Socio- Cultural and Religious conditions in Andhra Desha between 1000 AD – 1565 AD
The Reddy rulers played a prominent part in post-Kakatiyas of Telangana. The Kakatiya empire came to an end in 1323 after the army of the Delhi sultanate invaded Warangal and captured Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra. Warangal fell to the invaders and Ulugh Khan commanded Warangal and Telangana. During this time of foreign invasion and chaos in Telugu country, seeds of revolt were sown by two princes, Annaya Mantri and Kolani Rudradeva. They united the Telugu nobles with the purpose of reclaiming the kingdom. Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka, Prolaya Vema Reddy, Recharla Singama Nayaka, Koppula Prolaya Nayaka and Manchikonda Ganapatinayaka were the prominent nobles. Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka was the chosen leader of this confederation of Telugu nobles who united and vowed to put an end to the Sultanate’s rule. They succeeded in repulsing those forces from Warangal and then established independent Kingdoms of their own.
It was during this chaotic period in Andhra history that Prolaya Vema Reddy established the Reddy kingdom in 1325. The Reddy rulers patronised and protected Hinduism and its institutions. The Brahmins were given liberal grants by the Reddy kings and the agraharas of Brahmins were restored. Vedic studies were encouraged. The Hindu temples of Srisailam and Ahobilam were provided with more facilities. Prolaya Vema Reddy bestowed a number of agraharas on the Brahmins. He was revered by the title of Apratima-Bhudana-Parasurama. He commissioned major repairs to the Srisailam Mallikarjuna Swami temple, and had a flight of steps built from the Krishna river to the temple. The Narasimha Swamy temple at Ahobilam was built during his reign. He built 108 temples for Shiva.
Telugu literature blossomed under the Reddy kings. The Reddy kings also patronized Sanskrit. Several of the Reddy kings themselves were distinguished scholars and authors. Kumaragiri Reddy, Kataya Vema Reddy and Pedakomati Vema Reddy were the most outstanding among them. Errapragada (Errana), Srinatha and Potana were the remarkable poets of this period. Errapragada, the last of the Kavitraya (Trinity of Poets) was the court poet of Prolaya Vema Reddy. He completed the Telugu translation of the Mahabharata. He completed the rendition of the Aranya Parva of Mahabharata left incomplete by Nannaya Bhattu (Aadi Kavi who started the translation of Mahabharata into Telugu). He wrote Hari Vamsa and Narasimha Purana. Errana’s translation of the Ramayana in Chapu form (a style of poetry) has been lost.
There is a disparity between analysis of inscriptions, of which the work of Cynthia Talbot has been in the vanguard, and the traditional works of Vedic Hinduism that described pre-colonial India in terms of a reverent and static society that was subject to the strictures of the caste system. Colonial British administrators found much that appealed to them in the latter works but the Kakatiya inscriptions of Andhra Pradesh, which depict a far wider range of society and events, suggest that the reality was far more fluid and very different from the idealised image.
Caste itself seems to have been of low importance as a social identifier. Even the Kakatiya kings, with one exception, considered themselves to be Shudras (in the ritual varna system). They were egalitarian in nature and promoted their subordinate warrior-chiefs who were similarly egalitarian and spurned the Kshatriya rank. Anyone, regardless of birth, could acquire the nayaka title to denote warrior status, and this they did. There is also little evidence that Kakatiya society paid much regard to caste identities, in the sense of jāti. Although occupation does appear to have been an important designator of social position, the inscriptions suggest that people were not bound to an occupation by birth.
The population became more settled in geographic terms. The growth of an agricultural peasant class subsumed many tribal people who previously had been nomadic. The nexus of politics and military was a significant feature of the era, and the Kakatiya recruitment of peasants into the military did much to create a new warrior class, to develop social mobility and to extend the influence of the dynasty into areas of its kingdom that previously would have been untouched. The Kakatiya kings, and in particular the last two, encouraged an egalitarian ethos. The entrenched landed nobility that had existed prior to the dynasty found its power to be on the wane; the royal gifting of lands formerly in the possession of nobles to people of lesser status did much to effect this dilution.
Kakatiya chiefs were followers of Jainism. A story in the Siddheshvara-charita states that Madhavavarman, an ancestor of the Kakatiyas, obtained military strength by the grace of goddess Padmakshi. The 1123 Govindapuram Jain inscription of Polavasa, another family of feudatory chiefs, contains a similar account of how their ancestor Madhavavarman obtained military strength by the grace of the Jain goddess Yaksheshvari. According to tradition, Prola II was initiated into Shaivism by the Kalamukha preceptor Rameshvara Pandita, and established Shaivism as his family’s religion. The Shaivism-affiliated personal names of the later Kakatiya kings (such as Rudra, Mahadeva, Harihara, and Ganapati) also indicate a shift towards Shaivism. This, according to Sastry, strengthens the theory that the early Kakatiya chiefs were Jains.
Rulers of the dynasty believed that they descended from Bahman, the mythological figure of Greater Iranian legend and lore. The Bahamani Sultans were patrons of the Persian language, culture and literature, and some members of the dynasty became well-versed in that language and composed its literature in that language. Bahamani Tombs in Bidar district The first sultan, Alauddin Bahman Shah is noted to have captured 1,000 singing and dancing girls from Hindu temples after he battled the northern Carnatic chieftains. The later Bahmanis also enslaved civilian women and children in wars; many of them were converted to Islam in captivity. The craftspersons of Bidar were so famed for their inlay work on copper and silver that it came to be known as Bidri. Although the sultanate practice Shi’a Islam, the majority of the population adhered to Hinduism. The common people, who were mostly Hindus, had to adjust their religious practices to become more acceptable to their Muslim political masters.
Most information on the social life in Vijayanagara empire comes from the writings of foreign visitors and evidence that research teams in the Vijayanagara area have uncovered. The Hindu caste system was prevalent and rigidly followed, with each caste represented by a local body of elders who represented the community. These elders set the rules and regulations that were implemented with the help of royal decrees. Untouchability was part of the caste system and these communities were represented by leaders (Kaivadadavaru). The Muslim communities were represented by their own group in coastal Karnataka. The caste system did not, however, prevent distinguished persons from all castes from being promoted to high-ranking cadre in the army and administration. In civil life, by virtue of the caste system, Brahmins enjoyed a high level of respect. With the exception of a few who took to military careers, most Brahmins concentrated on religious and literary matters. Their separation from material wealth and power made them ideal arbiters in local judicial matters, and their presence in every town and village was a calculated investment made by the nobility and aristocracy to maintain order. However, the popularity of low-caste scholars (such as Molla and Kanakadasa) and their works (including those of Vemana and Sarvajna) is an indication of the degree of social fluidity in the society.
The Vijayanagara kings were tolerant of all religions and sects, as writings by foreign visitors show. The kings used titles such as Gobrahamana Pratipalanacharya (literally, “protector of cows and Brahmins”) and Hindurayasuratrana (lit, “upholder of Hindu faith”) that testified to their intention of protecting Hinduism and yet were at the same time staunchly Islamicate in their court ceremonials and dress. The empire’s founders, Harihara I and Bukka Raya I, were devout Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva), but made grants to the Vaishnava order of Sringeri with Vidyaranya as their patron saint, and designated Varaha (the boar, an Avatar of Vishnu) as their emblem. Over one-fourth of the archaeological dig found an “Islamic Quarter” not far from the “Royal Quarter”. Nobles from Central Asia’s Timurid kingdoms also came to Vijayanagara. The later Saluva and Tuluva kings were Vaishnava by faith, but worshipped at the feet of Lord Virupaksha (Shiva) at Hampi as well as Lord Venkateshwara (Vishnu) at Tirupati. A Sanskrit work, Jambavati Kalyanam by King Krishnadevaraya, called Lord Virupaksha Karnata Rajya Raksha Mani (“protective jewel of Karnata Empire”). The kings patronised the saints of the dvaita order (philosophy of dualism) of Madhvacharya at Udupi.
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