A multi-faceted emperor
He was an embodiment of tolerance, liberalism and magnanimity. No wonder his reign witnessed perfect amity among different religions. Muslims and Christians were allowed freedom of worship and permitted to build mosques and churches. This was despite the fact that the kingdom of Vijaynagar was founded as a challenge to the might of the Tughlaq Sultanate of Delhi and to save Hindu religion and culture from the aggression of Muslim rulers.
His reign witnessed the flourishing of art and culture and it was rightly called the `Golden age of Telugu literature'. Valuable contributions were made to Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil literature during his rule. In his palace, a separate hall - Bhuvana Vijayam - used for literary gatherings, had eight poets, known as `Ashta Diggajalu' or the eight pillars.
He was, Krishna Deva Raya, during whose rule the Vijaynagar empire attained great heights. A great statesman and fine strategist, he was also a great lover of music and an adept in playing on the veena. His magnum opus in Telugu, "Amukta Malyada", is considered as a great work in Telugu literature. He was also well-versed in Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit languages.
When Raya ascended the throne in 1509, the Vijaynagar empire was in great turmoil. There were uprisings in different parts of the empire and they posed a great challenge to the new ruler. He subdued the rebellious chiefs through a series of attacks on the enemy territories, during the first four years of his rule.
He decided to tame his powerful enemy, the Gajapathi of Orissa, who had fully occupied the east coast, which was earlier in the Viajaynagar empire. The Gajapathi had a mighty elephant force besides strong fortresses like those of Udayagiri, Kondavidu, Kondapalli and Rajamahendri on the coast and many others in Telangana on the other side of the Eastern Ghats. In addition, he also had the support of his Muslim allies, the rulers of Bijapur and Golconda.
The emperor of Vijaynagar had great confidence in himself, his superior generalship and in the wisdom of his prime minister, Timmarusu. The battle was fought in stages over a period of seven years between 1513 and 1519. The first target was the Udayagiri fort in Nellore district. It was surrounded by hills on all sides and there was only one passage leading into it, which was guarded by a Gajapathi army of ten thousand men on foot and four hundred on horses.
The siege of the fort was carried on for over a year-and-a-half. The supplies to the fort were cut and the defender of the fort finally surrendered. While the armies moved forward, Krishna Deva Raya returned to the capital after a visit to the Tirumala temple in June 1514. He later joined the army and dealt a crushing blow to the Gajapathi's army. The hill fort of Kondavidu was sieged in June 1515.
The Vijaynagar army continued its march and laid siege to Kondapalli. After its fall, Krishna Deva Raya sent one part of his army further north along the coast while he led the other part across the ghats into Telangana. At Potnuru, he set up a Jayastambham (pillar of victory) and visited the Simhachalam temple in March 1516. He stayed there for six months hoping that Gajapathi would come and face him in battle. When Gajapathi did not turn up, Raya returned to Vijaynagar via Tirumala, where he arranged for the gilding of the Vimana above the sanctum of Sri Venkateswara, according to the biography of Krishna Deva Raya written by M. Rama Rao
In January 1517, he returned from the capital to his army camping at Simhachalam. The army marched further into Gajapathi's territory. Timmarusu advised the king not to go further, warning him of the impending dangers in exploring unknown territory. But Raya insisted and his minister worked out a stratagem.
Gajapathi fled his fort under the cover of darkness thinking that his men had deserted him. Raya occupied the fort and granted amnesty to the inhabitants and help to those who wanted to leave it. Gajapathi later made a peace treaty and Raya gave in to his request.
On the conclusion of the campaign against Gajapathi and later the siege of Raichur fort in May 1520, he had an easy time and was able to devote much of his time in literary pursuits and patronage of arts.
Raya was a pious Hindu and visited holy shrines and made liberal gifts to them even while he was engaged in military operations. Though he was a staunch Vaishnavite, he respected all faiths and visited famous temples of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Siva. He visited Tirumala on seven different occasions. During his first visit in February 1513, he dedicated a crown of gold, set with nine kinds of gems, to the Lord. On his second visit, in May the same year, he presented various ornaments to the Mulavirat or the original deity and in June, the same year, he gifted several villages to the temple.
In July 1514, he performed `Kanakabhishekam' to the Lord with 30,000 gold coins. In 1518, he got the Vimana or tower over the sanctum of the temple gilded with gold. He also erected three copper statues of himself and his two queens in the temple and when he visited the temple for the last time in February 1521, he presented a pitambaram or laced yellow silk cloth, a cap and a tribute of 10,000 gold coins. His queen, Tirumaladevi, presented a garland made of seven varieties of precious stones.
During his campaign against Gajapathi, he camped at Simhachalam between 1516 and 1519 and presented a necklace and other ornaments to the presiding deity, Lord Varaha Lakshminrusimha Swamy. Subsequently, he gifted five villages, which were taken from Gajapathi, to the temple.
Krishna Deva Raya visited a number of other temples in the South and made liberal donations to them.
The statue of this multi-faceted emperor stands majestically on the Beach Road.
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