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HomeVarietyCulture and HistorySamrat Krishnadevaraya, the greatest and the most famous emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire

Samrat Krishnadevaraya, the greatest and the most famous emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire

Samrat Krishnadevaraya patronised all religious factions and was a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati.

It was at this time that the Mughal Sultanate was being established in Delhi, and several Islamic empires were making inroads in southern India as well. During this period, one such empire that flourished was the Vijayanagara empire, which stopped the spread of Islamic invaders in South India. Krishnadevaraya was the greatest and most famous emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire. He took the empire to its zenith and is therefore regarded as an icon by the people of India. 

Apart from being a great patron of art and literature, he was an extremely skilled warrior. He himself led his troops to victory in numerous battles. Before moving ahead, let us first introduce you to the Vijayanagara Empire and Krishnadevaraya.

In 1505, Emperor Vira Narasimha established the Tuluva dynasty. He rose to power by ousting the Saluva dynasty. This was the time when the Bahmani dynasty was rising in power. These three major Islamic sultanates- Bahmani, Golconda, and Bijapur, did not even want to see Vijayanagara. Apart from these, Vira Narasimharaya also defeated the Muslim Sultans of Ahmednagar and Bidar.

Samrat Krishnadevaraya was Vira Narasimha’s younger half-brother. After the death of his elder brother, he took over the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1509. Krishnadevaraya’s rule is remembered as a glorious chapter in the history of the Vijayanagara Empire. 

The feudatories of Vijayanagara had revolted and were acting like independent monarchs at the time. The Gajapatis ruled Odisha. The Portuguese dominated marine trade. Krishnadevaraya used politics, diplomacy, and war tactics to handle all the challenges.

Krishnadevaraya’s war against the Bahmani Sultanate

One of the main aspects of the Vijayanagara Empire’s history was the regular conflicts with the Bahmani rulers, primarily over the Raichur-Tungabhadra Doab region. Though the Bahmani kingdom, the first independent Muslim kingdom of the Deccan region, had split up into five separate states, namely, Bijapur, Golkonda, Bidar, Berar, and Ahmednagar, the sultans of these kingdoms used to organize annual jihad against Vijayanagar.

It was a back-and-forth struggle, with the Vijayanagara kings winning at times and the Bahmani Sultans at others. The frequent clashes with the Bahmani Sultans had not only ruined significant areas of the Doab region but also resulted in indiscriminate killings and temple destruction.

The Bahmanis played heinous tactics like frequent raids, complete plunder of the Vijayanagara region, destruction of Hindu temples, and slaughtering Hindus.

The first thing Sri Krishnadevaraya did after ascending to the throne was to put an end to the regular looting and raiding by the Bahmanis.

At that time there was no unity among the Islamic kingdoms around Vijayanagara and most of them used to fight with each other.

At the Battle of Diwani, Krishnadevaraya routed the marauding Bahmani army of Bijapur and pursued the Bahmani Sultan, Yusuf Adil Shah. Yusuf Adil Shah, the retreating Bijapur monarch, was defeated and slain at Kovilkonda, dealing a crushing blow to the Bijapur army.

Following the fall of Bijapur, emperor Krishnadevaraya focused his attention on the other Bahmani kingdoms. His next target was the Gulbarga region, which was ruled by Yusuf Adil Shah, who held the Bahmani Sultan Mahmud Shah captive.

Krishnadevaraya conquered Bijapur, freeing the Sultan of Bahmani- Mahmud Shah and restoring him to the throne, earning him the title ‘Yavan Rajya Pratishtapanacharya’ (establisher of the Yavana kingdom.)

Following this, he defeated Qasim Barid and captured Bidar. 

Suppression of internal revolts

The next step was to subdue the feudatories and the Gajapatis of Odisha so that the supremacy of the Vijayanagara Empire could be ascertained.

The feudatories like the Velamas of Bhuvanagiri and the Heunas of Ummattur were defeated and brought under control. Krishnadevaraya fought the Heuna chief Gangaraja in a battle on the banks of the Kaveri and defeated him. Gangaraja committed suicide by drowning himself in the river and his entire kingdom was annexed and became a part of the Srirangapatna province in 1512.

Samrat Krishnadevaraya then turned to Odisha to fight the Gajapatis who were growing at an alarming rate. They had previously defeated Saluva Narasimharaya and were hostile towards the Vijayanagara Empire. They had the entire Odisha and large parts of the Andhra-Telangana region under their control. Krishnadevaraya knew that he had to fight and defeat them to consolidate his position.

In 1512, he laid siege to the fortress of Udayagiri. There the war went on for 5 years (1513-18). A total of five campaigns were launched against them by the Gajapatis but every attempt made by the Gajapati ruler Prataparudra to stop the invading and devastating Vijayanagara forces was easily nullified by the invincible Vijayanagara forces who were being personally led by their great king. After the final campaign, Prataparudra surrendered to Krishnadevaraya and gave his daughter Annapurna Devi’s hand in marriage to the Vijayanagara emperor.

A treaty was signed which made the Krishna river the boundary between the two empires. Krishnadevaraya through his Kalinga campaign had consolidated his position as the most powerful king in the region. The Gajapatis were no longer a threat to the Vijayanagara Empire.

In the midst of the Odisha conflict, the Sultan of Golconda attacked the Emperor, knowing he was preoccupied. Emperor Krishnadevaraya, on the other hand, sent his army to combat him and re-conquered the provinces he had captured.

Similarly, the Sultan of Bijapur, Adil Shah, took advantage of the situation and recaptured the Raichur doab, which had been the source of the Vijayanagara and Bahamani Sultanates’ fierce hostility. Krishnadevaraya vowed to put an end to the Raichur dispute once and for all. In 1520, he launched an assault to recover Raichur. What ensued was the fierce battle of Raichur, in which the Vijayanagara forces led by Krishnadevaraya attacked the Bijapur forces fervently leaving the Bijapur forces utterly devastated.

The Bijapur forces were greatly outnumbered and were compelled to surrender the fortress of Raichur. Krishnadevaraya destructed Gulbarga, the Capital of Bijapur. The Sultan himself escaped by the skin of his teeth with the help of his bodyguard Asada Khan. This way, Raichur was captured and the mission had been accomplished. After this glorious victory, Krishnadevaraya returned to his capital. By conquering all three Muslim sultanates, he went on to establish the supremacy of Vijayanagara.

The Battle of Raichur is in fact, considered one of the most crucial and tough battles in Samrat Krishnadevaraya’s reign.

Apart from his unbeatable military expeditions, Krishnadevaraya was also a great poet, who composed a book called ‘Amukta Malyad’ in Telugu and also wrote a book named ‘Jambavati Kalyanam’.

Statue of Emperor Krishnadevaraya (Source: Ancient Origins)

Krishnadevaraya- an astute diplomat

Besides, he was also an astute diplomat. During his reign, the Portuguese arrived on the west coast of India. The emperor established good relations with the foreigners and encouraged trade between them and his subjects when Goa became the headquarters of the Portuguese State of India in 1510.

Krishnadevaraya obtained firearms and Arabian horses from Portuguese traders, which boosted the empire’s military might giving it an edge over the Islamic Sultanates. Furthermore, the emperor was able to use the Portuguese engineering experience to upgrade the water supply system in Vijayanagara, the empire’s capital.

Krishnadevaraya got numerous temples built during his regime

Samrat Krishnadevaraya patronised all religious factions and was a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati, and images of Krishnadevaraya and his two queens standing with folded hands can still be found at the Tirupati temple.

Statue of Krishnadevaraya at Tirumala, Tirupati

Krishnadevaraya was also a prolific craftsman, as seen by the numerous temples erected during his rule. The Hazara Rama Temple and the Vittalaswami Temple, both in the empire’s capital, are accredited to this emperor. He also constructed Hampi’s Virupaksha temple. After the success of his expedition in the east, he had the Krishnaswamy temple built.

Apart from building temples, the emperor also made generous donations to them. For instance, a jewel-studded golden sword and diamond-studded crowns were donated to the Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala. Emperor Krishnadevaraya also made huge donations to the Sundareswari and Meenakshi temples located in Madurai.

The Vitthalswami temple, where Rukmini and Panduranga are worshipped, is regarded as Emperor Krishnadevaraya’s most significant gift to Hindu religion and art. He built it with the help of Saint Vyasraj’s inspiration. He had gopurams built in various temples throughout South India. Today, Hampi is derelict and bears witness to Islamic atrocities, but history has it, that it was so developed during the reign of Emperor Krishnadevaraya that foreign visitors compared it to Rome.

He also had a massive granite idol of Lord Narasimha built. Krishna Bhatt created this 6.7-meter-tall idol. The idol, however, was severely damaged at the Battle of Talkota in 1565. Samrat Krishnadevaraya had a strong belief in the Tirupati temple. He also made significant contributions to the temples there. He not only constructed temples, but also many gardens, ponds, and dams. Many development projects were undertaken to assist farmers.

Samrat Krishnadevaraya’s contribution to literature

Krishnadevaraya was also a patron of the arts, especially literature. In fact, Krishnadevaraya’s reign is regarded as the golden age of Telugu literature. The emperor is known to have been a patron to poets of various languages, including Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada. There were many poets and scholars in his court. In fact, many playwrights from India and abroad used to often visit his kingdom.

Samrat Krishnadevaraya reigned Vijayanagara for two decades. Domingo Peas, a Portuguese horse trader, resided in his kingdom during his rule. He has written numerous things about him, demonstrating the great personality and impact of Emperor Krishnadevaraya. Foreign visitors to Vijayanagar, such as Paes, Nunez, and Barbosa, praised his administration’s efficiency and the people’s prosperity during his reign.

According to what the Portuguese merchant wrote about him, he was extremely fit. He used to get up early and work out for several hours. He used to ride horses and practice sword fighting. His demeanour was such that anybody who came to meet him was inspired and impressed.

Samrat Krishnadevaraya was as sympathetic and caring towards his soldiers and countrymen as much as he was unyielding towards his enemies. History has it that he personally commanded his army against opponents on the battlefield, demonstrating incredible resourcefulness in overcoming hurdles in his path. During the siege of Udayagiri fort, he had stones and rocks blasted to create a passage broader and easier for his troops’ movement. Even in the face of extreme peril, he displayed extraordinary bravery. For example, during the siege of Raichur, when the first line of defence was breached by enemy artillery fire, Krishnadevaraya, in command of the second line, remained firm and pushed his men to fight without regard for their deaths. His warriors fought bravely and won the battle as a result of his call.

Krishnadevaraya loved and cared for his men and at the end of a battle used to go to the battlefield looking for the wounded, making arrangements to pick them up and get them treated.

Krishnadevaraya was also well-known for his kindness. Every year during Vasantotsava, he presented gifts to the poets. He completed the Tulapurushapradhana several times and weighed himself against gold and pearls that were eventually donated. He gave gifts to his ministers and officers on various occasions. Historians believe that Krishnadevaraya had made Thimmarasa (his guru) sit on a mat and bathed him in gold and precious stones after the Kalinga battle.

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अनुपम कुमार सिंह
अनुपम कुमार सिंह
भारत की सनातन परंपरा के पुनर्जागरण के अभियान में 'गिलहरी योगदान' दे रहा एक छोटा सा सिपाही, जिसे भारतीय इतिहास, संस्कृति, राजनीति और सिनेमा की समझ है। पढ़ाई कम्प्यूटर साइंस से हुई, लेकिन यात्रा मीडिया की चल रही है। अपने लेखों के जरिए समसामयिक विषयों के विश्लेषण के साथ-साथ वो चीजें आपके समक्ष लाने का प्रयास करता हूँ, जिन पर मुख्यधारा की मीडिया का एक बड़ा वर्ग पर्दा डालने की कोशिश में लगा रहता है।

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