The Reign of Krishna Deva Raya (A.D. 1509 to 1530)
His character and person — Bankapur — Almeida and Fr. Luis's mission — Duarte Barbosa — His description of the city — The king's early wars — Kondapalle — Rajahmundry — Kondavid — Udayagiri — Wars of the Qutb Shah of Golkonda in Telingana.
An inscription in the Pampapati temple at Hampe states that on the occasion of a festival in honour of the coronation of Krishna Deva Raya, the king built a hall of assembly and a GOPURA or tower there, and the date is given as the 14th of the first half of the lunar month Magha in the expired Saka year 1430, the year of the cycle being "Sukla." It so happens that the cyclic year Sukla does not correspond to Saka 1430 expired, but to Saka 1431 expired; and this unfortunate error leaves us in doubt as to the true date of that important event. If we conceive the mistake as having occurred, not in the NAME of the year, which was perhaps in constant daily use, but in the number of the Saka year, then the date corresponds to 23rd or 24th January A.D. 1510; but if the number of the Saka year was correct and the name wrong, then the day must have been February 4, 1509, the cyclic year being properly "Vibhava." Even then it is not certain whether this festival took place on the coronation day itself, or on an anniversary of that event; and a considerable interval may have elapsed between the king's accession and coronation. Probably we shall not be wrong if we consider that the new king succeeded to the throne in A.D. 1509.
Krishna Raya seems to have possessed a very striking personality, to judge from the glowing description given us by Paes, who saw him about the year 1520. The account given by him is all the more interesting and valuable because without it the world would have remained justly in doubt as to whether this king really reigned at all, in the usual acceptation of the word — whether he was not a mere puppet, entirely in the hands of his minister, perhaps even an actual prisoner. For Firishtah never mentions him by name, and the inscriptions which relate his conquests prove nothing beyond the fact that they took place during a reign which, for all we know, might have been a reign only in name, the real power being in the hands of the nobles. But with the description of Paes in our hands there can be no longer a shadow of doubt. Krishna Deva was not only monarch DE JURE, but was in very practical fact an absolute sovereign, of extensive power and strong personal influence. He was the real ruler. He was physically strong in his best days, and kept his strength up to the highest pitch by hard bodily exercise. He rose early, and developed all his muscles by the use of Indian clubs and the use of the sword; he was a fine rider, and was blessed with a noble presence which favourably impressed all who came in contact with him. He commanded his immense armies in person, was able, brave, and statesmanlike, and was withal a man of much gentleness and generosity of character. He was beloved by all and respected by all. Paes writes of him that he was "gallant and perfect in all things." The only blot on his scutcheon is, that after his great success over the Muhammadan king he grew to be haughty and insolent in his demands. No monarch such as the Adil Shah could brook for a moment such a humiliation as was implied by a peace the condition of which was that he should kiss his triumphant enemy's foot; and it was beyond all doubt this and similar contemptuous arrogance on the part of successive Hindu rulers that finally led, forty years later, to the downfall of the Hindu empire.
All Southern India was under Krishna Deva's sway, and several quasi-independent chiefs were his vassals. These were, according to Nuniz, the chief of Seringapatam, and those of Bankapur, Garsopa, Calicut, Bhatkal, and Barkur. The Portuguese treated these lesser chiefs as if they were kings, called them so and sent embassies to them, no doubt much to their satisfaction.
The present head of the Brahmanical establishment at the Hampe temple informed me that Krishna Deva Raya celebrated his accession by erecting the great tower at the entrance of the temple, and the next largest tower shortly afterwards. Nuniz tells us that immediately on attaining power, the king, making Saluva Timma his minister, sent his nephew, the son of the last sovereign, and his own three brothers, to the fortress of Chandragiri, 250 miles to the south-east, for his greater security, and himself remained for some time at the capital. This accords well with the writings of the other Portuguese, who relate that at least on two occasions, when missions were sent from Calicut and Goa, viz., those of Fr. Luis and Chanoca, the envoys saw the king in person at Vijayanagar.
At the beginning of Krishna's reign, Almeida, as stated above, was viceroy of the Portuguese settlements on the coast, but at the end of the year 1509 Albuquerque succeeded him under the title of governor. The latter suffered a severe reverse at Calicut, and from thence despatched Fr. Luis, of the Order of St. Francis, as ambassador to Vijayanagar, begging the Raya to come by land and reduce the Samuri of Calicut, promising himself to assault simultaneously by sea. The governor declared that he had orders from his master, the king of Portugal, to war against the Moors, but not against the Hindus; that Calicut had been destroyed by the governor, and its king had fled into the interior; that he (the governor) offered his fleet to assist the king of Vijayanagar in his conquest of the place; that as soon as Calicut was captured the Moors would be driven therefrom, and that afterwards the Portuguese would assist the king of Vijayanagar against his enemies, the "Moors" of the Dakhan. He promised in future to supply Vijayanagar alone with Arab and Persian horses, and not to send any to Bijapur. No answer was returned.
Albuquerque next attacked Goa, then under the Adil Shah, and captured the place, making his triumphal entry into it on March 1, A.D. 1510. Immediately afterwards he despatched Gaspar Chanoca on a mission to Vijayanagar, renewing Almeida's request for a fort at Bhatkal for the protection of Portuguese trade. Barros states that Chanoca reported that, though he was received "solemnly," Krishna Deva Raya only made a general answer in courteous terms, and did not specifically grant the governor's request; the reason being that the king had then made peace with the Adil Shah. Presumably this peace was made in order to enable the Adil Shah to retake Goa.
Upon this a message was sent from Vijayanagar to Albuquerque congratulating the Portuguese on their conquest of Goa, and promising to aid them against the Adil Shah. This aid, however, does not appear to have been given. The Muhammadan troops attacked Goa in May and after a severe struggle were successful, Albuquerque evacuating the place after decapitating a hundred and fifty of the principal Muhammadans there, and slaughtering their wives and children.
In November of the same year, Ismail Adil's attention being called off by internal dissension at Bijapur, Albuquerque attacked Rasul Khan, Ismail's deputy at Goa, and the eight thousand men under his command, defeated them, retook the place on December 1, and slew six thousand men, women, and children of the Muhammadans. Firishtah states that the young Adil Shah's minister, Kummal Khan, after this made peace with the Europeans, and left them securely established at Goa. This, however, is not quite correct, for Rasul Khan made a desperate attempt in 1512 to retake the place, but failed after severe fighting.
As soon as the news reached Vijayanagar of Albuquerque's success in December 1510, Krishna Deva Raya sent ambassadors to Goa, and by them Fr. Luis sent letters to Albuquerque detailing the result of his mission. He "had been well received by all except the king," but the king had nevertheless granted permission for the Portuguese to build a fort at Bhatkal. Poor Fr. Luis never returned from his embassy. History is silent as to what happened or what led to the tragedy, but he was one day murdered in the city of Vijayanagar.
His despatch is interesting as containing information regarding Vijayanagar and the Sultan of Bijapur, part of which is certainly accurate, while part tells us of Krishna Deva Raya's proceedings at this period, regarding which we know nothing from any other source. Fr. Luis wrote to Albuquerque that the Adil Shah had attacked Bijapur, and had taken it after a siege of two months, while four lords had risen against him "since the latter had carried off the king of Decan as a prisoner." This king was the Bahmani king, while the Adil Shah and the "four lords" were the revolting Muhammadan princes. He added that the people of Belgaum had revolted from the Adil Shah and submitted to the Hindu sovereign. As to Vijayanagar, he said that the king was getting ready a small expedition of seven thousand men to send against one of his vassals, who had risen up in rebellion and seized the city of Pergunda (? Pennakonda), saying that it belonged to himself by right; and that after he had taken the rebel the king would proceed to certain places on the sea-coast. Fr. Luis professed himself unable to understand the drift of this latter design, but warned Albuquerque to be careful. He advised him to keep up friendly communications with the king, and by no means to place any reliance on the man on whom, of all others, the Portuguese had pinned their faith — one Timoja, a Hindu who had befriended the new-comers. The priest declared that Timoja was a traitor to them, and had, in conjunction with the king of Garsopa, promised Krishna Deva Raya that he would deliver Goa to him before the Portuguese could fortify their possessions therein, if he should send a fully equipped army to seize the place.
After Albuquerque's second capture of Goa the chief of Bankapur also sent messages of congratulation to the Portuguese, and asked for permission to import three hundred horses a year. The request was granted, as the place was on the road to Vijayanagar, and it was important that its chief should be on friendly terms with the Europeans. Moreover, Bankapur contained a number of superior saddlers.
Krishna Deva's anxiety was to secure horses. He must have thought little of this foreign settlement on the coast as a political power, but what he wanted was horses, and again horses, for his perpetual wars against the Adil Shah; and Albuquerque, after toying a little with the Muhammadan, gratified the Hindu by sending him a message in which he declared that he would prefer to send cavalry mounts to him rather than to supply them to the Sultan of Bijapur.
About the year 1512 Krishna Deva Raya, who had, taken advantage of the times to invade the Sultan's dominions, attacked the fortress of Raichur, which at last was given up to him by the garrison; Ismail Adil being too much employed in attending to the internal affairs of his government to afford it timely relief. So says Firishtah. This event is not noticed by Nuniz, who writes as if the Raya's first campaign against the Adil Shah took place in 1520, when he advanced to attack Raichur, it being then in the Shah's possession; and here we see a difference between the story of Nuniz and the story of Firishtah, for the latter, writing of the same event, viz., the campaign of 1520, states that "Ismail Adil Shaw made preparations for marching to recover Mudkal and Roijore from the Roy of Beejanuggar," he having taken these cities about 1512, as narrated. Which account is correct I cannot say.
It appears that in 1514 A.D. Krishna Deva offered Albuquerque [pound sterling] 20,000 for the exclusive right to trade in horses, but the Portuguese governor, with a keen eye to business, refused. A little later the Hindu king renewed his proposal, declaring his intention of making war against the Adil Shah; and the Adil Shah, hearing of this message, himself sent an embassy to Goa. Albuquerque was now placed in a position of some political importance, and he wrote first to Vijayanagar saying that he would give the Raya the refusal of all his horses if he would pay him 30,000 cruzados per annum for the supply, and send his own servants to Goa to fetch away the animals, and also that he would aid the king in his war if he was paid the expense of the troops; and he wrote afterwards to Bijapur promising the Sultan the refusal of all horses that came to Goa if he would surrender to the king of Portugal a certain portion of the mainland opposite the island. Before this matter was settled, however, Albuquerque died.
We learn from this narrative the Krishna Deva Raya was meditating a grand attack on the Muhammadans at least five years before his advance to Raichur — a year even before his expedition against Udayagiri and the fortresses on the east, the story of which campaign is given in our chronicle.
We have an account of what Vijayanagar was like in A.D. 1504 — 14 in the narrative of Duarte Barbosa, a cousin of Magellan, who visited the city during that period.
Speaking of the "kingdom of Narsinga," by which name the Vijayanagar territories were always known to the Portuguese, Barbosa writes: "It is very rich, and well supplied with provisions, and is very full of cities and large townships."
He describes the large trade of the seaport of Bhatkal on its western coast, the exports from which consisted of iron, spices, drugs, myrabolans, and the imports of horses and pearls; but as regards he last two items he says, "They now go to Goa, on account of the Portuguese." The governor of Bhatkal was a nephew of King Krishna Deva. "He lives in great state and calls himself king, but is in obedience to the king, his uncle."
Leaving the sea-coast and going inland, Barbosa passed upwards through the ghats.
"Forty-five leagues from these mountains there is a very large city which is called BIJANAGUER, very populous, and surrounded on one side by a very good wall, and on another by a river, and on the other by a mountain. This city is on level ground; the king of Narsinga always resides in it. He is a gentile, and is called Raheni. He has in this place very large and handsome palaces, with numerous courts…. There are also in this city many other palaces of great lords, who live there. And all the other houses of the place are covered with thatch, and the streets and squares are very wide. They are constantly filled with an innumerable crowd of all nations and creeds…. There is an infinite trade in this city…. In this city there are many jewels which are brought from Pegu and Celani (Ceylon), and in the country itself many diamonds are found, because there is a mine of them in the kingdom of Narsinga and another in the kingdom of Decani. There are also many pearls and seed-pearls to be found there, which are brought from Ormuz and Cael … also silk-brocades, scarlet cloth, and coral….
"The king constantly resides in the before-mentioned palaces, and very seldom goes out of them….
"All the attendance on the king is done by women, who wait upon him within doors; and amongst them are all the employments of the king's household; and all these women live and find room within these palaces, which contain apartments for all….
"This king has a house in which he meets with the governors and his officers in council upon the affairs of the realm…. They come in very rich litters on men's shoulders…. Many litters and many horsemen always stand at the door of this palace, and the king keeps at all times nine hundred elephants and more than twenty thousand horses, all which elephants and horses are bought with his own money…. This king has more than a hundred thousand men, both horse and foot, to whom he gives pay….
"When the king dies four or five hundred women burn themselves with him…. The king of Narsinga is frequently at war with the king of Dacani, who has taken from him much of his land; and with another gentile king of the country of Otira (apparently Orissa), which is the country in the interior."
Barbosa mentions that the lord of Goa, before the Portuguese attack on the place, was "Sabaym Delcani," meaning the king of the Dakhan, and he alludes to its first capture by Albuquerque on 25th February 1510, and the second on 25th November of the same year.
We learn from other sources that about this time Krishna Deva Raya was engaged with a refractory vassal in the Maisur country, the Ganga Rajah of Ummatur, and was completely successful. He captured the strong fortress of Sivasamudra and the fortress of Srirangapattana, or Seringapatam, reducing the whole country to obedience.
In 1513 A.D. he marched against Udayagiri, in the present district of Nellore, an exceedingly strong hill-fortress then under the king of Orissa, and after the successful termination of the war he brought with him from a temple on the hill a statue of the god Krishna, which he set up at Vijayanagar and endowed with a grant of lands. This is commemorated by a long inscription still in existence at the capital. It was then that the great temple of Krishnasvami was built, which, though now in ruins, is still one of the most interesting objects in the city. This is also attested by a long inscription on stone, still in its place. The king further built the temple of Hazara Ramasvami near, or in, his palace enclosure, at the same time.
Nuniz relates that at Udayagiri Krishna Raya captured an aunt of the king of Orissa and took her prisoner to Vijayanagar. He next proceeded against Kondavid, another very strong hill-fortress also in possession of the king of Orissa, where he met and defeated the king in person in a pitched battle, and captured the citadel after a two months' siege. He left Saluva Timma here as a governor of the conquered provinces, and went in pursuit of his enemy northwards. Nuniz says that Saluva Timma appointed his own brother captain of Kondavid, but an inscription at that place gives us the name of this man as Nadendla Gopamantri, and calls him a nephew of Timma. Kondavid seems to have been under the kings of Orissa since A.D. 1454; its capture by Krishna Deva took place in 1515. To confirm our chronicler's account of the king's northward journey, I find that there is at the town of Meduru, twenty-two miles south-east of Bezvada on the Krishna, an inscription which states that in 1516 a battle took place there between Krishna Deva and some enemy whose name is obliterated, in which the former was victorious.
The king, advanced to Kondapalle, took the place after a three months' siege, and captured therein a wife and son of the king of Orissa. The unhappy fate of the latter is told in the chronicle. Thence he marched to Rajahmundry and halted six months. Peace was made shortly after, and Krishna Deva married a daughter of the Orissan king. After this marriage King Krishna made an expedition against a place in the east which Nuniz calls "Catuir," on the Coromandel side, and took it. I have been unable to locate this place.
By these conquests the whole of his eastern dominions were brought into entire subjection to the sovereign.
Nuniz writes as though the attack on Raichur immediately followed the campaign against Udayagiri, Kondavid, and "Catuir," but, according to the evidence afforded by inscriptions, these expeditions were at an end in 1515, and the battle of Raichur did not take place for at least five years later.
A long account of wars in the south-eastern Dakhan country between Sultan Quli Qutb Shah of Golkonda and his neighbours, both Mussulman and Hindu, is given in the third volume of Colonel Briggs' "Firishtah," translated from a Muhammadan historian — not Firishtah himself; and as this certainly covers the period of at least a portion of Krishna Deva's reign, it is well to give a summary of it. I cannot, however, as yet determine the exact dates referred to, and the story differs from that acquired from Hindu and Portuguese accounts, the dates of which are confirmed by epigraphical records.
Sultan Quli proclaimed himself an independent sovereign in 1512. The historian referred to states that shortly after this Quli attacked and took Razukonda and Devarakonda, fortresses respectively south-east and south-south-east of Hyderabad in Telingana. After the second of these places had fallen Krishna Raya of Vijayanagar marched against the Sultan with an immense army and invaded his dominions. This must, I think, refer to about the year 1513. The Hindu army encamped at Pangul, in the angle of the Krishna river almost due east of Raichur, and here a battle took place in which the Qutb Shah was victorious The place was then besieged; it capitulated, and the Muhammadans proceeded to Ghanpura, twenty miles to the north. This fort was captured after heavy loss, and the Sultan led his army to Kovilkonda, twenty miles to the north-west, on the borders of the country of Bidar, the territory of Ala-ud-din Imad Shah. This place also fell.
A war with the Imad Shah followed, in which Sultan Quli was again victorious. Shortly afterwards there were disturbances on the east of the Golkonda territories. Sitapati, Rajah of Kambampeta, on the Muniyer river, who possessed extensive territories — including Warangal and Bellamkonda, a fortress south of the Krishna — rose against the Muhammadans, and the Sultan marched against Bellamkonda, which, after a long siege, he captured. Sitapati then fought a pitched battle, was defeated, and fled, Quli returning to Golkonda. The Rajah then stirred up a number of neighbouring chiefs and assembled large forces at Kambampeta. Hearing of this, the Golkonda forces marched to attack them, and met with complete success, Sitapati flying to the protection of "Ramchunder Dew, the son of Gujputty, who held his court at Condapilly," and was king of Orissa. The Sultan advanced and attacked Kambampeta, where, after his capture of the place, he slew every man, woman, and child in the city, seizing the females of Sitapati's household for his own seraglio. Meanwhile an immense Hindu host from all the countries about, under command of the king of Orissa, prepared to do battle for their country, and a decisive action took place near the river at Palinchinur, in which the Hindus were completely defeated. Quli then seized Kondapalle, Ellore, and Rajahmundry, and a treaty was made between him and Orissa fixing the Godavari river as the eastern boundary of Golkonda. By this the Sultan added the districts of Ellore and Bezvada to his own dominions.
Krishna Raya then advanced to the rescue and the Sultan marched to Kondavid. He invested the place, but was forced to retreat owing to attacks made on him from Bellamkonda and Vinukonda, the first of which fortresses he succeeded in reducing after heavy loss. After this he retired towards Kondapalle. Krishna Raya now arrived and attacked the Muhammadan garrison in Bellamkonda, upon which the Sultan counter-marched, and suddenly appeared in rear of the Hindu army. In the battle which ensued he was victorious and the siege was raised, after which he returned to Kondavid and took it. On learning of the fall of Kondavid, Krishna Raya detached "his general and son-in-law Seeva Ray" with 100,000 foot and 8000 horse to march against the Muhammadans. The Sultan retreated and encamped on the banks of the Krishna, leaving Kondavid to the Hindus. After settling the place the Vijayanagar forces proceeded in pursuit of the Sultan, were attacked by him, defeated, and retired to Kondavid, which was a second time invested by the army of Golkonda. The Hindus then submitted and agreed to become tributary.
On his return towards his capital the Sultan learned that Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur was besieging Kovilkonda, "at the instance of the Raja of Beejanuggur." He marched against him, and a series of actions ensued, the campaign lasting eleven months, at the end of which Ismail died of a fever, and was succeeded by his son Malu. In one of the fights Sultan Quli was wounded severely by a sabre in the face, and disfigured for life.
I have given the whole of this story in this place because it runs as a consecutive series of events in the original Muhammadan account. But it really covers a period of at least twenty-one years; for the narrative begins shortly after the beginning of Quli's reign (1512), and ends with Ismail's death (1534). We are left, therefore, entirely in the dark as to the exact years referred to. But there are some points of agreement between our authorities. It is certain that Krishna Deva took Kondavid in A.D. 1515, and fought battles in the neighbourhood in the following year; and though Nuniz asserts that he took Kondavid from the king of Orissa, he also alludes to the presence of armed bodies of Muhammadans in that tract opposed to the Hindus.
With these remarks we return to Vijayanagar history.
From 1516 to 1520 we have no records from Hindu sources to guide us as to events at the capital.
The Portuguese traded on the coast, and there were some fights with the neighbouring Hindu chiefs, but they seem to have affected the capital but little; the foreigners were generally on friendly terms with the suzerain at Vijayanagar, and so far as he was concerned were welcome to consolidate their commerce, since he benefited largely by the import of horses and other requisites. The rest of his dominions were tranquil and the inhabitants obedient to his rule.
The whole country was divided out — so Nuniz tells us, and his account is confirmed by other evidence — into governorships. Each chief was allowed entire independence in the territory allotted to him so long as he maintained the quota of horse, foot, and elephants, the maintenance of which was the price of his possession, in perfect readiness for immediate action, and paid his annual tribute to the sovereign. Failing these he was liable to instant ejection, as the king was lord of all and the nobles held only by his goodwill.
But during this period of peace the king made extensive preparations for a grand attack on the territory between the rivers, the ever-debatable land which for nearly two centuries had been the subject of dispute between his predecessors and their northern neighbours. His objective was the city of Raichur, then under the Muhammadans, and when all was ready he marched to the attack with an immense force.