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In the medieval period, the twofold frontier of mobile wealth, nomadic and maritime, largely developed under the aegis of Islam. This chapter analyses the establishment of Indo-Islamic conquest states by post-nomadic Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and others. Mass conversion to Islam only occurred in the Indus borderlands under the impact of widespread nomadic destruction over extended periods of time. In the post-nomadic states of the subcontinent there was no nomadic destruction but instead a fusion of frontier and settled society and little or no conversion to Islam. In the same centuries, the rise of Islam in the littoral regions and island archipelagos of the Indian Ocean took place in the context of the steadily expanding trade and increased dynamism of the medieval centuries – largely beyond the pale of settled Hindu society.
Rama Raya appears in recorded history in 1512, when Sultan Quli Qutb al-Mulk enrolled this Telugu warrior as a military commander and holder of a land assignment in the newly emerged sultanate of Golkonda. By the early sixteenth century, royal patrons at Vijayanagara were building the monumental temples that have become today, in the popular imagination, iconic images of the state. In 1515 armies of Bijapur, one of Sultan Quli's rivals to the west and another Bahmani successor-state, invaded the districts under Rama Raya's charge. The view of Vijayanagara as the victim of Islamic aggression, and therefore of Talikota as some sort of titanic 'clash of civilizations', is informed by a highly reductionist view of the presumed essential character of both Vijayanagara and the northern sultanates. Most of the political culture of both Vijayanagara and its northern neighbors was Persian, whether elements of that culture had originated in Iran itself or had been transmitted through Iran en route to India.
The kingdom or empire of Vijayanagara takes its name, 'City of Victory', from its capital on the Tungabhadra River, near the centre of the sub-continent. Among Indian kingdoms, a rule of three centuries is very long and this together with the large territory over which Vijayanagara kings reigned makes it one of the great states in Indian history. Vijayanagara historiography also changed because of Krishnaswami Aiyangar's insistence that literary evidence of that period should have as much standing in the interpretations of historians as epigraphy and archaeology. Nilakanta Sastri's major contributions to Vijayanagara history were of another sort. Nilakanta Sastri's efforts in the 1950s to make Vijayanagara out to be a centralised empire has influenced subsequent writing on in two ways, both negative. Nilakanta Sastri made the centre of his interpretive analysis the onslaught of Islam. The military consequences of this led to what he called the 'war state' of Vijayanagara.
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