Sri Krishnadevaraya, the legendary ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire is a well-known king. Although his native tongue was Tulu, still he endorsed Telugu literature hugely, and put tremendous efforts to ensure the spread of the Telugu language! He appointed many Telugu people in roles of ruling class and as poets. It is only prudent to be curious as to why a Non-Telugu ruler strove so much for Telugu. Was there any specific reason? To get a better explanation, let us dig deep into the history.
The Vijayanagara Empire
Legendary King, Sri KrishnaDevaraya
Tuluva Narasimharaya (hailing from tulu bunts community of coastal Karnataka) was the general under the last ruler of saluva dynasty. He married Eastern Chalukyas Princess (Kannada dynasty) and gave birth to the prominent ruler, Sri Krishnadevaraya, 3rd king in the 3rd dynasty Tuluva.
Kannada Rajya Ramana (lord of Kannada empire), Mooru Rayara Ganda (king of 3 kings) and Andhra Bhoja (Lord of Andhra) Sri Krishnadevaraya is an eminent ruler of the Vijayanagara Empire, the northern parts of today’s Karnataka which possess maximum Telugu speaking population.
Sri Krishnadevaraya Dynasty
The prominent languages of the empire were Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Tulu. Krishnadevaraya was a scholar in not just one, but multiple languages. He was competent in Tulu, Kannada, Telugu, and Sanskrit. Also administered Vijayanagara only for around 20 years but has embellished many changes in the kingdom. Apart from that, Devaraya built many temples in a Shaiva dominated Hampi.
Vijayanagara emperors were mostly Kannadigas or Tuluvas but they promoted the Telugu language throughout the empire. Hence, the Vijayanagara period is referred to as the golden period in Telugu history.
Why did he then promote Telugu?
It takes a great man to promote language other than his own and that is exactly what the Vijayanagara emperors did. After the fall of the Kakakatiyas, the Telugu language has undergone chaos. During this period, many artistic and versatile Telugu scholars and poets were needed to some encouragement and identification.
Krishnadevaraya was the person to take it in his hands and promote Telugu. His court consisted of Ashtadiggajas, 8 greatest of great Telugu poets.
Ashtadiggajas – Names of Eight Poets of Sri Krishnadevaraya
The members include,
- Allasani Peddana
- Nandi Thimmana
- Madayyagari Mallana
- Ayyala-raju Rama-Bhadrudu
- Ramaraja Bhushanudu
- Pingali Surana
- Tenali Rama Krishna
Also, sources believe:
Krishnadevaraya’s adoration for the Telugu language could be because of his mother, the princess of vengi, who patronized the Telugu language after years of ruling vengi region and was proficient in the language. This love of Telugu language was transferred to Krishnadevaraya through his mother even though the empire was Kannadigas and his father was a tulu. Sri Krishnadeva Raya was believed to be grown up in such an environment.
Origin Story of the ‘Amuktamalyada’
Krishnadevaraya not only patronized Telugu arts and literature but also composed epic literature in Telugu. Krishnadevaraya states that Lord Vishnu has ordered him to do it. In Amuktamalyada, the most famous poetic works in Telugu Literature, he explains it why after being a non-Telugu king he had immense affection towards Telugu.
‘As the saying goes, During Kalinga Campaign, Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya was traveling through Vijayawada as he had formerly vanquished Vijayawada, Kondapalli, and the nearby regions. He came to know about the spiritual temple of Andhra Viṣhṇu and hence reached Srikakulam to have a visit to it. He even conducted the Ekadasi Vratham devotionally.
It is here when Andhra Viṣhṇu appeared to the emperor in an early morning dream when Krishnadevaraya was observing the course fast for the four consecutive days. In the dream, Andhra Viṣhṇu told him to compose his wedding story with Andal at Srirangam in the Telugu language. Hence, Sri Krishna deva Raya obeyed the words of god and struggled hard to spread the significance of Telugu on a wide range and composed the famous literature ‘Amuktamalyada’.
‘Amuktamalyada’ is a testimony of not only Sri Krishna Devaraya’s proficiency in Telugu literature, but also for the incredible language it is.
“Desa Bhashalandhu Telugu Lessa”
From Chapter 1, verse 15th of Amuktamalyada, we can have a glimpse at the prominence of Telugu in his heart.
తెలుఁగ దేల నన్న దేశంబు దెలుఁగేను
తెలుఁగు వల్లభుండఁ దెలుఁ గొకండ
యెల్ల నృపులగొలువ నెరుఁగ వే బాసాడి
దేశభాషలందుఁ తెలుఁగు లెస్స
— శ్రీ ఆంధ్ర విష్ణు
The Meaning of Quote: When asked why a work in Telugu; I belong to Telugu land and am the King of Telugus. Telugu enables the use of “Kandham’s. Hence, with all kings serving under you, you will know that of all the regional languages spoken regularly, Telugu is superior.
A statue of Sri Krishnadevaraya installed inside the Amuktamalyada Mandapam,
at Andhra Mahavishnu Temple.
However, in his reign, the other languages – Kannada, Tamil, Sanskrit – were by no means ignored. Kannada poets and scholars flourished alongside the court with most of the inscriptions made in it.
So for the reasons mentioned above, Krishna Devaraya in spite of being a non-Telugu speaker promoted Telugu. He was destined to do it. He played a vital part and dedicated himself completely to the language. Because of the efforts put by him, Telugu later earned and prevailed a reputation as a mellifluous and harmonious language.