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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Sri Krishna Deva Raya: Greatest Emperor of Medieval Bharat

Bharat and its civilization received a fatal blow from the Islamic invasion. As the native culture and population of Bharat were persecuted every day, the Kshatriya spirit had died and the common masses started accepting the civilizational defeat. In such hard times, a handful of proud Bharatiyas stood strong in preserving the culture and its people against foreign invaders, established their empire, promoted and protected their culture proudly, and stopped the journey of invaders. Sri Krishna Deva Raya was one of these great personalities who slew invaders and promoted, protected, and rejuvenated our culture.

After the glorious reign of Proudha Deva Raya, his weak successors were not capable to unite the empire. Many rebel chieftains proclaimed themselves independent. Gajapatis of Odisha captured large parts of the eastern Vijayanagara empire, while frequent raids, pillage, destruction of temples, and a great slaughter of Hindus by Bahamanis pushed the Vijayanagara empire to the verge of extinction. Tuluva chief Vira Narasimha usurped the throne and tried to repulse attacks. But he died within a short period of time and then his brother, Krishna Deva Raya ascended the throne.

Krishna Deva Raya ascended the throne in 1509. He had a charming persona and his genial looks and polite conversation brought out his pure character. He kept himself fit through rigorous physical exercise. He was an expert swordsman and fine horse rider. He always led his army from the front which depicts his fearless qualities.

After ascending the throne, he turned his attention towards rebel chieftains. Ganga Rajah of Ummaturu was main among them. He captured the forts of Sivasamudra and Srirangapattana after defeating Ganga Rajah. Subsequently, he completely subdued all rebel chieftains.

Gajapatis who captured eastern parts of the empire were the next target of Krishna Deva Raya. In 1513, he marched towards Udayagiri fort and laid siege. Siege continued for 18 months and after cutting all supplies of the Gajapati army, they surrendered to Krishna Deva Raya. After capturing the important fort of Udayagiri, he marched towards Kondavidu and laid siege there. But Virabhadra, son of Gajapati ruler Prataprudra, fiercely resisted the Vijayanagara army.

Both forces were fighting with equal aggression. Timmarasu, the Minister of Krishna Deva Raya managed to find a secret way to the fort, and a surprise attack was launched at night. In this attempt, Kondavidu fell to Vijayanagara in 1515. He also captured Kondapalli and Rajahmundry from Gajapatis. After several defeats at the hands of Krishna Deva Raya, the Gajapati ruler gave his daughter Annapurna Devi in marriage to Krishna Deva Raya and thereby cemented the alliance between the two empires.

After conquering the eastern part, he turned his attention towards Bahamani forces. Raichur Doab (Krishna -Tungabhadra Doab) was the main conflict between the Bahamanis and Vijayanagara empires. Bahamanis played heinous tactics like frequent raids, complete plunder of the Vijayanagara region, destruction of Hindu temples, and slaughtering Hindus. To put an end to this, Krishna Deva Raya, marched against Sultan of Bijapur Adil Shah.

The sultan had ‘already sailed forth and crossed the river. They began digging trenches and setting up the symbolic battle tent that was a signal of attack. According to Islamic sources, the sultans marched to the Vijayanagara border ‘in accordance with the policy of annual jihad against the Hindu infidels inaugurated by the Bahmani ruler Mahmud Shah’.

Tensions were high and Krishna Deva Raya was furious. His noble Ramalinganna played a brave tactic to cut the ropes of the tent and demotivate the Bijapur army. As the men engaged in a bloody and confusing battle, Ramalingama ‘cut the tent ropes as he had promised, and at that very moment Krishna Deva Raya, who was watching all along, sounded the battle drum and mounted his elephant. On the other side, sultanate forces panicked and began to retreat. The wholesale slaughter of the Bahamani army took place and Sultans of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, and Golconda fled away. He chased Bijapur Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah, defeated and killed him in Kovilkonda. Bijapur fell to Krishna Deva Raya and he ravaged Bahamani territories.

Krishnadevaraya himself penned a vivid praise poem that offers us more explicit detail:

The fine horses of your cavalry plowed the fields with their hooves, and the rushing elephants watered the earth with their downpour of juice.

Hail Krishna Raya! With a fierce and unified attack, you turned those wild forests into fields of green, spreading your fame like the abundant crops of Kubera!

You crushed the skulls of Khurasani warriors like melons and built a gruesome effigy with the Adil Khan’s decapitated head!

After this, he defeated Qasim Barid and captured Bidar. While Krishna Deva Raya was engaged in war with Gajapatis, Quli Shah took this opportunity and started capturing Vijayanagara territories. He captured forts of Warangal, Khammam, and most of the Coastal Andhra. Krishna Deva Raya then sent his able minister Timmarasu to defeat Qutub Shah. Timmarasu, with his ability and valor, recaptured all the parts which were occupied by Quli Qutub Shah.

Bahamani Sultans mortally feared Krishna Deva Raya. Motucotam, an ambassador was sent by Adil Shah to negotiate a settlement between two empires and he requested Krishna Deva Raya to return the artillery and tents and horses and restore the city of Raichur. Sri Krishna Deva Raya replied, “I would be very happy to restore everything to Adil Shah, under one condition, Adil Shah must come here and kiss my feet”.

The ambassador conveyed this message to Adil Shah. Adil Shah responded that he was willing to do so, but since it was impossible for him to enter enemy territory, he would be unable to fulfill the king’s wish. Krishna Deva Raya retorted “so be it, if Adil Shah is unwilling to come to me, I shall go to him”.

Then, he marched against Adil Shah, crossed Krishna into Bijapur territory, ravaged and destructed Bijapur dominion. Scared, Adil Shah vacated his capital and fled away. Krishna Deva Raya ransacked the city. He ordered that no citizens should be harmed since he had nothing to do with them. Then he destructed Gulbarga, the Capital of Bijapur.

His relation with the Portuguese is a perfect example of diplomacy. He maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese and granted them some concessions. Sewell writes “he benefited largely by the import of horses and other requisites. In 1510, the Portuguese governor Albuquerque solicited his permissions to build a fort at Bhatkal, which was granted after the Portuguese had captured Goa from Muslims. Without giving chance to interfere in his state’s affairs, Krishna Deva Raya kept a close watch on Portuguese and the Portuguese also feared Krishna Deva Raya”.

Apart from his unbeatable military expeditions, he was an excellent administrator and a ruler who was concerned with the problems of the common masses. He improved the irrigation of drylands. In 1521, he constructed a great dam and channel at Korragal which is still in use. By constructing channels, he irrigated large parts.

Newly irrigated lands were given tax-free to the people for nine years. His own declaration in verses states that:

“The root purpose of an extensive empire is the acquisition of wealth but no matter how big your empire is, build tanks and canals for benefits of farmers, ease taxes and grain revenues, be strong and both dharma and artha will grow “

The above verse depicts his concern for the problems of the masses. Domingos Paes, a Portuguese traveler recorded the glorious reign of Krishna Deva Raya as follows:

“Its king has many treasures, many soldiers, and many elephants, for there is a number of these in this country. In this city, you will find men belonging to every nation and people because of great trade, which it has and many precious stones are there, principally diamonds. This is the best provided city in the world and is stocked with provisions such as rice, wheat, grains, Indian corns, a certain amount of barley, beans, mung, pulses, and many other seeds which grow in this country”.

Undoubtedly, the reign of Krishna Deva Raya is the most prosperous reign of any emperor in the medieval history of Bharat. At a time when Islamists plundered and persecuted the native culture and people and forcefully tried to crush them, in such a great crisis, Krishna Deva Raya protected and promoted the culture of Bharat and slew the fanatic forces, and re-imbibed the spirit of Kshatriya in the common masses.


  1. A forgotten empire by Robert Sewell
  2. A history of Vijayanagara by Suryanarain Row
  3. Advanced history of India by KK Dutta and RC Majumdar
  4. City of victory by Ratnakar Sadasyula
  5. 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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