The Kakatiyas, a known indigenous Andhra power, presided over the destiny of Andhradesa from the 10th century AD to the first quarter of the 14th century AD.
Even today the memory of the Kakatiya rule is green in the minds and hearts of the Andhrajati as the Kakatiyas shaped and moulded the identity of the Andhras by establishing a unified political and cultural hegemony over the entire Telugu-speaking region.
Like the rest of the political power structures, there is no unanimity among historians regarding the origin and caste of the Kakatiyas.
The literary text Prataparudrayasobhushana of Vidyanatha records that this family of rulers was called Kakatiyas as they were known to have worshipped the goddess Kakati.
The Kakatiyas are also known as worshippers of Svayambhudeva, i.e., Siva. The Bayyaram tank epigraph now definitely proves that Venna was the earliest member of the family and he ruled from a town called Kakati and as such his descendants are styled as Kakatiyas.
The epigraphs of the Kakatiyas refer to them as the lords of Kakatipura. On the basis of these literary and epigraphical evidences, it can be suggested that Kakati was a Pura or town and the family name Kakatiya might have been based on the original connection of the family with that town. The epigraphs further state that the Kakatiyas were originally of some Ratta or Rashtrakuta family and hence Chaturdhakulajas or Sudras. The Kakatiyas claim that they belonged to the Durjaya family whose very remote ancestor Karikalachola founded Kakatipura.
The first known historical personage among the Kakatiyas was Gundaya Rashtrakuta. Gundaya is known from the Mangallu record of Danarnava. Gundaya, the commander of Rashtrakuta Krishna II died in the battlefield fighting with the Eastern Chalukyas. The Rastrakuta Krishna II rewarded Ereya, the son of Gundaya with the governorship of the Korivi region for the loyal service rendered by Gundaya and his family.
During the 9th and 10th century, they were the subordinates of the Rashtrakutas. After the overthrow of the Rashtrakuta power by the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani, the Kakatiyas became their feudatories or Mahamandalesvaras under the Chalukyas of Kalyani.
Kakatiya rulers Beta I, Prola I, Beta II and Prola II served the Western Chalukya rulers; Somesvara I, Vikramadity VI, Somesvara III and Jagadekamalla II. After the fall of the Western Chalukyan power during the reign of Tailapa III, the Kakatiya ruler Rudradeva declared independence in AD 1158. Thus the role of the Kakatiyas as sovereign power starts from Rudradeva. Rudradeva, who ruled form AD 1158 to 1195, was the son and successor of Prola II. He was the founder of the Kakatiya lineage as he declared independence and started independent rule.
The Hanumakonda epigraph dated AD 1162 gives graphic details of his conquests over his neighbours and how he extended his sway over coastal Andhra by subduing the Velanaticholas. We learn from Jalhana’s Suktimuktavali and Hemadri’s Vratakhanda, that Rudradeva faced defeat in the conflict with the Yadavas of Devagiri. He is credited with laying foundation stone for a new fort near Warangal, which became the capital of the Kakatiyas. As Rudradeva had no children, he was succeeded to the throne by his brother Mahadeva, who ruled from AD 1195 to AD 1198-99.
Mahadeva was defeated by the Yadava Jaitugi and he lost his life in the battle and his son Ganapatideva was captured as prisoner by the Yadavas. Political instability and disorder gripped the Kakatiyas because of the captivity of Ganapati Deva and the death of Mahadeva. At that juncture, Recharla Rudra, the loyal commander-in-chief of the Kakatiyas saved the kingdom. Ultimately, Ganapatideva was released by the Yadavas from prison and was sent to the Kakatiya kingdom. It is argued that political pressures experienced by the Yadavas from other quarters were responsible for this release of Ganapatideva.
Ganapatideva ruled from AD 1199 to 1262. Though he faced defeat and failure initially, in the end his reign forms a brilliant epoch in the history of the Kakatiya rule. Ganapatideva expanded the Kakatiya territorial state by capturing coastal Andhra by defeating the Velanati chief, Prithviswera and later he led an expedition to Nellore and placed Manumasiddhi on the throne of Nellore. But Ganapatideva’s efforts to bring Kalinga under his sway were not successful.
Ganapatideva in his attempt to safeguard Manumasiddhi against the attack of Jatavarma Sundara Pandya was unsuccessful and Jatavarma Sundarapandya, after defeating Manumasiddhi and Ganapathideva, performed Virabhishekha at Nellore and Kanchi. Ganapatideva successfully united the entire Telugu-speaking people under his sway and shifted his capital from Hanumankonda to Warangal.
As Ganapatideva had no male issue, his daughter Rudramadevi ruled from AD 1262 to 1289. Ganapatideva had two daughters; Rudrama and Ganapamba. He selected his eldest daughter Rudrama to succeed him and made her his co-regent from AD 1260 to 1262 to enable her to gain experience in the art of rulership. The accession of Rudrama to the Kakatiya throne was a remarkable and memorable event of medieval South India as she was the first woman ruler of Andhra region.
Rudramadevi proved to be a woman of substance and rose to the occasion and put the state in order, subduing all those who opposed her internally. She successfully repulsed the Yadava attack and drove the Yadavas up to Devagiri as is known from the Bidar epigraph. We come to know from the Chandupatla epigraph that Rudrama and her general Mallikaijuna died in the battlefield while opposing Kayasta Ambadeva, who defeated her. Rudrama was followed by daughter Mummadamba’s son, Prataparudradeva, who ruled from AD 1289 to AD 1323.
Prataparudra defeated Kayashta Ambadeva and his allies and the Yadavas who supported Ambadeva. By these victories, once again the prestige and glory of the Kakatiyas was revived. It was during his reign that the Delhi Sultans, first Allauddin Khilji and later Muhammad bin Tughlak turned their attention towards South India and began to invade the Kakatiya territories. Finally, the Kakatiya power came to an end in AD 1323, with the failure and defeat of Prataparudra by Muhammad bin Tuglak’s armies. The Kakatiya rule came to an end with the defeat and death of Prataparudra.
The Kakatiya polity was based on monarchical system. The Kakatiya ruler was the pivot of the entire administrative structure, yet he was not an absolute autocrat. Generally, in the process of succession, they followed the law of primogeniture and as already referred; a woman coming to the throne was a remarkable exception.
The power appears to be decentralized between the ruler and the subordinates who owed allegiance to the ruler. P.V. Prabrahma Sastry rightly observes, “The peculiar type of political relationship between the Kakatiya rulers and their subordinates during the reign of nearly two centuries makes us believe that they tried to introduce a new type of polity other than imperialism. The subordinates were allowed to have their freedom in all respects except military matters. The only concern for the king was to check their overgrowth in power”.
This made some scholars characterize Kakatiya polity as a feudal polity of personalized rule by a warrior elite and a socio-economic formation marked by oppression of the peasantry, economic stagnation and de-urbanization. But a critical examination proves that this image was inappropriate in the case of Kakatiya Andhradesa.
Another alternative model of segmentary state suggested by Burton Stein does not appear to be applicable to the Kakatiya state. Cynthia Talbot maintains, “Stein himself excluded internal Andhra from the South Indian macro region characterized by the segmentary state and ritual sovereignty, calling Telengana, a shatter region on the borders of South India proper”.
Cynthia Talbot, after a thorough discussion of the suitability of the models – feudal, segmentary and integrative, declares the Kakatiya state as best understood as a fluctuating political network composed in large part of a multitude of personalities between lords and underlings. Some of the fibres in the fabric of Kakatiya polity united the rulers directly to their primary subordinates, others led from these subordinates to different tiers of associates in a densely ramified pattern.
Connections extended horizontally, integrating localities spread over a wide territory, as well as vertically reaching down into villages and towns”. Cynthia Talbot is of the view that the Kakatiya polity is closely approximating to Weber’s patrimonial model of the State, i.e., personalized authority of a ruler through a class of dependent officials. R. Champakalakshmi is of the view that Cynthia Talbot has no specific model to offer for Andhra polity.
Talbot views the Kakatiya polity as a regional variant of a pan-Indian complex, a dynamic and an expansionist world. There is also a view that Kakatiya polity is an integrative polity. The Kakatiya rulers were assisted by a council of ministers and a host of officers at the centre as well as the provincial and local level. They took care to see that the territorial segments were properly divided and ruled effectively by loyal officials. Mandala, Nadu, Sthala, Seema and Bhumi were the names of the territorial divisions.
The Kakatiya state was a military-state ready to face the threat of internal and external enemies. The military organization of the Kakatiyas was based on Nayamkara system. In this system the ruler assigned fiefs to the Nayaks in lieu of their salaries and the Nayaks were to maintain some army for the ruler’s use.
The number of soldiers, horses, and elephants that are to be maintained by the Nayak were fixed by the king as per the fiefs enjoyed by the Nayak. Apart from the army that was supplied by the Nayaks, the Kakatiyas also maintained a standing army under the control of the commanders, who were directly responsible to the ruler.
In the military organization, forts played crucial role and the epigraphs refer to Giridurgas, like Anumakonda, Raichur, Gandikota and the Vanadurgas, like Kandur and Narayanavanam, the Jaladurgas, like Divi and Kolanu and the Sthaladurgas, like Warangal and Dharanikota. Nitisara of Prataparudra refers to the above mentioned four types of Durgas.
The military organization enabled the Kakatiyas to be aggressive and rapidly expand as an Andhra power from the core region or nuclear zone of Telangana to the coastal districts and hence to Rayalaseema or South-West Andhra and to penetrate to the Tamil region also. Talbot gives importance to the strategy adopted by the Kakatiyas in patronizing warrior chiefs, and promoting martial ethos and assumption of martial epithets by the rulers. The relationships between Nayaks and rulers are marked by layers of lord-subordinate relationships loosely bound through personal loyalties of allegiance and service.
Relying on the evidence furnished by the Dharmasastric literature, traditional historians perceive the society as based on the Varnasramadharma model and divided into fourfold Varnas; Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. We also notice the emergence of sub-castes and Brahmins being divided on the basis of sub-regions as Velanatis, Veginatis and Mulakanatis, besides Srotriyas and Niyogis. Interestingly, the community of Brahmins besides being scholars and teachers also acted as Dandanayakas or commanders and Amatyas or ministers.
Rulership was not the monopoly of the Kshatriyas alone and the prominence of the Kshatriya community as rulers appears to have diminished to a large extent. Anyone could become a ruler, provided he had the necessary qualities and abilities. One of the prominent features of medieval Andhra was the emergence of Sudras as the new political elite and the other social groups accepted the superiority of the Sudras as rulers. Further, it is believed that kings made it their duty to uphold the Brahmanical Dharma and took measures to see that each caste followed the duties assigned to it.
There is a strong belief that in medieval Andhra, the Brahmans occupied superior place in social order and the social order itself depended on their dictates. Cynthia Talbot rejects the image of a static village and a caste based organization during this period as Varna and Jati are less visible in the Kakatiya lithic records and hence she argues that the idealized paradigm of Varna and Jati are not relevant. Identities on the basis of local, familial and occupational associations are highlighted and very interestingly neither the ruling family nor the warrior elite claimed the superior Varna status, to prove their high ancestry.
Instead, clan and lineage were taken as the greater signifiers of social status with considerable divergence of status within the larger clan-Varna affiliation. Such claim was made by the Brahmins in the epigraphs by referring to their Gotras or Sakhas and Vama status only in situations of contention about power and resources. Kakatiya lithic records hail the Sudras as the bravest of the four Varnas and also the best. Cynthia Talbot is of the view that the individual eminence, military service and administrative ranking were the main basis for identities, and claim to social importance. Mobility in turn indicates social typologies.
Considerable social fluidity among all non-Brahmins and the existence of occupational groups like merchants makes it too complex a situation for applying any standard model for Kakatiya Andhra society. Temple epigraphs testify to the practice of Saani being added to the women of the royal family and those attached to the temple. Women made donations referring themselves as somebody’s wife or daughter. That women had right to Stridhana and other forms of property is evident as women comprise 11 per cent of all individual donors.
Epigraphs also record donation of livestock, temple buildings and metal items used in ritual worship, along with irrigational facilities and cash. Interestingly, most of the temple women or Gudisanis were daughters of respectable men like Nayakas and Settis and temple women were not barred from marriage.
Cynthia Talbot is of the view that the condition of women in Kakatiya age was by no means deplorable as was presumed by traditionalist observers basing their conclusions on legal and epic literature. It can be concluded that multiplicity of social foci existed in Kakatiya phase, wherein both kingship ties and territorial proximity created linkages among people based on factors like military service, a common sectarian membership or similar occupation.
Social rigidity was less noticeable due to dynamism and fluidity witnessed in social relations. For example, the literary test Palanativirulakatha refers to the war and the friends Balachandra from diverse backgrounds: a Brahmin, a blacksmith, a goldsmith, a washer man, a potter, and a barber and all of them call themselves ‘brothers’ and dine together before going to battle. Merchants and artisan association appear to be the largest category of collective donors known from the epigraphs of the Kakatiyas. Social relationships appear to be based on common interest and occupations rather than Vama and Jati as social identities were not expressed in terms of Varna or Jati.
Kakatiya epigraphs bear testimony to the economic development witnessed by Andhradesa due to the cumulative effect of the steps taken by rulers and feudatories and officials from AD 1158 to 1324. Both agriculture and trade and commerce, particularly long distance trade acted as a catalyst in carrying the Kakatiya state and making it economically sound.
Cynthia Talbot writes “During the Kakatiya era, inland Andhra economy underwent considerable growth due to the extension of agriculture into uncultivated territories, the boosting of agricultural productivity through the construction of irrigational facilities and an overall rise in trade and commerce in which the temple as an institution was ultimately intertwined”.
Though the core area of the Kakatiyas was ecologically in dry zone with scanty rainfall, with soil not very fertile, the Kakatiyas paid much attention to agriculture, the main occupation of majority of its population. They employed tank irrigation as a necessary technique to provide water for cultivation.
In order to encourage more people to undertake the digging of tanks, wells and canals, tank construction was made one of the Saptasantanas which confers merit. Kakatiya epigraphs refer to more than 38 tanks of considerable size which provided water through artificial channels to thousands of acres. Of all the tanks, the Ramappa and the Pakala lakes are of large size and require special mention. Ramappa Lake adjoins the well-known Ramappa temple at Palampet in Mulug taluk of Warangal district. Gopal Reddy and P.V.P. Sastry state that this lake had a colossal bund only one side that extends over 200 feet and rises up to 56 feet.
The lake has a ring of hills on three sides. Kakati Ganapati Deva’s Senapati, Recharla Rudra constructed this lake in AD 1213. Pakala Lake in Narasampet taluk ofWarangal district is larger than Ramappa Lake, with a dam composed of laterite pebbles and earth that is one mile long from which 40 artificial channels have been extended. This lake was also constructed in the time of Ganapati Deva by a subordinate, Jagadala Mummadi, the son of a minister or Mantri.
The multitude of historical traces confirms that a boom in the building of tanks occurred in inland Andhra while the Kakatiyas were ruling. The tank foundation inscriptions are distributed throughout Telengana, the southern coastal districts, and in Cuddapah of Rayalaseema. They are more concentrated in the districts of Khammam and Warangal. Along with tank construction, we also notice the construction of temples with a tank in the interior as well as addition of a tank to the existing temples.
Cynthia Talbot observes the frequency of new temples is notably higher in the Telangana than in coastal Andhra. The temple construction also led to the growth of new settlements of people who brought uncultivated virgin land into cultivation. By these processes of tank construction and temple construction, the Kakatiyas achieved the twin objective of improving productivity by bringing new areas under cultivation and also the formation of Andhra as a regional society, noted by Talbot.
Cultivable land was classified as wet and dry land. Wet land is further divided as paddy growing land and garden land. Dry lands are those where crops like millet, sesame, indigo, mustard, castor, etc., were grown which needed less water. Forests and pastures were kept exclusively for grazing cattle. Land was surveyed and measured, where the ruler collected one-fourth to one-half of the produce as revenue. The revenue was collected either in cash or in kind. The Kakatiyas levied different taxes like tax on grazing, property tax, income tax, profession tax, marriage tax, tax on herds of sheep and tax on salt. Heavy taxation by the state appears to be the feature of Kakatiya polity.
In the Kakatiya Andhra, trade was carried on by well-organized Srenis or guilds. Both the merchants and artisans had their own guilds. Epigraphs refer to guild of weavers, agriculturists, oil pressers, mat makers, smiths, potters and jewelers. The guilds obtained a license to conduct business in a particular town or fair. Fairs or weekly markets were held regularly at specified places. The merchandise was transported by means of carts, oxen, horses, etc., and to a great extent by boats and barges through the rivers Govadari and Krishna.
Kakatiyas recognized the importance of long distance trade. One indication that they wanted to encourage maritime trade, comes from the famous Mompalli epigraph which runs as follows: “This inscribed guarantee has been granted by his majesty the king Ganapati Deva which assures and welcomes the traders from other areas going back and forth through selected area to all countries and towns. In the past, kings forcibly seized all the cargo such as gold, elephants, horses, jewels, etc., when sea-going vessels journeying from one region to another were caught in storms, wrecked and cast on shore. But we for the sake of our reputation and religious merit and out of pity for those who have incurred the grave risk of a sea voyage thinking that wealth is more valuable than life give up all but the customary tariff” Motupalli must have been the chief port of the Kakatiyas and this port was visited by the Venitian traveller, Marco Polo.
The Motupalli epigraph specifies the rates assessed on a variety of items, including scents such as sandal, camphor, rose-water, ivory, pearls, corals, a range of metals like copper, zinc and lead, silk, pepper, and areca nuts. This above list gives an idea of exports and imports from Motupalli port to other Indian regions along the coast as well to foreign territories.
One Warangal epigraph issued by merchant groups, who traded in the main markets of Warangal, refers to the same commodities mentioned above. Another epigraph notes that a number of agricultural products offered for sale in Warangal market included rice, wheat, and other grains and assorted vegetables, coconuts, mangoes, tamarind and other fruits, sesame seeds, green lentils, mustard, honey, ghee, oil, turmeric and ginger.
We have epigraphic reference to the activities of Pekkandru, a guild which was carrying on long distance trade. Besides, Motupalli, Krishnapattanam, Chinaganajam, Nellore, and Divi also played a very crucial role in fostering sea-borne trade. Thus, flourishing agriculture and surplus produce and long distance trade carried on by guilds like Pekkandru was the base for the sound economic position of Kakatiya Andhra.
The early Kakatiya rulers were adherents of Jainism of the Digambara sect. They are credited with the construction of Padmakshi temple at Hanumakonda. Though there are strong references to the worship of Buddhism, it had lost its impetus and Buddha has been identified with Vishnu and Buddhism was absorbed into Brahmanical religion. Saivism was the most predominant faith in Kakatiya Andhra; Beta II and Prola II of this lineage are known to be the adherents of the Kalamukha school of Saivism. During the reign of Ganapati Deva, the Pasupata sect of Saivism had become very popular and Visveswara Sivacharya became the Rajaguru of Ganapati Deva.
The Malakapuram inscription of Rudramadevi helps us to know about the growth of Pasupata sect and Golaki Matha activities in Andhradesa. During this period another sect of Saivism, Aradhya Saivism also emerged and Mallikarjuna Pandita was a well-known pioneer of this sect. In the past three decades, western scholars like Herman Kulke and Burton Stein have stressed that religions patronage by royalty was a critical element of state formation. Further scholars like Spencer, Brackenbridge, and Appadurai also opine that by religious patronage, kings enhanced their royal authority.
There is a view that Brahmanical rituals legitimized and conferred royal power on the kings of the Sudra community. Cynthia Talbot observes; “Contrary to what one might expect from the secondary literature, we have seen that the religious patronage of the Kakatiyas was quite limited. Altogether, the five independent Kakatiya rulers left behind only 26 inscriptions documenting their religious gifts spanning over a period of 150 years (Rudradevas – six grants; Mahadeva – one Ganapatideva independently – 14 and with Rudramadevi – one; Rudramadevi independently – 4 and Prataparudra – 4). Rudradeva, the first independent ruler constructed the Thousand-pillared temple at Hanumankonda and laid the foundation for a new capital at Warangal along with a temple to the tutelary deity of Svayambhudeva.
Ganapati Deva also built temple at Motupalli because by that time this area had become a secondary core area of the Kakatiyas. It may be suggested that the Kakatiyas regarded divine legitimation and the support of the institutionalized religion as important assets to royal authority, and not necessarily the foundation for their sustenance as effective rulers. The model of Dharmic kingship does not apply to the Kakatiya rule as the Kakatiyas understood that political interests differed from religious interests.
Culture and Literature:
Andhra under the Kakatiyas witnessed considerable literary activity. Sanskrit occupied the place of pride and was the language of the educated few. Many epigraphs of this period are written in Kavya-style of Sanskrit. The noted poets who were the authors of the epigraphs of this age are Nandi, Acchitendra Antantasuri and Iswarasuri. The greatest Sanskrit poets of this age were Vidyanadha and Jayapasenani. Vidyanatha wrote Parataparudrayasobhushana. Jayapasenani was the author of Nrityaratnauali and Gitaratnavali.
Coming to Telugu literature, the most important are Tikkanna Somayaji who wrote Nirvachananottarammayatn, Mantri Bhaskara who wrote Bhaskara Ramayana, Gona Budda Reddi who wrote Ranganatha Ramayanam, Nanne Choda, the author of Kumara Sambhavama, Baddena the author of Sumati Satakam and Palkuriki Somanadha, the author of Basavapuranam, and Panditaradhyacharita. Of the above Ranganadha Ramayanam, occupies a unique place as a Dvipadakairya.
The Kakatiyas inherited the Chalukyan architecture but the distinctive feature of their architecture is the display of more indigenous art than that allowed by the texts. The architects used locally available granite and sandstone in the main structure of the Vimana and used bricks and lime in constructing superstructure. They used black granite for pillars, jambs, lintels, decorative motifs and icons.
Their temple architecture reflects great sophistication and the ‘Thousand-pillared temple’ is a landmark in the evolution of the Kakatiyan architectural style. The great Rudresvara temple was built by Recharla Rudra, the commander in chief of Ganapati Deva; in the words of Y. Gopala Reddi it marks the climax of the Kakatiyan style. The Gomateswara temple at Manthani, the Erakesvara and the Namesvara temples at Pillalamarri and the temple at Naguladu are the masterpieces of the Kakatiyan style of architecture.
About the Kakatiya sculptures, we have very little evidence to study it. Their main decoration was Kirtimukha or Krititorana. Nandis are a special feature of the Kakatiya sculpture. The Nandi images at Palampet, Thousand-pillared temple, Sambhuni Gudi, Ghanapur, Kolanupalli are some of the best examples with profuse bell ornamentation. The sculptural presence of Hamsa or swan motifs, on the gateways and friezes is to be noticed for their grace and beauty. Of the decorative sculptures, the motifs of dancers and Kolata are worth recording.
It is also suggested by scholars that, they represent the dance styles of Jayapasenani. The Narasimha temple at Parivela near Nalgonda consists of profusely carved lintels and jambs. The temples at Nandigonda contain richly furnished Mandapa pillars and ceilings.
The Kakatiyas also extended patronage to the art of painting. The traces of painting that are found on ceilings of the pillared halls of the temples at Ghanapur and Palampet bear testimony to the painting skill of that period. The defaced painting of the ‘Churning of the Milk Ocean’ found on the ceiling of the Sabha Mandepa of the Namevara temple at Pillalamarri is also a good example of their painting skill.
The Kakatiya rule in Andhra was a period of transition and ushered the beginning of an era in the 13th century. The Kakatiyas by their support of art and their integrative polity improved agriculture, commerce and trade in the interior and construction of temples in Telangana, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra.