We know of Krishna Deva Raya as the beloved Tenali Raman’s king – someone who delights in the latter’s mischievous tricks. But in reality, he was a monarch who created a legendary empire out of a state he wasn’t even supposed to rule! 

  1. Saved by a goat’s eyes

Krishna Deva Raya was his predecessor’s half brother, not his son. When Viranarasimha Raya was on his deathbed, he ordered his minister to bring him his brother’s eyes so that he would not be able to  ascend the throne. However, the minister  sent Raya into hiding instead and brought the dying king a goat’s eyes instead. This would lead to the greatest phase of the Vijayanagara empire. 

2. Not all beauty and riches

We like to believe that kings chose to go into bloody battles – but ancient Indian kings couldn’t afford to avoid war. They spent most of their time putting down petty lords and protecting their borders. However, Krishna Deva Raya seems to have developed a slight thirst for blood. There are many instances of his gory battles, where we see him ‘crush the skulls of Khurasani warriors’, ‘build a gruesome effigy’ with a sultan’s head. He even blinded the very minister who helped him become king after they had a falling out!

3. Not just a pretty face

Krishna Deva Raya cuts an interesting figure in chroniclers’ portraits. One describes him as follows- 

“ The king is of medium height and good figure, rather fat than thin, with a pockmarked face. Every morning, he anoints himself all over with…oil; he covers his loins with a small cloth and takes in his arms great weights made of earthenware”.

By all accounts, he was a dashing emperor, with mastery in wrestling, riding, war strategy – he even found time to write a poem or two in Telugu and Sanskrit!

4. An unusual birth

It is said that his father saw a shooting star, was convinced it was auspicious and was advised to lay with a woman at that very time. When he couldn’t find his wife, Nagamba, a lamp cleaner, stepped up to serve her king. 

Many celebrate Akbar and Ashoka as great kings, but we have missed out on an interesting hero with shades of grey in Krishna Deva Raya! 


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