A Well Organised Administrative System:
Vijayanagara empire which lasted for more than two hundred years in the Deccan had a well-organised administrative system.
It was on account of this system that there was an all round prosperity in the state. Under the leadership of its several rulers, the state made a remarkable progress in the economic, cultural, political and social fields.
Many foreigner visitors like Nicolo (onti-ltalian), Abdul Razaq (Persian) and Dominigos Pius (Portuguese) etc. have praised the prosperity of the state.
Kingship Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest ruler of the Kingdom of Vijayanagara explains the position of Kingship in his book ‘Amuktamalyda” that a King should gather round him people skilled in state craft and seek their advice and help in administration. He further writes, “A crowned king should always rule with an eye towards Dharma”.
The ruler was a benevolent despot. He was the head of the state and was regarded as the God’s representative on earth. The king was the supreme authority in civil, military and judicial matters. The king, however, was assisted and guided by a council of ministers. He was an enlightened and benevolent ruler.
Council of Ministers:
The king was assisted by ministers who were nominated by the king. The ministers were appointed from the three classes i.e. The Brahmans, the Kshatriyas and the Vaishayas. The office of the minister was sometimes hereditary. The three important key posts of the state were the Prime Minister, the Chief Treasurer and the Prefect of the Police.
Rule of two rulers simultaneously. Sometimes two rulers ruled at the same time-a strange practice and perhaps the only one in history; Hari Har I and his brother Bukka Rai ruled at the same time. Likewise Vijay Rai and Dev Rai ruled at the same time.
For purpose of administration, the empire was divided into 6 provinces. A province was called Prant, or Rajya. Each province was under a viceroy or Nayak who was either a member of the royal family or influential noble of the state. Every viceroy enjoyed civil, military and judiciary powers within the province. He was required to submit regularly account of the income and expenditure to the central government.
The rulers of Vijayanagar a adopted the principle of the decentralisation of political power. The empire was, divided into provinces prants, districts, ‘Nadus’, ‘Melagrams’ and ‘grams’. Administration of the villages was autonomous.
The province was divided into smaller units. The village was the smallest unit. It was self-sufficient. The village assembly (Panchayat) was responsible for the administration of the village. Village accountant and the village watchman were the hereditary officers. These officers were paid either by grants of land or from a portion of the agricultural produce.
Nayankar system of administration:
Under this system, the ruler assigned a land track to officials in lieu of pay i.e. for maintaining themselves and that of their army from the land track itself. These officials or landlords provided military service to the ruler.
Sources of revenue:
Land revenue was the chief source of income. Land was divided into four categories for purposes of assessment, wet land, dry land, orchards and woods. Usually the share was one sixth of the produce. Land revenue could be paid in cash or kind. The rates varied according to the type of the crops, soil, method of irrigation, etc. Apart from land revenue, other taxes were: irrigation tax, grazing tax and import- export duties on merchandise goods.
Administration of justice:
The king was the highest authority or the supreme court of justice. His word was final. Petitions were presented to the king or the Prime Minister by all those who had a grievance and these were disposed of according to the principles of Hindu Law. Punishments were very severe. Torture was used to find out the truth from the alleged culprit. Death sentence, mutilation of the limbs of the body and confiscation of property were the deterrent punishments for the criminals. In the villages, panchayats dispensed justice for ordinary crimes.
The army consisted of infantry, cavalry, artillery and camels. The rulers of the Vijayanagar a empire neglected naval power. The rulers recruited Turkish archers in the army. The military organisation was rather weak and its primary weakness was artillery.
According to Domingos Paes, a foreign traveller, Krishna Deva Raya’s army included 703,000 infantry, 32600 cavalry and 551 elephants, besides an unaccounted host of camp followers. Chariots had gone out of use. The efficiency of the huge army was not proportionate to the number of force.
Splendour of the court:
The court of the rulers of Vijayanagara was known for its grandeur and splendour. It was attended by nobles, priests, scholars, musicians and astrologers.
Orders of the rulers:
No written orders were issued by the rulers. The royal words were carefully noted down by secretaries, whose record was the sole evidence of the commands issued.