The Greatest King of South India: Krishnadevaraya

Krishnadevaraya was a prominent ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire of South India. As the third ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire, he extended the empire to most of South India, which included present-day Karnataka, Northern Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, stretching upwards in the northeast to Cuttack.

He ascended the throne during the most critical stage of the empire and went on to consolidate it as a flourishing empire. He played a major role in defeating the Bahmani Sultans and Portuguese, forcing them to retreat their plans of expanding their empire beyond their boundaries. Along with his prime minister and mentor, Timmarusu, he defeated the Bahmani Sutans, thereby conquering their fortresses of Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, and Bijapur.

He led a major campaign against the Gajapatis of Odisha, following which he seized and captured the fortresses of Udayagiri, Kondavalli and Kondavidu. He is often compared with the greatest emperors of Asia and Europe, due to his brilliant achievements and exceptional ability to maintain political stability in the Deccan. By ruling the three most powerful territories in the southern peninsula of India, he was known by different titles, earned as a mark of respect, such as ‘Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana’ (Lord of the Kannada empire) and ‘Andhra Bhoja and ‘Mooru Rayara Ganda’ (King of three Kings).

Childhood & Early Life

  • Krishnadevaraya was born in 1471 in Hampi, Karnataka, to Tuluva Narasa Nayaka, an army commander under Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya, and Nagala Devi.
  • His father established the Tuluva Dynasty after the death of Saluva Narasimha to prevent it from splitting up.

Accession & Reign

  • He ascended the throne in 1509 and developed a strong relationship with the empire’s Prime Minister, Timmarusu, whom he looked upon as a fatherly figure.
  • He was crowned during the gloomiest period of the Vijayanagara Empire and hence, spent the first few years of his reign battling sieges and conquests to consolidate the kingdom.
  • Since the Portuguese dominated the sea trade along the Indian coastline, he developed friendly relations with them, following which he traded Arabian horses and guns from the Portuguese merchants.
  • He engaged Portuguese engineers in improving the supply of water in Vijayanagara City, apart from receiving arms and war materials for invading Raichur.
  • Following the defeat of the Sultan of Bijapur, Sultan Mahmud, in 1509 at his hands, towns and villages in Vijayanagar saved from annual raids by the Deccan sultans.
  • He annexed Raichur Doab and subsequently, raided Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur, thereby disintegrating the Bahmani Sultans, and took upon the title ‘establisher of the Yavana kingdom’.
  • By suppressing the local rulers, Reddys of Kondavidu and Velamas of Bhuvanagiri, he managed to conquer lands reaching the Krishna River.
  • In 1512, he defeated the Ummatur chief, Ganga Raja, to expand his empire – as a result of this defeat, the latter drowned in the waters of Cauvery River. The region was added to the Srirangapatna province.
  • Following his homage to Sri Venkateswara at Tirupati after his successful invasion of the Udayagiri Fort, he defeated the Gajapati army at Kondavidu and captured the fort after a series of initial routs, compelling the army to surrender.
  • While the fort was seized through a secret entrance discovered by Timmarusu, who was then appointed the governor of Kondavidu, the son of Prathapa Rudra, Prince Virabhadra, was captured and imprisoned.
  • As part of his third campaign in South India, he conquered Bezwada, on the banks of Krishna River, followed by the invasion of Kondapalli and forts in Nalgonda and Warangal.
  • Prathapa Rudra’s plan of crushing Krishnadevaraya and his army was crushed by his attack on the Gajapati Empire’s capital, Cuttack, forcing the former to surrender.
  • A treaty was signed in 1518, according to which the territories in the Odisha kingdom on the north of Krishna River were returned to the Gajapati ruler while maintaining complete peace between the two empires.
  • After completely thrashing the Bijapur army, he destroyed the fort of Gulbarga, the former Bahmani capital, though he reinstated the kingdom to Muhammad Shah.
  • By invading and conquering the different territories in the Bahmani kingdom, he succeeded in expanding his empire to South India.
  • Due to his high respect and support for art and Telugu literature, his reigning period came to be known as the golden age of Telugu literature, though Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil literates were also patronized.
  • He appointed Ashtadiggajas, or eight poets, in his court – Pingali Surana, Nandi Thimmana, Dhurjati, Ramaraja Bhushanudu, Madayyagari Mallana, Tenali Rama Krishna, Ayyala-raju Rama-Bhadrudu, and most importantly Allasani Peddana.

Major Battles

  • He attacked the unconquerable Udayagiri Fort, ruled by Gajapati Prathapa Rudra Dev, in 1512 and after a year of continuous battles, the Gajapati army surrendered and escaped to Kondavidu.
  • The bloody battle of Raichur in 1520 saw over 703,000 foot soldiers, 32, 600 cavalry and 551 elephants fighting Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur for the capture of its fortress leading to his defeat, amidst the death of 16,000 Vijayanagar soldiers.

Art and literature

Krishnadevaraya ruled during a golden age of Telugu literature. Many Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada and Tamil poets enjoyed the patronage of the emperor. Emperor Krishnadevaraya achieved fluency in many languages.

Kannada literature 

He patronized Kannada poets Mallanarya who wrote Veerasaivamrita,Bhavachintaratna, and Satyendra Cholakathe,Chatu Vittalanatha who wrote Bhagavatha, and Timmanna Kavi who wrote a eulogy of his king in Krishnaraya Bharata. Vyasatirtha, the great saint from Mysore belonging to the Madhwa order of Udupi had been his Rajguru who wrote many songs in praise of his devoted king. Krishnadevarayana Dinachari in Kannada represents a recently discovered work. The record highlights the contemporary society during Krishnadevaraya’s time in his personal diary, although some question if the king wrote the diary.

Tamil literature

Krishnadevaraya patronized Tamil poet Haridasa 

Sanskrit literature 

In Sanskrit, Vyasatirtha wrote Bhedojjivana, Tatparyachandrika,  (a work directed against Advaita philosophy), and Tarkatandava. Krishnadevaraya, an accomplished scholar, wrote Madalasa Charita, Satyavadu Parinaya,and Rasamanjari and Jambavati Kalyana.

Telugu literature 

Krishnadevarayalu’s (“Desa bhashalandu Telugu Lessa”) reign marked the golden age of Telugu literature. Eight poets known as Astadiggajalu (eight elephants in the eight cardinal points) formed part of his court (known as Bhuvanavijayamu). According to the Vaishnavite religion, eight elephants stand in the eight corners of space, holding the earth in its place. Similarly, those eight poets constitute the eight pillars of his literary assembly. The membership of the Ashtadiggajas remains uncertain, although they may include the following: Allasani Peddana, Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana, Dhurjati, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu, Pingali Surana, Ramarajabhushanudu, and Tenali Ramakrishnudu.

Among those eight poets Allasani Peddana stood as the greatest, given the title of Andhra Kavita Pitamaha (the father of Telugu poetry). Manucharitramu stands as his most popular prabhanda work. Nandi Timmana wrote Parijataapaharanamu. Madayyagari Mallana wrote Rajasekhara Charitramu. Dhurjati wrote Kalahasti Mahatyamu and Ayyalraju Ramabhadrudu wrote Ramaabhyudayamu.Pingali Surana wrote the still remarkable Raghavapandaveeyamu, a dual work with double meaning built into the text, describing both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Battumurty alias Ramarajabhushanudu wrote Kavyalankarasangrahamu, Vasucharitramu, and Harischandranalopakhyanamu.

Among those works the last one embodies a dual work which tells simultaneously the story of King Harishchandra and Nala and Damayanti. Tenali Ramakrishna first wrote Udbhataradhya Charitramu, a Shaivite work and later wrote Vaishnava devotional texts Panduranga Mahatmyamu, and Ghatikachala Mahatmyamu. The period of the empire has become known as “Prabandha Period,” because of the quality of the prabandha literature produced during that time. Tenali Rama remains one of the most popular folk figures in India today, a quick-witted courtier ready even to outwit the all-powerful emperor.


Sri Krishnadevaraya wrote the Amuktamalyada in Telugu, in which he beautifully describes the pangs of separation suffered by Andal (one of the twelve bhakti era alwars) for her lover Lord Vishnu. He describes Andal’s physical beauty in thirty verses; using descriptions of the spring and the monsoon as metaphors. As elsewhere in Indian poetry (for example, Sringara) the sensual pleasure of union extends beyond the physical level and becomes a path to, and a metaphor for, spirituality and ultimate union with the divine.

Periyalwar, the father of Andal, plays one of the main characters. Lord Vishnu commands Periyalwar to teach a king of the Pandya dynasty the path of knowledge to moksha. Amuktamalyada, also known by the name Vishnuchitteeyam, refers to Vishnuchittudu, the telugu name of Periyalwar. In the course of the main story of Godadevi in Amuktamalyada, the telugu name of Andal appears throughout. Krishnarayalu proved well-versed in Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. Jambavati Kalyanamu is his Sanskrit work.

He strove for the welfare and the enlightenment of Telugu people.

Personal Life & Legacy

  • He was married to Tirumala Devi and Chinnama Devi.
  • He married Prathapa Rudra’s daughter, Princess Annapurna Devi, who became his third queen, as part of the peace treaty signed by the two rulers to establish peace and harmony on both sides of the Krishna River.
  • Being highly religious and devout follower of Lord Tirumala of Tirupati, he donated numerous precious objects to the Venkateswara Temple, including a jewel-studded golden sword and diamond-encrusted crowns.
  • In 1524, he pronounced his son, Tirumala Raya as the Yuvaraja but the crown prince didn’t live long to continue his father’s legacy and died, probably due to poisoning.
  • With Timmarusu’s son rumored to have poisoned his son, he got both Timmarusu and his son blinded.
  • He declared his half-brother Achyuta Deva Raya, as his successor and died in 1529, after falling ill critically.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.