Thursday, February 4, 2016

To become a Carl Sagan…

If a person wants to become so-and-so of who-is-who of the world then that person must have (a) undiminished vision; (b) uncluttered thought process and (c) un-fluttered commitment.

But the life doesn’t go easy with such individuals who succumb to the double-crossings of the worldly affairs. ‘Chaos to Cosmos’ is how the scientists usually describe the origin of our universe. ‘Internal chaos’ is needed for any individual to fire his/her desire to excel but this chaos should not get transformed into vengeance against something.  The deadly combination of vengeance and hatred can finally result in to total destruction…either physical or psychological and in worst scenario…both!

In the recent times, Rohith Vemula has become a classic example of above described self-obliteration.

Following sentences were found in Rohith’s suicide note:

[…] I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I loved Science, Stars, Nature […]

Rohith, according to his suicide note, thought to be another Carl Sagan who has been hailed as “irreplaceable” and “people’s astronomer.” But, Rohith decided to leave this world and go to the stars making himself a ‘replaceable.’

With a pinch of sarcasm, I wish to quote Swami Vivekananda whom Rohith called as “half-witted” and “pseudo-intellectual.” Vivekananda said “Whatever you think, that you will be. If you think yourself as weak, weak you will be; if you think yourself strong, strong you will be!” and Rohith chose to be ‘weak.’

This tragedy of a promising young man made me to think about Rohit and Carl Sagan, only through their writings. I don’t have much interest in their personal details and neither do I wish to comment on the legalities, ‘isms’ and all other sundry fakeries.

Instead, I am trying to find answers for a quintessential question – “what it takes to become a Carl Sagan?” that Rohith wished to mould himself to be!

This small write-up is more like my deep thought process than sounding like a preacher or pose like a great thinker in akimbo stance!

Carl Sagan – As he is:

Carl Sagan, as he presents himself though his writings and TV programs, is an accomplished scientist with flair for writing but more importantly a good human with an all encompassing thought process.
I have not read all his writings but only three of them i.e. Cosmos, Billions & Billions and Demon Haunted World. In these three books he hasn’t criticized for once the ancient religions, customs and practices in a demeaning manner. He doesn’t seem to be in a ‘hurry’ to prove them wrong or ridicule them for being what they are. Instead, he exerts to connect the ancient world with the modern times and attempts to bring out a synthesis that can guide the youngsters to look back at their roots with respect and love.

It seems that he doesn’t have rivalries with old and orthodox schools of thoughts.

Probably because of this that I was at ease and comfort to read his books and also to watch the TV program i.e. Cosmos. Personally, I don’t like the insulting tones in serious writings or thought provoking speeches and I wish to hold back a mindless attack on the ancient cultures, people and their practices. After all, they are part of our legacy and they have done their bit in the social, economical and cultural evolution. Let them have our respect for all the good, bad and ugly efforts made by them.

Having said this, I think that Carl Sagan’s calm and cool approach towards various religions of the world is a direct result of his accommodative approach. He didn’t dismiss the scientific, unscientific and pseudoscientific aspects of the religions with contempt or hatred. This made me to admire him as a perfect ‘even-steven’ of humanism.

Carl Sagan achieved this sensitive semblance even after being a ‘nontheist’ and ‘skeptic.’ According to me this is a wonderful accomplishment and I wholeheartedly salute him on this account.

His personal ‘atheistic’ belief and the personal choice to be ‘cynical’ to God and religions haven’t made him blindfolded. His heart and mind were always open and were completely receptive to the factual truth. His nontheistic ideology didn’t stop him from enjoying and contemplating the symbolism of Nataraja. In his book “Cosmos” he writes about the Dancing Shiva:

In India there are many gods, and each god has many manifestations. The Chola bronzes, cast in the eleventh century, include several different incarnations of the god Shiva. The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of the creation of the universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif known as the cosmic dance of Shiva. The god, called in this manifestation Nataraja, the Dance King, has four hands. In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the sound of creation. In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that the universe, now newly created, will billions of years from now be utterly destroyed. These profound and lovely images are, I like to imagine, a kind of premonition of modern astronomical ideas.

Carl’s articulation of ancient practices with the modern science or outlook is praiseworthy:

Every home in ancient Greece and Rome and among the Brahmans of ancient India had a hearth and a set of prescribed rules for caring for the flame. At night the coals were covered with ashes for insulation; in the morning twigs were added to revive the flame. The death of the flame in the hearth was considered synonymous with the death of the
family. In all three cultures, the hearth ritual was connected with the worship of ancestors. This is the origin of the eternal flame, a symbol still widely employed in religious, memorial, political and athletic ceremonials throughout the world.

At the same time, Carl was critical about ancient India

China and India and Mesoamerica would, I think, have tumbled to science too, if only they had been given a little more time.
(from Chapter VII: “The Backbone of Night” in Cosmos)

He commented on the pseudoscientific Babas and Yogis.

Perhaps the most successful recent global pseudoscience – by many criteria, already a religion - is the Hindu doctrine of transcendental meditation (TM). The soporific homilies of its founder and spiritual leader, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, can be seen on television in America. Seated in the yogi position, his white hair here and there flecked with black, surrounded by garlands and floral offerings, he has a look. One day while channel surfing we came upon this visage. 'You know who that is?' asked our four-year-old son. 'God.' The worldwide TM organization has an estimated valuation of $3 billion. For a fee they promise through meditation to be able to walk you through walls, to make you invisible, to enable you to fly. By thinking in unison they have, they say, diminished the crime rate in Washington DC and caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, among other secular miracles. Not one smattering of real evidence has been offered for any such claims. TM sells folk medicine, runs trading companies, medical clinics and 'research' universities, and has unsuccessfully entered politics. In its oddly charismatic leader, its promise of community, and the offer of magical powers in exchange for money and fervent belief, it is typical of many pseudosciences marketed for sacerdotal export.

(from Chapter 1: “The Most Precious Thing” in The Demon Haunted World)

Ancient Bharat & Sanatana Dharma – Diversified approaches of Carl & Rohith:

It’s my firm belief that any student of Sociology or Anthropology or History must have an unbiased mindset to undertake the studies of cultures, both living and extinct. If a student gets fixated and develops detest against a culture or religion or country, I don’t think that such student can do justice to the studies!

Carl Sagan is the best role model for such all encompassing approach towards various religions and cultures and societies.

Sagan’s interview to Placido P. D’Souza, Editor of New India Digest offers a better clue to understand his humanist approach towards Gods and religions of India. Read the interview here:

The following episode from his world famous television series “Cosmos” must be watched for Carl’s rational approach towards Hinduism in particular:

On contrary, Rohith couldn’t show or develop such balanced approach towards religions. He was bogged down by pseudo secularism. If his Facebook posts can be considered as the crucial pointers of his social behaviour then all that they confirm is that Rohith hated his [Hindu] roots and was skeptical about the ancient [Dharmik] heritage that he belonged to.

As a student of a prestigious university, he had all the opportunities to read, understand, discern, contradict and comprehend the legacy of India. If at all Rohit condemned Hinduism in harsh tone like Kanche Ilaiah is doing now, no one would have ‘hacked’ him like Avijit Roy or Ananta Bijoy Das the two the unlucky atheist bloggers from Bangladesh.

 If we take a look at the interview published in (link given above) and translate that into religious idiosyncratic description then it read as “a Goan Christian interviewed an American Jew and the latter had spoken earnestly about ancient India and her Vedic literature and sciences.

So, when two non-Hindus can sit together and have a healthy discussion about India, Hinduism, old temples, festivals etc. why Rohith was found exhibiting hatred against his own country and its historical legacy openly?

What ‘Casteism’ got to do with his studies of both ancient and modern wisdom? Can he afford to dismiss Charaka, Aryabhata, Chanakya, Kalidasa or Anandavardhana for they being Brahmins?

Is it not wise to read them [without lables] as ‘advanced thinkers/writers of their times’ and be done with it? Which approach would have brought Rohith closer to Carl Sagan? Hatred or rational approach? Readers can decide.

 The following video that surfaced barely 24 hours after his sad demise is not in conformity with Carl Sagan’s accommodative approach towards different religions:

As I said at the beginning, vengeance and hatred make a person dull-witted and oblivious to the vastness of the wisdom. These dangerous features will make the vision blurred and cause the soul to become murkier than ever. This is what exactly had happened with Rohith and made him to lose focus from his desired goal of becoming another Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan’s views on death:

Rohith’s birth could be an ‘accident’ but his death was certainly not an accident. He knew that he is going to kill his body. That’s a destructive thought to call off his dream to become Carl Sagan. I don’t think he is the only master of his valuable life! But he took the extreme step…a premeditated act.

On the other hand, Carl Sagan died in 1997 due to bone morrow disease. Few months before he died he wrote an article to a magazine called Parade in which he said:

“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.”
He also said that:

“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”

In contrast to the views of Carl Segan on death, Rohith wrote:

May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. That’s pathetic. And that’s why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I don’t believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.

Carl was right in saying “there is no reason to deceive ourselves with petty stories for which there’s little good evidence.

The theories such as Aryan Invasion or Aryan Migration that created deep divisions in Hindu society are turning out to be unscientific. The archeological ruins lying below Babri Masjid are telling the truth hidden for five centuries. The declassified files of Bose are shedding light on what went wrong with the recent history of our country. Likewise many things that were propagated as facts in the last six decades are becoming factually incorrect. In such scenario, a student like Rohith shouldn’t have fallen for the myths and lies spread by entities with vested interests.

I know that Rohith was just 26 years old whereas Sagan was 62 years at the time of their demise. And the subtle demarcation that pushed Rohith away from becoming another Carl Sagan was his ‘rushing.’ To put this in his words – “There was no urgency. But I always was rushing.

This is bad…really bad.

These words definitely hint that Rohith was in dire need of some helping hands and kind words that could pep up his waning confidence. As probing into his personal life or private issues is not my intention, I leave this issue here itself.

But the fact remains that Rohith was at the double-crossings of his own predicaments and dilemmas. He was torn between the lifetime ambition of becoming Carl Sagan and other worldly activities that aren’t useful to him at any stage of becoming Carl Sagan.

Few moot points:

1.      If at all Rohit wanted to be another Carl Sagan, he could have focused on understanding India than hating everything that is Indian or Hindu in origin. His open claim to tear the saffron saree of his mother is in poor taste. He can’t become Carl Sagan by exhibiting hatred to a particular colour or culture.
2.      If Vivekananda has been ‘institutionalized’ by right wingers so is Ambedkar by Dalit ‘leaders.’ There was no logic in said argument by Rohith and thus he couldn’t have become a Carl Sagan 2.0 with such flawed reasoning.
3.      When a Christian (Placido D’Souza) listened to another Christian (Carl Sagan) while the latter spoke affectionately about ancient India and the right-time scale specified in its Dharmik scriptures, Rohith should not have developed utter contempt towards the culture of his own country. In today’s atmosphere, had he focused on his studies than politics, no one could have ever stopped him from becoming Carl Sagan.
4.      Rohith could have waited patiently to get his own voice on the topics of his interest. His young age of 26 years was not sufficient to become a Judge and Executioner. May be after 40 years of age, he could have become a warrior and could have fought against the discriminations. But he preferred to ‘rush’ against all tides and met with a totally undesirable end.
5.      Rohith said that his childhood wasn’t that sweet. So was the childhood of Carl Sagan. His father an irreligious person while the mother was a pious lady of strict adherence to Jewish traditions. Carl had to endure a constant ‘inner turmoil’ caused by the contrasting behaviours of his parents. To top it all, Carl had to pass through the ‘Great Depression’ that rocked America between 1929-39. But like a true winner, Carl not only withstood the childhood tumults but also had tolerated the fangs of the deadly disease during his last years. But sadly, Rohith chose to quit the world early and thereby deceived himself from becoming another Carl Sagan.  [Source:]

So, who killed Rohith?

There are certain misanthropes who are stoking unnecessary but dangerous emotions on gullible people. I give a sample to this fearsome trend:

I have seen this person instigating the people by calling irrelevant “Brahminism” and “Manuvada” as the killers of Rohith. But in reality it was the ‘rush’ for instant resolve of a conflict that killed Rohith and no one else had caused the death. Rohith himself admitted that there was no ‘urgency’ for him to take an extreme step of ending his life yet he is ‘rushing’ to finish it off!

I learned that few poets(!) have already written bunch of poems on Rohith and they are in the process of bringing out an anthology. I don’t wish to comment on this attempt but would say that this is a tricky business of emotions. I hope no youngster takes this eulogy of suicide as a matter of pride and way out for his/her problems. I trust that no youngster takes to the extremity of ending the life by getting indulged in reading a stuff that glorifies a tragic death as a heroic one.

I conclude that Rohith’s name serves as a serious caution to the developing minds to exercise control over their indulgence in worldly affairs.

Rohith is an unforgettable reminder for the students to focus on their intellectual pursuits more than the political tussles in the campuses.

Rohith is an example to the young minds to give time for their wits to grow, mature and become strong.

With utmost sincerity I say it to the public that Rohith isn’t a role model to follow. But he is a tight slap on the face of politicians of all denominations and politics of all types and a pointer towards the road-to-death being laid by the caste instigators, literary stooges and political cheaters of the meanest order.

I wish Rohith could have used his common sense to reign over his urge to kill himself. I wish he could have lived by tiding over the conflicts that seem to be self-inflicted. I wish Rohith had endured the pains to realize the dream of becoming a good writer.

To become a Carl Sagan, petty politics, faulty logic and cheap ideas are not the steps to be taken!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Battle of Talikota Completes 450 years

Battle of Talikota as dipicted in a 16th century miniature art
Image courtesy:
26th of January is not only the occasion to celebrate Republic Day but also to recall a historical event that triggered the final showdown of a mighty South Indian Dharmik Empire. This date must be kept in mind not only to rejoice the introduction of the Constitution of India but also to repent the vanquishing of a greatest city of the [then] known world. This was the day on which the narratives of South India have taken a different turn…a turn that could never be traveled back.

I am referring to the Battle of Rakkasi-Tangadi (also called as Battle of Talikota) in which the Vijayanagara forces faced all-out routing thus causing the complete downfall of magnificent city of Hampi. It was on 26th of January, 1565 that this fateful battle was fought between the Vijayanagara and a confederacy of four Muslim Sultanates i.e. Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Bidar and Golconda. It was on this day’s afternoon that the fate of both Ramaraya and Hampi were decided forever. Today, it is the 451st anniversary of Talikota Battle and this small write-up is nothing but a gist of the events that have occurred on this rueful day.

[Two dates have been given to this event i.e. (1) 23rd of January and (2) 26th of January. There are equal numbers of citations for both the dates. I have considered 26th of January.]


According to the available narratives, the ‘hide-and-seek’ kind of diplomacy with the Sultanates that surrounded Vijayanagara began during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. But with the help of tactful advisors coupled with the sheer bravery, Krishnaraya never allowed these hostile forces to join hands.

He adopted an aggressive offensive approach towards the Sultans but never crossed the threshold. He showed the aggression only on right occasions and extended a friendly diplomacy to tide over the inconvenient political ploys. Here we can pause for few minutes and look at the chronology of events that happened during Krishnaraya’s period.

Year Event Remarks
1509 Krishnaraya’s ascendency to the throne of Vijayanagara Bahmanis were at the verge of collapse. Their downfall began in c. 1490 with the revolts by the powerful nobles.
1518 Krishnaraya at the peak of his career. He gave the death blow to the ailing Bahmanis and caused their dismemberment. Total destruction of Bahmani Sultanate and the formation of 5 new Sultanates gets completed with the establishment of Qutubshahi kingship at Golconda. Other four Sultanates are Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Bidar & Birar.
1509-1524 Krishnaraya wins decisive battles against the Sultanates & forces them buy peace with him. He also successfully intervenes in the politics of five sultanates.
Notable battles are:
1509 battle with Bijapur
1520 Battle of Raichur which is considered as the last decisive victory by Hindu Vijayanagara.
1524 Krishnaraya’s only son and the heir-apparent Tirumalaraya dies. The Raya loses the morale and impetus to execute the invasion of Belgaum (held by Bijapur sultanate) Had Krishnaraya carried the invasion into the heartlands of Sultanas, the Battle Talikota would have not occurred!
1529 Krishnaraya dies by bringing an end of a golden epoch of Indian history. Sultans, still nursing their wounds inflicted by Krishnaraya, restrained from attacking Vijayanagara due to the undeterred commitment shown by the powerful nobles towards the last wish of Krishnaraya i.e. accepting Achyutaraya as their Monarch. Thus, Krishnaraya ensured the sustenance of the mighty Hindu empire and breathed an extended lifespan of 36 years.

After the demise of Krishnaraya in c.1529, there wasn’t much change in Vijayanagara’s policy towards the five Sultanates. But the scheme found its nasty twist with Sadashivaraya who took charge of the empire on the death of Achyuta in c.1542.

The reign of Sadashiva is nothing but the rein of Aliya Ramaraya (aka Ramaraja, the son-in-law of Krishnaraya). He became the de-facto monarch and started calling the shots on behalf of the crowned emperor. Ramaraya was a great general and tactician but an arrogant fellow. There are few episodes of history that testify his arrogance towards his political rivals particularly the five Muslim sultans. He played such a deceitful mind game with these Sultans that all of them were quarrelling amongst themselves for a few good years. Thus Ramaraya has played the role of a wicked jackal that we usually come across in fairy tales. As if to dispute this assertion, his adaptation of Bijapur’s young Sultan Ali Adil Shah can come as a real surprise. No historian ascribed a political motivation for this adoption and hence all the Hindu haters can go to dig graves for their hatred.

Here it is worth to know the Ramaraja’s help that established Ali Adil Shah firmly on Bijapur throne. He helped the young Ali Shah to come victorious against his uncle Abdullah who contested for the throne of Bijapur. Likewise, from the demise of Achyutaraya, Ramaraya managed for 20 plus years to ensure that the five Muslims powers would never come into unison.

It is believed that Ramaraya’s tactics that resemble the acts of a ‘double agent’ was to avoid the military conflicts or to make them less frequent. Though this strategy superficially looks fine and humane, it has its own pits of perils to unfold. We usually hear that “people can be fooled for sometime but not eternally.” Likewise, the five sultans have learned the deviousness of Ramaraya’s foreign policy and also apprehended how foolish they were. This realization started forging a formidable but fragile alliance that only lasted for few months. But the temporary togetherness of the Muslim sultanates was successful to bring down a mighty Hindu empire that gallantly stood for Sanatana Dharma for over two centuries.

The Abrasions, The [Muslim] Brethern, Political Embassies & Matrimonial Tactics:

Now, first let us revisit the Sultans and learn what exactly happened in the Muslim camp before the battle of Talikota. We will do this by gleaning through the contemporary chronicles of Muslim historians.

Ali Adil Shah, though had become an adopted son of Ramaraya after the demise of latter’s son, could not digest the sauciness of the Raya and quickly called for a meeting of his ministers, nobles and generals. Some have suggested continuing the status quo but many felt for an act of revenge. The young Sultan was caught between the love of Ramaraya and the religious duty of undertaking the Jihad against a stubborn infidel. It was the “devil-and-the-deep-sea” situation for the youthful Shah. But at the end, he was overwhelmed by his religious obligation and decided to wage Jihad against Vijayanagara, a consequence that can kill his adopted father i.e. Ramaraya.

Mirza Ibrahim Zuburi, a contemporary historian and also an eye witness to the developments, in his book “Busutin-us-Salatin”, thus records the proclamation of Ali Adil Shan:

 “Every Muslim in general and their rulers in particular are under an obligation to carrying on holy wars against the vicious unbelievers. They should not shut their eyes to the merit that is attached to the act of subduing the refractory and evil-disposed non-Muslims who have drunk deep the wine of vengeance. Every Muslim should assume the offensive against them and spill the wine of vanity from the cup of their brain. If not, the safety of the Believers and the maintenance of the order in the country would be at stake. It is for this reason that we should gird up our loins, and having placed our reliance on God, should wage holy wars against the unbelievers, who are liable to be massacred, and acquire fame thereby. If, by the Grace of God victory is ours, Islam becomes resplendent and the Muslims are liberated from the persecution of the infidels. But if anything untoward happens we then attain the dignity of a martyr and also gain honour on the Day of Judgment. In both the cases, victory or defeat, we become distinguished like the two great martyrs Hasan and Hussain.”
(Text as given in Pages 246-247 of Vijayanagara Sexcenntenary Commemoration Volume, 1936)

It was the effort of two courtiers of Ali Adil Shah i.e. Kishwar Khan Lari and Abu Turab Shizari that the idea of “cooperation of all the Muslims powers” was put into action.
On the other hand, the Qutub Shah of Golconda was seeking frequent military help from Vijayanagara to occupy the dominions of his sworn rival Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. In that process he had to endure the arrogance of the ‘infidel’ Hindu Raya i.e. Ramaraja.

It so happened in the past that Qutb Shah went on his own against Vijayanagara, only to get routed unceremoniously by Vijayanagara forces. Since then Qutub Shah was praying to Almighty to given a chance to take revenge for his earlier military defeats against Vijayanagara.

Thus Qutub Shah was having intricately crossed-over purposes against Vijayanagara, he first struck a deal with Ali Adil Shah who was close to the Hindu Raja. Qutb Shah hoped to morph the mind of young Adil Shah against his adopted father i.e. Ramaraya and co-opt with in a combined military expedition against the ‘infidel’ Vijayanagara.

Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar, by keeping a close eye on the arrangements between Golconda and Bijapur, immediately sent out an embassy to Ali Adil Shah. He being the veteran amongst the Sultans, exemplified his diplomatic tactics by sending the keys of Sholapur fortress to Ali Adil Shah as a token of friendship towards the young Sultan. Along with the keys Nizam also sent a letter with the following contents (selected parts of the original letter are given hereunder)

“In the oneness of the Great Creator in the Prophethood and mission of Muhammad who acts as our advocate on the Day of Judgment, and in the leadership and guidance of The Twelve Imams upon them be peace. It now behoves us that we should set aside our jealousies and disputes […]and having purged our hearts be united with each other. In keeping with saying in the Quran that ‘All true believers are brethren we ought to make common cause against Hindus, who are our enemies in matters temporal and spiritual […] God forbidding, if my suggestion which bears a spiritual and worldly significance does not meet with your approval and we revert to our old habits, let confusion seize us! […] the evil minded unbelievers are sure to crush us under their iron heel. The insignia of rebellion and impiety will thus ever remain unfurled in the universe and there would be no peace and prosperity left to the Muslims in the South. ”
(Text as given in Pages 248 of Vijayanagara Sexcenntenary Commemoration Volume, 1936) 

Ali Adil Shah who had already made up his mind to develop workable relations with the fellow Sultans has immediately accepted the embassies from Qutub Shah and Nizam Shah. And to prove his commitment to the Sultans, he put one step further and offered the hand of his sister Bibi Hadiya Sultana to the son of Nizam Shan of Ahmadnagar. In return, Nizam gave away his beloved daughter, Chand Bibi to Ali Adil Shah. Thus the political alliances were allegedly strengthened by the matrimonies.

Similar embassies were held by Ali Barid of Bidar and with his admission into the alliance a strong Muslim confederacy was formed.
Interestingly the Sultan of Birar, Burhan Imad-ul-Mulk kept himself away from the confederacy owing to his utter contempt for Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. By all means, Birar was a small sultanate and its absence from the alliance has not hampered the plans of other Sultans. [Other sources inform that the Sultan of Birar did participate in the battle. But I wish to go with the narrative of Mirza Ibrahim Zuburi. These ‘other sources’ are of later date and were not as contemporaneous as Zuburi.]

At this juncture and having come thus far of forging marriage and military alliances, Ali Adil Shah took the first bold step of sending an embassy to Ramaraya demanding for the surrendering of four forts including the crest jewel called Raichur doab to him. This diplomatic move was to instigate Ramaraya by hitting right on his ego. Ali Adil Shah was fully aware that though Ramaraya, being his adopted father, would not yield for political bargains. Ali hoped that by bruising the ego of Raya, he can call off the love and affection that flourished between them for quite some time.

As expected by the Sultans, the diplomatic coup of Ali Adil failed and the ambassador was insulted by the Raya but allowed to flee to his master with life in hand.

At this provocation by Ramaraja, the Sultans have resolved to make the first move by setting their armies in motion. It was decided by the joint council of generals that Ali Adil Shah will open the war theater by launching the first attack and other three Sultans will throw themselves into the game in accordance with the on-ground developments.

A large detachment of combined armies started marching towards Vijayanagara.

The first encounter happened in December, 1564 in which the Muslim armies were beaten back by the Hindu forces under the command of Tirumalaraya, brother of Ramaraya.
Sensing a complete slaughter, the Muslim forces had withdrawn and waited for another opportunity to retaliate. And their much awaited chance came on 26th January, 1565 near a remote village called “Talikota” (ತಾಳೀಕೋಟ;తాళీకోట [తళ్ళికోట]; ताळीकॊट; தாளிகோட).

Boisterousness of Ramaraya & Tactful Muslim Confederacy

According to the Muslim historians, Ramaraya in a fit of arrogance ignored the warning bells that rang as early as December, 1564. It is said [in the Muslim chronicles] that Ramaraya dismissed the alarms raised by his ministers and generals about the combined Muslim force. He boasted that his army can bring down all the enemies on to their knees.
This could have become true only if that particular legion of Hindu army which was guarding the Vijayanagara side of Krishna River had not fallen for a simple, on-the-field improvisation of military tactics by the Muslims.

But let us return to the Vijayanagara camp and see the arrangements made!

Notwithstanding his high headedness, Ramaraya ordered for the defense of the frontiers. He sent an advanced party under the command of his brother Venkatadri which setup makeshift towers, walls and trenches and thus created a formidable blockade. The vanguard of Hindu army has been described by the Muslim historians as “strong as Alexandrian Wall.”
Tirumalaraya, another brother of Ramaraja, was entrusted to command the rearguard of Hindu forces. This rearguard, apart from the regular army units, was supported by cannons and Portuguese musketeers.

Ramaraya formed the Center of the Hindu forces with lakhs of infantry, several thousand cavalry and few hundreds of war elephants.

With the sheer numbers of Hindu forces itself, the battle was estimated to become the ‘mother of all battles’ fought in the then known history.

It’s a matter of time that these titans of military prowess could deploy their mind and muscle and come out victorious.

First Move by Muslims & Their Luck:

Ali Adil Shah was worried to learn that his path to cross over River Krishna was blocked by a huge Hindu contingent. Should he make an unwitting forward march, the depths of the river and the volleys from enemy archers can slaughter his army-men. Bitten by this dilemma Ali Adil immediately held a war council and sought for the ideas from his generals.
As they were brainstorming the next move, there came the secret spies with the news that they have spotted certain areas at both upstream & downstream of the river where the depth is not so deep. They have assured that these spots are so secure that they can allow the safe passage of heavy cannons as well.

Intrigued by this piece of information Ali Adil Shah once again sought for the ideas from his commanders. After an immense deliberation, officers suggested to deploy an orchestrated movement of the troops and create an illusion to the Hindu forces. The suggested plan was accepted by the Shah and immediately put into action.

At the middle of same day night, few contingents of the Muslim army started marching enmass towards a particular ford thus raising an alarm in the watchful Hindu ranks. After observing for a while, the captains of the Hindu vanguard decided to follow the marching Muslims troops. Though the idea was good the decision of the Hindu captains to take the whole army in the ‘matching-march’ would cost them dearly in next few hours.

As the Hindu forces started their march towards the same ford to which the Muslim divisions were heading for, the agile and experienced cavalry of Bijapur was getting ready to make a powerful dash towards the weakened Hindu guard that was still holding the original place on the other side of the river.

Soon the large Hindu contingent went out of the sight of the small defending unit of Vijayanagara, the Bijapur cavalry made a lightening charge across the river and dashed towards the Hindu posts. It took no time for the Muslim cavalry to slaughter the Hindu soldiers and the safe passage for the main contingent of combined Muslim forces was thus created.

Meanwhile, the Bijapur contingents which were making a mock drill towards an unidentified ford of the river started making a dash towards their original positions. The unsuspecting Hindus frowned to see the sprinting forces of the opponent and took time to realize the exactness of the situation. At the same time, the news of the collapse of Vijayanagara defense and the safe crossing over of the Bijapur army reached the Hindu captains who cursed themselves for taking a wrong decision of abandoning their original positions. They have back to join the main host of Venkatadri.

This event is said to have occurred near an open field that lie between two villages named Rakkasi and Tangadi respectively. Thus the first encounter of Vijayanagara and Muslim Confederacy is called as Battle of Rakkasi  Tangadi.

There is another version to this episode in which it is said that the army of Tirumalaraya went as the vanguard and built the defensive positions. Imad Shah of Birar Sultanate tried to cross the river by positioning his whole army directly facing the Hindus. Tirumalaraya fell upon the Sultan with full force and the melee resulted in completing routing of the Birar army. As the entire Hindu vanguard got engaged in a frenzied battle with Birar forces, other four Sultans used this distraction of Hindus to cross over the Krishna.

[But I don’t think this story is factual as Tirumalaraya was the only survivor of the Tallikota battle. In the aftermath of the battle, Tirumala made a hasty retreat into the city and carried as much wealth as he can on 1,500 elephants and retired to Penugonda fort and then became the Monarch of remaining Vijayanagara Empire. He could not have done this if he was holding the vanguard. This can become possible only when he held the rearguard of the Vijayanagara forces that were stationed much closer to the city. This rearguard might have been asked to become the right wing if the battle conditions demand for. Hence the narrative of Mirza Ibrahim Zuburi that Tirumala formed the rearguard or left wing of Hindu army seems to be authentic.]

The Battle of Talikota:

Map coutesy:
As the Muslim armies were steadily progressing in their march, the Hindu forces made up with fearless warriors from Nelluru Seema [present day Nellore] came in sight of the vanguard of Muslim confederate army. There ensued a heavy exchange of arrows that has caused heavy casualties on both the sides but causing the route of Muslim vanguard.
Meanwhile, the news of river crossing by the Muslim forces reached Ramaraya and he was perturbed and got concerned. But he didn’t show off his dismay and mounted a horse as if he was a young man in his twenties. He then commanded the troops to form up the battle order.

On 26th January, 1565, at the break of the dawn, Muslim Confederacy came marching with twelve banners carrying the Quranic saying “ನಸ್ರ್ ಮಿನ್ ಅಲ್ಲಾಹ್ ವಾ ಫತ್ ಕರೀಬ್ – నస్ర్ మిన్ అల్లాహ్ వా ఫత్ కరీబ్ – नस्र मिन अल्लाह वा फ़त करीब – னச்ர் மின் அல்லாஹ் வா பத் கரீப்” [Help from Allah and victory near at hand].

These huge banners were unfurled and under the shadows of these banners there stood Ali Adil Shah forming the right wing and Qutb Shah and Ali Barid of Bidar forming the left wing of the Muslims. Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar formed the center with large pieces of artillery [estimated to be 600 pieces of various calibers] and few hundred war elephants. The artillery unit was placed under the command of an experienced Turkish gunner called Rumi Khan.

The Muslim armies had reserve forces of six thousand cavalry from Maratha region. Ironically, this cavalry was full of Hindus and after the routing of Vijayanagara army, they allegedly plundered Hampi along with Muslims and other local thugs.

The battle array of Vijayanagara forces was drawn up with Tirumalaraya forming the right wing, Venkatadri [younger brother of Ramaraya] holding the left wing and the 80 years old Ramaraya filling the center.

[Muslims chronicles give out 70 & 80 years of age to Ramaraya whereas Portuguese accounts inform the age as 96 years. But I feel that he would have been aged between 70-80 years only.]

The battle lines were thus drawn and the countdown began…

The Beginning of the Battle:

It is written in the European catalogues of later date that before the battle commenced, both Tirumala and Venkatadri approached Ramaraya and persuaded him to leave the battle field as his advanced age can’t allow him to be in the thick of the action. But Ramaraya refused to return and told his brothers and general that he reached his current age with dignity and doesn’t wish to die as a coward. He inspired his men to stand the ground till death but at the same time gave a chance to the weak-hearted to leave the battle field. He then sat on a jewel studded throne to oversee the military operations. His captains requested the Raya to sit on a horse as it allows greater mobility during the course of the war. But, it is reported in European accounts; the Raya smiled at his generals and said “This is not a war! Those children [Muslims] would certainly fly on the first charge!”

On-field Developments & The Beggining of the End:

By the noon of 26th January of 1565, the left wing of Vijayanagara army under the command of Venkatadri clashed with the forces of Ali Adil Shah, who stood in the right wing of the Muslim camp. It was a bloody melee and clash of men and mettle. Also the deafening noises made by the barrage of rockets and artillery filled the air. Few minutes into the battle, it was nothing but smoke, noises and cries of the wounded. Venkatadri who has been hailed as ‘Arjuna in battle field’ and ‘a great hero’ in various inscriptions lived up to his fame and fought valiantly with Ali Adil Shah’s army. The impact of Hindu charge against Muslims ranks was so powerful and overwhelming that Ali Adil Shah was forced to leave the battle field to regroup his scattered forces. This incident has been unequivocally narrated in both Hindu & Muslims accounts.

On the other hand, the Hindu left wing under the joint command of the father & son i.e. Tirumalaraya and Raghunatha fell upon the combined forces of Qutb Shah and Imam Barid of Golconda and Bidar sultanates. Here too it appeared to be the Hindu onslaught against the Muslims. Mirza Ibrahim Zuburi admits that “the left [wing] of allies [Muslims] under Ibrahim Qutb Shah was beaten back.”

But…the fate turned its blind eye towards Hindus and the lady Luck smiled upon the Muslims when Tirumalaraya had to take a forced retreat due to severe wounds and also with one eye completely lost in the fight. Similar fate has crippled the young prince Raghunatha who is expected to be got killed in the action. Thus the ranks of Hindu left wing had broken and got disarrayed at the behest of the retreat and death of their two commanders respectively.

Arrival of Ramaraya

The news of rout of right wing reached the ears of Ramaraya who then got up and ordered his men to enter the battle field in full array and clashed with the troops of Nizam Shah who formed the center of the Muslims. It has been various reported by the chronicles of Muslim and Europeans that Ramaraya mounted a horse or Ramaraya sat on palanquin or Ramaraya mounted a war elephant. By any mean, the eighty years old Ramaraya did enter into the battle field like a young man.

At the outset, the prized Rachaveedu troops from Nellore region have once again showed their bravery by dispatching such a lethal charge that the Nizam Shah’s horsemen had to retreat for about five kilometers away from the field.

Meanwhile, the Hindu right wing that did well under Venkatadri was now exhausted and crumbling and finally left the field on the death of their commander. Ali Adil Shah got the news about the plight of Nizam Shah and rushed to stop the Ramaraya’s forces. In the meantime, Rumi Khan the in-charge of Nizam’s artillery delivered such a devastating barrage of fire against the Hindu ranks that thousands of them were slaughtered in a wink. The successive artillery discharges from Nizam Shah’s guns that were concealed so far from the sight of Hindus have dealt death blows to the Hindu infantry that was charging towards fleeing horsemen of Nizam Shah.

The Sultan of Ahmadnagar got humiliated by seeing the route of his cavalry and became defiant to leave the battle field. He ordered his men to pitch his royal tent right in the middle of his battle field position. This act of pitching the tent is called Rahanat and this was an indication to the enemies that the Sultan has resolved “to stand the ground and not quitting the saddle until victory declared for him.

Upon hearing the act of Rahanat by Nizam Shah, the arrogant and aged Ramaraya too dismounted the horse [or elephant] and sat on his jewel throne. His captains once again pleaded with him not to dismount the horse [or elephant]. But the haughty Raya continued to sit on the throne and ordered to bring the precious stones, jewels and gold coins to him. He then started throwing them on the men of his army who were fleeing from the field due to the artillery charge by Rumi Khan.

The power of the money and the invaluable gifts thrown by Ramaraya made the routing men to regroup and send them into another round of lethal charge against the enemies. Both Ali Adil Shah and Ibrahim Qutb Shah were taken aback with an unexpected counter charge by the Hindus and were temporarily dislodged from their positions. Once again, the Hindu army made a comeback into the battle in-spite of having their left and right wings either collapsed or at the verge of routing. The old Ramaraya could able to strike terror in the hearts of his belligerents.

As the Hindu men-at-arms came much closer to the artillery positions, the guns were becoming useless as they can’t fire at closer ranges. At this moment, the skillful Rumi Khan ordered his gunners to fill the guns with copper coins instead of the conventional iron balls. The gunners, suffering from utter disbelief, have sent out a barrage of copper coins against the charging Hindus. Moments later, the gunners found around five thousand Hindu soldiers lying dead with coins pierced through their bodies. Thus emboldened by the destructive effect of the coins, Nizam Shah’s gunners have delivered several rounds of cannon shots charged with copper coins. Once again, Hindu soldiers started fleeing the field in utter confusion and chaos. Seizing this decisive moment, Kishwar Khan the trusted general of Ali Adil Shah, charged with his cavalry and slayed the retreating Hindu soldiers. This is the beginning of the fall of Hindu resistance. What followed this routing is nothing but annihilation of not only the Hindu army but also the killing of Ramaraya and the destruction of Hampi.

Let us pause for a minute here and look into a different (difficult?) scenario that was n narrated by a historian named C. Frederik. He says that the actual turning point that brought an end to the Hindu resistance has come from an unexpected corner. It was not the cavalry charge of Kishwar Khan that brought the Hindu forces to its knees but the sabotage caused within the Hindu ranks by two Muslim generals who were employed by Ramaraya.
Reverend Henry Heras, in his famous book “The Aravidy Dynasty of Vijayanagara” confirms this event by quoting few grant inscriptions of Vijayanagara that carry the name of a Muslim general employed by Ramaraya. This general has been identified as Ain-ul-Mulk whose father had been beheaded by the then Bijapur sultan in c. 1553 on accounts of treason. Thus the son of a traitor followed the footsteps of his father and became the traitor and caused the downfall of his employer and master. It is reported in the European accounts that this Ain-ul-Mulk and one more unidentified Muslim general indulged in killing the men from their own ranks. The Hindu army which was already confused with the bombardment of copper coins and the lethal charge of Muslim cavalry could not hold any further when the horsemen of their own have started butchering the comrades.

Ramaraya has become crippled with no active unit to hold the ground and got dismayed at the breaking of his army ranks. He hastened to retreat in a palanquin that he mounted unmindfully. The bearers of the palanquin were confronted by a war elephant of Nizam Shah which caused them throw away the royal seat to save their own lives. Thus the great Ramaraya recovered from the fall and stood on his foot but the elephant captured him with its powerful trunk.

At this moment, the remaining Vijayanagara army was completely surrounded by the forces of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar and Golconda. The men of Hindu army got scattered and started disobeying their captains. A little while later, they became sword fodder for the Muslim cavalry.

The Death of Ramaraya:

As the battle of Talikota came to an end, the fate of Ramaraya who became the captive of Muslim confederacy was about to find its end too.
The war elephant that captured Ramaraya was mounted by Rumi Khan, the Turkish general and in-charge of Nizam Shah’s artillery. In that dusty evening, Rumi Khan at first could not recognize his prisoner.

At this moment, a personal attendant of Ramaraja named Dalapati Rao, rushed forwarded and stood between the elephant and the monarch. He seemed to shout at the mahut “Halt! Don’t hurt the Raja!

Thus the identity of Ramaraya has been revealed to his enemies.

A delighted Rumi Khan carried Ramaraya to his master Nizam Shah and presented him as a prisoner of war.

Nizam Shah offered a seat to the Raya who sustained bruises due to the fall from the palanquin. Raya sat on the seat and faced the Sultan who sarcastically questioned “How do you do?”

By using sarcasm as an answer to the sarcastic question, Ramaraya gestured to the Sultan by touching his forehead with his right hand implying that “whatever had been written here had happened!”

As the Nizam was contemplating the next action of his, a trusted courier called Hakim Qasim Beg came running to the Sultan. He advised and persuaded Nizam Shah to quickly execute his prisoner. He warned the Sultan that “if Ali Adil Shah, who is in hot pursuit of his enemies, returns to the camp and finds his adopted father, he may carry off the Raya to safety.”

These words rung like death bells to the ears of Nizam Shah who ordered for the immediate execution of Ramaraya. One account says that the Raya was beheaded by an executioner while another says that Nizam Shah himself beheaded his enemy. Either ways, now Ramaraya, the son-in-law of Krishnaraya the Great and the establisher of Aravidy dynasty rule over Vijayanagara was dead and gone on the fateful evening of 26th January, 1565.

Beheading of Ramaraya (top left) - Nizam Shah raiding on a horse oversees the execution
Image courtesy:

The severed head of Ramaraja was put on the point of a long spear and was taken into the battle field. The small groups of Hindus who were still trying to offer some resistance to the charging Muslims have lost their hearts on seeing the severed head of their de-facto monarch and started fleeing from the battle field.

That’s how the bloody battle of Talikota came to an end by bringing down the dark curtains on the magnificent city of Hampi and the glorious epoch of South Indian history.

Closing Note:

Let us rejoice the Republic Day celebrations but let us also shed few drops of tears for all those valiant Hindu warriors who laid down their lives for the protection of the culture, tradition, language and every insignia of their ancient heritage.
Shantihi – Shantihi - Shantini

  1. The Aravidy Dynasty Volume I by Rev. Henry Heras, 1927.
  2. Vijayanagara Sexcentenary Volume, 1936.
  3. Vijayanagara Empire by C.S. Srinivasachari, 1950.
  4. District Gazetteer of Gulbarga.
  5. The Forgotten Empire by Robert Sewell, 1900.
  6. Other sources such as the write-ups of Krishnasway Ayinar, Bangalore Suryanarayana Rao etc.