Hinduism was divided into two main sects in the South. These were the Shaivism and Vaishnavism.
Both these sects emphasized spiritual equality of all castes, the worship of idols, pilgrimages, suppression of desires and consideration to animal life.
The rulers of Vijayanagar Kingdom patronised Hinduism, the overwhelming population of the Bahmani Kingdom comprised Hindus.
The Brahmans occupied an exhalted position in the Vijayanagar kingdom. According to traveller Linchoten, “The Brahmans are the honest and esteemed people.” They occupied important posts in all spheres administrative, military and political besides priestly positions.
All the rulers of Vijayanagar empire were devout Hindus. Most of the rulers were devotees of Vaishnavism. However, they were tolerant towards all religious. The Mulsims, the Christians, the Yahudis and the people of other faiths enjoyed equal freedom. According to a foreign traveller Eduardo Barbosa.” The kings allow such freedom that everyman may come and go and live according to his own creed.”
Hindu Society: Social Conditions:
The pattern of Hindu society in the South was different from that of the North. The next to Brahmans were the merchants, artisans, weavers etc. The lowest class comprised ‘Jogis’ and jugglers etc.
The Brahmans could not intermarry in the same ‘Kula’ and ‘gotra’. There were no such restriction in other castes.
Early marriages came to be in vogue in the South primarily on account of the Muslim invasions and uncertain political conditions.
Remarriage of widows was prohibited among the upper classes but was permitted among lower classes.
Divorce was allowed on certain conditions. A wife could seek divorce on account of physical disability of the husband or his being an impotent. A husband too could seek divorce if the wife was unchaste or failed to give birth to a son.
The system of dowry was prevalent particularly among higher classes.
The custom of ‘sati was in vogue.
All castes excepting Brahmans, could eat all kinds of meat. Beef eating was considered as a sin. Drinking of intoxicants was common among the Kshatriyas and the Sudras. Rice was the staple food. The higher classes used rice of better quality. Various kinds of fruits and vegetables were also used. The well-to-do took ‘Chappatis and puris’. The Muslims were very fond of meat.
The usual dress of the Hindus consisted of a ‘dhoti’ and piece of cloth to cover the upper part of the body. ‘Chappals’ were the common foow-ware. Many people were barefooted. Women belonging to rich classes used Saris’. The ordinary women had a piece of cloth wrapped round their waist and an upper garment. The Muslim followed the pattern of dress of the north. It consisted of tight trousers and shirts and ‘Shenvanis’ or long coats. Women were very fond of ornaments which were either made of silver or gold.
‘Mahanavami was the most important festival celebrated in Vijayanagar empire. It was held to celebrate the victory of Goddess Durga over the demons Bhandasura; Chanda and Munda. The festival lasted five days during which period the king held the court in public.
Animal sacrifices were performed to propitiate the goddess. ‘Ramlila’ and ‘Krishanlila’ were theatrically depicted, scenes from the Epics.
Deepavali, Karthigai and Holi were the important festivals.
Several festivals particularly connected with the Shia faith were celeberated by the Muslims. The martyrdom of Imam Husain and Prophet’s birthday were the most important festivals. Drinking of wine, cutting of hair, etc. were prohibited during Muharram.
Games, Sports and Pastimes:
The games, sports and pastimes of the people were similar to those in vogue in the north Cock-fighting was common. Acrobats and snake charmers entertained the people with their performances.
‘Kirtans’ among the Hindus were common. ‘Urs’ among the Muslims were held on the tombs of Muslim Saints.
Houses and Furniture:
The houses of the high officials and wealthy merchants were built of teakwood and had two storeys. The upper storey was used as a bedroom, for study and for any other private work.
Foreign travellers saw several houses which were 400 years old and had not suffered any damage.
The lower classes lived in thatched houses without any cellars and windows.