Just over twenty years ago, I first visited the vast archaeological site at Hampi, near Hospet in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka. I have revisited the fascinating and extensive ruins of Vijayanagara, one of the largest cities in the medieval world, at least five times. Founded in 1336 AD, this city became not only one of the largest of its time but also one of the richest and, for a time, most powerful. After my first visit, I bought a copy of Richard Sewell’s “A Forgotten Empire”, which was first published in 1900. This very densely written highly scholarly tome has sat untouched in my bookshelf for as long as I have owned it. Recently, I have taken it of the shelf, dusted it, and am about to read it.
The reason for my renewed interest in Sewell’s book is the existence of another book about Vijayanagara, “City of Victory” by Ratnakar Sadasyula (2019). I bought my edition from bookdepository.com, but it is also available on amazon.in and www.hindueshop.com. Hence, it has two different ISBN numbers (ISBN:9781523946631 and 9788193373767). The author is a keen amateur historian, who runs an interesting blog about aspects of India’s history (see: https://historyunderyourfeet.wordpress.com/).
Sadasyula’s book contains a distillation and clarification of much confusing historical information in an easy to read style. During Vijayanagara’s three century long existence, a great deal happened both culturally (literature, music, and architecture) and militarily. Vijayanagara was constantly interacting militarily with its neighbors, both Islamic sultanates and the Portuguese, who were making incursions on the west coast of India. Sadyasyula unravels the complexities of the history of the region in an easily digestible way. I take my hat off to him for managing to incorporate so much history into a short book without confusing the reader. His book is copiously illustrated with black and white images including a few maps. It is a great introduction to an important series of episodes in the history of southern India.
Having read Sadasyula’s lucid and detailed synopsis of the history of Vijaynagara, I now feel that I have sufficient background information to tackle more detailed accounts such as that by Robert Sewell and, more recently, by Burton Stein.
All the best from