The 12th and the 13th centuries saw the emergence of the Kakatiya dynasty. They were at first the feudatories of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani, ruling over a small territory near Warangal. A ruler of this dynasty, Prola II (1110–1158) extended his sway to the south and declared his independence. His successor Rudra (1158–1195) pushed the kingdom to the east up to the Godavari delta. He built Warangal Fort to serve as a second capital and faced the invasions of the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri.

The next ruler Mahadeva extended the kingdom to the coastal area. Ganapati Deva succeeded him in 1199. He was the greatest of the Kakatiyas and the first after the Satavahanas to bring almost the entire Telugu area under one unified empire. (Unlike Satavahanas, Kakatiyas are native Telugu kings who used Telugu as court language.) He put an end to the rule of the Velanati Cholas in 1210 and extended his empire till Anakapalle in the north. The most prominent ruler in this dynasty was Rani Rudrama Devi (1262–1289), one of the few queens in Indian history. An able fighter and ruler Rudramba defended the kingdom from the Cholas and the Seuna Yadavas, earning their respect. She remains one of the few female powers of the South India for all time.

On the death of Rudrama, her grandson Prataparudra, who was adopted by her as son and as heir apparent on the advice of her father Ganapatideva, ascended the throne at the beginning of the year 1290. Prataparudra had to fight battles throughout his reign against either the internal rebels or the external foes. Prataparudra expanded borders towards the west till Raichur and in the south till Ongole and Nallamala Hills, whilst introducing many administrative reforms, some of which were also later adopted in the Vijayanagar empire. The Kakatiya dynasty faced Muslim onslaughts from 1310 and came under the control of the Delhi Sultanate in 1323.

A brief period of 50 years of independence was enjoyed under Musunuri Nayaks who rebelled and liberated Telugu land from the rule of Delhi. Although short lived the Musunuri Nayaks rule was a watershed in the history of south India. Hakka (Harihara) and Bukka, who were previously treasury officers in the court of Prataparudra drew inspiration from them and consolidated Hindu opposition to Muslim invaders. Eventually, after the fall of the Kakatiyas in 1370, the Vijayanagara Empire, considered the last great Hindu and Telugu empire, swept across the Telugu land and the present day Karnataka (1336–1450). Small parts of Telugu region were under Reddys of Kondavidu and Rajahmundry and Recherla Velamas of Telangana, who were content to be vassals of Muslim kingdoms.

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