Let’s read the story of the iconic king Krishnadevaraya and his dynasty.
The Vijaynagar empire was one of the most powerful empires in Southern India. Krishnadeva Raya took this empire to its peak and is considered an iconic king of the Indian subcontinent. Such was his prowess that the Mughal king Babur once said that Mughals will not be able to capture southern India till Krishnadeva lives.
Krishnadeva came into power when the Muslim sultanate of the north was losing its shine. The Delhi sultanate was in decline and hence all other sultanates were busy fighting for Delhi. Krishnadeva Raya took this opportunity to take revenge on the neighbouring Muslim kings. His ancestors have lost both battles and their land to these kings. Krishnadeva, in his initial years, was able to bring back the regions of Andhra, Golkanda, and southern Maharastra under his reign.
After that, he went on a war against the Gajapatis of the Kalinga kingdom, modern-day Odisha. The Gajapatis have always been arch-rival of the Vijaynagar empire. But Krishnadeva Raya put a final end to this dispute. He came clean as the single authority in Southern India.
What made him a great king is a subject worth studying. Many historians, both modern and of his own time have given their answers. One of the key features of Krishnadeva Raya was his eye for talented people. He chose his mentor and father figure as the prime minister of his kingdom. This meant he could venture far into his territory without having the fear of backstabbing or treachery in his capital. His mentor was also the person to coronate him as the king.
Another great talent that helped him succeed was his minister and advisor, Tenali Rama. Tenali’s wit knew no bound. His cleverness is immortalized through Indian folklore. Tenali came to the Vijaynagar empire after losing his father. Tenali used this opportunity to learn as much as he can. He never went to school formally.
His street smart tricks helped Krishnadeva win many bottles. And Tenali was not the only one. Krishnadeva had help from his eight court ministers, known as ‘Astadiggajas’, meaning the ‘eight maestros’.
Another aspect of his success was his war battle tactics. In his initial days, he would use fake props to increase the number of his soldiers. The spies from the enemy camp would inform their masters of this fake number. And many times, he would win without shedding a drop of blood. Against bigger armies, he along with his advisor would use tactics to weaken the enemy.
Sometimes they would create false rumours destroying alliances. Sometimes he would change plans in the middle of the battle to confuse his enemies. His army had massive respect for him and followed him wherever he went. This respect was a result of him leading from the front. He is known to even help the fallen or injured soldier after a battle.
His administrative style is well documented by foreign travellers Munez and Barbosa.
Krishnadeva Raya removed impractical taxes like the marriage tax. He also brought many new regions under farming. This came with the construction of new canals and roads. Through his minister of courts, we know that he was personally involved in all these developments. He was also a deeply religious man and believed in Dharma.
Krishnadeva Raya carried many titles with him. He was known as both the great king of Karnataka and Andhra. He was also known as the king of the ocean as he had his reign over most of India’s coasts. He was known as the destroyer of the Turks. He received all these titles not because he worked for them, instead, he worked for the people.
In his own words, what motivated him the most was the sense of duty he had as a king. This is why he and his principles are iconic. They are a role model, a road map for leaders to come. Humankind has had many leaders, but few cherish the role as much as Krishnadeva Raya did.