Sri Krishna Deva Raya (b. 17 January 1471) became king (r. 1509-1529) of the Vijayanagara Empire when its power was dwindling; for, decades ago, the Kalinga Gagapatis had occupied two important hill-forts at Kondaveedu and Udayagiri in Andhra Pradesh. By 1510, the Raya had built the Ranga Mantapa in Sri Virupaksha temple at Hampi, and then in 1513, he had marched against the Gajapatis, and captured Udayagiri.
As Pratapa Rudra Gajapati had fled to Kondaveedu, the Vijayanagara king attacked that hill-fort and captured it on 23 June 1515, and erected the Jaya sthambha (victory pillar) there. In the same year, the emperor is said to have built a palace named Bhuvana Vijayamu (WorldVictory) at Vijayanagara to commemorate his victory.
Krishna Deva Raya had patronised the Asta Diggaja poets, who were like the eight celestial elephants bearing the earth in eight directions. The emperor wrote several works in Sanskrit, but only a few verses have survived. He also wrote the Amuktamalyada, a complex poem of seven cantos in Telugu. His daughter, Mohanangi, had dedicated to him the Marichi Pariniyamu, a poem in Telugu, though only parts of it have survived.
In 1515, Nandi Timmana wrote in Telugu, the Parijata Apaharanamu, in which he hailed his patron as “O the one who is present in the Bhuvana Vijayamu, like the rising Sun, lending the glow to the nine gems.” In 1517, Krishna Deva Raya himself had asked Allasani Peddna to write in Telugu the Manu Charitra, which narrates the legend of Swarochisha, the second of the 14 Manus who figure as great rulers in ancient Indian mythologies. In this poem, Peddana had stated: “In a mansion named Bhuvana Vijayamu / Where scholarly debates take place / Krishna Raya sat on a golden throne, discussing with scholars / About the sweetness of poetry.”
In about 1520, Domingo Paes, a Portuguese merchant, came to Vijayanagara, met Krishna Deva Raya in a palace, and also saw another one and said, “This building stands on pillars shaped like elephants and with other figures, all open in front, and they go up to it by staircases of stone… This house is called the House of Victory… as it was made when the king came back from the war against Orya.” In 1565, however, many temples and nearly all palaces at Vijayanagara were destroyed, and the capital of the empire was shifted to Penugonda in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. In about 1567, Cesare Federici, an Italian merchant, stayed for a few months in the ruined capital, and said, “…the city… is not altogether destroyed.
Yet the houses stand still, but empty, and there is dwelling in them nothing, as is reported, but tigers and other wild beasts.” Now, the Royal Centre, at the Vijayanagara archaeological site, contains the basements of about 43 edifices, and one of them must be that of the Bhuvana Vijayamu. But the exact location of this palace is unknown as unlike many temples in the Hampi region, no palace contains any inscription that would help in identifying the building. Many earlier scholars had recognised the significance of a particular platform, which was designed like the adhisthana (plinth) of a sacred temple.
In 1917, A H Longhurst had said, “It represents the ruins of a palace, probably that of the king…” In 1984, three reputed scholars, John M Fritz, George Michell and M S Nagarajarao, published a preliminary report on the Royal Centre, and said about the same plinth that “it is a rectangular structure facing the north, defined by finely carved basement mouldings with elephant balustrades.” In 2019, I had published a book, ‘Realms of Tribal Hunting’, which presents an art historical study of about one hundred panels that had been carved in the kapota-palika (pigeon-shaped moulding) of the plinth with elephant balustrades.
Though previous scholars had described this plinth as rectangular, a close examination has revealed to me that it was actually designed in the ‘T-shape’, which is very unique; for, all other plinths at the place are either rectangular or square, which contain four internal corners. Whereas this ‘T-shaped plinth’ contains eight internal corners; and the same number conceptually matches well with the concept of the eight elephant-like poets of Krishna Deva Raya. An octagonal building would also be having eight corners, but at the place, a bathing pond, fountains and watch towers were designed in that shape.
Therefore, the unique ‘T-shape’ design for this plinth appears to be a new invention made for Krishna Deva Raya to correlate it with his literary interests and poetic pursuits, and more so the concept of the Asta Diggajas. Incidentally, in Sri Virupaksha temple, the Ranga Mantapa, which I have mentioned earlier as built by the same emperor-poet, was also designed in the same T-shape. To the best of my knowledge, no other temple or the plinth of any other palace at the place was designed in this shape. Therefore, in my opinion, the T-shaped plinth with fine carvings and a pair of elephant balustrades at the Royal Centre must indeed be the surviving portion of the Bhuvana Vijayamu of Krishna Deva Raya.
On 26 August 1527, the emperor-poet had granted to the Asta Diggajas a village, Tippaluru, in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh (but the grant mentions no individual poet by name). Around the same time, he wrote in Sanskrit the Jambavati Pariniyam, which was published by Briruduraju Ramaraju; it awaits to be translated into English. These activities of Krishna Deva Raya clearly suggest that he had continued his personal literary pursuits as well as the patronage of the Asta Diggajas until the end of his reign. In a Sanskrit-Kannada inscription dated 23 April 1529 at Hampi, the emperor-poet had been hailed as “O the Universal Monarch in the fields of music, literature and battles”.
“Sangeeta-saahitya-samaraangana-saarvabhouma / Sri-veera-pratapa Sri Veera Krishna Raya.”
Srinivas Sistla (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam