From Warangal to Sultanpur

20 years into Prataparudra’s reign, the Delhi Sultanate invaded the Kakatiya kingdom for the first time. Ala-ud-din Khilji sent his slave general Malik Kafur to bully Prataparudra into subordination. A month-long stand-off between Kafur’s army and the Kakatiya’s ended when the outer walls of Warangal were breached. The Kakatiya king sued for peace and peace, he got. But if history (or Game of Thrones) has taught us anything, it’s that peace seldom lasts long. Especially in the 14th century.

After the demise of the Khilji dynasty in 1320, Prataparudra probably thought that things could only get better for him. The fight for succession in Delhi was getting messy and it was only logical that he would declare ‘independence’ from the tyranny of the Sultanate. But when the Tughlaq dynasty took control of Delhi, Khilji’s policy’s of non-annexation was promptly upturned by them and Warangal was in trouble again.

Good Luck, Tughlaq!

Ulugh Khan, more popular as Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, is made out to be quite the character. Known to most of us who studied history in Indian schools as the “Mixture of Opposites” (we’re still not quite sure what that means), Tughlaq was the poster-boy for bad policy-making. He managed, however, to do one thing efficiently – his conquest of Warangal marked the Delhi Sultanate’s dominance in the Deccan lands, even if only for a brief period.

Less than a year after he established the dynasty and ascended the throne, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq sent his son to rein in Warangal. Incidentally, it is Ghiyasuddin who is credited with the first recorded usage of the word ‘Telangana’. Coins minted by the dynasty had the words ‘Zarb Mulk-i-Tilang’ (“struck in the land of Telugus”) inscribed on them to remind people of their conquest over the land. The word has, however, acquired a narrower and *ahem* divisive meaning today, but we digress.

Ulugh Khan promptly marched out to Deogir, which he used as a base to attack Warangal. A six-month siege of Warangal proved to be unsuccessful, thanks to rumours about Tughlaq Sr.’s death doing the rounds in Tughlaq Jr.’s camp, and Khan had to retreat to Deogir. Prataparudra threw a massive public party to celebrate what he thought was the end of his problems, only to find Ulugh Khan back on his doorstep within a year – this time with a larger army. The city walls were effortlessly breached and Warangal fell in no time. And thus, the last ‘local’ rulers of the region were gone.

The Svayambhusiva temple, whose ruins can still be found at the Warangal Fort, was desecrated as a symbol of the defeat of the Siva-worshipping Kakatiyas. Prataparudra was taken captive; he killed himself on the banks of the Narmada while being marched to Delhi. Warangal was renamed to Sultanpur and the Southern border of the Sultanate was immediately pushed from the Narmada river to the Krishna. It grew to include Madurai and Kampili, a small kingdom which would become the seat of the Vijayanagara empire a decade later. It is this rapid expansion of the Sultanate that later prompted Ulugh Khan to infamously shift his capital from Delhi to a more central Deogir (or Daulatabad, as it was later named by our man) and piss everybody off in the process, thus earning him his infamous title.

Tughlaq Dynasty Map

The extent of Tughlaq rule after their Southern conquests. Source: A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1

 

Sources:

Richard M. Eaton. (2005). A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1

Dr. P.V.P. Sastry. (1978). The Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Ghulam Yazdani. (1961). The Early History of the Deccan.

Satish Chandra . (2004). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526) – Part One.

Posted in The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prataparudra Charitramu

Prataparudra succeeded his grandmother, Rani Rudrama Devi to the Kakatiya Simhasanam, the Lion Throne. Prataparudra’s reign marked the culmination of the evolution of the Kakatiya kingdom towards a non-traditional, non-Brahminical society. Inscriptions from the period made no attempt to hide the rulers’ non-Kshatriya origins – they proudly proclaimed their Shudra status. Occupational status was given priority over caste rank – the sons had vastly different occupations from their fathers. The proportion of non-aristocratic officers rose from 25% in the 1200s to over 45% during Prataparudra’s reign. He, however, had a different problem on his hands.

His predecessors, whose worst problems were minor annoyances from neighbouring kings, expanded the Kakatiya dominions quite extensively. Things were different for Prataparudra – he was the only Kakatiya to face invasions from the North. 20 years into Prataparudra’s reign, the Delhi Sultanate invaded the Kakatiya kingdom successfully for the first time. Ala-ud-din Khilji sent his eunuch slave general Malik Kafur to bully Prataparudra into subordination and the month-long stand-off between Kafur’s army and the Kakatiya’s ended when the outer walls of Warangal were breached. The Kakatiya king sued for peace and a settlement was made. Prataparudra signed over a fortress at Badrakot (presumably present-day Bidar), along with gold and jewels, 12,000 horses, and a hundred war elephants “as large as demons”. He then, in full public view, had to clamber onto the wall of the citadel, turn to the direction of Delhi and bow down in submission to the Sultan.

warangal fort_wall_steps

The citadel wall of the Kakatiya capital

Malik Kafur triumphantly marched back to Delhi with his plunder, which included a little diamond that was to create havoc for the next 500 years. This would mark the first time that the kings in the region submitted to Delhi and they would continue to do so for the next 400 years, until the rise of British power in the 18th century.

Sources:

Richard M. Eaton. (2005). A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1

Dr. P.V.P. Sastry. (1978). The Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Ghulam Yazdani. (1961). The Early History of the Deccan.

Posted in Before the Sultanate, The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Putrika

In which you find out about Rani Rudrama Devi. Or you can just skip this post and wait for the movie instead.

rudramadevi_movie

History is not kind to women. The only mentions they seem to deserve, if any, are as supporting characters in the heroic epic that is the life of their father / brother / lover / husband / son. So what did it take for Rani Rudrama Devi to inherit the Kakatiya kingdom? Being declared a son, of course.

When Rudramba was born to Ganapati Deva, he had no sons. He promptly had her declared a Putrika, a brother-less daughter who, for all practical purposes, is a son. She inherits her father’s estate, performs his last rituals and her male progeny (Putrika Putra) inherits the same rights and continues the lineages of both his father and his maternal grandfather. Rudramba was also given the manly name of Rudra Deva, which explains the confusion amongst many sources that attribute the construction of the 1000 Pillar temple to her, rather than the original Rudra Deva.

When Ganapati Deva lost to the armies of Sundara Pandyan I at the battle of Mudugur/Muttukur (near present-day Nellore) around 1260, things were very bleak for the Kakatiya kingdom. The Kakatiyas were allies of the Telugu Cholas of Vellore, who turned to Ganapati Deva for help when the Pandyas kicked the Telugu Cholas out of Kanchipuram. Ganapati Deva responded to this plea and, basically, lost. Pretty badly. Sundara Pandyan even celebrated this occasion by issuing a coin with the Kakatiya boar on it – just to spite the Kakatiyas, probably.

pandya coin

Although Ganapati Deva managed to recover his losses in the next couple of years, his political career was finished. He nominated his daughter, who was all of 14 at the time, as his co-regent and thus began Rudrama Devi’s reign.

A women isn’t an acceptable leader to most, especially when it’s the 13th Century. When she ascended the throne after the death of her father in the late 1260s, Rudrama Devi was on her own. Her half-brothers, Harihara and Murarideva, revolted and tried to seize the capital. The Yadava king, Mahadeva, also tried to do the same. Rudrama Devi fought back, quite literally. Legend has it that she fought Mahadeva for 15 days before chasing him to the walls of the Devagiri Fort. She then one-upped Mahadeva and later annexed parts of the Yadava kingdom. This, as the Yadavas realized, was no ordinary queen. She strengthened the dynasty’s hold on the kingdom, completed the Warangal Fort and quashed every single rebellion. Much like O-Ren Ishii. In that one scene.

Sources:

Penta Sivunnaidu. (2004). Kakati Ganapatideva and His Times, A.D. 1199-1262.

Dr. P.V.P. Sastry. (1978). The Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Durga Prasad. (1988). History of the Andhras.

Posted in Before the Sultanate, The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Builder of Golconda

No one quite knows who built the fort – there are very few written sources that mention it and even the ones that do provide very little or no information about the its builders. It gets a passing mention in works such as the 17th century Ferishta’s Tarikh-i-Ferishta and Ma’aisir-i Alamgiri, the extensive biography of Aurangzeb. The latter mentions a fort called “Mangal” that was built by an ancestor of a “Dev Rai’.

Golconda_Layout

A Chronological Layout of Golconda. Drawn by Cornelia Wu. Source: Foundations of Golconda and the Rise of Fortifications in the Fourteenth-Century Deccan

These, along with other equally cryptic pieces of information, lead historians to believe that the Golconda fort was built in the 13th century by the Kakatiyas of Warangal. We then zero in on Ganapati Deva as the most probable builder of this once-insignificant fort, but there isn’t much of his original fortress left at Golconda. A closer look, however, will indicate that the granite walls of the Bala Hisar are from that period – they marked the birth of a monument that defined, in more ways than one, the destiny of this region and its people for over four centuries. But more on that later. We’re now in the 13th Century where Golconda is probably just an outpost for the Kakatiya kingdom – Warangal is where it’s all at.

Sources:

Marika Sardar. (2007). Golconda Through Time: A Mirror of the Evolving Deccan.

Marika Sardar. Foundations of Golconda and the Rise of Fortifications in the Fourteenth-Century Deccan. South Asian Studies Vol. 27, Iss. 1, 2011.

Posted in Before the Sultanate, The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First King

Rudradeva

After the death of Prola II in battle (possibly with the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi), his son Rudradeva (aka Prataparudra I) became the king of a now fully independent Kakatiya kingdom. Rudradeva, by all accounts, was a worthy successor to Prola II – he fought alongside his father and was instrumental in securing sovereignty for the kingdom. Even after his accession to the throne at Hanumakonda, he continued to focus on the expansion of his kingdom – inscriptions at his capital speak of numerous battles won and enemies vanquished. His kingdom now included the Godavari delta and extended till the coast but these regions weren’t without their challenges.

850 Years of the Thousand Pillar Temple. Image Source: The Hindu

The Thousand Pillar Temple. Image Source: The Hindu

The independence and expansion of the Kakatiya kingdom meant enough cash flow for the King to build things. Rudradeva built celebratory temples called Rudresvarams in the towns he conquered. The most famous of his temples is, of course, the Thousand Pillar Temple at Hanumakonda. He is also credited with the authoring of an Arthashastra-like treatise on statecraft called Nitisaram. But all the arts and architecture aside, it is important to remember that Rudradeva’s greatest contribution was the strong foundation of a successful kingdom. And this foundation, like that of most successful kingdoms, is based primarily on military conquests. The most famous of his battles, however, isn’t one that expanded his kingdom or even one that he won. It wasn’t even his.

The battle at Palnadu in celluloid form - Palnati Yuddham (1966)

The battle at Palnadu in celluloid form – Palnati Yuddham (1966)

Sources:

Dr. P.V.P. Sastry. (1978). The Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Durga Prasad. (1988). History of the Andhras.

Ghulam Yazdani. (1961). The Early History of the Deccan.

Posted in Before the Sultanate, The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kakatiyas of Eka Sila Nagaram

The Origins

Gateway & part of temple ruins [Warangal, Hyderabad]

Gateway & Part of Temple Ruins (1875). Image Source: The British Library Online Gallery

The exact origins of the dynasty are unclear. Some historians trace the origins of the Kakatiyas to a Gundaya who died fighting for the Rashtrakutas against the Eastern Chalukyas in the 10th Century. The story is that the Rashtrakuta king was so pleased by his sacrifice that he put Gundaya’s son, Eriya in-charge of a region that wasn’t even in the Rashtrakuta dominions. Eriya still managed to carve for himself a kingdom in the Eastern Chalukyan domain. His grandson, Kakartya Gundyana, helped the brother of a Eastern Chalukyan king take over his brother’s throne and made good with the Chalukyas as well. And like anyone who has ever started a successful kingdom has ever done, he defected to the Western Chalukyas when the Rashtrakutas were defeated and his successors Beta I, Prola I, Beta II and Prola II (yes, they were called that) were all in the service of the Western Chalukyas. It is Kakartya Gundyana that the kingdom is supposedly named after (Kakartya = Kakatiya); but it is more likely that they derive their name from either the Goddess Kakati (Durga) or their place of origin, Kakati. But then again, we don’t quite know where that is either.

Other historians give the Kakatiyas Western Chalukyan origins – they mark the beginning of the dynasty from Beta II who was in the service of Vikramaditya VI, the greatest Western Chalukyan king, after whom, as we’ve seen before, the decline of the dynasty began. But it is generally agreed upon that Beta I and Prola I played a vital role in Chalukyan victories over the Cholas – Beta I was given the title ‘Chola Chanu Vardhi Premathana’ (He who churned the Chola army ocean). Anumakonda-Vishaya (Hanumakonda), which eventually became the first Kakatiya capital under Beta II, was thus given to them as a token of Chalukyan appreciation. Around 1075 CE, Beta II succeeded his father, Prola I, but he and his son, Durga Raja, ended up doing some kiri kiri that really pissed Vikramaditya off – they were was almost kicked out and would have been, if it weren’t for some last minute jugaad and a few prostrations. Beta II’s other son, Prola II, took over after him and things couldn’t have been better for the Kakatiyas.

Feudatories play a major role in the expansion and administration of any major kingdom. They are also the first bunch of people waiting to take over your kingdom at the slightest indication of weakness. The weakening kingdoms on either side of the Kakatiya territory meant they could declare independence and begin consolidation of territory. It also meant that other feudatories  could do the same but Prola II not only successfully defended and expanded his kingdom, he went one step ahead ahead and kidnapped the Western Chalukyan king, Tailapa III. Yes, he kidnapped his king. The confusion that ensued accelerated the decline of the Chalukyan kingdom and confirmed the sovereignty of the Kakatiyas. One could say the kingdom was Prol-y out of its Beta phase now.

It was only during the reign of Pratapa Rudra, the last Kakatiya, that the kingdom was invaded by armies from the North. His predecessors could thus expand the kingdom to cover most parts of the Telugu-speaking land. The 200-odd years of Kakatiya rule gave us a fort that would change the course of Deccan history, a queen who was arguably India’s first Iron Lady, and a monument that would forever become a symbol of everything Telugu. Once a center of major power in the South, Warangal is now just a town near Hyderabad; but go visit the crumbling fort and you will see that there is more to all of this than just faceless names or irrelevant dates.

Sources:

Dr. P.V.P. Sastry. (1978). The Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Durga Prasad. (1988). History of the Andhras.

Ghulam Yazdani. (1961). The Early History of the Deccan.

Posted in Before the Sultanate, The Kingdoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Telugu Lessa

The Eastern Chalukyas and Telugu

Note: Chalukyas != Western Chalukyas != Eastern Chalukyas

Pulakesi II expanded his Chalukyan kingdom to Eastern Deccan in the first quarter of the 7th Century. After his death in a battle with the Pallava king, Narasimhavarman I, the Easterners predictably branched off to form at Vengi, the Eastern Chalukyan kingdom, which outlived the parent-kingdom by a few centuries. The new Chalukyan royalty were patrons of Jainism and Saivism – their period marked the decline of Buddhism in the region and on a more optimistic note, the growth of the Telugu language. The Kannadiga Eastern Chalukyans played an important role in the creation and growth of rich Telugu literature. Telugu verse made it’s first modern appearance in the 9th Century in the form of poetic inscriptions found in present-day Ongole and less than 200 years later, the Mahabharata was translated into Telugu by Nannayya.

nannayya“Aadikavi” Nannaya Bhattaraka was the teacher (guru) of the Eastern Chalukyan king, Raja Raja Narendra (after whom Rajahmundry is named). The story goes that the king asked his guru to translate the greatest epic into Telugu. We use the word ‘translate’ quite loosely here – in the poet’s own words, the king asked him to “compose in Telugu a book that makes clear what Krishna Dwaipayana spoke” and “compose” he did; he omitted large parts of the Mahabharata and condensed others. He made it his own. Nannaya developed his own style of poetry for the “translation” – he pioneered the use of prose within his poetry and addressed his compositions to his listeners, creating a grand narrative structure that would be used by poets for the next few centuries. Image Source: Adikavi Nannayya University

The 11th Century Mahabharatamu thus marked the genesis of Telugu literature and the Chalukyan Kings deserve a fair amount of credit for it. Consider the introductory lines of Nanne Choda‘s Kumarasambhava (nothing to do with Kalidasa’s work of the same name):

“Earlier, while there was the margi (Sankrit) poetry,
the Chalukya king and many others caused desi (Telugu) poetry to be born
and fixed in place in the Andhra land.”

Sure, the lines don’t exactly scream “literary genius”, but they do tell us about the prominent role the (Eastern) Chalukyans played in supporting the language.

We must mention here that Nannaya didn’t quite finish his work – the Telugu Mahabharatamu was over 300 years in the making. Nannaya died during the 3rd chapter and after the Chalukyas, Telugu literature found patronage elsewhere – prominently in the coastal and the “non-telugu” kingdoms. It wasn’t until a hundred years later that someone picked up where Nannaya left off. Tikkana completed the translations of Chapters 4 – 18 but he refused to translate the part of the 3rd Chapter that Nannaya couldn’t. This was done, a further 100 years later, by Errana, who bridged the gap between Nannaya’s and Tikkana’s translations. The three of them constitute the Kavitrayam (the Trinity of Poets). Mahabharatamu, however seminal, represents only one facet of Telugu literature. Where there was the purist work by Nannaya, there was also the anti-Brahmin Saivite poetry of Somanatha, the court poetry of Srinatha and the temple poetry of Annamacharya. It is also said that Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah wrote poetry in Telugu, but this claim is rather contentious.

In retrospect, Telugu often found more support from the ‘non-Andhra’ courts of Vijayanagara, Tanjavur and Madurai than from those in the thick of it. The Telugu Kakatiyas, for e.g., supported Sanskrit literature while the Kannada Eastern Chalukyas felt that literature should be in the language of the masses, Telugu. The linguistic/cultural divides we make for ourselves today seem rather ridiculous when you consider the porousness of the medieval borders.

Sources:

Durga Prasad. (1988). History of the Andhras.

Ramesan. N. (1975). The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.

Sheldon Pollock. (Ed.). (2003). Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment