A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India

Author: Robert Sewell

Chapter 4 How the City of Bisnaga Was Built by That King Dehorao.

The King going one day a-hunting, as was often his wont, to a mountain on the other side of the river of Nagumdym, where now is the city of Bisnaga, — which at that time was a desert place in which much hunting took place, and which the King had reserved for his own amusement, — being in it with his dogs and appurtenances of the chase, a hare rose up before him, which, instead of fleeing from the dogs, ran towards them and bit them all, so that none of them dared go near it for the harm that it did them.[487] And seeing this, the King, astonished at so feeble a thing biting dogs which had already caught for him a tiger and a lion, judged it to be not really a hare but (more likely) some prodigy; and he at once turned back to the city of Nagumdym.

And arriving at the river, he met a hermit who was walking along the bank, a man holy among them, to whom he told what had happened concerning the hare. And the hermit, wondering at it, said to the King that he should turn back with him and shew him the place where so marvellous a thing had happened; and being there, the hermit said that the King ought in that place to erect houses in which he could dwell, and build a city, for the prodigy meant that this would be the strongest city in the world, and that it would never be captured by his enemies, and would be the chief city in the kingdom. And so the King did, and on that very day began work on his houses, and he enclosed the city round about; and that done he left Nagumdym and soon filled the new city with people. And he gave it the name Vydiajuna, for so the hermit called himself[488] who had bidden him construct it; but in course of time this name has become corrupted, and it is now called Bisnaga. And after that hermit was dead the King raised a very grand temple[489] in honour of him and gave much revenue to it. And ever since, in his memory, the Kings of Bisnaga, on the day when they are raised to be kings, have, in honour of the hermit, to enter this house before they enter their own, and they offer many prayers in it, and celebrate many feasts there every year.

This King Dehorao reigned seven years, and did nothing therein but pacify the kingdom, which he left in complete tranquillity.

By his death one called Bucarao[490] inherited the kingdom, and he conquered many lands which at the time of the destruction of that kingdom remained rebellious, and by him they were taken and turned to his power and lordship; and he took the kingdom of Orya, which is very great; it touches on Bemgalla. He reigned thirty-seven years, being not less feared than esteemed, and obeyed by all in his kingdom.

On the death of that King Bucarao there came to the throne his son called Pureoyre Deorao,[491] which in Canara means "powerful lord," and he coined a money of PARDAOS which even now they call "PUROURE DEORAO;" and from that time forward it has become a custom to call coins by the names of the kings that made them; and it is because of this that there are so many names of PARDAOS in the kingdom of Bisnaga. And this King in his time did nothing more than leave at his death as much conquered country as his father had done.

This King had a son who by his death inherited the kingdom, who was called Ajarao;[492] and he reigned forty-three years, in which time he was always at war with the Moors; and he took Goa, and Chaul, and Dabull, and Ceillao,[493] and all the country of Charamamdell,[494] which had also rebelled after the first destruction of this kingdom, and he did many other things which are not recorded here.

This King made in the city of Bisnaga many walls and towers and enclosed it anew. Now the city at that time was of no use, there being no water in it by which could be raised gardens and orchards, except the water of the Nagumdym which was far from it, for what water there was in the country was all brackish and allowed nothing to grow; and the King, desiring to increase that city and make it the best in the kingdom, determined to bring to it a very large river which was at a distance of five leagues away, believing that it would cause much profit if brought inside the city. And so he did, damming the river itself with great boulders; and according to story he threw in a stone so great that it alone made the river follow the King’s will. It was dragged thither by a number of elephants of which there are many in the kingdom; and the water so brought he carried through such parts of the city as he pleased. This water proved of such use to the city that it increased his revenue by more than three hundred and fifty thousand PARDAOS. By means of this water they made round about the city a quantity of gardens and orchards and great groves of trees and vineyards, of which this country has many, and many plantations of lemons and oranges and roses, and other trees which in this country bear very good fruit. But on this turning of the river they say the King spent all the treasure that had come to him from the king his father, which was a very great sum of money.

This King left a son at his death called Visarao,[495] who inherited the kingdom on the death of his father; and he lived six years, and during this time did nothing worth relating.

At his death he left a son called Deorao, who reigned twenty-five years. He determined to collect great treasures, but owing to constant warfare he could not gain more than eight hundred and fifty millions of gold, not counting precious stones. This was no great sum, seeing that in his time the King of Coullao,[496] and Ceyllao, and Paleacate,[497] and Peguu, and Tanacary[498] and many other countries, paid tribute to him.

At his death this King left a son who inherited the kingdom, who was called Pinarao,[499] he reigned twelve years, and was a great astrologer; he was given much to letters, and made many books and (promulgated) ordinances in his land and kingdom. As long as he reigned he had twenty ministers, which is an office that amongst these (people) is (generally) held only by one person. This King was very wise; he was well versed in all his duties, and possessed such good talents and qualities that they called him Pinarao, which amongst them, in the language of Canara, means a very wise man. This King was killed by treason by the hand of a nephew whom he had brought up in his house like a son, who thus caused the death of the King.[500] The nephew resolved to marry, and for the feasts at his wedding he prayed the King, his uncle; that he would command that he should be attended and honoured at his wedding by the King’s own son; and the King, for the love that he bore him and the pleasure that he had in honouring him, bade his son make ready with his following, and sent him with the ministers and captains of his court to attend and honour the wedding of his nephew. And he, making all ready, as soon as they were in his house, being at table, they were all slain by daggers thrust by men kept in readiness for that deed. This was done without any one suspecting it, because the custom there is to place on the table all that there is to eat and drink, no man being present to serve those who are seated, nor being kept outside, but only those who are going to eat; and because of their thus being alone at table, nothing of what passed could be known to the people they had brought with them. And after he had killed the King’s son with all the captains, the minister[501] set out to ride as if he were going to bear a present to the King, and as soon as he arrived at the gates of the palace he sent a message to the King saying that he was there, and had brought him a present according to custom. And the King, being at that time at leisure and amusing himself with his wives, bade him enter; and as soon as he was come to where he stood, he presented to the King a golden bowl in which he had placed a dagger steeped in poison, with which he wounded him in many places; but the King, as he was a man who knew how to use both sword and dagger better than any one in his kingdom, avoided by twists and turns of his body the thrusts aimed at him, freed himself from him, and slew him with a short sword that he had. And this done he ordered a horse to be saddled, and mounted it, and rode holding his nephew’s head in his hand; and he took the road to the latter’s house, apprehending that treason might have been wrought and fearing that his son might be dead. And as soon as he arrived he beheld the treason in very deed, and how wicked a deed his nephew had done; seeing that his son and his principal captains were dead, and that the traitor might have prevailed against himself had he had the power. In great wrath the King commanded his men to inflict dreadful punishments on all found guilty of this treason, and indeed many who were not so. He himself remained grievously wounded with the poisoned wounds and he lasted only six months, and these ended, died of the poison carried on the dagger.

After his death a son remained to him who inherited the kingdom and was called ... [502], and this King, as soon as he began to reign, sent to call his treasurers and the minister and the scribes of his household, and inquired of them the revenue of his kingdom, and learned how much revenue came in yearly; and His Highness had every year thirteen millions of gold. This King granted to the pagodas a fifth part of the revenue of his kingdom; no law is possible in the country where these pagodas are, save only the law of the Brahmans, which is that of the priests; and so the people suffer.

On the death of this King succeeded a son named Verupacarao.[503] As long as he reigned he was given over to vice, caring for nothing but women, and to fuddle himself with drink and amuse himself, and never showed himself either to his captains or to his people; so that in a short time he lost that which his forefathers had won and left to him. And the nobles of the kingdom, seeing the habits and life of this king, rebelled, every one of them, each holding to what he possessed, so that in his time the King lost Goa, and Chaull, and Dabull, and the other chief lands of the realm. This King in mere sottishness slew many of his captains. Because he dreamed one night that one of his captains entered his chamber, on the next day he had him called, telling him that he had dreamed that night that the captain had entered his room to kill him; and for that alone he had him put to death. This King had two sons already grown up, who, seeing the wickedness of their father and how he had lost his kingdom, determined to kill him, as in fact was done by one of them, the elder, who was his heir; and after he had killed him, when they besought him to be King, he said, "Although this kingdom may be mine by right, I do not want it because I killed my father, and did therein that which I ought not to have done, and have committed a mortal sin, and for that reason it is not well that such an unworthy son should inherit the kingdom. Take my brother and let him govern it since he did not stain his hands with his father’s blood;" which was done, and the younger brother was raised to the throne. And when they had entrusted the kingdom to him he was advised by his minister and captains that he should slay his brother, because, as the latter had killed his father so he would kill him if desirous of so doing; and as it appeared to the King that such a thing might well be, he determined to kill him, and this was at once carried out, and he slew him with his own hand. So that this man truly met the end that those meet with who do such ill deeds This King was called Padearao; and after this was done he gave himself up to the habits of his father, and, abandoning himself to his women, and not seeking to know ought regarding his realm save only the vices in which he delighted, he remained for the most part in the city.

One of his captains who was called Narsymgua,[504] who was in some manner akin to him, seeing his mode of life, and knowing how ill it was for the kingdom that he should live and reign, though all was not yet lost, determined to attack him and seize on his lands; which scheme he at once put into force.

He wrote, therefore, and addressed the captains and chiefs of the kingdom, saying how bad it was for them not to have a King over them who could govern properly, and how it would be no wonder, seeing the manner of his life, if the King soon lost by his bad government even more than his father had done.

He made great presents to all of them so as to gain their goodwill, and when he had thus attached many people to himself he made ready to attack Bisnaga where the King dwelt. When the King was told of the uprising of this captain Narsymgua, how he was approaching and seizing his lands and how many people were joining him, he seemed unmindful of the loss he had suffered, he gave no heed to it nor made ready, but, instead, he only ill-treated him who had brought the news. So that a captain of the army of this Narsymgua arrived at the gates of Bisnaga, and there was not a single man defending the place; and when the King was told of his arrival he only said that it could not be. Then the captain entered the city, and the King only said that it could not be. Then he even entered his palace and came as far as the doors of his chamber, slaying some of the women. At last the King believed, and seeing now how great was the danger, he resolved to flee by the gates on the other side; and so he left his city and palaces, and fled.

When it was known by the captain that the King had fled he did not trouble to go after him, but took possession of the city and of the treasures which he found there; and he sent to acquaint his lord, Narsymgua. And after that Narsymgua was raised to be king. And as he had much power and was beloved by the people, thenceforward this kingdom of Bisnaga was called the kingdom of Narsymga.

After he was raised to be king and was obeyed he came to Bisnaga, where he did many acts of justice; and he took the territories from whomsoever had, contrary to right, taken them from the king. This King reigned forty-four years, and at his death left all the kingdom in peace, and he regained all the lands which the kings his predecessors had lost. He caused horses to be brought from Oromuz and Adeem[505] into his kingdom and thereby gave great profit to the merchants, paying them for the horses just as they asked. He took them dead or alive at three for a thousand PARDAOS, and of those that died at sea they brought him the tail only, and he paid for it just as if it had been alive.

At the death of that King there remained three fortresses which had revolted from his rule, and which he was never able to take, which were these — Rachol, and Odegary and Conadolgi,[506] which have large and rich territories and are the principal forts in the kingdom. At his death he left two sons, and the governor of the kingdom was Nasenaque, who was father of the king that afterwards was king of Bisnaga;[507] and this king (Narsymgua), before he died, sent to call Narsenaque his minister, and held converse with him, telling him that at his death he would by testament leave him to govern the kingdom until the princes should be of an age to rule; also he said that all the royal treasures were his alone, and he reminded him that he had won this kingdom of Narsymgua at the point of the sword; adding that now there remained only three fortresses to be taken, but that for him the time for their capture was passed; and the King begged him to keep good guard over the kingdom and to deliver it up to the princes, to whichever of them should prove himself most fitted for it. And after the King’s death this Narsenaque remained as governor, and soon he raised up the prince to be king, retaining in his own hands the treasures and revenues and the government of the country.

At that time a captain who wished him ill, determined to kill the prince, with a view afterwards to say that Narsenaque had bidden him commit the murder, he being the minister to whom the government of the kingdom had been entrusted, and he thought that for this act of treason Narsenaque would be put to death. And he soon so arranged it that the prince was killed one night by one of his pages who had been bribed for that purpose, and who slew the prince with a sword. As soon as Narsenaque heard that he was dead, and learned that he himself (was supposed to have) sent to kill him, he raised up another brother of the late King’s to be king, not being able further to punish this captain, because he had many relations, until after he had raised this younger brother to be king, who was called Tamarao. He (Narsenaque) went out one day from the city of Bisnaga towards Nagumdym, saying that he was going hunting, leaving all his household in the city. And after he had arrived at this city of Nagumdym he betook himself to another called Penagumdim,[508] which is four-and-twenty leagues from that place, where he at once made ready large forces and many horses and elephants, and then sent to tell the King Tamarao of the cause of his going; relating to him the treason that that captain by name Tymarsaa[509] had carried out slaying his brother the king, and by whose death he (the prince) had inherited the kingdom. He told him how that the kingdom had been entrusted to him by his father, as well as the care of himself and his brother, that as this man had killed his brother, so he would do to him in the same way, for he was a traitor; and he urged that for that reason it was necessary to punish him. But the king at that time was very fond of that captain, since by reason of him he had become King, and in place of punishing him he bestowed favour on him and took his part against the minister. And, seeing this, Narsenaque went against him with large forces, and besieged him, threatening him for four or five days, until the King, seeing his determination, commanded Timarsaa to be put to death; after which he (the King) sent the (traitor’s) head to be shown to the minister, who greatly rejoiced. Narsenaque sent away all the troops and entered the city, where he was very well received by all the people, by whom he was much loved as being a man of much justice.

And after some days and years had passed, Narsenaque, seeing the age of the king how young he was, determined to keep him in the city of Penagumdy, with large guards to make safe his person, and to give him 20,000 cruzados of gold every year for his food and expenses, and himself to govern the kingdom — for it had been entrusted to him by the king his lord so to do. After this had been done he told the King that he desired to go to Bisnaga to do certain things that would tend to the benefit of the kingdom, and the King, pleased at that, told him that so it should be; thinking that now he himself would be more his own master and not be so liable to be checked by him. And after he had departed and arrived at Bisnaga, Narsenaque sent the King 20,000 men for his guard, as he had arranged, and he sent as their captain Timapanarque, a man in whom he much confided; (commanding him) that he should not allow the King to leave the city, and that he should carefully guard his person against treachery.

And after this was done Narsenaque began to make war on several places, taking them and demolishing them because they had revolted. At that time it was proposed by some captains that they should kill the King, as he was not a man fitted to govern, but to this Narsenaque would answer nothing. After some days had passed, however, Narsenaque, pondering on the treason about which they had spoken to him, how it would increase his greatness and more easily make him lord of the kingdom of which he was (only) minister, called one day those same captains who had often proposed it to him, and asked them by what means the King could be slain without its being known that he had had a hand in his death. Then one man[510] told him that a very good way would be that he (the minister) should appear to be annoyed with him and should send to command his presence, which mandate he would not obey, and on account of this act of disrespect he (the minister) should ordain that some punishment be inflicted, and at this aggravation he would leave the city and fly to Penagundy to stir up the King against the minister. He said that after he had gained the goodwill of the King he would so plot against him that he would render him disobedient; and that to give the King greater encouragement he would forge letters as if from captains which should contain the same counsel — namely, that he should leave that city where he was more prisoner than free — and would point out to him that he alone was king and lord, and yet that the land was under the power of Narasenaque his vassal, who had made himself very strong and powerful in the kingdom and held him (the King) prisoner, and had rebelled. He would urge the King to secretly quit the city and betake himself to a fortress belonging to the captain who had sent him that letter, and that there he should prepare himself, getting together a large following. And he would tell him that when the lords and captains came to know of his wish and determination they would act according to it, and would help him, and would come with him to fall upon Narsenayque, and would bestow upon him (Narsenaque) the prison in which he (the King) was now kept. So he would be king. (The captain further said) that after he had persuaded the King to this he would cause him to (leave the city), and while going out he would kill him, and that in this way Narsenaque should become king.

Narsenayque was well pleased to listen to this treason and to hear of the evil deed which this captain planned, and he showed him much favour. The captain disappeared after some days from where Narsenayque was, feigning to have fled; and he came to Penagumdy, where in a few days his arrival was known; and he set about and put in hand all those things that had been arranged. Every day he showed the King a letter, one day from a captain of one fortress, the next day another from another captain; and the King, understanding the plots contained in the letters so shown, replied that the counsel and advice seemed good, and yet how could he resist the power of Narsenayque, who, besides being minister of the kingdom, had (possession of) all the horses and elephants and treasure, so that he could at once make war against him? "True it is, Sire, that which thou sayest," answered the traitor, "and yet he is much misliked by all the captains who raised thee to be king, and as soon as they shall see thee in Chaodagary"[511] (which was a fortress whither he had advised him to flee, being one which up to that time was independent), "all will flock to thine aid, since they esteem it a just cause." Said the King, — "Since this is so, how dost thou propose that I should leave this place, so that my going should not be known to the guards and to the 20,000 men who surround me in this city?" "Sire," he replied, "I will disclose to thee a very good plan; thou and I will go forth by this thy garden, and from thence by a postern gate which is in the city (wall), and which I know well; and the guards, seeing thee alone without any following, will not know that it is thou, the King, and thus we shall pass to the outside of the city, where I will have horses ready that will take us whithersoever it seemeth good to thee." All this pleased the King well, and he placed everything in his hands; and, seeing fulfilled all his desire, the captain spoke with those men who guarded that part of the garden by which he wished that the King should fly, and which was near the King’s own houses, (for into this garden the King often went to amuse himself with his wives, which garden was at that part guarded by a matter of 300 armed men) and to these men he spoke thus, saying to them: — "If ye shall happen to see me pass by here on such a night and at such an hour, and if ye shall see a man coming with me, slay him, for he well deserves it of me, and I will reward ye;" and they all said that that would be a very small service to do for him. When that day had passed the traitor went to the King and said to him: — "Sire, do not put off till to-morrow that which thou hast to do to-day; for I have the horses ready for thy escape, and have planned so to escort thee forth that even thy ladies shall not be aware of thy departure, nor any other person. Come, Sire, to the garden, where I will await thee." The King replied that his words were good and so he would do, and as soon as night was come and the hour arrived, the King went carefully out, and still more careful was he who for some time had awaited him; and he gave signal to the armed men, and as soon as he was come to the garden he passed between two of them who were the guards, and they threw themselves on the King and slew him, and forthwith buried him at the foot of a tree in the same garden. And this being accomplished without their knowing whom they had slain, the traitor gave them his thanks, and returned to his inn to make ready to leave the city, and also so as not to give cause for talk therein. And the next morning it was found that the King was missing; and though searched for throughout all the city no news of him could be heard, all the people thinking that he had fled somewhere, whence he would make war on Narsenayque. And to Narsenayque the news was straightway brought, and he, feigning much sorrow at it, yet made ready all his horses and elephants in case the kingdom should be plunged into some revolution by the death of the king; although as yet he knew not for certain how the matter stood, save that the King had disappeared. And afterwards the man came who had killed the King, and told him how it had been done and how secretly he had been slain, so that even the very men who had killed him knew not who it was; and Narsenayque bestowed upon him rich reward. And since there was no news of the King, and he holding everything now under his hand, he was raised to be king over all the land of Narsymga.

And this king left at his death five sons, one was called Busbalrao, and another Crismarao, and another Tetarao, and another Ramygupa and another Ouamysyuaya.[512]

And this Busbalrao inherited the kingdom at the death of his father Narsenayque and reigned six years, during which he was always at war, for as soon as his father was dead the whole land revolted under its captains; who in a short time were destroyed by that King, and their lands taken and reduced under his rule. During these six years the King spent, in restoring the country to its former condition, eight million gold PARDAOS. This King died of his sickness in the city of Bisnaga; and before he died he sent for Salvatimya, his minister,[513] and commanded to be brought to him his (the King’s) son, eight years old, and said to Sallvatina that as soon as he was dead he must raise up this son to be king (though he was not of an age for that, and though the kingdom ought perhaps to belong to his brother Crisnarao) and that he must put out the eyes of the latter and must bring them to show him; in order that after his death there should be no differences in the kingdom. Salvatina said that he would do so and departed, and sent to call for Crisnarao, and took him aside to a stable, and told him how his brother had bade him put out his eyes and make his son king. When he heard this, Crisnarao said that he did not seek to be king, nor to be anything in the kingdom, even though it should come to him by right; that his desire was to pass through this world as a JOGI (ascetic, recluse), and that he should not put his eyes out, seeing that he had not deserved that of his brother. Sallvatina, hearing this, and seeing that Crisnarao was a man of over twenty years and therefore more fit to be king, as you will see farther on, than the son of Busbalrao who was only eight years old, commanded to bring a she-goat, and he put out its eyes, and took them to show the King, for already he was at the last hour of his life; and he presented them to him, and as soon as the King was dead his brother Crisnarao was raised to be king, whose eyes the late King had ordered to be torn out.


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Chicago: Robert Sewell, "Chapter 4 How the City of Bisnaga Was Built by That King Dehorao.," A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed March 1, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MDDJ426M8MRK4H.

MLA: Sewell, Robert. "Chapter 4 How the City of Bisnaga Was Built by That King Dehorao." A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 1 Mar. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MDDJ426M8MRK4H.

Harvard: Sewell, R, 'Chapter 4 How the City of Bisnaga Was Built by That King Dehorao.' in A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar) : A Contribution to the History of India, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 1 March 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MDDJ426M8MRK4H.