The Battle of Talikota (January 26, 1565), a watershed battle fought between Vijayanagar and the Hindustani Raj against the Deccan sultanates, resulted in a rout of the Deccan sultanates, and ended the last great Muslim resistance in South India.
The throne of the Vijayanagara Empire had passed from Achyuta Raya, upon his death, to Rama Raya. Until now, the sultanates had been involved in conflicts with each other, but intermarrying helped resolve decades of conflict with the region. Vijayanagar was seen to be the greater enemy, one that would have to be destroyed at all costs if the sultanates were to ever hope to become the foremost power in South India. Thus preparations and planning soon began within the Sultanate to break the last bastion of Hindu power in the south.
On the other hand, the once great kingdom of Vijayanangar had seen better days but saw hope in the Hindustani Raj. They asked for an alliance, and Hemu was compelled to say yes to a Hindu kingdom which desperately needed allies. Something that the Vigayanagar Empire desperately needed was cannons, which were in plentiful supply in the Hindustani Raj.
By December 29, 1564 the first battles broke out. Qutb Shah and Nizam Shah, who were great friends, decided to go on their own first and led their divisions to clash with Tirumala's division. The Hindu army inflicted a huge defeat on the Muslims and the sultans fled in disarray losing thousands of men in the encounter. The sultans were shaken by this encounter and asked Adil Shah to forget previous arguments and stand by them for the intended Hindu counterattack. The sultans met secretly and decided that the only way to succeed was to resort to stratagem. Nizam Shah and Qutb Shah decided to parlay with the mighty Raya who was now planning a massive counter-thrust into the Muslim flanks. At the same time Adil Shah sent a false message to the Hindu commander that he wished to remain neutral. While this was going, on messengers from the sultans went to the Muslim commanders in the Vijayanagaran army and appealed to their religious duty of Jihad and secured their alliance to launch a subversive attack. As a result of these parlays, Ramaraya delayed his counter-thrust giving a small but critical time window for the Muslims to regroup. Sultan Imad Shah of Berar made the first thrust by attacking Tirumala's division guarding the Krishna ford. Tirumala fell upon him with his full force and in short but intense encounter destroyed the sultan's army and sent him flying for life. However, the euphoria of this victory proved short-lived as the sultans Nizam Shah, Qutb Shah, Barid Shah on one side and Adil Shah on the other used this distraction to cross the Krishna and attack the main Hindu divisions.
Ramaraya, though thoroughly surprised, rapidly responded. Despite his advanced age (in the 70s) he decided to personally lead the Hindu armies and took to the field in the center. He was faced by Nizam Shah's division. Ramaraya's first brother Tirumala hurriedly returned to form the left wing of the Hindu army that was countered by Adil Shah and traitorous Hindus under the Maharatta chief Raja Ghorpade. His second brother Venkatadri formed the Hindu right wing that was opposed by Qutb Shah and Barid Shah, strengthened by Nizam Shah's auxiliaries as the battle progressed. On 23rd Jan 1565 the enormous armies clashed on the plains near the villages of Rakshasi and Tangadi. Several reports claimed that over a million men were involved in this historic clash. Venkatadri struck early and within the first two hours the Hindu right wing's heavy guns fired constantly on the ranks of Barid Shah. As the ranks were softened the Hindu infantry under Venkatadri plowed through the divisions of Barid Shah annihilating them. The assault was so vigorous that it looked like a Hindu victory was imminent. Qutb Shah too was in retreat, when Nizam Shah sent his forces to shore up the ranks of the sultans. Nizam Shah himself was then pressed hard by the heavy cannonade from Ramaraya's division and was facing a Hindu infantry thrust with Ramaraya at the helm. At this point the sultans signaled to the Muslim officers in the Vijayanagaran army to launch a subversive attack. Suddenly Ramaraya found his rear surprised by the two Muslim divisions in his ranks turning against him. About 140,000 Muslim troops had opened a vigorous rear attack on the Hindus and captured several artillery positions.
However, when Ramaraya knew that this could signal the end for him, the well hidden artillery of Hemu was ordered to open up onto the new aggressors and do what ever they could. Hemu then led the charge against whatever divisions remained and finished them off before ordering his troops to join up with the main Vigayanangar army and continue the attack. The centre of the main army was strengthened and with cannon fire covering them, a push was led against the sultans. Both armies finished exhausted and the battle ended in a stalemate. However, this was not the end of the war.
The next location of the war was the famous Talikota, where both the armies were about to meet once again, to finish the war that had started, but not before some changes were implemented to the weaponry of the army. The archers were given new equipment, as their bows were replaced with metal crossbows brought by the Raj and more experienced mercenaries were brought in to man the artillery.
The Famous Talikota
On January 26, 1565 the Deccan sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda, which had formed a last ditch alliance, met the combined armies of Vijayanagara and the Hindustani Raj at Talikota, Bijapur taluk between two villages called Rakkasa and Tangadi, on the alluvial banks of the Krishna River, in present day Karnataka state. It was one of the few times in medieval Indian history that a joint strategy was employed by both sides. The sultanates were also aided by some minor Hindu kingdoms who held grudges against the Vijayanagara Empire. The Deccan kings had a grand total of 80,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry. Vijayanagara, on the other hand, had 300,000 foot soldiers, with another 25,000 on horseback. The armies also had large numbers of war elephants and artillery. This decisive battle was fiercely fought. Fighting in a rocky terrain, the Islamic troops tried to launched a classic offensive strategy by trying to soften up the primary lines of the Vijayanagara army using cannon fire. However, the Hindu armies counter-attacked using artillery and cavalry and the concentrated Hindu artillery took its toll, and the massive frontal attack by the combined armies finished the job. The battle ended in a complete victory for the Hindu allies, with all of the sultanates being captured and beheaded and put on display as a trophy. What followed was the retreat of Islamic troops and the destruction of the Deccan sultanates. Thus the first great Hindu counter-offensive against the ravages of Islam and Christianity in the South gained momentum.
With this battle, the last great Islamic resistance in (south) India went on to collapse, with the area occupied by the sultanates conquered. The aging leader realised that civil unrest would erupt unless things changed.