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Monday 22 September 2014
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Krishnadevaraya, the ideal king

By Krishna Vattam

Four hundred forty five years have rolled by over the remains of one of the mightiest and magnificent cities of the southern empire, Vijayanagar. Its rulers, in their days of glory guided the destinies of a large empire, with its domain covering the entire southern India, extending up to Cuttack in the northeast.

Thanks to the sympathetic care of the successive governments, the ruins of Hampi are still in an excellent state of preservation, though weatherbeaten. Where Krishnadevaraya once held his court in the splendour of his imperial power, now the monkeys rule from the tree tops. The Tungabhadra, on whose banks kaleidoscopic transformations —  historic and modern have transpired, flows the same as ever reminding the visitor of Tennyson’s couplet “Men may come and men may go, but I can go for ever.”

The river was also witness to the coronation, attended by all kings and vassals from far and wide, of the greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers, Krishnadevaraya, 500 years ago and the golden age that marked his 20-year reign (1509-29). Henry VIII was his contemporary in England.

Krishnadevaraya’s reign marked a watershed in the cultural history of the medieval India. He presided over learned assemblies of pundits and poets, being an accredited writer in Telugu and Sanskrit, as also a patron of Kannada and Tamil literature. Sri Vyasaraya was his ‘Raja Guru,’ and during his reign, the Haridasa movement with Purandara, Kanaka and other leading lights composing ‘Dasa Padagalu’ in simple Kannada flourished. Scholarly works in Dwaitha philosophy in both Kannada and Sanskrit were authored.


Although Krishnadevaraya belonged to a Tulu family of Udipi whose presiding deity is Krishna, he founded a new era in Telugu literature. His own classical poetical composition in Telugu, ‘Amuktha Malyada’, is acclaimed as one of the five literary gems of Telugu literature. Till Krishnadevaraya’s time, Telugu literature comprised of mere Telugu versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The king encouraged original poems.

Thus Krishnadevaraya did earn the well deserved distinction of ‘Raja Bhoja’ of the South. His court like that of Bhoja’s was resplendent with a galaxy of eight premier Telugu poets - Peddanna, Thimmana, Ramabhadra, Dhurjati, Pingali Suranna, Mallanna and Ramalinga.

Although he brought many a refractory chief to his knees and received homage from them, Krishnadevaraya bowed in respectful homage to men of letters. It is said that on meeting the poet-laureate Allasana Peddana in the streets of Hampi, Krishnadevaraya, who was riding his royal elephant stopped and picked him up. The ruler himself bore the palanquin carrying Peddana in the procession to dedicate his (Peddana’s) master piece ‘Manu Charitra’ through the streets of the city. Music received no less patronage. Lakshminarayana was a well recognised court musician. A great assembly of learned men was convened every year and honours were bestowed on them.

Conquests
His victories in a way were no less renowned than his achievements in peace. His first concern after accession was a campaign aimed at the conquest of Mudgal and Raichur forts, subduing the Gajapathis, and securing Udayagiri. A contrarian vassal in Mysore was subdued and the fortresses in Srirangapatna and Sivasamudra were captured.

In 1513, he marched against the hill fort of Udayagiri, in Nellore in Andhra, then under the King of Orissa, captured it and brought from it the image of Krishna, which was installed in the Krishnaswami temple in his Capital. Two years later, Kondapalli and Kondaveedu, two strong fortresses in Krishna District, Rajamahendra Varma and Godavari were annexed.

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