Beyond Empire: Vijayanagara Imperialism and the Emergence of the Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka State, 1499-1763 C.E.

by Elizabeth Jane White

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Anthropology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: South Asia; South India; Archaeology of States and Empires; Vijayanagara Empire; Keladi-Ikkeri Nayakas; Anthropology and Archaeology; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2062585
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111540


The Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka kings (c. 1499-1763 C.E.), emerge in the historical record first as regional rulers under the Vijayanagara Empire. They later parlayed their authority into independent statehood during the long process of imperial decline. Among the methods of governance deployed by Vijayanagara throughout its imperial regions was the creation of nayaka ruler positions, a contract for leadership rights based on military and financial obligations to the central authority. The degree to which nayakas were independent or subordinate is debated in the historical literature, as are the means by which nayakas established and maintained local sovereignty. I argue that Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka sovereignty was constituted through a political process which consolidated authority at the regional level, selectively managed vertical integration with higher order political contemporaries and their subject population, and advantageously cultivated horizontal integration with individuals and corporate groups. This research incorporates archaeological and historical sources and is grounded in anthropological perspectives on the political dynamics of pre-modern states and empires. It addresses the dynamics of political process, investigating relationships between imperial regions and cores, and long-term processes of regional governance under higher level political change. The Keladi-Ikkeri Nayakas ruled over a territory in what is today northern Karnataka state in south India, occupying a sequence of three capitals at Keladi, Ikkeri, and Bidnur. This work presents an analysis of the political process of regional governance through discussion of the contribution of archaeological data to discussion of the following themes: territorial sovereignty and military control as evidenced by fortification (or lack thereof); the role of courtly culture in establishing and legitimating regional governance as evidenced by a palace area and other material culture of elite consumption; elite patronage of religious institutions and elite patronage as evidenced by temple architecture and Keladi-Ikkeri donor inscriptions; aspects of participation in local and long-distance economy as evidenced by local production (e.g., goods such as earthenware ceramics, agricultural products, and processing areas) and by participation in long distance trade (e.g. Chinese porcelain, East Asian glaze wares); and an exploration of autonomy in local custom which would illuminate relations of subjection versus freedom.