Administration of Vijayanagar Empire

Vijayanagar Empire Administration System

The Vijayanagar administration system was centralized, elaborate and just. The history of the rise and fall of Vijayanagar Empire is primarily a history of constant wars and conflicts.

It was natural that the administration of such a state would essentially be guided by military purposes and systems. Surprisingly the rulers of Vijayanagar Empire could not only keep the administration free from this military impact but also made it a liberal, perfect, tolerant and benevolent one.

The administrative system of Vijayanagar was a centralized one. The entire Vijayanagar empire was divided into two sets governments – the central and the provincial.

Centralized Administrative System at Vijayanagar

The central administrative system of Vijayanagar Kingdom is discussed below:

Powers of the king: The king of Vijayanagar kingdom was at the top of the administration. He had unlimited power. He was responsible for the overall administration of the state. He was the commander-in-chief of the army, the highest administrator and the chief justice. Yet, he was not a tyrant. Rather, he was a benevolent despot.

Focus on welfare of subjects: The aim of the Vijayanagar administration was to do the welfare of his subjects. Krishnadevaraya (also Krishna Deva Raya) was the most important king of Vijayanagar Empire. He believed in the principle that a crowned king should always rule with an eye towards dharma.

Council of ministers: To assist the king in the affairs of administration of Vijayanagar empire, there was a council of ministers which consisted of .possibly six or eight ministers. They were appointed by the king who could dismiss them also and they held office during the pleasure of the king.

The ministers were chosen from all the three castes of the society:

  • Brahmins,
  • Kshatriyas and
  • Vishayas.

The office of the ministers was hereditary though it was not followed always. Apart from the posts of the ministers there were other officials like chief Treasurer, officer-in-charge of jewels, officer-in-charge of commerce, the prefect of the police, and the master of the horse and so on. The household department the king of Vijayanagar was also well-organized. The nobles, priest’s astrologers, musicians, scholars and poets used to throng the royal court. The ruler used to spend a huge sum on the splendor of the court. It was so gorgeous that the foreign diplomats and travelers considered it an object of wonder.

Vijaynagar Empire Provincial Administration

The provincial administration system of the kingdom has been discussed below:

Six Provinces: The whole of Vijayanagar Empire was divided into six provinces. The administration of each province was under a governor. They were either a member of the royal family or an influential noble.

Governor: The governor was the key authority for the province and used to exercise civil, military and judicial powers. He used to furnish the account of the income and expenditure of his province to the Central Government. If the Central Government of Vijayanagar Kingdom needed his help, he would have to send military assistance whenever he was asked to do it. The governor had absolute power in the province although he was under the authority of the kings of Vijayanagar empire and controlled by the latter.

Districts : Again the provinces were divided into number of districts. These districts were each again divided into number of smaller units.

Self-sufficient villages: The lowest unit of administration of Vijayanagar Empire was the villages. Each of these villages was self-sufficient. There was a village assembly in every village which practically functioned like the modern village panchayats. This village assembly carried on the administration of the village. There were the village accountants, village weights men, the village watchmen and the village officers who were all hereditary officers. There was a village officer-in­-charge of forced labour. They were paid by grants of land or a portion of agricultural produce. There was also a special officer through whom the central Vijayanagara government maintained contact with the village. He practically supervised the administration of the village.

Land Revenue Administration of Vijayanagar Empire

The land revenue was the main source of income of the government. There was a separate land revenue department. To assess the proper revenue entire land was classified into four parts:

the wet land,
the dry land,
the orchards and
the woods.
Tax: The kings of Vijaynagar charged a little more than one sixth of the revenue. This was because the king had to maintain a huge army to protect the Vijaynagar.Empire as well as to fight their permanent enemy, the Bahmani Sultanate.

Apart from this land tax, the government also levied other taxes like the grazing tax, the marriage tax, and the customs duty, tax on gardening and taxes on manufacture of various articles. The rate of taxation was rather high, but the taxes were never extorted. The mode of payment of these taxes was both in cash and in kind.

Military Administrationof of Vijayanagar Empire

The king of Vijaynagar had to maintain a huge army. The strength of this army often varied from time to time. According to the sources, the state army during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, the most famous king of Vijaynagar, consisted of 3600 horses, seven lakhs foot soldiers and 651 elephants. There was also an artillery department. The commander-in-chief managed the military establishment. He was assisted by a number of subordinate officers. In spite of all its strength the organization and strength of the Vijaynagar army was obviously inferior to the army of the Muslim Sultans of Deccan for which they were time and again defeated.

Judicial Administration of Vijayanagar Kingdom

The king was at the top of the judiciary. He was the fountain head of justice. All cases were judged and decided by him. There were also regular courts the judges of which were appointed by the king.

The villages had their own village Assembly or Panchayats which adjudicated the cases of the village people. In some cases the judges used to take the help of the local bodies to settle the disputes.

The law administered in the court was that which had come down from the past and was based on traditional regulations, customs and constitutional usage of the country.

The criminal law, however, was very severe and all sorts of crime like theft, adultery or treason to the state were punished with death sentences or mutilation. But for the ordinary offences the punishment was rather simple – either fine or confiscation of property or ordeal.

Defects of Vijayanagar Administration

The Vijayanagar Administration System also had some vital defects which practically were largely responsible for its fall.

The provincial governors enjoyed too much power that subsequently caused the disintegration of the empire.
The army organization was not at all efficient and had many interval defects. As the Vijaynagar Kingdom had to fight almost a continuous war against the Bahmani Sultans, they should have a strong and efficient army which obviously they lacked.
The rulers allowed the Portuguese to settle on their western coast to have commercial profit. But that was a great mistake.
The rulers also failed to develop a sustained commercial activity in spite of various facilities.
Inspite of the defects mentioned above, The administration of Vijayanagar Empire was undoubtedly elaborate and just.