The Roar of the Reddys and the Might of the Gajapatis

After the demise of Prataparudra, it was the Reddy Kings who faced Muslim invasions in Andhra. Prominent among are Vema Reddy and his younger brother, Malla Reddy. Their role in protecting the Andhra country from Islamic onslaught in the 14th century is truly laudable.

The Reddys belonged to the Fourth Varna. When regarded in this light, the Kakatiyas hailed from the “lower” Jati, the Kamma. However, all of them kept the flame of Kshatra bright and burning. They nurtured Sanatana Dharma in an unparalleled manner. If various arts and traditions and knowledge streams like Kavya, Veda, dance, music and dance continue to thrive in Andhra even today, it is due to these warrior-kings.

By themselves, the Reddy kings were highly learned scholars. Simhabhupala’s Rasarnavasudhakara, Karpuravasanta Raya’s Sahityachoodamani, Kataya Vemana’s commentary on the Malavikagnimitra and Gopendra’s commentary on the Kavyalankarasutravritti—all of these occurred under the patronage of the Reddy kings. Telugu, Sanskrit and Prakrit litterateurs flourished in that era.

The Reddy kings also protected temples. As a byproduct of this protection, numerous other art forms flowered. Competing with each other, the Kondavidu and Rajavidu kingdoms developed art and commerce in a substantial way. These developments eventually merged into the Vijayanagara Empire during the rule of Proudhadevaraya (Devaraya II), which in turn was the outcome of his shrewd military and political policies. But what underscored all of these kings was their unity in incessantly checking Islam’s destructive raids.

One can read Nori Narasimha Sastry’s, Nannayabhattu, Rudramadevi and Mallareddy. These novels thrillingly and vividly describe the tradition of Kshatra of the Andhra country. In the same vein, the historical works of Venkataramanayya, the essays of Mallampalli Somashekhara Sarma, and more importantly, the works of Komarraju Venkatalakshmana Rao serve as valuable sources for deeper scholarship in this area.

The next dynasty that we can examine is that of the Gangas of Kalinga, Odisha. Anantavarma Chodaganga is an illustrious king of this dynasty. In the past, the Gangas of Talakdu (Karnataka) had set foot in Odisha and had established a kingdom there. Although the origins of this dynasty are traced to the Ganga at Kashi, the roots are undoubtedly in Karnataka. And later, because they settled in Odisha, they came to be known as the Kalinga Gangas.

Anantavarma Chodaganga (1078—1091 CE) shifted his capital from Parlakimidi (today: Paralakhemundi) to Cuttack. He was an extraordinary warrior and a supreme devotee of Mahavishnu. It was Anantavarma who built the Jagannatha Temple at Puri, and it was he who built the renowned Lingaraja Temple at Bhubhaneshwar (earlier known as Yayatikesari). One of his successors, Narasimhadeva (1238—1264 CE) built the world-famous Sun Temple at Konark. Together, these three temples are known as the Golden Triangle.

Anantavarma Chodaganga extended the reach of his empire from the Godavari to Ganga. Although a Vishnu devotee, he did not destroy any Shiva Temple. Even today, we can discern the four-Purushartha symbolism in the grand Sun Temple at Konark.

After this era, we come upon the reign of the Gajapatis. Kapilendradeva Gajapati and his grandson, Prataparudra Gajapati are the most formidable kings of this lineage. Kapilendradeva Gajapati had extended his empire from the Ganga to the Kaveri. It is also not far from the truth to say that he had also gobbled up the Andhra country. If one reads the lament of the great Telugu poet, Mahakavi Srinatha that there were no readers of his works under the Kalinga suzerainty, one can fathom the extent of the Gajapati rule. It is another story that much later, the Odhra (Odisha) rulers did honour Srinatha.

Prataparudra Gajapati waged war against Sri Krishnadevaraya, lost badly and ended up giving his daughter Jaganmohini in marriage to the latter. Each time the Kalingas wished to fight against the Vijayanagara kings, they had to secure the support of the Muslim kings of Golconda, Bijapura, Bidar, Gulbarga, and Ahmednagar. It was for this reason that Islam was able to establish a secure foothold in the South. It is precisely because the Hindu kings of India failed to critically study the fundamentals of Islam that they eventually suffered its disastrous consequences and by the time they were able to see it true face, it was too late. Equally, none of the scholars and Pandits who acted as their advisors failed to study the violence and intolerance at the core of Islam and thereby wrought utter ruin upon themselves.

This is the tragic chapter of the defeat of the Brahma-Kshatra principle in our country’s medieval period.

The Palas and Senas

After the death of Shashanka, the Palas and Senas came to prominence in Bengal. Dharmapala (770-810 CE) and Devapala (810-850 CE) were the distinguished kings of the Pala dynasty, which saw an enduring rule lasting about three hundred and fifty years (750-1155 CE). Although they were adherents of Buddhism, they did not commit any injustice upon Sanatana Dharma. They gave extensive patronage and generous support to the development of Buddhist universities at Nalanda and Vikramashila.

They were succeeded by the Senas who were adherents of Sanatana Dharma. Vijayasena, Hemantasena, Ballalasena and Lakshmasena were the most prominent kings of this dynasty. Ballalasena was both a poet and a warrior. Lakshmasena was a great patron of the arts and scholarship, who gave refuge to eminent poets like Jayadeva, Yogeshwara, Umapati, and Govardhana.

The development and flourishing of Sanskrit that occurred during the Pala and Sena regimes was truly stunning. It must be said that literally, thousands of Sanskrit litterateurs and scholars grew a bounteous harvest of gold during this period. However, none of their works are available to us today in their complete form. Because that region was the target of some singular barbarity inflicted by Islamic marauders. It witnessed a series of unremitting invasions from Babur to Akbar; university libraries burned for years; Hindus were mass-murdered and those Buddhists who survived, were forcibly converted to Islam.

Vidyakara’s Subhashitaratnakosha, a very ancient compendium of Sanskrit Subhashitas (literally: good or noble sayings), and Sridharadasa’s similar work, Saduktikarnamruta are two great examples that show the heights that Sanskrit had attained during that era. There are poets and litterateurs from this region whose names are known only through their independent verses. Their names are not mentioned in any other renowned compendia or literary anthologies. Poets hailing from various schools such as Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Bauddha have composed exquisite Sanskrit works. These stand out as excellent illustrations for what’s today called “secular” literature in Sanskrit. Historians affirm that thousands upon thousands of such extraordinary literature were obliterated without a trace when Bhaktiyar Khalji destroyed the Nalanda and Vikramashila universities.

In the early days, the Palas and Senas faced no external invasions. Which is why they were able to provide a highly efficient and prosperous administration that spanned such diverse regions as Kamarupa, Kalinga, and Mithila (Assam, North-Eastern Odisha, Chhattisgarh and parts of Bihar).

Author(s)

About:

Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.

Translator(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

About:

Hari is an author, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Hindu scriptures, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.