By: Tamarapu Sampath Kumaran
Sri Krishna Deva Raya, who ruled between 1509-1529 A.D. was the most famous king of Vijayanagara Empire, and was regarded as a hero by Kannadigas and Telugu people Krishna Deva Raya was the son of Nagala Devi and Tuluva Narasa Nayaka, an army commander under Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, who later took control of the empire to prevent its disintegration.
No single Muslim kingdom was capable to face the might of the Vijayanagar Empire. Hence all the five Muslim kingdoms - Henagar, Barer, Bidar,Bijapur Golconda and even the sufis of Bijapur got together under a ‘Jihad’ and attacked Vijayanagar, during 1565. The attack was brief and concentrated: The aftermath was the pillage of Vijayanagar, and the magnificence of Vijaynagar ended.
The king had a cheerful disposition, but was prone to fits of anger and was ruthless in maintaining the law. He maintained himself to a high level of physical fitness through daily exercises. Travelogues indicate that the king was not only an able administrator, but also an excellent General, leading from the front in battle and even attending to the wounded. He was reputed to be respectful to Foreign Visitors, The able Prime Minister Timmarasu, who was regarded by the king as a father figure, was responsible for the coronation of Krishna Deva Raya. After a 21-year glorious rule from 1509-1529AD, Krishnadevaraya left behind a rich legacy of artifacts, treasury troves, temples, palaces, exquisite monuments and the royal city that was declared in 1986 a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Vijayanagar in Sanskrit means city of victory. Paes could estimate the size of Vijaynagar as large as Rome, and he considered Vijaynagar to be "the best provided city in the world" with a population of around half a million.
The Emblem of Krishnadevaraya was designed with “Varaha” – the boar an Avatara of Vishnu. Krishnadeva Raya was well-versed in Raja Neeti and followed the age old traditional teachings of great historians such as Manu, Kautilya, Sukra, Vidura, and Bhishma. Vijayanagar Empire embraced in its ample fold all of the present states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Kerala and even extended into the Utkal region of Orissa. The official languages of the court were Kannada and Telugu.
Krishnadeva Raya divided the entire Empire into several administrative divisions. While Rayala Seema - Bellary and Karnool regions - was looked after by the Emperor himself, other major parts of the empire were under many Feudal Lords.as has been the practice introduced by Tuluva Kings. The feudatories built forts around their capitals. Temples were built and knowledgeable Brahmins were made in charge of these temples.
The empire had a Central Government, guided by a group of Ministers, headed by Saluva Thimmarasu. The King paid considerable attention to civil administration. The executive authority was entrusted with the local or the communal institutions. The King and his ministers were supervising them.
The King maintained a large and powerful army consisting of elephant corps, cavalry and infantry. The Nayaks of the military were assigned certain areas for administration and collection of taxes.
There were roughly about two hundred of such Nayakas. There were regular military schools to train young and new recruits. Maintenance of forts was also the duty of the Nayakas. Vijayanagara city itself was well fortified with seven rounds of ramparts, with circuitous approaches to protect them from strangers. Army also maintained a group of musicians like trumpeters and drummers. Therewas social harmony in the army and even the low caste men were promoted to that of a Nayaka. Keladi Sadashiva Nayaka was one such person. The Empire had a navy with several ports under its command, including some in Ceylon – SriLanka.
The Portuguese Chronicler Domingo Paes praises Krishna Deva Raya as, “the most feared and perfect King, a great ruler and a man of much justice”. Though a follower of Vaishnavism, he respected all sects. Paes sarcastically summarizes the king's attitude to matters of law and order by quoting that "The king maintains the law by killing." Offences against property and theft ranged from cutting of a foot and hand and beheading for murder. With the active cooperation of Saluva Thimmarasu he administered the Kingdom well, maintained peace in the land and increased the prosperity of the people.
He was of the opinion that the King should always rule with an eye towards Dharma. His concern for the welfare of the people is amply proved by his extensive tours throughout the empire, during which he studied everything personally and tried to redress the grievances of the people and to punish the evildoers.
Krishnadevaraya established friendly relations with the Portugese, who set up the Portuguese Dominion of India in Goa, in 1510. The Emperor obtained guns and Arabian horses from the Portuguese merchants. He also utilized Portuguese expertise in improving water supply to Vijayanagara City.
Madurai came under the control of the Vijayanagar kingdom in the 15th and 16th centuries. Nayaks of Nayak Dynasty were rulers, from 1559 until 1736, of the region comprising most of the present Tamilnadu, with Madurai as the Capital.Viswanatha Nayaka who won the confidence of Vijayanagar emperor was made the ruler of Madurai territory. During this time the Meenakshi Temple was greatly expanded and some of the temple towers the Raja Gopurams and Teppakkulam tank were constructed.
Krishna Deva Raya was formally initiated into the Vaishnava Sampradaya by Vyasatirtha of Udipi and other Vedanta scholars of that time.
All the great rulers of the southern peninsula have paid homage to Lord Sri Venkateswara in this ancient shrine at Tirupati. The Pallavas of Kancheepuram, the Cholas of Thanjavur, the Pandyas of Madurai, and the kings and chieftains of Vijayanagar were devotees of the Lord and they competed with one another in endowing the temple with rich offerings and contributions. Krishna Deva Raya respected all sects of Hinduism and he lavished on the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple numerous objects of priceless value, ranging from diamond studded crowns to golden swords.
His devotion was at its peak when he issued 30,000 ‘special edition' gold coins,with which he had performed ‘Kanakabhishekam' to the presiding deity at Tirumala, as a thanksgiving on capturing the Udayagiri Fort, now in Nelloredistrict, after defeating Prataparudra Gajapathi of Kalinga dynasty.
Additionally, he is known to have commissioned the making of statues of himself and his two wives and consorts installed at the portals of the temple.
It was during the rule of the Vijayanagar dynasty that the contributions to the temple increased. The characteristic feature of this period is the development of the temple complex: concentric series of rectangular enclosure walls with the gopuras (towered gateways) in the middle of each side. Of the numerous vijayanagara complexes in southern India, the most magnificent ones are those at Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai and Vellore.
He not only marked the climax in the territorial expansion of the Vijayanagara Empire but was also remarkable for the encouragement and development of Arts and Letters. Himself an accomplished scholar, Raya was a generous patron of learning. “He was in no way less famous’, writes Krishna Sastri, ‘for his religious zeal and catholocity’. He respected all sects of Hindu religion alike, though his personal leanings were in favor of Vaishnavism…
The rule of Krishna Deva Raya was an age of prolific literature in many languages, although it is also known as a golden age of Telugu literature. Many Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil poets enjoyed the patronage of the emperor. Emperor Krishna Deva Raya was fluent in many languages including his mother tongue “Tulu”. He patronized poets and scholars in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit.
The rule of Krishna Deva Raya was an age of prolific literature in many languages, although it is also known as a golden age of Telugu literature. Many Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil poets enjoyed the patronage of the Emperor. Sri Krishna Deva Raya wrote the book Amuktamalyada in Telugu, beautifully describing the pangs of separation suffered by Sri Andal (incarnation of Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi) for her lover Lord Vishnu. He describes Andal’s physical beauty in thirty verses; using descriptions of the spring and the monsoon as metaphors, and the sensual pleasure of union extends beyond the physical level and becomes a path to, and a metaphor for, spirituality and ultimate union with the divine.
One of the main characters is Periyalvar , the father of Andal. Lord Vishnu commands Periyalvar to teach a king of the Pandya dynasty the path of knowledge to moksha. Amuktamalyada is also known by the name Vishnu-chitteeyam, a reference to Vishnu-chittudu, the Telugu name of Vishnuchittar (Periyalwar). Several other short stories are included in Amuktamalyada in the course of the main story of Godadevi, the Sanskrit name of Kothai Naachiyaar (Andal). Krishna Raya was also well-versed in Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. Jambavati Kalyanamu is his Sanskrit work. He strove for the welfare and the uplifting of Telugu people.
Eight poets known as Astakavidiggajalu (eight elephants in the eight cardinal points such as North, South etc.) were part of his court known as Bhuvana-vijayamu. According to the Vaishnavite religion it is believed that there are eight elephants in eight corners in space which hold the earth in its place. Similarly these eight poets were the eight pillars of his literary assembly. Krishna DevaRaya’s reign was the golden age of Telugu literature. These include Allasani Peddana, Nandi Timmanna, Madavyagiri Mallanna, Dhurjati, AyyalarajuRamabhadrudu, Pingali Suranna and Tenali Ramakrishna. Among these eight poets Allasani Peddana is considered to be the greatest and is given the title of Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (the father of Telugu poetry).Manu-charitramu is his popular Prabhanda work. Nandi Timmana wrote Pari-jata-apaharan-amu. Madayya-gari Mallana wrote Raja-sekhara Charitramu. Dhurjati wrote Kalahasti Mahatyamu and Ayyal-raju Rama-bhadrudu wrote Rama-abhyuday-amu. PingaliSurana wrote the still remarkable Raghava-pandaveey-amu, a dual work withdouble meaning built into the text, describing both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Battumurty alias Rama-raja-bhushanudu wrote Kavya-lankara- sangrahamu, Vasu-charitramu, and Haris-chandrana-lopakhyanamu. Among these works the last one is a dual work which tells simultaneously the story of King Harischandra and Nala Damayanthi. Tenali Ramakrishnafirst wrote Udbhataradhya Charitramu, a Saivite work and later wrote Vaishnava devotional texts Pandu-ranga Mahatmyamu, and Ghati-kachala Mahatmyamu. The period of the Empire is known as “Prabandha Period,” because of the quality of the prabandha literature produced during this time. Tenali Rama remains one of themost popular folk figures in India today, a quick-witted courtier ready even tooutwit the all-powerful Emperor. Tenali Rama Krishna was also the court jester of whom there are innumerable stories for the children.
He patronized Kannada poets Mallanarya who wrote Veera-saivamrita, Bhava-chinta-ratna and Satyendra Chola-kathe, Chatu Vittal-anatha who wrote Bhaga-vatha, Timmanna Kavi who wrote a eulogy of his king in Krishna Raya Bharata. Vyasatheertha, the great saint from Mysore belonging to the Madhwa order. Krishna Deva Rayana Dinachari in Kannada, a recently discovered highlights the contemporary society during Krishna Deva Raya's time in his personal diary.
Krishna Deva Raya patronized Tamil poet Haridasa.
Krishna Deva Raya patronised Tamil poet Haridasa.In Sanskrit Krishna Deva Raya himself an accomplished scholar wrote MadalasaCharita, Satyavadu Parinaya and Rasamanjari and Jambavati Kalyana.
The reign of Krishnadevaraya was also remarkable for the encouragement and development of arts and letters. He constructed the famous Vittalaswami and Hazara Ramaswamy temples. A gopuram was added to the Virupaksha temple on the occasion of his coronation. He restored many shrines throughout South India. A gopuram was added to the Virupaksha temple on the occasion of his coronation. He restored many shrines throughout South India.
A number of towns, dams and public buildings were also constructed. Many festivals and ceremonies were held during the period of Krishnadevaraya. After Krishna Deva Raya, the great, Vijayanagara Empire started declining and almost ended following the battle of Talikot.
In 1524 he made his son Tirumalai Raya the Yuvaraja though the crown prince did not survive for long. He was poisoned to death. Suspecting the involvement of saluva Timmarasa, Krishna Deva Raya had his trusted commander and adviser blinded. At the same time, Krishnadevaraya was preparing for an attack on Belgaum that was in the Adil Shah’s possession; Krishnadevaraya took seriously ill. He died soon after in 1529. Before his death, he nominated his brother, Achyuta Deva Raya as his successor.
The rule of Krishnadevaraya was a glorious chapter in the history of VijayanagaraEmpire.Even the ruins at Hampi tell the glorious tale of that mighty empire.