Krishnaraya & his Tirumala Inscriptions

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During the reign of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara Empire was at its zenith.

It was spread across the present day Karnataka, Andhra, Tamil Nadu. It had sway over some parts of Telangana, Kerala and Maharashtra. Sri Lanka too was under Vijayanagara’s overlordship.

Having such vast dominion under its umbrella, the linguistic landscape of Vijayanagara was as diversified as it is in our times.

Today, the language wars have become the fault lines to divide the people. Such situation naturally gives way to a pertinent question on the history of languages.

And that question is – how the then monarchs of Vijayanagara handled the sensitive and sentimental diversity of languages?

To find answers to this question, the Tirumala inscriptions of Krishnadevaraya serve as useful pointers.




Before examining the Tirumala inscriptions of Krishnaraya let us take a look at his literary works to know the linguistic capabilities of him.

A Telugu poem from Krishnaraya’s Amukta Malyada kavya, the literary works authored by the emperor can be known. All these treatises were written in Samskruta proving that Krishnaraya was quite proficient in Samskruta and lenient towards writing in that language only.

His only work in Prakruta, Amukta Maalyada, comes in Telugu language. This Kavya of Krishnaraya is considered as one of the all-time best poetical compositions of Telugu.

Thus Krishnaraya held Samskruta and Prakruta languages close to his heart. His dexterity in Samskruta and Telugu languages and his patronage of other languages are well supported by his inscriptions.

The multilingual inscriptions of Krishnaraya are not limited to Tirumala temple alone. They can also be found in Kanchi, Kalahasti and other major temples of South India.

Such was the piety of Krishnaraya towards the languages.





There are 28 inscriptions in Tirumala & Tirupati temples that have been issued by the Emperor Krishnaraya himself.

From 1509 AD to 1521 AD, Krishnaraya visited Tirumala temple seven times. Every visit of him is attested by a number of inscriptions.

In addition to the inscriptions of the emperor, there are 26 inscriptions issued by his wives Chinnadevi & Tirumaladevi.

These inscriptions not only give us the details of the linguistics aspects but also talk about the charities made by the donors. They also provide other insights such as genealogy, chronology of events and such other data of historical importance.

From this point of view, the Tirumala inscriptions of Krishnaraya throw much light on his language policy that he used to unite the diversified language groups.


The editor of the book “Inscriptions of Krishnaraya’s Time” Vijayaraghavacharya opined that Krishnaraya recorded his inscriptions in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada languages with a purpose.

He says that Krishnaraya wanted his citizens from Kannada, Tamil and Telugu speaking provinces to learn the details of his donations in their mother tongue.

This is a clear indication that the Emperor of Vijayanagara has accorded equal respect to all the three prominent languages of his empire.



The first ever inscription of Krishnaraya at Tirumala temple as an emperor was issued on 10th February 1513. This inscription has been recorded in Telugu language. It was then promptly followed by Kannada and Tamil languages.

While Telugu & Kannada inscriptions were found on the north wall of the first Prakara, Tamil inscription was found on south wall of the first Prakara.

A copy of these inscriptions was recorded in Samskruta as well. This inscription has been put up on the inner right side wall of Padikavali Gopuram.

On the whole, the first 20 inscriptions of Krishnaraya and his wives have been issued in 4 languages.


  • 6 inscriptions in Telugu
  • 6 inscriptions in Tamil
  • 4 inscriptions in Kannada and
  • 4 inscriptions in Nandi Nagari.

Nandi Nagari was the script used by Vijayanagara rulers to issue their inscriptions written in Samskruta language.

Thus, we can understand that Krishnaraya has given equal importance to all the three major South Indian languages and also has paid respect to Samskruta as well.


It must be observed that the inscriptions of great Telugu and Kannada poets Tallapaka Annamacharya & Sri Vyasatirtha were recorded in Tamil language only.

The inscriptions of the predecessors of Krishnaraya and his successors were mostly written in Tamil.

From this point of view, the multilingual inscriptions of Krishnaraya stand out as testimonies for his linguistic policy that accorded equal status to Samskruta and Prakruta languages and attempted to bring unity in diversity.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that a farsighted linguistic policy of Krishnaraya is much needed in our times as well.


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