Hakka and Bukka were brothers and warriors. The brothers wanted to build their own kingdom where people could live without fear. They collected a band of young men and trained them in warfare. They lived in a forest hideout on the banks of the river Tungabhadra in South India.
One day, the brothers were out on a hunt. Ferocious dogs accompanied them. They crossed the river and rode on. A couple of frightened rabbits ran out of the bushes. The dogs gave them chase with the two brothers closely behind on their horses.
It was a long chase. The rabbits were running for their life. The dogs were catching up. Suddenly, in a swift move, the rabbits turned and faced the dogs. Taken aback by the show of defiance, the barking dogs stepped back. Hakka called back the dogs. As the dogs turned back, the rabbits walked away.
Hakka looked around. They were on the other side of the Tungabhadra. It was a rocky land. The sun was blazing in the sky.
“Strange! I’ve never seen rabbits challenging dogs before!” said Bukka.
“That’s the quality of this land,” said a quiet voice, “Even rabbits give a fight.”
Startled to hear a stranger speak, the two brothers turned.
They saw a holy man walking towards them. He was a picture of peace. At the same time, his eyes were blazing bright. Suddenly, in a swift move, the rabbits turned and faced the dogs. Taken aback by the show of defiance, the barking dogs stepped back.
The brothers fell at his feet.
“You must be Vidyaranya, the famous sage of Sringeri,” said Hakka.
“And you are the brothers struggling to build a kingdom — Hakka and Bukka,” said the saint with a smile.
The brothers had heard that Vidyaranya was doing penance on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Nobody knew his exact whereabouts. And here he was, giving them his blessings!
“There are hundreds of kingdoms. Tell me, in what way will your kingdom be different?” asked Vidyaranya.
“Our kingdom will have a strong foundation,” said Hakka, speaking slowly, weighing every word. “Foundation of Dharma — truth, and justice.”
Vidyaranya smiled, “I’m glad you said it. Truth and justice. Peace and prosperity. You will build an empire that will stand for the victory for truth and justice. Call it Vijayanagara. Build your capital at the very place which knows no fear, where even rabbits are courageous!”
The brothers bowed.
Soon Vijayanagara emerged as a powerful empire on the banks of the Tungabhadra, with Hampi as its capital.
Note: Vijayanagara was founded in CE 1336. Its most celebrated ruler was Sri Krishna Deva Raya (CE 1509 to 1529). The city of Hampi is in ruins today and is listed as a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
Story: Subba Rao | Illustration: Abhijeet Kini