On becoming Sultan, Muhammad Tughlaq extended the Delhi Sultanate in the south by annexing Kampili and capturing a portion of the Hoysala Kingdom. He also changed his capital from Delhi to Devagiri, which was renamed Daulatabad (1327)
. The move was imposed by force on the nobles and people of Delhi and the Turk army was engaged for this purpose.
Despite this change of capital the Sultan and his army were drawn back to the north for the next three years. In the very year that the capital shift was imposed (1327) there was a temporary incursion by the Mongols under Tarmashirin, who plundered up to Meerut, and were chased out with difficulty. After this invasion Muhammad Tughlaq made plans for invading Iran, Iraq, and Central Asia, and raised a large army for that purpose, numbering up to 375,000 horse. But he changed his mind a year later and disbanded this vast army, the salaries, equipping, and training of which for a full year, created a hefty dent in his treasury.
Soon after this (1329) an army sent against Rana Hammir of Mewar was defeatedâ€”â€”in Rajasthan only Ajmer, Nagaur
, and Mandor, remained under the control of the Delhi Sultanate. Rebellions by Turk nobles in Multan and Bengal though were suppressed.
Muhammad Tughlaq's aim in shifting his capital was to extinguish the Hindu Kingdoms in the south, make Islam supreme, and squeeze their lands and people for money. By the time the Sultan could return to the south (1330) the spirit of independence had swept through the land.
Renewed campaigns in the south
It had only been five years since the annexation of Warangal and the kingdom was not fully under Muslim control. The Hindu officers and nobles, under the leadership of Prolaya Nayak
of Musunsuri and Prolaya Vema Reddy
, formed a union of 75 Nayaks for the liberation of their kingdom and to "revive Dharma, protect Brahmans and cows, and restore the worship of the Gods
In a series of battles the Telugu Nayaks drove away the Muslim garrisons from coastal Andhra Pradeshâ€”â€”Prolaya Nayak established himself at Ekapalli and was succeeded sometime before 1335 by his nephew Kapaya Nayak.
The fire of rebellion had spread across the south. Vira Ballal Hoysala had recovered his kingdom and rebuilt his destroyed capital (1328), Chalukya Somedeva drove out the Muslim governor of Kampili, and now even while the Sultan was present at Daulatabad, the Muslim governor of Madurai declared his independence (1334).
Muhammad Tughlaq first tackled Kampili. The brothers Harihara and Bukka, former officers of Kampili who had been captured and converted to Islam, were sent to recover Kampili. Then the Sultan squeezed the Daulatabad environs for money, causing tumult among the people, and thus financed his march into Tilingâ€”â€”here he divided the Kakatiya Kingdom into two parts and repeated his tactics at Kampili. The disturbed eastern part was placed under a former Kakatiya general, Nagaya Gauna, now converted to Islam and named Malik Maqbul. His seat was Sultanpur (Warangal).
The Hindu rising made the roads unsafe and prevented the Sultan's advance further south towards Madurai, which became an independent Sultanate. And now an outbreak of Cholera at Warangal forced his retreat to Daulatabad. Satisfied that converts with local knowledge and ties would be able to pacify Kampili and Warangal, Muhammad Tughlaq marched on to Delhi since fresh rebellions had broken out in the north in his absence.
Liberation of Warangal
Kapaya Nayak, whom the Muslim chroniclers call Kaanaya, knew that while the small army units under each Nayak excelled in guerrilla warfare and in taking small forts and towns, a well-equipped and more organized army was needed to complete the liberation of Warangal. He visited the only independent Hindu King in the south, Vira Ballal Hoysala, and sought his military aid against the Turks, offering in turn to aid the Hoysalas in their area of interest (northern Tamil Nadu).
To divert the attention of the converted governors of Kampili, Vira Ballal set about building a fort on his northern frontier, while an army accompanied Kapaya Nayak back to Andhra Pradesh. This well-equipped army made straight for Warangal while the Telugu Nayaks fanned out in the countryside and roused the people against the Turks. Faced by these odds, Malik Maqbul abandoned Warangal and fled to Daulatabad. Kapaya Nayak now shifted his capital to Warangal (1336).
He fulfilled his pledge to Vira Ballal by joining the Hoysala army in its campaign in northern Tamil Naduâ€”â€”Kanchi was liberated and placed under Venrumankodan Sambuvarya.
But the most stunning turn of events was in Kampiliâ€”â€”after loyally serving the Sultan for a few years, the brothers Harihara and Bukka renounced Islam and embraced their ancestral faith with the help of the sage Vidyaranya (1336). They founded a strategic new capital which they named Vijaynagar
The governor left at Daulatabad, Qutlugh Khan, did not have the resources to deal with these multiple revoltsâ€”â€”because by this time (1337) Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq had again
changed the capital back to Delhi. The rebellions in the north were complicated by the raids of the Hindu Kingdoms in the Himalayasâ€”â€”Tughlaq first sent an army to Kangra
, which failed to capture the fort but succeeded in curbing the raids of the Katoch Rajas for the time being.
Another army sent to Uttarakhand also achieved its objectives but at a heavy costâ€”â€”for its soldiers were trapped in a narrow valley and slaughtered by the Hindus. The loss of this army (100,000 horse and foot) had a serious impact on the military ability of the Sultan. In fact the Sultanate did not recover from this blow for several years. By that time (1338-40) Bengal broke away as a separate Sultanate and fresh rebellions erupted at other places.
Muhammad Tughlaq blamed his nobles, most of who were of foreign descent, for these setbacks and revolts and decided to replace them by Muslims of humble birth (cooks, gardeners, barbers) some of whom were local Hindu converts. One of these named Aziz Khammar (wine maker) was made governor of Malwa (1344), and in his first act massacred 80 high-born Muslim nobles in that province. This set off a chain-reaction in the rebellions of Turk nobles at Daulatabad and Gujarat, which Muhammad Tughlaq had to fight till his death (1351).
The rash of rebellions in the north should have been the opportunity for the southern Hindu Kingdoms. The Hoysala ruler Vira Ballal though died while fighting against the Sultan of Madurai (1343) and his kingdom went into decline. The union of Telugu Nayaks was showing the strains common in all confederacies, even though they all belonged to the same region and had been brother officers in the old Kakatiya Kingdom. The demand for local autonomy, equal shares in conquests, and lack of a dominant central power to impose order, collect taxes, and recruit an army, was the doom of this union.
Kapaya Nayak could not declare himself monarch and could not suppress the infighting that began among the Nayaks. The formation of the Bahmani Sultanate at Daulatabad posed a formidable threatâ€”â€”in 1350 the Bahmani Sultan invaded Warangal, forcing Kapaya to cede the border fort of Kaulas and pay tribute.
map of Vijaynagar
In fact the most successful Hindu Kingdom in the south was Vijaynagar. Its rulers took advantage of the Hindu rebellions to declare their own independence but did not unite with them. Nor were they content with merely imposing tribute, which was the Hoysala policy in Tamil Nadu. From the very start Vijaynagar had border conflicts with the Hoysalas and they ejected the Vema Reddys from their ancestral land. With the death of Vira Ballal Vijaynagar went on a conquering spree, annexing the Hoysala Kingdom (1346), the Kadamba principality (1347), the Sambuvarya Kingdom in Tamil Nadu (1360), the Sultanate of Madurai (1370), and the Reddy Kingdom of Kondavidu in coastal Andhra Pradesh (1382).
By contrast the former Kingdom of Warangal, where the liberation movement had begun, again
lost its independenceâ€”â€”its coastal districts falling to Vijaynagar and its northern territories coming under the Bahmani Sultanate. Despite the bravery of the Telugu Nayaks and their selfless devotion to their land, the united front which they formed could not achieve a lasting success.
This again knocks down the myth propounded by modern Indian Historians
that if only Hindu Kingdoms had united, they would have been able to drive out the Islamic invaders. Success actually came, not to those who forged a united front, but to those who made themselves the dominant power and expanded ruthlessly over their co-religionists
This same story had unfolded in Rajputana, where clans like the Sesodias and Rathors fought their Hindu neighbors and the invading Turks with equal gusto, to form the dominant kingdoms of Mewar and Marwar, which preserved Hindu independence and formed a base for Hindu culture in the north just as Vijaynagar did in the south.
And this has been the feature of Indian History in ancient times as wellâ€”â€”Indian civilization has expanded, and foreign invaders have been defeated, under dominant empires
like the Mauryas, Guptas, Pratihars, Cholas etc.