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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Sri Krishna Deva Raya: Father of Cultural and Social rejuvenation of Vijayanagara Empire

Bharat had a rich cultural heritage and its own societal values. After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain, Islamic aggression was at its peak. Destruction of thriving cultural centers like Vidisha, Kashi, Kannauj, Mathura, Mulasthana, Ujjain and plundering of thousands of temples by the Mohammedan army started the declination of Bharat’s rich culture and societal values.

Invasion of Southern Bharat by Malik Kafur and Tughlaq dynasties destroyed cultural centers like Madurai, Warangal, and Halebidu among others and frequent raids and massacres by Bahamani forces sounded the death knell of these cultural and societal values.

After three centuries of frustration, humiliation, defeat, and retreat, in the tenth century, the Islamic forces succeeded in conquering Northern Bharat. The saga of the huge massacre, plunder, destruction, rapes, and conversion which lasted eight centuries, destroyed the base of civilization in the north. Sanatana Dharma got seriously injured by numerous cuts of monotheistic forces. But in Southern Bharat, after some initial successes in wars against Hoyasalas, Kakatiyas, Cholas, etc., the Islamic forces couldn’t as much as leave a scratch on Sanatana Dharma.

If Abhijat Hindu Dharma continues to survive in whatever form in South Bharat today, the entire credit for it still rests on the shoulders of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire, for building such a sturdy foundation way back in the mid-14th century. The Foundation of the empire laid by Harihara and Bukka under the spiritual guidance of Vidyaranya Swami was a perfect amalgamation of the idea of Brahma Kshatra spirit.

Not only did Harihara and Bukka lead from the front but also inspired countless others to do the same. They made earnest efforts to organize resistance against the advance of the invaders from the north. For three centuries it stood for Sanatana and its culture and saved them from destructive forces. The Vijayanagara empire stood like the insurmountable political Vindhya shielding entire Southern Bharat from the relentless barbaric depredations of Muslim armies.

The empire under Sri Krishna Deva Raya’s political and cultural leadership flourished in art, culture, architecture, trade, and in every other aspect. Common citizens in the empire had high ambitions and mortality and enjoyed life in totality. The Cradle of Sanatana and its culture flourished in a new form under the Vijayanagara empire. The empire was at zenith under the rule of mighty Krishnadevaraya. In his reign, the empire touched the peak in every aspect such as art, culture, literature, architecture, Imperial power, music, etc.

Sri Krishna Deva Raya himself was an excellent scholar and author. He was fluent in Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, and Tuluva. He wrote Madalasa Charitra, Satyavadu Parinaya, Rasamanjiri and Jambavati Kalyana in Sanskrit. Jambavati Kalyana is a Sanskrit play that was performed in various Utsavas in Vijayanagara. His Magnus opus Amukta Malyada has been written in the Champu style of poetry and is considered a great collection of poems. He was also instrumental in systemizing DVAITA into the school of thought.

He patronized numerous writers, poets, Vedic scholars of Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil among which the Telugu language had the upper hand. During his reign, Vijayanagara became a thriving center of learning and arts. He patronized Vyasatirtha, one of the most influential poets and Vedic scholars. Vyasatirtha was instrumental in systemizing DVAITA into a school of thought. Krishna Deva Raya considered him as Kuladevata. Vyasatirtha authored many memorable works like Nyayamitram on Metaphysics and Tarkatandava on logic.

He also patronized Kannada writers like Mallaranya, author of Veera Shaiva Amruta an encyclopedic work on Veera Shaivism. Kannada literature saw the growth of Veera Shaivism and Vachana poetry and also that of Vaishnavism and Jainism.

He also patronized Tamil poet Harihara Dasa and Sanskrit poet Lolla Lakshmidhara.  His reign marked a high point in Telugu literature. It gave birth to a new style called Prabandha. Along with patronizing poets and Vedic scholars, he had an inner circle of eight great poets who were masters in different topics known as Ashta Diggajalu.

In Bharatiya itihas, the Ashta Diggajas were the eight elephants that were believed to have held up the earth in eight directions, which were Pundareeka, Vaamana, Kumuda, Anjana, Pushpadanta, Sarwabhouma, Suprateeka, and the most famous of them all, Indra’s elephant Airawata. In a way, these eight elephants were also associated with the Ashta Dikpalakas, the guardians of the eight directions. The Ashta Diggajas in Sri Krishnadeva Raya’s court were eight great poets and writers, who were amongst his close circle, and with whom the king used to congregate daily. Their court was also called the Bhuvana Vijayamu (Conquest of the World) and these 8 poets each had their own individual style, totally different from each other.

In Ashta Diggajas, Allasani Pedanna was the greatest. He was revered as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha. He had a complex style of writing. He wrote the first major Prabhanda, a form of fictional poetry, and Sri Krishna Deva Raya himself would carry the palanquin in which he was seated.

The second was Nandi Timmanna, Saiva poet also known as Mukku Timmanna, for his great poetry on Mukku.  Timmanna wrote in a very simple style that a layman could also understand his works. He also did an experiment called Chitra Kavita (magical poems), where all 4 lines of a poem could be read from either direction.

The third was Madayagiri Mallana, whose works famous for the military and romantic conquest of Sri Krishna Deva Raya. The fourth was Dhurjati Kavi who had an exceptional style of poetry, standalone extempore poems. Fifth was Ayyalarajulu Ramabhadrudu whose famous work is Ramabhudayudu.

Sixth was Pingali Surana, a revolutionary poet. One of his most famous works is the Kalapurnodayam (art in full bloom), where he makes use of techniques like flashbacks and character transformation, considered a revolutionary work in its times.

Seventh was Ramarajabhushanudu, who was a poet, musician of note, and excellent veena player. And eighth was Tenali Ramakrishna, vidushaka and poet who was also known as Vitakavi.

One of the prominent features of this era was that the old Sanskrit texts and traditions were being revived, translated, reformed for new and broader audiences. Dharma reached even the last person of the society and revolutionary works, sects, and scholars grew by leaps and bounds.

While the content of the literature was generally religious, there is sufficient evidence to prove that nonreligious literature was equally prevalent. Other literature depicting urban life, royal ceremonies along details of town planning and fortifications. A vast body of literature on astronomy, science, music, grammar, medicine, philosophy as well as dictionaries and encyclopedia.

Social life in his era was also rich in societal values. Women, in general, occupied a high position in society, and instances of the active part they took in the political, social, and literary life of the country are not rare.

Citizens of Krishna Deva Raya were neither selfish hedonists nor selfless yogis. They had immense willpower, determination, strength to accomplish endeavors that took them to the summit of excellence. His citizens fought wars, ruled kingdoms and protected cities, carved sculpted works of art, gave generous gifts, and patronized and encouraged learning and wisdom.

Edoardo Barbosa, a Portuguese traveler during the era of Krishna Deva Raya says “City of great extent, highly populous and the seat of an active commerce in the country. Diamonds, rubies from Pegu, silks of china and Alexandria, cinnabar, camphor, pepper, and sandal from Malabar. Edoardo Barbosa describing the tolerance and respectful behavior from Krishna Deva Raya to every citizen irrespective of its caste, creed, and region says “The king allows such freedom that every man may come, go and live according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance and without inquiry, whether he is Christian, Jew, Moor (Muslim) or Hindu”.

Thus, the zenith of arts, commerce, spirituality, literature, religious tolerance, science, building and planning, and every other aspect of societal life was attained by Vijayanagara under the leadership of Sri Krishna Deva Raya. But history books have omitted this entire cultural and societal rejuvenation of Hindu society under Krishna Deva Raya. We find glorified mentions of persecution, bigotry, destruction, plunder, the massacre of native culture by invaders but politics in history writing reduced Krishna Deva Raya to a mere footnote from the greatest emperor of medieval times.

Now, this legacy of Krishna Deva Raya has been abandoned by common people as well who celebrate invaders as their heroes. Sri Krishna Deva Raya converted Vidyanagara into Vijayanagara and we, the citizens converted this into Vinashanagara by abandoning his legacy.  Sword of Krishnadevaraya won every battle and protected motherland from Turushkas, hands of Krishnadevaraya carved, sculpted glorious temples and cities, literature of Krishnadevaraya rejuvenated Bharatiya Sanatana culture but sadly, his own people have betrayed him by abandoning his legacy.

References/ sources:

  1. City Of victory by Ratnakar Sadasyula
  2. An advanced history of India by RC Majumdar and KK Dutta
  3. Seventy years of secularism by Sandeep Balakrishna
  4. A forgotten empire by Robert Sewell
  5. Never to be forgotten empire by Suryanarain Row
  6. Raya by Srinivas Rao

(Featured Image Source: Wikipedia)

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Akshat Lahane
Akshat Lahane
Pursuing bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. Interested in Bharatiya History.


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