Krishnadevaraya, the king of the Vijayanagara Empire, reigned over most of South India in the 16th century. His rule extended over 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 the Portuguese, who were in their quest to expand the boundaries of their empire.
A 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 systems, canals, irrigation systems and many more, of which some are functional even to date.
There are over 2,000 epigraphs and inscriptions of Krishnadevaraya.
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.
A Great Fighter
He was a great fighter and never gave up till the end. This is one of the incidents which shows this after marrying the daughter of the King of Orissa, he decided to attack Ketavaram of the Cholamandala Empire when he reached the city, he was astonished to see he was not able to reach it 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 having 100,000 foot soldiers and 3,000 cavalry, he put up a stiff fight and defeated them. There were hordes of treasure in the Cholamandala Empire and Krishnadevaraya divided the bounty among his captains.
In the Palace
The king lived by himself in the palace with many eunuch; when he wished to see any of his wives he would order the eunuch to get them. There were few eunuchs who were among the King’s favourites. They could sleep near where he slept and received a huge salary.
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 poets of great renown in his court. 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, famous for his wit and satire.
An Early Riser
The King was an early riser. His routine was to drink and anoint himself with 3 quarter pints 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 sweated out all the oil.
After that, he would wrestle with one of the wrestlers. After this every day he would gallop about the plain until dawn. There a Brahmin would bathe him then he would go into the palace to conduct the ceremonial customs.
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 through customs 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.