Last night, I prepared one thread on Twitter regarding the similarities between an episode in the hit HBO show Game of Thrones and an incident that occurred in 17th century India.
As I was preparing this, I realized that I should write an article about it so that more people can realise how the history that surrounds us can be linked to some of the greatest fantasy novels and TV shows and also include little more details about it. If such links and similarities are explored, anyone will definitely be more interested in learning about history.
In Game of Thrones, House Stark is an honorable house and is respected deeply by most people. It probably is the most famous and popular one in the entire series. In the second episode of the fifth season, Stannis Baratheon sends a raven to all the Northern houses after helping the Night’s Watch win a bitter fought battle with the wildlings. He proclaims himself as the rightful king of the seven kingdoms and sends across the message across the North which is being ruled by the tyrannical Boltons who in association with the Lannisters and the Freys, massacred the noble House of Stark and killed the king in the North, Robb Stark.
In the episode, Stannis gets a reply from Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of the Bear Island which is one of the places that forms a part of the North. Lyanna clearly states “Bear island Knows no King but the King in the north, whose name is Stark.” Despite the fact that the Starks have lost their home, have lost their leader and the king in the North, Robb, and despite their uncertain future, Lyanna Mormont without a doubt pledges her allegiance to House Stark.
What if I told you that something similar happened in 17th century India? Move on from Westeros and come back to 17th century India. In Game of Thrones, the place in question was the North.
However, in this context, we talk about the Southern part of India in the 17th century. The year is 1639 and the place is the Kingdom of Mysore. The great king Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar-I sits upon the throne of Mysore and is slowly making it a power to be reckoned with in the Southern part of the country. He is a just and honourable king.
In order to contain the growing power of Mysore, the Bijapur Adil Shah sends a group of men to the Kingdom of Mysore. These men are carrying a message from the Adil Shah to Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar-I. The message is simple from Bijapur. The Adil Shah declares to the Mysore king “Pay me an annual tribute or risk an invasion from my powerful army”.
The Mysore king completely rejects this proposal and declares to the men that he owes his allegiance only to the throne of Vijayanagara and no else has the right to ask him to pay tribute. How is this similar to the incident that I described in Game of Thrones? That’s because in 1639, the Vijayanagara Empire is in the same situation House Stark found itself to be in the 5th season of Game of Thrones.
The Vijayanagara Empire is on its dying stages. It is no longer the mighty and glorious power it once was. The Vijayanagara emperor Sriranga-VI/Venkata is a toothless tiger and the empire is on the decline. Its future is clearly uncertain just the way the future of House Stark is uncertain in this particular season of Game of Thones. Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar-I is aware about all this. He knows that the future of Vijayanagara is uncertain. But despite all these facts, he still declares his allegiance to the VIjayangara Empire similar to how Lyanna Mormont declared her allegiance to the noble House Stark in this episode of Game of Thrones.
House Stark faced a lot of challenges in the TV show. Its original head, Lord Eddard Stark was unfairly executed in Season one. His son Brandon was crippled in the first episode itself. His “bastard” son Jon Snow is packed off to the Wall wherein he faces extremely hostile conditions. His eldest son Robb is proclaimed the King in the North and proceeds southwards to avenge his father. Despite his initial successes, he is betrayed and murdered by his own banner man Roose Bolton. His mother is also killed during a wedding feast at the Twins which is under the control of the Freys who also betrayed the Starks by indulging in such treachery. The entire Stark army is completely routed. The two daughters Arya and Sansa face their own challenges. Arya undergoes the extremely difficult training of Faceless men at Braavos and Sansa endures torture, first at the hands of Joffrey and later at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. The youngest Stark, Rickon is murdered before the battle between the Starks and the Boltons is fought in season 6. However, despite all these difficulties, the Starks never give up and win back their kingdom. They also unite all the Northern houses, the Wildings, and the Knights of the Vale in their fight against the dead.
The case of Vijayanagara Empire was also similar. It also faced a number of precarious situations. The Bahamani Sultanates used to repeatedly invade the Vijayanagara Empire and undertake in an annual jihad of sorts in which the Vijayanagara territories would be looted mercilessly. It was defeated by the Gajapatis of Odisha on occasions. It regularly had to deal with mischievous and treacherous feudatories. It lost a huge battle at Talikota in 1565 which led to the destruction of its glorious capital city which now exists as ruins in Hampi in the present day Karnataka. However, the Vijayanagara Empire never stopped giving up.
The great Krishnadevaraya put the Bahamanis to the sword and stopped this annual jihad. The empire inflicted such a crushing defeat at Raichur that the Adil Shahi Sultanate which had emerged from the Bahamani Sultanate did not dare to invade Vijayanagara. The Gajapatis who were hostile towards the empire were defeated and brought under control. Even after the tragic Battle of Talikota which led to the destruction of one of the world’s greatest cities, the empire never gave up. They continued to rule for a century after the Battle of Talikota. The Vijayanagara Empire is widely hailed as a symbol of hope, resistance, and honour similar to House Stark in Game of Thrones.
Now coming back to the original point. Lyanna Mormont believed in the Starks and pledged her allegiance to them despite the fact that their future was uncertain. Similarly, Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar-I pledged his allegiance to the declining Vijayanagara Empire despite knowing that it was a declining force and was no longer the power it once was. History and fiction have many such links between them. It really gets interesting when the real incidents of the past can be compared with the unreal but brilliantly imagined incidents in fantasy novels/TV shows. The link between reality and fantasy can really make learning of history interesting.
This is the Twitter Thread that led to it:
For further reading,
I recommend Vikram Sampath’s book on the Kingdom of Mysore “Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars”. I got this link between Lyanna Mormont and Narasaraja Wadiyar and that between the Starks and the Vijayanagara Empire while reading the chapter about Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar-I in the book.