Kakatiyas and Kapaya Nayaka, Telugu Chieftain Who Reconquered Warrangal from Delhi Sultanate
Kapaya Nayaka! His name is familiar only amongst a few in South India. He was the leader of a confederation of Telugu nobles who united to liberate the South Indian kingdom of Warrangal from the Delhi Sultanate. Delhi was then under the Tughlaqs. He drove the Tughlaqs out of the Warrangal (then Telangana) territory in 1336. He ruled Telangana for the next 30 years.
Kapaya Nayaka was a Musunuri Nayak, a group of warrior chieftains in the army of the Kakatiya dynasty. The Kakatiyas, who trace their origin to a chief named Durjaya, a Suryavamshi, were initially feudatory chiefs under the Chalukyas. Beta Raja I was the first Kakatiya chief, who ruled as a feudatory chief for 30 years with capital at Hanamkonda near Warrangal. During the reign of Prataparudra, the 6th Kakatiya chief, the Kakatiyas asserted their independent rule. It was 1163. Thus started the sovereign rule of the Kakatiya dynasty. Prataparudra ruled from 1158 to 1195 with capital at Orugallu, which later came to be known as Warangal and then Telangana. One of the well known Kakatiya rulers was Rudramadevi who ruled from1262 to1289. She was the only woman to rule over Telugu region.
Meanwhile in 1320, the Delhi Sultanate which was hitherto under the Khiljis, fell in the hands of Ghazi Malik, the then governor of Punjab. He overthrew and killed Khusro Khan, the temporary Sultan of Delhi, and assumed power of Delhi under a new name – Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, laying the foundation of the Tughlaq dynasty. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq tried to subjugate kingdoms and annex them to his empire. He also sent his generals to many a kingdom to collect tributes; those who paid tributes were spared from being attacked.
Warangal was first attacked in 1310 by Malik Kafur on the orders of Ala-ud-din Khilji. After a four-month siege of the Kakatiya capital, the Sultanate forces obtained much booty and a promise of tribute in the years to come. Prataparudra II was then the Kakatiya king. Later he stopped paying tribute to the Delhi Sultanate.
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq sent his messengers to Warrangal to collect tribute from Prataparudra II. The Kakatiya king refused to pay any tribute. The Tughlaq Sultan sent his son Ulugh Khan to plunder and loot Warrangal in 1323. Ulugh Khan was also called Juna Khan, who later christened himself as Muhammed Bin Tughlaq after ascending the throne of Delhi. By the time Ulugh Khan reached Warrangal, he heard a rumor that his father Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq died and there was rebellion for the succession to the throne. Ulugh Khan retreated but returned again after 4 months, the rumor being false. This time he brought along a huge army.
Ulugh Khan upon reaching Warangal first besieged and captured the outer mud fort. He and his army then surrounded the core fortified area of the city. Prataparudra and the Kakatiya army gave a stiff resistance. The siege continued for five months, but Ulugh Khan and his army could not subjugate the brave Kakatiyas. They were unable to penetrate into the fort. During the five month long siege, the Kakatiyas could not bring fresh provisions into the fort. Scarcity of provisions led Prataparudra II open the gates of the fort and surrender. The Tughlaq army ransacked and plundered the houses. They razed temples to the ground and destroyed heritage structures. While many were killed many were spared after they converted to Islam.
The Tughlaq prince Ulugh Khan sent Prataparudra and his family members to Delhi. They were escorted by his generals Qadir Khan and Khawaja Haji. During a halt at the banks of the Narmada River on the way, Prataparudra committed suicide. The Kakatiya dynasty thus came to an end. Warrangal fell under the reign of the Delhi Sultanate under Tughlaqs under a new name – Sultanpur.
Cynthia Talbot wrote in Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra, ‘The seizure of the Kakatiya capital and king in 1323 had a devastating effect, for nothing of the Kakatiya political system survived, at least in recognizable form. There were no subsequent claimants to the Kakatiya throne nor do any attested Kakatiya subordinates figure in later epigraphic records’.
Ulugh Khan remained as the governor of the Warrangal region for a year. He was recalled to Delhi by his father. The administration of Warrangal was entrusted upon Malik Maqbul, a convert, who was actually Nagaya Ganna Vibhudu, a former Kakatiya commander. Ullugh Khan ascended the throne of Delhi in 1325 AD after getting his father Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and brother treacherously killed. He assumed a new name -Muhammed Bin Tughlaq. Besides Warrangal, the Tughlaq prince had also conquered other South Indian kingdoms encompassing Malabar, Madurai, and areas up to the southern tip of Karnataka. Tughlaq entrusted revenue officials to collect revenues from the South Indian kingdoms and stationed military forces to check any rebellions.
Most South Indian kingdoms were subdivided into palayams or regions with each region under the chieftainship of a Nayaka. The Nayakas were generally military governors. They were entrusted with the role to administer their respective territories, collect taxes, run the local judiciary, and maintain an army for the key king under whose aegis the principalities were run.
The concept of a kingdom where a ruler shared sovereignty with his carefully selected set of subordinates was a paradigm associated with the Kakatiyas. During the reign of Prataparudra, there were 75 Nayakas. One was Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka, who published the Vilasa copper-plate grant near Pithapuram in 1330 that speaks volume about the devastation caused by the Tughlaqs in the Telugu country. The inscription also mentions him as the rightful restorer of order. The inscription depict the Muslim invaders of Warrangal as demonic barbarians.
According to Tripurantakam inscription of 1290 published by Ambadeva, a rebel Kayastha chief who fought against the Kakatiyas, Ambadeva won a battle against 75 kings. This inscription corroborates the existence of the 75 Nayakas, who were termed 75 kings by Ambadeva. The Kaluvacheru grant of 1423 portrays the Musunuri Nayakas as legitimate successors to the Kakatiyas. All of these inscriptions were in Sanskrit.
Muhammed Bin Tughlaq imposed heavy taxes on Hindus, 10 to 20 times more than those levied earlier. Farmers were forced to give half of the crop yields in addition to taxes. Many farmers left farming, left their lands and started living in the forests. Tughlaq’s men pursued them and executed them. They also executed those who could not pay taxes or paid lower than the decided amount.
The nobles or Nayakas rebelled against the Tughlaqs under the leadership of Prolaya Nayaka. They were able to assert control in the Godavari area in 1325. Prolaya Nayaka declared himself the ruler of this region. He ruled until his death in 1333. As he was issueless, he was succeeded by Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka.
After assuming power in the Godavari area, Kapaya Nayaka decided to drive away the Tughlaq Muslim invaders away from Warrangal. He held meetings with all of the Nayakars and strategized effective plans. Accordingly, a series of battles were fought between the Tughlaq army and the combined forces of the Nayakas led by Kapaya Nayaka.
In 1336, Kapaya Nayaka was able to defeat Malik Maqbul, the governor of Warrangal appointed by the Tughlaqs. According to the Kaluvacheru inscription of a female member of the Panta Reddi clan in 1423, Kapaya Nayaka had the support of 75 subordinate Nayakas in this battle. One of the chiefs was Vema Reddi, the founder of the Reddi dynasty.
Kapaya Nayaka thus reconquered Warrangal from the Tughlaqs. Majority of the Muslims were driven out of Warrangal. He also annexed a wider swathe of eastern Telangana from the Tughlaqs. He rechanged the name of Sultanpur to Warrangal and reestablished Hindu supremacy in the region. Kapaya Nayaka also helped neighboring kingdoms and helped end Muslim rule in respective areas.
The chieftain ruled over Telangana until 1368 and brought stability in his kingdom. A contemporary inscription compared Kapaya Nayaka in majesty to Prataparudra, the last Kakatiya ruler. Kapaya Nayaka died during a battle with the Velamas, another Andhra dynasty, also called Recherla Nayakas who were also warriors under the Kakatiya army, at Bhimavaram in 1368. And with him ended the period of the Musunuri Nayaka family.
1. Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra by Cynthia Talbot
2. A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1, By Richard M. Eaton
3. The Kākatiyas of Warangal, P. V. Parabhrama Sastry, edited by N. Ramesan.
Featured image courtesy: Wikipedia and southreport.com.