Karnataka Government Celebrates 500th Anniversary of the Coronation of Krishnadevaraya

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By Dr. Eugnene D’Souza, Moodubelle
Pictures from Various Sources

27 January 2010: The 500th anniversary of the coronation of Sri Krishnadevaraya, emperor of the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire is being celebrated at Hampi, the modern site of the old capital of the empire from 27th to 29th January, 2010. Hundreds of artists from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai have been at work to construct a huge stage, 200 feet wide, 100 feet long and 40 feet high on 15 acres of land near Prakash Nagar in Hampi in the Bellary district.  At different places of Hampi six huge stages have been erected for various cultural activities.

Hampi the 14th century capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire lies in the Deccan heartland, in the Bellary district of the State of Karnataka. The ruins of the capital of the Viajayanagara city are spread over an area of more than 26 sq. kms protected by the river Thungabhadra in the north and by rocky granites on the other three sides.  A strange and magical place, Hampi is one of the most beautiful towns in Karnataka. Huge boulders are spread across the land where ruins of the old Vijayanagara capital have been scattered. The archeological ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site. This windswept little village was once the centre of a vibrant, thriving culture that enriched the entire region with carved temples and rock-cut magnificence.

As the Government of Karnataka is all set to celebrate the 500th anniversary of one of the most versatile rulers who governed major parts of South India, it would be worthwhile to know, at least briefly,  about this great king. Krishnadevaraya belonged to the Tuluva dynasty. During two decades of his rule (1509-1529) Krishnadeavaraya proved himself a perfect ruler by providing good governance to his subjects. The period of Krishnadevaraya was considered as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Vijayanagara Empire. He was a great warrior and military general, wise statesman, efficient administrator, promoter of religious toleration, lover of literature and patron of arts and architecture. He was a heroic figure for the Kannadigas who hailed him as ‘Kannada Raya’ and ‘Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana’.

The Vijayayanagara Empire that was founded by two brothers-Harihara and Bukka in 1336, reached the pinnacle of its glory economically, militarily and culturally during the reign of Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529), the legacy of which abides till date.

Krishnadevaraya was a great warrior and general. He was always successful in wars that he waged almost throughout his reign either against the internal rebels or external enemies.  He firmly believed that the proper place of a monarch on the battlefield was at the head of his forces. Under Krishnadevaraya the triumphant forces of Vijayanagara entered even the capitals of his enemies including Cuttack, Bidar, Gulbarga and Bijapur.

When the Portuguese established their political and economic power on the west coast in Goa close to his empire during the first decade of the sixteenth century (1510), instead of confronting them Krishnadevaraya maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese and obtained guns and Arabian horses from them which he could use effectively against his enemies. However, he never allowed himself to be drawn into an alliance with them against any of the Indian rulers.  Being pragmatic, he took the help of the Portuguese experts to improve water supply to the capital city of Vijayanagara. A number of Portuguese merchants and travellers visited the Vijayanagara city and empire and have left detailed accounts of their observations regarding the capital city, the empire and Krishnadevaraya.

Being a liberal ruler, Krishnadevaraya followed the policy of religious toleration. He was a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati. Even today one can see the images of Krishnadevaraya along with his two consorts- Tirumala Devi and Chinna Devi standing with folded hands in the Tirupati temple. Though a Vaishnavite himself, Krishnadevaraya showed respect to all sects of Hinduism and other religions as well. According to a Potuguese traveller, the King allowed such freedom that every man might come and go and live according to his own creed without suffering any annoyance and without enquiries whether he was Christian, Jew, Moor or Hindu.

Krishnadevaraya was of the opinion that the King should always rule with an eye towards ‘Dharma’. He was very much concerned about the welfare of the people and undertook regular tours of the empire to get first hand information  about the condition  of his subjects and tried to redress their grievances there an then. Through wise economic policies, he endeavoured to increase the prosperity of his people.

The capital city of Vijayanagara, presently the ruins of Hampi, manifested the glory and prosperity of the empire. The Portuguese visitors to the city of Vijayanagara have prasied it and considered it to be as large as Rome, very beautiful and the best provided city in the world. It was very prosperous with abundance of foodstuffs, vegetables, fruits and animals being sold in plenty in the markets of the city at cheap rates. They also speak of the trade in jewels, diamonds, pearls and silk brocades, which were in plenty on its streets. Further, they add that the city of Vijayanagara was constantly filled with an innumerable crowd belonging to all nations and religions.

The official languages of the Vijayanagara court were Kannada and Telugu.  Krishnadevaraya patronized literature in various languages. Many Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit scholars and poets were part of the royal court who contributed largely to the literature in their respective languages. Krishnadevaraya himself was proficient in Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit and was an accomplished scholar. His court was adorned by eight distinguished poets and scholars who were known as the ‘Ashtadiggajas’. Tenali Ramakrishna - the scholar who was famous for his wisdom and wit was a prominent member of Krishnadevaraya’s court.

Krishnadevaraya was a builder to cities and monuments. He built a new city near Vijayanagara and named it as Nagalapura after his mother Nagala Devi. He expanded the temple of Ramaswamy at Vijayanagara and added a kalyanamantapa and tower to the temple of Virupaksha. He also constructed the Krishnaswamy and Vithalaswamy temples and a number of secular buildings in the imperial capital whose remains are still found at Hampi.

Following the death of Krishnadevaraya in 1529, the Vijayanagara Empire faced decline and disintegration. Unable to withstand the combined assault of the neighbouring Muslim kingdoms, Hampi fell at the battle of Talikota in 1565. From then it was only a matter of time before the conquering forces made rapid inroads into the rest of the empire. 

The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Krishnadevaraya,  the memory of his great contribution to the Vijayanagara Empire and following his example of ‘good governance’ and broad religious toleration would be a befitting tribute to one of the great rulers of medieval India. The ruined monuments and temples at Hampi still proclaim the glory that was the Vijayanagara Empire under Krishnadevaraya.


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Comments on this Article
E.GOVINDARAJULU, chennai Thu, January-28-2010, 8:35
this is really very nice and useful me and our people
vijay dante, Canada/ Moodubelle Wed, January-27-2010, 8:45
Congratulations Dr. Eugene for your informative article. Hats off to you and entire team of Bellevision team. Unbelievable changes in the web site. Keep up your good job and God bless entire team.
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