Reddy is a caste that originated in India, predominantly settled in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. They are classified as a forward caste. The origin of the Reddy has been linked to the Rashtrakutas, although opinions vary. At one time they were a warrior caste and later became feudal overlords and peasant proprietors. Historically they have been the land-owning aristocracy of the villages. Traditionally, they were a diverse community of merchants and cultivators. Their prowess as rulers and warriors is well documented in Telugu history. The Reddy dynasty (1325–1448 CE) ruled coastal and central Andhra for over a hundred years.
During the Kakatiya period, Reddi, together with its variant Raddi, was used as a status title (gaurava-vachakamu). The title broadly represented the category of village headmen irrespective of their hereditary background.
The Kakatiya prince Prola I (c. 1052 to 1076) was referred to as “Prola Reddi” in an inscription. After the Kakatiyas became independent rulers in their own right, various subordinate chiefs under their rule are known to have used the title Reddi. Reddy chiefs were appointed as generals and soldiers under the Kakatiyas. Some Reddys were among the feudatories of Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra. During this time, some of the Reddys carved out feudal principalities for themselves. Prominent among them were the Munagala Reddy chiefs. Two inscriptions found in the Zamindari of Munagala at Tadavayi, two miles west of Munagala—one dated 1300 CE, and the other dated 1306 CE show that the Munagala Reddy chiefs were feudatories to the Kakatiya dynasty. The inscriptions proclaim Annaya Reddy of Munagala as a chieftain of Kakatiya ruler Pratapa Rudra.
The Reddy dynasty (1325–1448 CE) was established in southern India by Prolaya Vema Reddy. The region that was ruled by the Reddy dynasty is now part of modern-day coastal and central Andhra Pradesh. Prolaya Vema Reddy was part of the confederation that started a movement against the invading Turkic armies of the Delhi Sultanate in 1323 and succeeded in repulsing them from Warangal.
The fall of the Kakatiya Kingdom in 1323, after being subject to seizes by the Tughlaq dynasty, led to a political vacuum in the Andhras.The Islamic conquerors failed to keep the region under effective control and constant infighting among themselves coupled with the martial abilities of the local Telugu warriors led to the loss of the entire region by 1347.
Whilst, this led to the rise of the Musunuris and Recharlas in the Telegana regions, the coastal belt saw the rise of a third warrior lineage–the Reddis of the Panta clan.
Established in about 1325 by Prolaya Vema Reddi,(also known as Komati Vema), his territory extended along the coast to Nellore in the south and Srisailam, in the west. He was succeeded by Anavota Reddi who consolidated the kingdom extensively and established its capital at Kondavidu in Guntur District.
By 1395, a second Reddi kingdom was established by a branch of the same lineage, with its capital in Rajahmundry, East Godavari District.
None of the Reddi lineages find any mention in Kakatiyan era sources and cannot be exactly traced as to their origins. But,their inscriptions and humble genealogies suggest that they were born out of the late Kakatiya ‘ military milieu ‘ and had a continuity with the local Telugu warrior culture.
The Reddy kings ruled coastal and central Andhra for over a hundred years from 1325 to 1448. At its maximum extent, the Reddy kingdom stretched from Cuttack, Orissa to the north, Kanchi to the south and Srisailam to the west. The initial capital of the kingdom was Addanki. Later, it was moved to Kondavidu and a subsidiary branch was established at Rajahmundry.The Reddys were known for their fortifications. Two major hill forts, one at Kondapalli, 20 km north west of Vijayawada and another at Kondavidu about 30 km west of Guntur stand testimony to the fort building skill of the Reddy kings. The forts of Bellamkonda, Vinukonda and Nagarjunakonda in the Palnadu region were also part of the Reddy kingdom. The dynasty remained in power till the middle of the 15th century. In 1424, Kondavidu was annexed to the Vijayanagara Empire and Rajahmundry was conquered by the Gajapatis some twenty five years alter. The Gajapatis eventually lost control of coastal Andhra after the defeat of Gajapati Prataprudra Deva by Krishna Deva Raya of Vijaynagara. The territories of the Reddy kingdom thus came under the control of the Vijayanagara Empire.
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.
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