Krishnadevaraya, the king of the Vijayanagara Empire, reigned over most of South India in the 16th century. His rule extended over parts of present day Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Northern Tamil Nadu. He was a just and able statesman and a crafty general. He was a worthy opponent to the Badami kings and to the Portuguese who were in their quest to expand the boundaries of their empire.
His Early Years and Rise to the Top
Krishnadevaraya was born to Nagala Devi and Tuluva Narasa Nayaka. The Tulava dynasty was founded by Krishnadevaraya’s father and Krishnadevaraya was the third ruler in this dynasty.
Tulavas were staunch Vaishnavites. Krishnadevaraya is also known as Andhra Bhoja and Kannada Rajya Ramana in honour of his victories and conquests of lands in the Krishna-Tungabhadra basin. He built the Vithalaswamy temple and the Hazar Rama Temple in the Hoysala style of architecture.
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.
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.
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.
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.