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62. Sri Krishnadevaraya - Emperor of South India and Established a Golden Era

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Who was Sri Krishnadevaraya ?

Sri Krishnadevaraya (Sri Kṛṣṇadevarāya) was an emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire who reigned from 1509–1529. He was the third ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty, and possessed the largest empire in India after the decline of the Delhi Sultanate. He was also known for employing Turkic archers. Presiding over the empire at its zenith, he is regarded as an icon by many Indians.

Krishna Deva Raya earned the titles Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana (lit, "Lord of the Kannada empire"), Andhra Bhoja (lit, "Bhoja for Telugu Literature") and Mooru Rayara Ganda (lit, "King of Three Kings"). He became the dominant ruler of the peninsula of India by defeating the Sultans of Bijapur, Golconda, the Bahmani Sultanate and the Gajapatis of Odisha, and was one of the most powerful Hindu rulers in India. Indeed, when the Mughal Emperor Babur was taking stock of the potentates of north India, Krishnadevaraya was rated the most powerful and had the most extensive empire in the subcontinent.

Portuguese travellers Domingo Paes and Fernao Nuniz also visited the Vijayanagara Empire during his reign. 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. The south Indian poet Muku Timmana praised him as the destroyer of the Turkics. Krishna Deva Raya benefited from the able prime minister Timmarusu, who was regarded by the emperor as a father figure and was responsible for his coronation.

Along with his prime minister and mentor, Timmarusu, he defeated the Bahmani Sutans, thereby conquering their fortresses of Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, and Bijapur. He led a major campaign against the Gajapatis of Odisha, following which he seized and captured the fortresses of Udayagiri, Kondavalli and Kondavidu. He is often compared with the greatest emperors of Asia and Europe, due to his brilliant achievements and exceptional ability to maintain political stability in the Deccan. By ruling the three most powerful territories in the southern peninsula of India and brought the Peace to the entire empire.

I. Early life

Krishna Deva Raya was the son of Tuluva Narasa Nayaka,an army commander under Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, who later took control of the empire to prevent its disintegration and became the founder of the Tuluva Dynasty, the third Hindu Dynasty to rule Vijayanagara.

Pic : The Vijaynagar empire at its greatest extent under Krishnadevaraya, ~1520 CE

II. Military career

The rule of Krishnadevaraya marks a period of much military success in Vijayanagara history. On occasion, the king was known to change battle plans abruptly and turn a losing battle into victory. The first decade of his rule was one of long sieges, conquests, rebellions and victories.His main enemies were the Bahamani Sultans (who, though divided into five small kingdoms, remained a constant threat), the Gajapatis of Odisha, who had been involved in constant conflict since the rule of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya and the Portuguese, a rising maritime power which controlled much of the sea trade.

Success in Deccan

The annual affair of the raid and plunder of Vijayanagar towns and villages by the Deccan sultans came to an end during the Raya's rule. In 1509, Krishnadevaraya's armies clashed with the Sultan Samshuddin Zafar Khan of Bijapur at Diwani and the Sultan Mahmud was severely injured and defeated. Yusuf Adil Khan was killed and the Raichur Doab was annexed. Taking advantage of the victory, the Raya 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 Timmarusu, who was the prime minister of Sri Krishnadevaraya.

Pic : Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

III. War with Feudatories

He defeated many local rulers like the Dharanikota Kammas, who were feudatory rulers of the Gajapathis, and the rebellious Ummatur Chiefs. In 1516-1517, Krishnadevaraya pushed beyond the Godavari river.

War with Kalinga

The Gajapatis of Odisha ruled a vast land comprising Andhra region, Odisha. Krishna Deva Raya's success at Ummatur provided the necessary impetus to carry his campaign into Coastal Andhra region which was in control of the Gajapati Raja Prataparudra Deva. The Vijayanagar army laid siege to the Udayagiri fort in 1512. The campaign lasted for a year before the Gajapati army disintegrated due to starvation. Krishna Deva Raya offered prayers at Tirupati thereafter along with his wives Tirumala Devi and Chinnama Devi.

The Gajapati army was then met at Kondaveedu, where the armies of Vijayanagara, after establishing a siege for a few months, began to retreat due to heavy casualties. Then, Timmarusu, upon discovering a secret entrance to the unguarded eastern gate of the fort, launched a night attack that culminated with the capture of the fort and the imprisonment of Prince Virabhadra, the son of Gajapati Emperor Prataparudra Deva. Saluva Timmarusu took over as governor of Kondaveedu thereafter.

Krishnadevaraya planned for an invasion of Kalinga, but the Gajapati Emperor, Prataparudra, was made privy to this plan. Prataparudra formulated his own plan to defeat Krishandevaraya and the Vijayanagara Empire. The confrontation was to happen at the fort of Kalinganagar. But the wily Timmarusu secured the information of Prataparudra's plan by bribing a Telugu deserter, who was formerly under the service of Prataparudra. When the Vijayanagara Empire did invade, Prataprudra was driven to Cuttack, the capital of the Gajapati empire.

Prataparudra eventually surrendered to Vijayanagara Empire, and he gave his daughter, Princess Jaganmohini, in marriage to Sri Krishnadevaraya. Krishandevaraya returned all the lands that the Vijayanagara Empire captured to the North of the Krishna River; this made the Krishna river boundary between the Vijayanagar and the Gajapati Kingdoms.

Krishnadevaraya established friendly relations with the Portuguese, 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.

IV. Final conflict and death

Kannada inscription dated 1524 A.D., of Krishnadeva Raya at the Anathasayana temple in Anathasayanagudi near Hampi. The temple was built in memory of his deceased son

The complicated alliances of the empire and the five Deccan sultanates meant that he was continually at war. In one of these campaigns, he defeated Golconda and captured its commander Madurul-Mulk, crushed Bijapur and its Sultan Ismail Adil Shah, and restored Bahmani sultanate to the son of Muhammad Shah II.

The highlight of his conquests occurred on 19 May 1520 where he secured the fortress of Raichur from Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur after a difficult siege during which 16,000 Vijayanagara soldiers were killed. The exploits of the military commander, Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayudu of the Pemmasani Nayaks, during the Battle of Raichur were distinguished and lauded by Krishnadevaraya. It is said that 700,000-foot soldiers, 32,600 cavalry, and 550 elephants were used in the Battle of Raichur.Finally, in his last battle, he razed to the ground the fortress of Gulburga, the early capital of the Bahmani sultanate. His empire extended over the whole of South India.

Pic : Vitthala Temple Complex, and at World Famous Single Stone Chariot, Hampi

In 1524, Krishnadevaraya made his son Tirumala Raya the Yuvaraja (crown prince). The prince did not survive for long: he was poisoned to death.Suspecting the involvement of Timmarusu, Krishna Deva Raya had his trusted commander and adviser blinded.At the same time, Krishnadevaraya was preparing for an attack on Belgaum, which was in the Adil Shah's possession. Around this time, Krishnadevaraya took seriously ill. He died soon after in 1529. Before his death, he nominated his brother, Achyuta Deva Raya as his successor.

V. Why Krishnadevaraya was a Legendary Emperor ?

Few Facts of King Krishnadevaraya

King Krishnadevaraya ruled over his empire over 500 years ago. Some of the legacies from Krishnadevaraya’s time include ceremonies like Dussera and the architectural progress by way of countless temples being built and restored. Vijayanagar proved to be the custodian of Indian culture.

In South India Vijayanagar started a new era by setting up a modern city with major town planning which included drainage system, canals, irrigation systems and many more of which some are functional even till date.

There are over 2,000 epigraphs and inscriptions of Krishnadevaraya.

1. A Great Fighter

He was a great fighter and never gave up till the end. This is one of the incident which shows this after marrying the daughter of King of Orissa, he decided to attack Ketavaram of Cholamandala Empire when he reached the city he was astonished to see he was not able to reach as the river had swollen. He immediately orders his men to cut many channels to drain the river, in a short span of time and soon the bottom was seen.

Despite Ketavaram had 100,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 cavalry he put up a stiff fight and defeated them. There was hordes of treasure in the Cholamandala Empire which Krishnadevaraya divided the bounty among his captains.

2.His Life at the Royal Court

Krishnadevaraya won his greatest victory against the Bahmani Sultans. He annexed the Raichur Doab area and consolidated his position as the strongest king in the south.

Historical accounts of life at the Royal Court of Krishnadevaraya indicate that the king was a person of medium stature and cheerful disposition, who was courteous to foreign visitors. He had a strong sense of justice and was ruthless in punishing offenders. He kept fit by regular exercise, was a renowned horseman and was an inspiring general, leading from the front.

He conquered enemies and sought alliances through peaceful means with neighbouring kingdoms. He married the daughter of one of the scions of the Gajapati Empire to further his military ambitions.

Pic : Elephant's Stable

Krishnadevaraya had in his court poets of great renown. The king was fluent in Kannada and Telugu besides his native Tulu and encouraged literary efforts in all three languages.

He had a Prime Minister, Thimmarasu, who gave him wise counsel through his two decade long reign. Another gem in the court of Krishnadevaraya was Tenali Rama, who was famous for his wit and satire.

Pic : Lotus Mahal , Hampi

3. An Early Riser

The King was an early riser. His routine was to drink and anoint himself with 3 quarter pint of gingelly oil before daybreak. Covering his loins with a small piece of cloth, he took weights made of earth and then exercised with a sword until he sweat out all the oil.

After that he would wrestle with one of the wrestlers. After this everyday he would gallop about the plain until dawn. There after a brahmin would bathe him then he would go into the palace to conduct the ceremonial customs.

4. His Role as an Able Administrator

Krishnadevaraya took active steps to promote agriculture by building dams and irrigation canals. He set up a system of provincial government with himself as the absolute head and with trusted aides as governors of smaller provinces.

Krishnadevaraya encouraged foreign trade and collected revenue in the form of custom duties and taxes from the Portuguese traders.

5.The King’s Religious Beliefs

The king was a staunch Vaishnavite and built temples in the Hoysala style of architecture. He was tolerant towards all religions and allowed no persecution on religious grounds. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Tirumala of Tirupati and is reputed to have donated a jewel studded golden sword to the Lord at Tirupati.

A statue of Krishnadevaraya flanked by his two wives was commissioned by the king at the entrance of the Tirupati temple.

6.The Astute Diplomat, Krishnadevaraya

Apart from being a skilled warrior, Krishnadevaraya was also an astute diplomat. During his reign, the Portuguese had 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.

7. Hampi in its Hey Days

Hampi was Major Cosmopolitan City in its Hey Days and the erstwhile capital of the great Vijayanagar Empire which flourished in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. During its heydays, By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world's second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India's richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal.

During the Krishnaderaya era, Hampi was famous as Kishkinda the kingdom of monkeys. Today Hampi lies in ruins but looks timeless. It is fondly called the world’s largest open air museum.

Pic : Vitthala Temple with Music Pillars

Vijaya Vittala temple is a grand masterpiece constructed on a polyhedron foundation. The world renowned stone chariot made of rough quartz is located at the entrance. The musical pillars of the temple are one of the greatest work of art by mankind.

Virupaksha temple from Hoysala times is another great price of temple architecture. The temple tower is a majestic 11 storeys tall.

Pic : Present Day Hampi


At the height of Vijayanagara Empire, particulary in the times Sri Krishnadeveraya, Dimonds , Pearls and Valuables Gems were sold in the Market Streets of Hampi.

There were continuous flow Foreign Visitors to Hampi from far away places including Portugal and Persia etc.

During the rule of Krishna Devaraya, Prosperity and Wealth of the people and Empire reached at its zenith and some even doubted and believed the Myth of whether Krishna Devaraya knows of Alchemy of converting Iron into Gold. With Terrific Administration, Laws of the Land well enforced, Business, Arts and Hindu Culture reached its peak .

Krishnadeveraya left the permanent footprints on Indian Culture, Political Administration , Literature, International Diplomacy and Trades , Religious Tolerance and almost achieved peace across entire empire and Krishnadevaraya can be almost classified as a Plato's Philospher King.

In the world of Telugu Speaking people, the Reign of Sri Krishnadeveraya is considered as a Swarna yuga, ie. Golden Era.

MM Rao


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