About Achyuta Devaraya, the forgotten Vijayanagar King

Achyuta Deva Raya and his Queen.
  • Know about the life and achievements of Achyuta Deva Raya, the Vijayanagar King who ruled after Krishna Deva Raya.

In history of India, the contribution of Vijaynagar Empire is unparalleled. Under the victorious reign of Krishna Deva Raya, it peaked. However, after him the history of Vijaynagar is ignored and his successors were generalized as weak, and incompetent. One such worthy successor was Achyuta Deva Raya.


After Krishna Deva Raya, if there was one king who preserved the glory of empire, created fear among his enemies it was Achyutadevaraya. He carried was a good administrator and patron of arts too. 


Early life

Achyuta was born to Narasa Nayaka and Obamambika. He was the younger half brother of Krishna Devaraya. There’s no specific mention about the date and birth year of Achyuta. During his childhood he was given necessary education on polity, dharma shastras and all kinds of physical training. Narasa Nayaka died when Achyuta was a teenager. Achyuta helped in many military adventures of his elder half brother Veera Narasimha and later in the conquests of Krishna Devaraya. 


After the death of crown prince Tirumala Raya in 1524, Krishnadevaraya had to think of a successor. He chose his younger half brother Achyuta. Due to his failing health he permitted Achyuta to rule on his behalf from 1526. (Contemporary sources like Penukonda Kaifiyat and some inscriptions mention the co-rule of Achyuta from 1526). Achyuta enjoyed complete faith of Krishna Deva due to previous achievements and capabilities.


Achyuta becomes King and Wars 

Krishnadevraya died in October 1529. At that time, Achyuta Raya was in Telugu country. After hearing this news he rushed towards Hampi. He first went to Tirupati to take blessings of family deity where he was coronated. Next he went to Kalahasti where again he was coronated. Finally he reached Vijaynagar in November 1529 where he celebrated his coronation with great pomp and grandeur.


Digressing a bit here is an excerpt from volume 7 of The History and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bharatiya Vidha Bhavan Pg. 486 To avoid dissension he entered into an agreement with Krishnadevaraya’s son-in-law Ramaraya whereby the latter was his partner in the administration of the empire.


However, Achyuta’s initial days were tough. After hearing about death of Krishna Deva Raya the Gajapatis of Orissa and Qutb Shah attacked Vijaynagar. Achyuta moved towards the eastern frontier and defeated the Orissa army. (the Urattur inscription of 1531 mentions this defeat of Oriya army by Achyuta). After defeating Gajapatis he turned his attention to Qutb Shah. He defeated Shah and forced him to retire to his country. Urattur inscription calls Achyuta as “Terror in minds of Turushkas “. His commander Velugoti Timma Naidu defeated Shah and killed three of his commanders in the Battle of Rompicerla. 


Thus by swift actions and military prowess, Achyuta thwarted invasions and secured the eastern frontier of the empire.

Achyuta Raya Temple, Hampi. View from Matanga hill.

Temple board. 

After dealing with external threats he turned his attention to internal rebellions.


Saluva Nayak revolted against him and was joined by Tumbicci Nayak. Both the rebels captured Pandyan country and expelled the king, who was a Vijaynagar loyalist. The king asked Achyuta for help who moved towards the south. Achyuta faced the combined army of rebels and defeated them.


The defeated rebels fled to Travancore kingdom or Tiruvadi Rajyam. The ruler of Travancore also allied with rebels. Achyuta marched and defeated the three rebels. The battle was fought on the banks of Tamraparni river. The rebels submitted to Achyuta. After dharmic ceremonies at various temples, Achyuta returned to the capital in 1532.


While Achyuta was busy in repulsing Gajapatis and Qutb Shah, Adil Shah allied with Berar and Bidar Sultanates, attacked Raichur and captured it in 1530. After he was freed from these invasions and rebellions, Achyuta launched an offensive against Adil Shah. In 1534 he marched with a huge army towards Adil Shah’s kingdom. His invasion created havoc in Bijapur and was brutal. Every fort enroute was dismantled. 


After hearing this, Mallu Adil Shah gathered his army. Both armies fought a battle around Raichur. This battle resulted in the wholesale massacre of Adil Shah’s forces. Adil Shah fled from battlefield. Achyuta got huge amount of booty. Later Mallu Adil Shah surrendered, accepted his defeat and proposed a peace treaty. Achyuta recaptured Raichur and returned to his capital. 

While Achyuta was busy fighting Ramaraya (son-in-law of Krishna Deva Raya) removed old servants from key positions and appointed his own men. He also took into service 3,000 Muslim soldiers whom Adil Shah discharged from his service. (Pg. 486 Bhavan)


After defeating Adil Shah, Achyuta turned his attention towards chieftain of Gutti named Timma Naidu and defeated him in 1535. A Tanjore and Enniyaram (Arcot) inscription of 1539 refers to Achyutas conquest of Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka ).


The conquest of Ceylon was his last military campaign. He remained undefeated in his campaigns and his victorious march once again established the superiority of the empire.


He ruled from 1530-1542.


Considering the magnitude of Achyuta Raya’s achievements he can be favorably compared with other illustrious rulers of the Vijayanagar. 


It must be added that due to the infighting between Achyuta and Ramaraya, Adil Shah of Bijapur invaded Vijayanagar and induced the two to enter into an agreement, the terms of which were observed by both parties till Achyuta passed away in 1542. Note that Ramaraya ruled from 1552-1573.


Patron of Art and Culture

Achyuta Raya inherited his predecessor’s passion for literary works, and hence the literary activities continued uninterruptedly during his reign. Inspite of not being a scholar Achyuta Raya desired to gather around him, poets, philosophers, and religious teachers, in whose company he spent most of his time, listening to their learned discourses and discussions. 


Prominent among them were Rajanatha Dindima (author Achyutarayabhyudayam) and Bhagavat Champu. Ramayamatya (author of treatise on music), Vyasatirtha (prominent author on logic) and Dvaita, all of whom flourished during his reign. Along with Sanskrit works, Telugu and Kannada literature also flourished under the patronage of Achyuta Raya.


The reign of Achyuta Raya was also a golden age for Dharmic esp.  Vaishnava literature.

View of Matanga hill and Achyuta Raya temple gopuram in Hampi.

He continued the policy of temple building and renovation. Inscriptions at Vitthala Temple in Hampi describe the temple renovation zeal of Achyuta Raya. He built many temples and renovated many like Kanchi, Tirupati, Kalahasti, Ahobalam etc. His vassals like Saluva Timma and Nadadla Gopa built many temples too.


He also worked for the betterment of common people. He eradicated marriage taxes and marriage pandal taxes and would redress people’s grievances swiftly. He allowed people the right of direct appeal to the government. 


Achyuta Raya consciously lived up to the tradition of Hindu Kingship. It is a heartening phenomenon to note that he administered the Empire directly, commanded the troops personally, toured incessantly all over his extensive territories, built and endowed magnificent temples and gave charities liberally.


Pre-eminent as a warrior, Achyuta Raya was equally great as a statesman, an administrator, and a patron of arts. He was in no way less famous for his religious zeal and catholicity. He respected all samprayadas of Sanatana Dharma even though his personal leanings were towards Vaisnavism.


Till his death in 1542, Achyuta Raya upheld the magnificence of the Empire, and the ideals for which it stood. He not only gave peace, prosperity and cultural supremacy to his people, but also stood as a bulwark against Muslim invasions, thus following the noble ideals of the founders of the Empire.


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