West indian literature

Aliya Rama Raya, patron of art and literature – The New Indian Express

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 was called Aliya Rama Raya; because, aliya in Kannada means son-in-law. Rama Raja first came to prominence while in the service of Quli Qutbul-Mulk, the founder of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golkonda. Rama Raja brought some of the territories of Vijayanagara into the bosom of the kingdom of Golkonda and, as a reward, the Shah had assigned part of the region to Rama Raja. Historian P Sree Rama Sharma had mentioned that he reigned over the jagir of Mast-Sonti, although I could not trace its current location. Three years later, Rama Raja was defeated by Bijapur’s army and was therefore dismissed from Golkonda’s service. Later he became a staunch subordinate of his stepfather. Rama Raja’s younger brother, Tirumala Raya, who became the first king of the Vijayanagara Empire of the Aravidu dynasty, married Vengalamba, the second daughter of Krishna Deva Raya.

A copper grant from Tirumala Raya (r. 1565-1572) says that Krishna Raya had resettled the moola-murti (main sacred image) of God Krishna in a temple in Holalkere in what is now the district of Chitradurga, Karnataka. The image was previously hidden in the earth when the army of the Sultan of Delhi invaded the area. After the restoration, according to the grant, Aliya Rama Raja had built a mantapa (pillared pavilion) in the temple. Incidentally, the sacred image in the sanctum sanctorum is in the typical Hoysala sculpture style of the earlier period, while the pillared hall in front of the temple reflects all the features of Vijayanagara architecture and sculpture. The pillars contain many panels which show various deities including Rama, Siva, Hanuman, Padma Nidhi, Sankha Nidhi and so on. A pair of panels on two adjacent pillars shows two individuals, a man and a woman, facing each other and wearing the typical royal robe of Vijayanagara. Since the pavilion was built by Aliya Rama Raja, in my opinion the two figures could well be that of him and his wife, Tirumalamba.

Many Vijayanagara kings of the Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties had sponsored 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, although only parts of the work have been published. His father, Krishna Raya, is still remembered as a great patron of the Astha-diggajas, the eight elephant-like Earth poets. Following the same tradition, Aliya Rama Raja had also sponsored many poets, including Bhattu Murti, who became famous under the name of Rama Raja Bhushanudu, after his boss. He wrote the Kaavya-alankaara Sangrahamu and dedicated it to Rama Raja’s nephew, Narasa Raja, who was the ruler of Peddamudiyam, a former 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 (circa 1560), a Telugu poem by Andugula Venkayya, was written at the request of Aliya Rama Raja. The poem tells the ancestral story of Rama Raja, from (God) Narayana. The oldest known historical ancestor of Rama Raja was Bijjala II (r. 1130-1167), the king of Kalyana (Basavakalyan) in Bidar district, Karnataka. It seems likely that Rama Raya’s desire to take control of his ancestral hometown, Kalyana, resulted in its fateful end.

The Deccan’s sultans of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Bidar, and Golkonda fought among themselves to gain control of Kalyana, possibly due to its past historical significance. In 1562-1563, 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 take place in Kalyana, which was then under the control of Adil Shah of Bijapur, who earlier took it from the Sultan of Bidar. There was a series of battles, and finally, in c. 1564, the four sultans of the Deccan join hands and fight the army of Vijayanagara led by Rama Raya. On January 23, 1565, Rama Raya was beheaded at the Battle of Talikota, about 85 kilometers from Bijapur, Karnataka. A double page spread painting from the Tarif-i Husain Shahi of Aftabi shows the battle and the beheading of Rama Raya. The stone head of Rama Raya, in the museum in Bijapur, contains all the characteristic features of how he was perceived by his enemies.

Srinivas Sistla
Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam
([email protected])

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