The earliest rulers belonged to the Sangama dynasty. Harihara 1 laid the foundations for an efficient administrative system. He ruled from 1336 to 1356. During his reign his brothers looked after various regions. Kempanna governed Andhra, Bukka governed the central region, Marappa took care of western region and Muddappa managed the coastal area.
From 1357, Bukka ruled the empire for a period of 20 years. He sent an embassy to China in 1374, and his son Kumara Kampana overthrew the Muslim Sultanate of Madurai to restore Hindu rule in the far south by 1370.
Later, Harihara 2 extended the northern boundary of the empire to river Krishna. Some of the earliest monuments in Hampi, including the Ganigitti Temple, can be traced back to his reign. The Italian traveller, Nicolo Conti visited Hampi during the reign of Deva Raya 1, son of Harihara 2, and left an interesting description of the city.
Deva Raya 2 (1422-46) was a powerful ruler who waged wars with the Bahamanis and invaded Orissa. Abdur Razzaq , the persian envoy visited Hampi during his reign and wrote that the Vijayanagar empire covered the entire south India. Deva Raya is also said to have received tribute from Burma. He was a great conquerer , a fine scholar and author and a patron of arts. The glorious rule of Deva Raya 2 was followed by a period of decline and disruption. Weak rulers, incursions by other kingdoms and usurpations led to constant tussle of power