Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2014
Frontiers may be understood as spatial counterparts to revolutions: the one denotes a perceived break in continuous territory, the other a perceived rupture in time. In recent decades, historians have written of a worldwide military, or ‘gunpowder’ revolution that took place in the centuries following the fourteenth. Such a notion has in turn prompted several lines of enquiry. Some have tried to locate the moment in time when this revolution occurred in particular regions. Others have sought to identify and compare the various effects that the advent, spread and use of gunpowder had in different socio-political environments across the planet.
The present essay explores a little-studied event in South Asian history, the Battle for Raichur (1520), with a view to evaluating that battle's relevance both to the idea of the frontier and to that of the military revolution. The city of Raichur occupies the heart of an exceptionally fertile tract in India's Deccan plateau—the so-called ‘Raichur Doab’—which lies between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers (see Figure 1, Map). For several centuries before 1520, the Bahmani sultans to the north of the Doab and the kings of Vijayanagara to the south repeatedly fought over access to the Doab's economic resources. Control of the fortified city of Raichur figured in all of these struggles. The battle in question was also a prelude to the more famous Battle of Talikota (1565), a conflict that permanently reconfigured the geopolitics of the Deccan plateau.