ఆంధ్రకవితా పితామహ అల్లసాని, పెద్దన కవీంద్ర అని నన్ను పిలచునట్టి కృష్ణరాయలతో దివికేగలేక బ్రతికియున్నాడ జీవచ్ఛవంబనగుచు ||
Lamented an inconsolable Allasani Peddana renowned as Andhra-Kavitaa-Pitamaha (The Progenitor or Brahma of Telugu Poetry) when he heard that his munificent patron Sri Krishnadevarya had passed away. This indomitable lion who towered over all of South India for twenty blazing years, the Emperor who could crush his opponents with his fiery stare had, in an act of absolute surrender to the Saraswati in Peddana had sat down on the ground and tied the Ganda-Pendera (a golden anklet) around his ankle. The selfsame Peddana had hailed Sri Krishnadevaraya as Achyutamsha Sambhava, at once a panegyric, reality and a fond hope for the future. The word Achyuta means “indestructible” or "imperishable." But now his favourite Rayulu, Sri Krishnadevaraya, was gone never to return. Small wonder that Allasani Peddana cursed himself that he was still alive on this earth akin to a living corpse when his magnanimous benefactor had departed.
Years earlier, when Sri Krishnadevaraya was at the zenith of his power and prestige, this is what “Mukku” Thimmana wrote in praise of his Emperor’s crushing victory over the Asuric Bahamani at Raichur:
O Krishnaraya, you the Avatara of Narasimha! You destroyed the Turks from faraway with just the power of your great name. O Lord of the elephant king! The herd of war-trained elephants ran away in horror just by looking at you!
It was said that both the Bahamanis and other enemies of Sri Krishnadevaraya thought that news of his death was unreal and a trick to scare them further. Even after his death was confirmed, they stayed miles away from Vijayanagara for several months thinking that even his spirit would crush them if they dared look in its direction.
Sri Krishnadevaraya remains one of those extraordinary Samrats who is still a living memory in several ways. The fine spirit of Kshatra (valour) that Harihara and Bukka recovered for Hindus in South India, Sri Krishnadevaraya polished to a fine sharpness, the glimmer of whose sabre burned down the darkness of cowardice and despair. The scale, sweep, intensity and decisiveness of his military victories were complemented in equal measure by his all-encompassing magnanimity and were exceeded by his love for learning, literature, art and refined cultural sensibilities.
If you think all this is an exaggeration, I offer you another incontrovertible proof: think why our Leftist distorians have reduced him to a mere footnote not in Indian history but the history of the Vijayanagara Empire itself.
Indeed, we know more about an Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and we extol the great exploits of Napoleon and take equal pride in ridiculing Sri Krishnadevaraya knowing nothing about him. Few people in world history have celebrated ignorance in the fashion of self-loathing Hindus.
An oft-heard familiar complaint in this regard is this: why do you repeatedly harp about all these past victories and glories? What about the present? My answer each time: remember that these glories and victories were accomplished by us. We share the same civilizational and cultural bloodline and I see no reason to doubt why we can’t do it again. The same spirit lies latent, forgotten by a multitude of forces beyond our control. Our downfall occurred the precise moment we relaxed and dismissed the spirit that informed, inspired, and animated Sri Krishnadevaraya.
Which is why the best way to pay him homage is to keep his legacy alive in our own way, within our limitations. And the first thing that strikes us when we scratch just the surface of Sri Krishnadevaraya’s legacy is a brutal but honest realisation of our own pettiness and daily obsession with the trivial, an obsession that has attained feverish levels thanks to social media.
If Sri Krishnadevaraya’s legacy were to be couched in one word, it is this: grandeur. As we have noted elsewhere, nothing about him was petty, small, or insignificant. From fighting, food, drink, and fragrance, every facet was epic. This larger-than-life spirit also manifested itself in his epic Amuktamalyada. Our ongoing obsession with the petty and the ephemeral has reduced us to a stage where we can’t even read one verse of Amuktamalyada without checking our Twitter feed.
It is this epic spirit that enabled Sri Krishnadevarya achieve in twenty years what takes several lifetimes for others. Quite naturally, in our own time, forget achieving even a fraction of what he did, we have proven to be singularly adept at not preserving even a fraction of his embracive legacy, a pan South Indian blanket of protection which has ensured that even after five hundred years, our Sanatana traditions have been maintained almost intact.
Sri Krishnadevarya’s magnificent civilizational and cultural throne is now a wasteland. His countless grants and deeds of generous donations on stone and metal have been disfigured beyond recognition and are today languishing in a state of criminal neglect in our Government-run museums and “heritage” offices. Until recently, some of these were preserved in the homes of individuals passionate and anxious to preserve his invaluable legacy. With their death, who knows what happened to them? Perhaps they were pawned off or sold as scrap. Palm-leaf and other manuscripts of prized works of literature produced during his period were eaten away by moths. Knowledge that was living in his time has thus become the stuff of fiction now. Indeed, Sri Krishnadevaraya’s grand Empire was truly, effectively destroyed by his posterity. The Asuric Bahamanis merely razed the outward structures and temples.
The way of the coward is to blame the Muslims, the British and other external forces for this appalling destruction of something invaluable and therefore irreplaceable. In our own time, the irreplaceable has become irretrievable in many cases. But the heroic way is to introspect.
One method to do that is to understand the magnitude of this destruction in a rather simplified, summary format: Sri Krishnadevaraya transformed Vidyanagara (City of Knowledge and Learning) into Vijayanagara (City of Victory). We have transformed Vijayanagara into Vinashanagara (City of Destruction). This is the inevitable conclusion we derive when we witness the weeping Vigrahas at Hampi more than three hundred years after Muslim rule ended and more than seventy years after the British left. There is absolutely no reason for letting this rot continue. However, the rot at Hampi has more profound roots. In reality, Hampi is just a vast geographical expression of the blank, noiseless sigh of civilizational melancholy. The invisible upward vapours of Her tears are an ongoing reminder of the collective Hindu dispirit and inertia of generations. Rest assured, the rot will only quicken if the status of Hampi as a tourist spot continues.
It was the selfsame Pampapura or Hampi that once throbbed with the lively expression of a vigorous state policy of Sri Krishnadevarya. He led by example and ruthlessly made it a mandate for his citizens to follow. He wrote that the great secret of efficiency is the willing destruction of apathy. This will lies in the realm of the spirit, not matter. In a brilliant verse in Amuktamalyada, he says and I paraphrase:
Even while enjoying pleasures, sleep with an eye open.
Like the bear perched on the edge of a branch keeps its other eye open looking out for danger,
Watch out for both internal and external enemies.
Sri Krishnadevaraya’s extraordinary reign is the demonstrated proof of this verse. He was also an adroit practitioner of what is known as Purushaprayatna, or human effort and believed that no human effort is ultimately wasted irrespective of outcome. As he says,
If our work does not yield the expected fruit, it is perhaps the fault of the Devatas.
But let the blame of not doing the work fall upon me.
With such illustrious precedents, how have we fared as inheritors of the civilisational complex he guarded with his life?
Today, our national character is a willing embrace of all-round apathy, and it finds its most visible expression in unforgivable cultural amnesia.
As Hindus we enjoyed the security and peace he brought us by leading from the front, by putting his neck before the enemy’s sword, by staying awake so we could sleep. We enjoyed the overflowing wealth that he earned and generously distributed to us. We worshipped, sang and danced in the temples he built and renovated and gave such rich endowments to. We bestowed him the rich tributes and the lavish praises that he truly deserved. In return, he accepted them and bowed down to us in gratitude as Allasani Peddana’s example shows.
But we conveniently forgot the very ingredient that enabled him to do all this: the Sanatana Atma Shakti (literally, soul-strength). Indeed, Sri Krishnadevaraya is the Rishi of the mantra of the Atma Shakti that safeguarded the freedom of Hindus and transformed ordinary men and women into formidable colossuses.
And what was the nature of this mantra of freedom that Sri Krishnadevaraya preached and practiced and inspired others to follow?
We’ll find that out in the next part.
To be continued
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