Monday, March 14, 2011

Tribute to Krishnadevaraya

An iconic king and so little is known about Krishnadevaraya. It is my endeavour to demystify the reign of Krishnadevaraya apart from his various victories in the battlefield, which is well covered in the annals of Indian History. The era wherein Hindu royalty was filled with multiple wives created intrigue, conspiracy and drama was the order of the day. Domingo Paes is probably the only eye witness of for the reign of Krishnadevaraya, during his visit in 1518-1520 to the empire which was later composed by Barros. He has written about his gallantary and leadership qualities but to weave a historical perspective with personal touch would be great dedication on the 500th anniversary of Krishnadevaraya ( 1509-1529 AD) the great.

The wily survivor of dynastic ambition of his step mother, who wanted her son to ascend the throne. She elicited promise from the dying king Vira Narasimha that he will get Krishnadevaraya’s eyes gorged so that he will be unfit to ascend the throne. Despite being a successful general of the army, Krishnadevaraya did not have burning ambition to ascend the throne. When his minister Timmarsu, convinced Krishnadevaraya to prepare himself to ascend the throne because the empire needed an able ruler to fight against the Turks. Timmarasu presented goats eye to convince the king that he had blinded Krishnadevaraya. Under the orders of the general the entire family of his step mother was taken into preventive custody so as to avoid controversy after the Kings demise.

During his crowning ceremony on 29th July 1509 Krishnadevaraya was anointed by holy water from rivers across the Vijaynagar Empire. ( Dates are debatable in the range of 6 months ) The priests conducted elaborate ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and invite the blessings of Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The crowning ceremony was studded with grandeur and procession unknown to this part of the world. Krishnadevaraya was crowned by the high priest at the auspicious time. After coronation he inspected the entire battalion of elephantry, horsemen, cavalry marched in unison one after the other showing respect to the newly appointed King. The dancers performed to entertain the royalty. One courtesan was secretly deployed to kill the king on his accession to the throne. Appaji, he chief advisor, was aware of the conspiracy and had a back up plan to protect the king. When the courtesans came to entertain the king at night with a dagger in hand, she plunged the dagger straight into the heart. She struck a dummy and in the darkness felt the splash of the liquid. Suddenly the entire room was lit up and Appaji came and warned the courtesan and let her go free since it was a happy occasion. She was asked to keep mum during her entire lifetime regarding this incident.
Krishnadevaraya undertook a tight regime to keep his physical condition in shape. He used to get up early morning and exercise in the private gym with close confidants. He used to sharpen his skill of brandishing his sword fighting and ride horse swiftly across a short distance. He trained himself in martial arts and climbing the walls of the fort. The stunt which he wanted to badly master was to jump from his horse’s back and leap on to the elephant, which he did eventually after several attempts.

In his anxiety to keep his physical fitness at the peak he sought advice regarding his diet. He fell into the trap of wrong advice of consuming half a litre( three quarter pint )  of gingelly oil daily early in the morning on empty stomach, which became the ultimate cause for his untimely death at an age of 42 years after a reign of two decades. It may have been a conspiracy to get rid of Krishnadevaraya after his victory in the battlefield against the sultans. Krishnadevaraya eliminated his trusted lieutant Timmarsu who was suspected behind the poisoning of his son to death Thimmaraya.

The belief that every virgin queen would transmit energy to rejuvenate the king induced Krishnadevaraya to marry as many as 12 queen. Domingo Paes confirms this development stating that immediately on his accession to the throne, he was married to Three queens Thirumaladevi, Annapurna and Kamala devi. He also married his favorite courtesan during his teenage days Chinnadevi, when he was courting her secretly. He had fulfilled his promise at the appropriate time after coronation. The lineage of multiple marriage was almost akin to Lord Shiva’s erotic leanings and mating instincts. “ The belief was current that every virgin queen would transmit new energies to the Raja. Quote Mulk Raj Anand. The successful battle in the bedroom would propel the creative instinct of the king and find solutions to the tickling problem in administering his huge empire.

Despite being satiated personality in terms of sexual encounters Krishnadevaraya was known for his short temper. He was known to have insulted his enemies when they were defeated in warfare. Once he exhorted the Bahamani sultan to lick his dirty sandals as a mark of suzerainty after vanquishing them in the battle of kulburgi when he seized the Raichur Fort. ( May 19, 1520 ) He gathered enormous amount of wealth from the forts of Raichur and Gulbarga after defeating the sultans. He distributed the wealth to the temple trust of Virupaksha and Vittala complex. Some of the best jewelleries were distributed among the queens and courtesans alike to keep them in happy spirit.

Krishnadevaraya undertook guerilla type of activity during the night, he mingled with the ordinary folks and enjoyed a drink in their midst. Thus he gathered many a information regarding the public opinion on his reign. He did his own homework apart from the spy network which used to dish out information which was pleasing to his ears. Once he was given an information circulating in the Bahamani kingdom that soothsayers would warn people that a great king would take over their region and rule with an iron hand defeating the Bahamanis. This was music to his ears which prompted his to invade the Bahamani sultans and annex their territory.

How can we really believe Krishnadevaraya really ruled Vijayanagar empire unless we have an idea of the palace he lived ? The key to his greatness is construction of the iconic temples such Vittalla Complex, Hazar Rama temple and Mahanavami Dibba at Hampi. The empirical evidence culled out by Robert Swell is quite exemplary. The primary source of information on the contours of the Palace is derieved from the description of Domingo Paes ( 1518 – 1520 ) who was in awe struck by the beauty of the edifice which was just completed. The second source of information with regard to the palace decorations and interiors emanates from Leepakshi mural paintings. The third source is obviously the contemporary palaces built by the Vijaynagar emperors in the form of Penukonda, Chandragiri and the Nayak’s palace at Madurai.

The palace was obviously divided into the Public darbar area and private residential palace of the King and queens. The interiors of the durbar hall housed the Kings throne, and lavishly decorated wall hangings, such as stuffed Elephant, Tiger, Sambhars and wall paintings of the king hunting, battle scenes, mahanavami celeberations, etc. The ceremonial durbar was meeting place for the visitors and viceroys from other kingdom. The king used to entertain them after the official discussion with lavish parties, with ceremonial fireworks, dancing dramas, fancy dress parade etc. The riches of empire was displayed in the form of fashion parade by the courtesan wearing the jewellery, and elephants decked with precious stones. The visitors were captivated by stunning display of wealth and pomp
Private residential zone was to house a huge harem of courtesans and queens of the time. This area was strictly restricted for outsiders. Paes assumes there were 12,000 women including the ennuchs to please the King. There were 12 principal queens who were housed in individual chambers. No men were allowed to enter the queens chamber except the ennuchs who guarded them. The king used to place equal attention to all his queen in a sequential progress. This may have bought variety to spice of life. Chinnadevi received special attention of the king in terms of time spent during his voyeurs. Paes even though could not enter the premise managed to gather lot of information secretly, which the King was aware, but he let go the indiscretion. He knew his pompous lifestyle would be recorded in the annals of history.

Paes writes " The king lives by himself inside the palace, and when he wishes to have with him one of his wives, he orders a eunuch to go and call her.  The eunuch does not enter where she is, but tells it to the female guards, who make known to the queen that there is a message from the king, and then comes one of her maidens or chamber women and learns what is wanted, and then the queen goes where the king is .....and so passes the time as it seems good to him without any of the others knowing " 

A blend of Islamic and hindu style was adopted to build the palace and to quell the extreme heat generated during the summer months. The palace and durbar were built with a mezzanine structure with lot of natural ventilation and light. The king used to preside from the durbar hall and the sometimes the royal family members used to watch the proceedings from the balcony. The palace seems to have been fully lit with lamps and flowers during any festivity and the grandest was during dusherra. Why Krishnadevaraya adopted a blend of Islamic architecture is answered by his dealings with the arabs for trading horses prior to Portuguese treaty. This was a calculated move to appease the trading partners, and he may have even employed an Islamic architect is my conjecture.

The palace was well compounded with high boundary walls, since it housed the treasury of the empire. All the diamonds, gold, silver, and gems and stones were stored safely in an underground cellar which was opened only in the presence of the king. The currency chest was separate and it was handled by his trusted minister Appaji.

The closest virtual idea of the palace of Krishnadevaraya can be experienced by visiting Chandragiri and Madurai Nayaks palace. It is the combination of both which formed the crux of the Krishnadevaraya’s palace. The pictures uploaded are of Madurai Nayaks palace which had a close resemblance to Krishnadevaraya s palace.
Gladiators of Vijaynagar Empire :
Krishnadevaraya was constantly urged by his gurus to expand and keep his domain under check. The political strategist were very aware of the danger of the Moghul empire and the Bahmani sultans. He did not trust the Portuguese except for their trading interest. In his quest to build the finest army he recruited gladiators from various regions of his empire. One such was tribe was Mashti tribe who were nomadic tribes with a history of martial skills. They were well built with 6 feet height and well endowed body. Krishnadevaraya used their services in numerous wars against the Bahmani sultans. The role of the community was well recorded by the citation given by the king in 1515 to their ancestors who were recognized as dedicated and loyal soldiers of the Vijaynagar empire.

The authentic citation records an interesting incident which occurred in the presence of the king. Mala challenged the residents of a village in hampi to a bout of wrestling. The stake was fixed as the wives of the entire village to be given as per the directions of the king in case of defeat. The wrestling duel went on for 3 days and each and every villager who combated Mala was floored to the mat. Mala Masthi refused the prize of wives of the entire village unlike the Kauravas. He requested the king to honour with a citation signed by the emperor on a copper plate .
The copper plate is now with Kaki Rambabu, a Mala Masthi of Farijallipeta of Rajanagaram mandal. AP. S. Sudarshan, a teacher from the village, is credited with bringing this artefact to the limelight. Hindu 30TH October 2008

LEGENDARY TENALI RAMAN : The tales of the legendary wisecrack and witty Tenali Raman i am giving a go by just because it is well recorded and covered by historians. Maybe Krishnadevaraya thrived on his wisecracks after a difficult victory in the battlefield.

Naturally the legacy of Krishnadevaraya invited plenty of jealously among the Bahmani sultans who after the battle of Talikota in 1565 plundered and pillaged the palace for the treasures and artifacts collected by Krishnadeveraya after his victorious battles. It is rumoured that the wealth of the Vijaynagar empire was transported to the Bahmani kingdoms for more six months with the aid of more than 500 elephants. The very citadel of Vijaynagar was destroyed beyond recognition.

Next time around it would be my endeavour to look for remanants of Krishnadevaraya's palace.  Guys don t you think we deserve to discover the royalty's linage and imagine the prosperity of the golden era of Vijaynagar empire

ack :  A concise history of Karnataka by Dr Suryanath U Kamat, Vijaynagar by Domingos Paes & Fernao Nuniz by NBT, A Forgotton Empire by Robert Sewell.


Team G Square said...

wow thanks for sharing this

Sridharan said...

Very good post. I enjoyed reading these interesting details. Thanks for sharing!

Deguide said...

@ T G Thank you for the visit and comment, do check out for the Krishnadevaraya palace site....maybe you can spot a diamond there Lolz

Deguide said...

Sridharan you should not miss this world famous heritage, you will require abundant memory space in your hard disk

Tanmay said...

Nice account of King Krishnadevarays's life. Thanks.

Hoysala. S said...

Jai kannadha sri krishna devarayanige


cannons ready to fire

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