gigatos | February 9, 2022
Sri Krishna Deva Raya (Tulu: ಶ್ರೀ ಕೃಷ್ಣದೇವರಾಯ , Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ಕೃಷ್ಣದೇವರಾಯ and Telugu: కృష్ణదేవరాయ ) or simply Krishna Deva Raya, was the most important Emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire. He extended the Empire beyond its historical boundaries and has been considered the model ruler for many Hindus throughout History.Krishna Deva Raya earned the Kannada titles Rajya Rama Ramana (translated, “Lord of the Kannada Empire”), Andhra Bhoja and Mooru Rayara Ganda (translated, “King of Kings”).Most of the information we have of his reign is collected in stelae and in the Portuguese Chronica dos Reis de Bisnaga. He was educated and advised by the minister Timmarusu, an able and experienced man who saved his life as a child and helped him come to power. Krishna Deva was the son of Queen Nagala Devi and the former Tuluva general and king Narasa Nayaka, founder of the Tuluva dynasty. The first record we have of him as King dates from July 26, 1509.
Almost everything we know about him has come to us through stelae or the diaries of Domingo Paes and Fernão Nunes. According to the Chronica (a compilation of the texts of both travelers) Krishna Deva was of average height. He had a predominantly cheerful character and was at once respectful of foreign visitors but very severe with those who broke the laws, on whom he vented occasional outbursts of anger. He was a great fan of physical exercise, which he practiced daily to keep fit. We are also told that he was a great statesman and military man.
Krishna Deva”s reign was the most successful period in the military field for the Vijayanagara Empire. He was very skillful in modifying his strategies during battles to adapt quickly to the situation, the basis of his successes. The first part of his reign was characterized as a period of great sieges, multitudinous battles and overwhelming victories. His main enemies were the Gajapati of Orissa (at war with Vijayanagara since the time of Saluva Narasimha), the sultanates of the Deccan and, at first, also the Portuguese, for he feared their naval power and was suspicious of their intentions. However, through a series of commercial pacts, he finally ceded the city of Goa to them and established a system of regular trade. Thanks to this alliance, the Portuguese gained direct and privileged access to spices and oriental products and Vijayanagara received military supplies and horses in exchange. The good relations between the two empires were key in the victories against the Muslim sultanates of the north, considered by both the common enemy to destroy.
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The punitive expeditions, razzias and plundering to which the Bahmani Sultanate and his heirs periodically subjected Vijayanagara were eliminated from the root. As soon as Krishna Deva came to power, he led his armies towards Bijapur and confronted Sultan Mahmud, whom he captured. General Yusuf Adil Khan was killed in battle and Krishna Deva annexed the territories under his command.
Taking advantage of the weakness and disunity among his enemies, he attacked the regions of Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur and placed them under the direct control of the sultan, thus making him his vassal. This earned Krishna Deva the title of Founder of the Yavana Kingdom.
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He attacked the Reddy dynasty of Kondavidu and the Velama family, ruler of Bhuvanagiri, and seized all the land they owned between Vijayanagara and the Krishna river. Ganga Raja, the local ruler of Ummatur, stood up to Krishna Deva”s army on the banks of the Kaveri River, but his forces were defeated and he himself perished by drowning in the river. The region was annexed to the province of Srirangapatna. In 1516 and 1517, a new military campaign took him beyond the Godavari River.
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The victory at Ummatur allowed him to launch a full-scale attack and seize the coastal territories of Orissa in what is now Andhra Pradesh, reaching as far as the Telangana region. He besieged the Udayagiri fort, the main defense of the region, which forced the Gajapati to abort their counterattack plans and send an army to reinforce the position. Both forces were measured to decide who would finally control the province of Kondavidu, and Krishna Deva again emerged victorious, appointing his mentor Timmarusu governor. He continued to advance to Kondapalli, where he boarded the rest of the enemy army. After this total defeat, the King of Orissa asked for peace by offering his daughter Jaganmohini as tribute, who became Krishna Deva”s third wife.
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The era of the great conquests came to an end, and a period of border stability was ushered in to ensure the Empire”s superiority over the Sultanates of the Deccan. However, the instability of this region (with rebellions, fratricidal wars and pacts that lost their validity in a matter of weeks) prevented at least a moment of peace under his reign. In May 1520 the battle of Raichur took place in which Krishna Deva was forced to fight to keep the fortress of Raichur under his control and prevent it from falling into the hands of the Sultan of Raipur. Although he managed to win the victory, more than sixteen thousand Hindu soldiers perished, in spite of which he generously rewarded the general in charge of the garrison. He launched a counterattack and besieged, conquered, and finally reduced to ashes the fortress of Gulburga, the original capital of the Bahmani Sultanate.
In 1524, he named his son, Prince Tirumalai Raya, as heir to the kingdom (Yuvaraja). However, shortly thereafter, the young man was murdered. Without conclusive evidence, but with strong suspicions that his old friend and mentor Timmarusu was behind his son”s poisoning, he stripped him of his titles and had his eyes gouged out.
Krishna Deva continued planning new conquests but while preparing an attack on Belgaum he fell ill. He appointed his brother Achyuta Deva Raya as heir to the empire and finally passed away in 1529.
His way of dispensing justice is summed up in a phrase of Domingo Paes: “The King imposes his law by killing”. Murders (except those killed in duels) and attacks against private property were punished with a series of penalties ranging from amputation of limbs to decapitation. The Portuguese, moreover, estimated the population of the city at 500,000 and considered its size to be similar to that of Rome.
The Empire was divided into provinces usually ruled by a member of the royal family. The provinces were subdivided into several levels. The court languages were Telugu and Kannada or Kannada. Krishna Deva was not a nominal king as was the Bahmani Sultan or as had been other kings of previous dynasties, but his influence extended from the creation and application of laws and decrees to the supreme control of the armies.
His way of administering the Empire followed the general lines that he himself wrote in his poem Amuktamalyada, with a reverential respect for Hindu beliefs and strict observance of Dharma. He undertook periodic visits to remote parts of the Empire, where he tried to learn about the needs of the people and judged at first hand the crimes that were presented to him.