brother were taken prisoners and sent to Delhi. Both were forced to convert to Islam. Bukka and his brother eventually escaped and retained their Hindu traditions and founded the Vijayanagara Empire under the influence of the Brahmin sage Vidyaranya.hakka and bukka are believed to be the ancestors of the badagas of the nilgiris and A fifth, mentioned by Couto, who fixes the date as 1220, states that while Madhava was living his ascetic life amongst the mountains he was supported by meals brought to him by a poor shepherd called Bukka, “and one day the Brahman said to him, ‘Thou shalt be king and emperor of all Industan.’ The other shepherds learned this, and began to treat this shepherd with veneration and made him their head; and he acquired the name of ‘king,’ and began to conquer his neighbours, who were five in number, viz., Canara, Taligas, Canguivarao, Negapatao, and he of the Badagas, and he at last became lord of all and called himself Boca Rao.” He was attacked by the king of Delhi, but the latter was defeated and retired, whereupon Bukka established a city “and called it Visaja Nagar, which we corruptly call Bisnaga; and we call all the kingdom by that name, but the natives amongst themselves always call it the ‘kingdom of Canara.’ ” Couto’s narrative seems to be a mixture of several stories. His wrong date points to his having partly depended upon the original chronicle of Nuniz, or the summary of it published by Barros; while the rest of the tale savours more of Hindu romance than of historical accuracy. He retains, however, the tradition of an attack by the king of Delhi and the latter’s subsequent retirement.
Under Bukka Raya's 21-year reign (37, according to Nuniz) the kingdom prospered and continued to expand as Bukka Raya conquered most of the kingdoms of southern India, continually expanding the territory of the empire. He defeated the Shambuvaraya Kingdom of Arcot and the Reddis of Kondavidu by 1360 and the region around Penukonda was annexed. Bukka defeated the Sultanate of Madurai in 1371 and extended his territory into the south all the way to Rameswaram. His son, Kumara Kamapna campaigned with him and their efforts were recorded in the Sanskrit work Madhuravijayam written by his wife Gangambika. By 1374 he had gained an upper hand over the Bahmanis for control of the Tungabhadra-Krishna doab and also took control of Goa, the kingdom of Odisha (Orya) were also captured and Bukka forced the Jaffna kingdom of Ceylon and the Zamorins of Malabar to pay tributes to him.
During his reign Bukka would also have clashes with the Bahmani Sultans. The first was during the time of Mohammed Shah I and the other during the time of Mujahid. It is said that Bukka also sent a mission to China during his reign. Bukka died in about 1380 and was succeeded by Harihara II. It is also notable that under Bukka Raya's reign the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire established itself at Vijayanagara, on the south side of the river, which was more secure and defensive than their previous capitol at Anegondi. Even with the wars and internal conflicts, Bukka still managed to help support internal improvements for the city. Important works of literature were also written during his rule. Dozens of scholars lived under the guidance of Vidyaranya and Sayana. Sayana's commentary on the Vedas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas was written under the petronage of Bukka.