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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: September 2009

5 - Vijayanagara: sources of evidence


A variety of written and material sources provide evidence for the study of South Indian history, including issues of economy and craft production. Prominent among the written sources are the numerous inscriptions carved on the walls of temples, stelae, and boulders and inscribed on to copper plates. Vijayanagara-period inscriptions were composed primarily in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit. Other written sources of the period include diverse South Indian literary works – poetry, temple texts, mythic recountings, and a regrettably small number of administrative documents. We also have written accounts from the northern sultanates and from foreign travelers to South India, including merchants and ministers who visited the Vijayanagara court.

Archaeological remains from fourteenth- to seventeenth-century South India are both abundant and remarkably understudied. We know a great deal about the monumental architecture of the period, particularly temples (see especially Michell 1995). Beyond this, however, systematic archaeological research has been conducted only at the first Vijayanagara capital and in its immediate hinterland, and that only since the 1980s. This work has provided scholars with a detailed understanding of the history and plan of the capital, and of the range of economic and other activities and features in its c. 450-square kilometers fortified hinterland or metropolitan region. In this chapter, I address the various sources of written and archaeological evidence available for the study of Vijayanagara.