The provincial three level administration of the Vijayanagara empire consisted of:1.
Imperial provinces: They were directly administered by the emperor through hisrepresentatives and were generally referred to as Rajas or Mandaleshwars or sometimesas Chavidis. The distinguished members of the royal family were appointed as governors.At times when suitable members were not found in the royal family or when a capableand trustworthy officer of the central government was required to administer a troubledarea, such a person was appointed as governor. Generally the king used to appointgovernors after consulting his ministers.3.
Vassal states: They were administered through the Nayakas (or Samantas).The first division of administration was the royal family who held ultimate power. In the secondtype of provinces, the administration was done by the feudal vassals, variously called Samanta,Nayaka, etc. The system of administration of the kingdom through these feudal vassals(Nayakas) is known as the Nayankara system in the Vijayanagara times. This system resemblessomewhat the feudal system of medieval Europe. The king being the owner of the soil grantedlands to some persons as a reward. They were called nayakas and ruled over the territory undertheir charge with great freedom. In return they had to pay a fixed amount as tribute to the kingbesides maintaining a prescribed number of troops for the service of the sovereign during war.On ceremonial occasions, these Nayakas offered the king great presents of money and costlygifts or presentations. Failure to conform to these obligations was liable for punishment.The governors were required to submit regular accounts of the income and expenditure of theircharges to the central government and render military aid in times of necessity. They maintainedan agent at the imperial capital to keep themselves informed of the happenings at the court. Incase of oppressive and tyrannical governors, the central government used to transfer them fromone place to another. The autonomy enjoyed by these governors later led to the disruption of theempire under incompetent rulers.The position of Nayaka was quite different from that of the Governor. He was merely a militaryvassal who had been assigned a district in lieu of certain military and financial obligations. Hewas not transferable and his office was personal but later on became hereditary, when the kingsat the centre became weak. The Nayakas maintained two agents, one military and the other civil,representing their masters interests at the imperial city. The Nayankara system had its own meritsand demerits. It was because of this system of administration, new settlements were formed,irrigation facilities were extended, new hands were brought under cultivation and Hindu cultureand civilization was fostered and developed. However the amount of autonomy which theNayakas enjoyed gave them sufficient opportunity to engage themselves in local wars andmutual feuds. They even defied at times the central authority. In spite of its inherent weaknesses,it served its purpose tolerably well.
Origins (in South India)
Nayaka's origins can be traced to the expansion of the Western Chalukyas into Andhra country
during the 7th Century. The Nayaka / Danda Nayaka term started being used during the