Military of Vijayanagara

Clothing of Vijayanagar

The Military of Vijayanagara supported the Vijayanagara Empire in particular with regard to the empire's long-lasting rivalry with the Bahmani Sultanate. Besides a large standing army, the Vijayanagara rulers also maintained a powerful navy. This helped make the Viayanagara empire the most centralised polity ever to have emerged in South India. However, a major portion of the imperial income was committed to military purposes, straining the economy.[1]


The numerical strength of the Vijayanagara army is disputed. Nikolo Cante reported a figure of 90,000 men during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya but Fernao Nuniz claimed it to be around 100,000, consisting of 70,000 foot soldiers, 32,000 cavalry and 550 war elephants. Rayawacha countered that the force contained 500,000 foot soldiers, 60,000 cavalry and 1,200 war elephants.

Deva Raya II, to counter the superior Bahmani cavalry, is believed to have enrolled 2000 Muslim cavalrymen to teach the art of archery to his Hindu soldiers and officers.[1]


The Vijayanagara army contained two main branches, being the Kaijeeta Sainyam and the Amaranayaka Sainyam. Sainyam roughly means army.

Kaijeeta Sainyam

The Kaijeeta Sainym, as funded directly by the emperor and Nuniz, claims that it comprised 50,000 men during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, including 2,000 horsemen who served as palace guards and 2,000 who served as the emperor's personal bodyguards. Razak Rayala says that the army was on salary, being paid every four months rather than by the award of jagirs.

Amaranayaka Sainyam

The Amaranayaka Sainyam was maintained using the feudal naymankara system of the Kakatiyas. For this purpose, the empire was divided into Amaras (areas of revenue-producing land), that were granted to leaders called Nayakas. In return, these Nayakas supplied soldiers when required. The number supplied depended on the rank of the Nayaka, who himself divided lands among his subordinates. According to Nuniz, the Amaranayaka army strength stood at 600,000 during the rule of Achutadevaraya; Rayawacha itemized the forces supplied as being 200,000 foot soldiers, 24,000 cavalry, 1,200 war elephants.


The Vijayanagara army consisted primarily of infantry, cavalry and war elephants, armed with bows and arrows, swords and lances as its principal weapons. According to Ferishta, the foot soldiers applied oil to their bodies but did not wear armour or helmets, whereas Portuguese travellers, such as Pace and Barros, described protective clothing made of animal skin and that they carried shields.

Although the Vijayanagran kings had little interest in guns, the infantry did have a regiment of matchlockmen. They also built a navy, sited on the west coast, which was headed by the governor of Hanover Timmoju in the time of Krishna Deva Raya and which, according to Heeras Rayala, assisted the Portuguese in their occupation of Goa. The powerful navy enabled the Vijayanagara rulers to invade Sri Lanka repeatedly.[1]


Forts played an important role in medieval warfare. According to tradition, there were eight types of forts. However, Rayawachaka mentions four types of forts. They are giri(hill), stala, jala (water)and vana (forest) forts. Krishnaraya suggests that forts were mainly constructed in Gadi and border areas. Pace wrote that many forts were present in border areas. Deep forests were grown around forts. Catapults and damboli were used for fort defense. Damboli is a cannon which throws stones on enemies. To occupy forts they used lagga systems. Krishandevaraya used them to occupy Kondaveedu fort.


Emperor Krishna Deva Raya recruited soldiers. Tulu, Kabbali and Morasa State clan members joined in large numbers. Forest tribes including Chenchu, Koya and Boya also sent recruits. Empire training facilities improved bravery, interest in war, and body strength. According to books written in that time, the samu garidi (dance performance of knives and fire) and training gyms were both present throughout the country. Hontakaras trained the fighters. Since Vijayanagaram was a multi-faith country, muslims also joined the army. Their strength increased from the era of Deva Raya II and peaked in the time of Aliya Rama Raya, diminishing after his surprise defeat in the Battle of Talikota.


  1. 1 2 3 Chandra, Satish (2007). History of Medieval India (First ed.). New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Private Limited. pp. 143–4. ISBN 9788125032267.

Military system and war policies during Vijayanagar Period(In Kannada)- Dr.S.Y.Somashekhar,2009, Sanchike Prakashana, Kannada University, Hampi, Vidyaranya-583 276, Ballary dist

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