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Vijayanagara, the City of Victory, was founded in 1336 and its eponymous empire ruled the Deccan until its defeat by the Islamic forces at the battle of Talikota in 1565. This political entity is often regarded by historians as the last Hindu power of the region. It marks the transition between the early Hindu kingdoms, such as the Chalukyas who ruled from the sixth century to the twelfth, and the Muslim sultanates which succeeded them and continued to rule until Independence in 1947.
The Chalukyas’ architectural tradition developed from the early rock-cut caves at Aihole and Badami to the free-standing structural Hindu temples in Pattadakal. This evolution is clearly confined to sacred architecture. By contrast, the Vijayanagara empire, while further developing and standardising the sacred architecture of Hinduism, also developed an imperial idiom, mixing sacred and vernacular elements and gradually integrating Islamic elements borrowed from the emerging sultanates.
From the fourteenth century onwards, the Deccan saw a sequence of four Islamic sultanates, each with its own capital. In 1347, Ala-ud-Din Bahman founded his capital in Gulbarga after declaring his independence from the Delhi sultans. The capital was later shifted to Bidar in 1425. Bijapur and Golconda later gained importance following the demise of Bidar.
The foundation of every new capital gave impetus to the local building traditions. Unlike in north India where most Islamic centres were built on existing Hindu cities, the Deccan sultanates built their capitals anew and a distinct Islamic architecture developed.
A feature of the tour is time spent visiting places where very few tourists venture. This involves some long coach journeys and two overnight stays in fairly simple accommodation, but the reward is the thrill of deserted citadels with their superb palaces and mosques and impressive fortifications.