Aliya Rama Raya, a patron of art and literature

After the restoration, according to the grant, Aliya Rama Raja had constructed a mantapa (pillared pavilion) in the temple.

Published: 13th December 2021 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th December 2021 12:00 AM   |  A+A-

(Left, Centre) Portrait figures in the Holalkere Krishna temple in Chitradurga district in Karnataka, which are likely to be those of  Tirumalamba, Krishna Deva Raya’s daughter, and her husband Aliya Rama Raya; (Right) Head of Aliya Rama Raya, Bijapur Mus

(Left, Centre) Portrait figures in the Holalkere Krishna temple in Chitradurga district in Karnataka, which are likely to be those of Tirumalamba, Krishna Deva Raya’s daughter, and her husband Aliya

Rama Raja of the Aravidu family, also known as the Narapati dynasty, married Tirumalamba, the eldest daughter of Krishna Deva Raya (r. 1509–1529) of the Vijayanagara Empire, and hence, he came to be called as Aliya Rama Raya; for, aliya in Kannada means son-in-law. Rama Raja came to the limelight when he was in the service of Quli Qutbul-Mulk, the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda. Rama Raja brought some of the Vijayanagara territories into the fold of the Golkonda Kingdom and so, as a reward, the Shah had allotted a portion of the region to Rama Raja. Historian P Sree Rama Sharma had mentioned that he ruled the jagir of Mast-Sonti, though I have not been able to trace its present location. Three years later, Rama Raja was defeated by the Bijapur army and hence, was terminated from the service of Golkonda. Later, he became a loyal subordinate of his father-in-law. Rama Raja’s younger brother, Tirumala Raya, who became the first king of the Vijayanagara Empire from the Aravidu dynasty, married Vengalamba, the second daughter of Krishna Deva Raya.

A copper-plate grant of Tirumala Raya (r. 1565–72) says that Krishna Raya had reinstalled the moola-murti (chief sacred image) of God Krishna in a temple at Holalkere in what is now Chitradurga district, Karnataka. The image was earlier concealed in the earth when the Delhi Sultan’s army had invaded the region. After the restoration, according to the grant, Aliya Rama Raja had constructed a mantapa (pillared pavilion) in the temple. Incidentally, the sacred image in the sanctum sanctorum is in the typical Hoysala style of carving of the earlier period, whereas the pillared hall in front of the temple reflects all the characteristic features of Vijayanagara architecture and sculpture. The pillars contain many panels that show various divinities including Rama, Siva, Hanuman, Padma Nidhi, Sankha Nidhi and so on. A pair of panels on two adjacent pillars show two individuals, a male and a female, facing each other and clad in the typical Vijayanagara royal dress. Since the pavilion was built by Aliya Rama Raja, in my opinion, the two figures might indeed be that of him and his wife, Tirumalamba.

Many Vijayanagara kings of the Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties had patronised poets and also built notable edifices in and around the capital and elsewhere in the vast empire. Aliya Rama Raja’s wife, Tirumalamba, also known as Mohanangi, wrote the Mareechi Parinayamu, a long poem in Telugu, though only parts of the work were published. Her father, Krishna Raya, is still remembered as a great patron of the Astha-diggajas, the eight earth-bearing elephant-like poets. Following the same tradition, Aliya Rama Raja had also patronised many poets, including Bhattu Murti, who became famous by name Rama Raja Bhushanudu, after his patron. He wrote the Kaavya-alankaara Sangrahamu and dedicated it to Rama Raja’s nephew, Narasa Raja, who was the chief of Peddamudiyam, an ancient historic village in what is now Kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh. Later, the poet wrote a long poem in Telugu, the Vasu Charitra, and dedicated it to Tirumala Raya. 

The Rama-raajiyamu or Narapati-vijayamu (c. 1560), a poem in Telugu by Andugula Venkayya, was written at the behest of Aliya Rama Raja.The poem narrates the ancestral history of Rama Raja, starting from (God) Narayana. The earliest known historical ancestor of Rama Raja was Bijjala II (r. 1130–67), the king of Kalyana (Basavakalyan) in Bidar district, Karnataka. It seems likely that Rama Raya’s desire to gain control over his ancestral hometown, Kalyana, had brought forth his fatal end. 

The Sultans of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golkonda of the Deccan were fighting among themselves to gain control over Kalyana, most likely because of its past historical importance. In 1562–63, Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar had offered to give his daughter, Bibi Jamali, in marriage to Ibrahim Qutb Shah of Golkonda. It was agreed by both that the marriage should be held at Kalyana, which was then under the control of Adil Shah of Bijapur, who took it earlier from the Sultan of Bidar. There were a series of battles, and eventually, in c. 1564, the four Sultans of Deccan joined hands and fought against the Vijayanagara army led by Rama Raya. On 23 January 1565, Rama Raya was beheaded in the battle of Talikota, which is about 85 kilometres from Bijapur, Karnataka. A double-page painting of the Tarif-i Husain Shahi of Aftabi shows the battle and the beheading of Rama Raya. The head of Rama Raya in stone, in the Bijapur Museum, contains all the characteristic features of the way he was viewed by his enemies.

Srinivas Sistla
Associate professor, Department of Fine Arts, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam
(sistlasrini@gmail.com)



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