Krishnadev Ray: Greatest Ruler of Vijayanagar Empire

Vijayanagar King Krishnadeva Raya was one of the greatest rulers in Indian history. He ruled the largest empire in India after the decline of the Delhi Sultanate. He has been praised by Portuguese travellers Domingo Paes and Duarte Barbosa for his able administration and for being an excellent general. Poet Muku Timmana praised him as the destroyer of the Turks.

By Sri Krishna

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Krishnadeva Raya was the greatest ruler of South India in the first quarter of the 16th century. He consolidated his Vijayanagar empire by bringing several feudatories in the central provinces under his firm control. He expanded the empire by winning new territories. He won all wars waged during his reign. He defeated the rulers of Bijapur, Golconda and Odisha. He brought the fertile Raichur Doad region lying between the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers under his control. Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, acknowledged him as the greatest Hindu king along with Rana Sangha of Chittor.  

Krishnadeva Raya (1509 to 1529) was the third ruler of the Tuluva dynasty and ruled over the empire at its zenith. He earned the titles such as Karnatakaratna Simhasanadeeshwara (Lord of the Jewelled Throne of Karnataka), Yadava Raja Pratistaphanacharya (Establishment of the King to Bahmani Throne), Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana (Lord of the Kannada Empire), Andhra Bhoja (Scholar of Andhra), Gaubrahmana Pratipalaka (Protector of Brahmins and Cows) and Mooru Rayara Ganda (Lord of Three Kings).  

Asserting his dominance in peninsular India, he defeated the Gajapatis of Odisha in 1514 and the rulers of Bijapur and Golconda in 1520. He has been praised by Portuguese travellers Domingo Paes and Duarte Barbosa for his qualities as an able administrator and an excellent general. Domingo Paes and Duarte Barbosa visited the Vijayanagar Empire during his reign. Their writings reveal that the king led from the front in the battle and even attended to the wounded. On many occasions, the king changed battle plans abruptly, turning a losing battle into victory.  Poet Muku Timmana praised him as the destroyer of the Turks.  

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Krishnadeva Raya had an able prime minister Timmarusu, whom he regarded as a father figure responsible for his coronation, and he was well advised by the witty Tenali Ramakrishna.  

Army commander who saved the empire 

Tuluva Narasa Nayaka, the father of Krishnadeva Raya, was an army commander under Saluva Narasimhadeva Raya, who later took control to prevent the disintegration of the empire and, thus, established the Tuluva dynasty of the Vijayanagar Empire. His mother’s name was Nagamamba. He was married to Srirangapatna’s princesses Tirumala Devi and Chinna Devi. He was father to Tirumalamba (from Tirumala Devi), Vengalamba (from Chinna Devi) and Tirumala Raya (from Tirumala Devi). His daughters were married to Prince Aliya Rama Raya of Vijayanagar and his brother Prince Tirumala Deva Raya.  

Mughal dynasty founder Babur acknowledged Krishnadeva Raya as the greatest Hindu king along with Rana Sangha of Chittor 

During Krishnadeva’s rule, raids and plunders of Vijayanagar towns and villages by the Deccan sultans came to an end. In 1509, Krishnadeva’s armies clashed with them and Sultan Mahmud was severely injured and defeated. Yusuf Adil Shah was killed and the Raichur Doab was annexed. Taking advantage of the victory, Krishnadeva reunited Bidar, Gulbarga, and Bijapur into Vijayanagar and earned the title ‘Establisher of the Yavana Kingdom’ when he released Sultan Mahmud and made him de facto ruler. The Sultan of Golconda Sultan Quli Qutb Shah was defeated by Krishnadeva’s prime minister Timmarusu.

Krishnadeva established friendly relations with the Portuguese in Goa in 1510. The emperor obtained guns and Arabian horses from the Portuguese merchants. He also utilised Portuguese expertise to improve the water supply to Vijayanagar City. The complicated alliances of the empire and the five Deccan sultanates meant that he was continually at war.  

Establishment of righteousness 

During his reign, he kept strict control over his ministers and dealt severely with any minister who committed misdeeds. He abolished obnoxious taxes such as the marriage fee. To increase revenues, he brought new lands under cultivation, ordered deforestation of some areas and undertook a large-scale work to obtain water for irrigation around Vijayanagar.  

Krishnadeva regarded his able prime minister Timmarusu as a father figure and was well advised by the witty Tenali Ramakrishna 

The emperor was of the opinion that the kingdom should always be ruled with an eye towards Dharma (righteousness). His concern for the welfare of the people is amply proved by his extensive annual tours all over the empire, during which he studied everything personally and tried to redress the grievances of the people and punish the evil-doers. With regard to the promotion of the economic progress of his people, Krishnadeva says: “The extent of the kingdom is the means for the acquisition of wealth. Therefore, even if the land is limited, excavate tanks and canals and increase the prosperity of the poor by leasing him the land for low ari and koru, so that you may obtain wealth as well as religious merit.”

The golden age of Telugu literature 

The rule of Krishnadeva Raya was an age of prolific literature in many languages, although it is particularly known as the golden age of Telugu literature. Many Telugu, Kannada, Sanskrit, and Tamil poets enjoyed the patronage of the emperor, who was fluent in many languages. The king himself composed an epic Telugu poem Amuktamalyada.  

Krishnadeva’s literary assembly included eight Telugu poets who were regarded as eight pillars – Ashtadiggajas – of the assembly. Krishnadev himself composed an epic Telugu poem Amuktamalyada.  

Inclusive nature of the kingdom 

The king rebuilt the Virupaksha Temple and gave land grants to the temples of Tirumala, Srisailam, Amaravati, Chidambaram, Ahobilam, and Tiruvannamalai

The king respected all sects of Hinduism and encouraged various sects and their places of worship. He rebuilt the Virupaksha Temple and other Shiva shrines. He gave land grants to the temples of Tirumala, Srisailam, Amaravati, Chidambaram, Ahobilam, and Tiruvannamalai. He lavished on the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple numerous gifts of priceless value, ranging from diamond-studded crowns to golden swords to nine kinds of precious gems. Krishnadeva made Venkateshwara his patron deity. He visited the temple seven times. Out of nearly 1250 temple epigraphs published by the Tirumala Devasthanam, 229 are attributed to Krishnadeva Raya.

– The writer is a senior journalist and media consultant. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda

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