Historic sources relating to the Kakatiya dynasty are sparse. Of those that are available, the most prevalent are ancient inscriptions that mainly document matters relating to religion, such as donations to Hindu temples. They are particularly abundant for the period 1175–1324 CE, which is the period when the dynasty most flourished and are a reflection of that. The probability is that many inscriptions have been lost due to buildings falling into disuse and also the ravages of subsequent rulers, most notably the Muslim Mughal Empire in the Telangana region. Inscriptions are still being discovered today but governmental agencies tend to concentrate on recording those that are already known rather than searching for new examples.
The Kakatiya base was the city of Orugallu in the dry uplands of northern Telangana on the Deccan Plateau. From there they expanded their influence into Coastal Andhra, the delta between the Godavari and Krishna rivers that feed into the Bay of Bengal. According to Rao and Shulman, the latter contained a high proportion of Brahmins while the former was the haunt of "peasants, artisans and warriors". Under the Kakatiyas, cultural innovation often began in the uplands, was refined in the lowlands and then recycled back into the Deccan. This bi-directional flow of cultural influences brought into being a feeling of cultural affinity between those who spoke the Telugu language where nothing of that nature had previously existed.[a] The unification of the distinct upland and lowland cultures was their most significant political achievement, achieved through a process of binding many locally powerful figures in allegiance to the empire.
The area of land under Kakatiya control reached its zenith around the 13th century CE during the rule of Ganapati Deva. By this time, South India and the Deccan was essentially under the aegis of four Hindu monarchies, of which the Kakatiyas were one.[b] The four dynasties were in a constant state of warfare with each other, with the Kakatiyas eventually exercising control from close to Anagondi in the west to Kalyani in the north-east, and down to Kanei and Ganjam district in southern Orissa.
A notable trend during the dynastic period was the construction of reservoirs for irrigation in the uplands, around 5000 of which were built by warrior families subordinate to the Kakatiyas. The dramatically altered the possibilities for development in the sparsely populated dry areas. Many of these edifices, often called "tanks", including the large examples at Pakala and Ramappa, are still used today.
Another notable architectural feature of the dynasty relates to temples. Even before the arrival of the dynasty, there were large, well-established and well-endowed Hindu places of worship in the relatively populous delta areas; however, the temples of the uplands, which were smaller and less cosmopolitan in origin and funding, did not exist until the Kakatiya period. In the lowlands, where Brahmins were numerous, the temples had long benefited from a desire to build social networks for the purposes of domestic and foreign trade, as well as for obtaining grazing rights in the face of competition; in the uplands, the endowment of the buildings was often associated with the construction and continued maintenance of reservoirs and enabled a different type of networking based on political hierarchies. The strengthening of those hierarchies, which was achieved in part by donating land for the temples and then attending worship, was necessary as the inland agrarian society grew rapidly in number and location.
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, were egaliterian in nature and promoted their subordinate warrior-chiefs who were similarly egalitarian and spurned the Varna rank. Anyone, regardless of birth, could claim 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.
Studies of the inscriptions and coinage by the historian Dineshchandra Sircar reveal that there was no contemporary standard spelling of the family name. Variants include Kakatiya, Kakatiyya, Kakita, Kakati and Kakatya. The family name was often prefixed to the name of the monarch, giving constructs such as Kakatiya-Prataparudra. Some of the monarchs also had alternate names; for example, Venkata and Venkataraya may have been alternate names of Prataparuda I, with the former appearing on a coin in the form Venkata-Kakatiya.[c]
Kakatiya monarchs claimed to be descended from the Sun. The regnal dates of the early rulers are unknown. In order, they were Venna, Gunda I, Gunda II, Gunda III and Erra. The next, Gunda IV, is first mentioned in the Mangallu grant of the Eastern Chalukya king Amma II in 956 CE. Based on average lifespans, it can be surmised that Venna, the founder of the Kakatiya dynasty, lived about the late 8th- or early 9th-century.
Gunda IV (reigned c. 956 – 995) was followed by Beta I (c. 996 – 1051), Prola I (c. 1052 – 1076), Beta II (c. 1076 – 1108), Durgaraja (c. 1108 – 1116) and then Prola II (c. 1116 – 1157).
According to Sastry, Prataparudra I reigned between around 1158 – 1195, while Sircar gives the dates 1163–1195. He was also known as Rudra Deva, Kakatiya Rudradeva, Venkata, and Venkataraya He was the son of Prola II, who had made efforts to assert greater Kakatiya influence on territories in the western parts of the declining Western Chalukyan empire and who died in a battle fought against the Velanati Choda ruler Gonka II around 1157/1158 while doing so. It was during Prataparudra's reign, in 1163, that the Kakatiyas declared an end to their status as feudatory chiefs of the Chalukyas. It is notable that inscriptions were henceforth written using the Kakatiya chiefs' vernacular Telugu rather than the Kannada language that had prevailed until that point.
Maha Deva succeeded Prataparudra I as king, reigning probably from 1195 to 1199.
Just as the Seuna and Hoysala dynasties took control of linguistically related areas during the 13th century, so too did the Kakatiyas under the rule of Ganapati. He is also known as Ganapathi Deva and, according to Sastry, reigned between 1199–1262; Sircar gives regnal dates of 1199–1260. He significantly expanded Kakatiya lands during the 1230s when he launched a series of attacks outside the dynasty's traditional Telangana region and thus brought under Kakatiya control the Telugu-speaking lowland delta areas around the Godavari and Krishna rivers. The outcome in the case of all three dynasties, says historian Richard Eaton, was that they "catalysed processes of supralocal identity formation and community building".
The Kakatiya capital at Orugallu, established in 1195, was not forgotten while Ganapati expanded his territory. He organised the building of a massive granite wall around the city, complete with ramps designed for ease of access to its ramparts from within. A moat and numerous numerous bastions were also constructed.
Ganapati was keen to bolster the dynasty's economy. He encouraged merchants to trade abroad, abolishing all taxes except for a fixed duty and supporting those who risked their lives to travel afar.
Rudrama Devi, also known as Rudramadevi, reigned around 1262–1289 CE and is one of the few queens in Indian history. Sources disagree regarding whether she was the widow of Ganapati or his daughter.
Marco Polo, who visited India probably some time around 1289–1293, made note of Rudrama Devi's rule and nature in flattering terms.[d] She continued the planned fortification of the capital, raising the height of Ganapati's wall as well as adding a second earthen curtain wall 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in diameter and with an additional 150 feet (46 m)-wide moat.
Rudrama was married to Virabhadra, an Eastern Chalukyan prince of Nidadavolu who had been selected for that purpose by her father. Having no son as an heir, Rudrama abdicated in favour of her grandson when it became apparent that the expansionist sultan Alauddin Khilji was encroaching on the Deccan and might in due course attack the Kakatiyas.
The earliest biography of Rudrama Devi's successor, Prataparudra II, is the Prataparudra Caritramu, dating from the 16th century. His reign began in 1289 and ended with the demise of the dynasty in 1323. It is described by Eaton as the "first chapter in a larger story" that saw the style of polity in the Deccan change from being regional kingdoms to transregional sultanates that survived until the arrival of the British East India Company in the 18th century.
Demise of the dynasty
The conquest of the Deccan by the Delhi Sultanate began in 1296 when Alauddin raided and plundered Devagiri. Later in that year, he murdered his uncle, the reigning sultan Jalaluddin, and took became sultan himself.
The Kakatiya kingdom attracted the attention of Alauddin because of the possibility for plunder. The first foray into the Telugu kingdom was made in 1303 and was a disaster due to the resistance of the Kakatiya army in the battle at Upparapalli.[need quotation to verify] In 1309 Alauddin sent a general, Malik Kafur, in an attempt to force Prataparudra into acceptance of a position subordinate to the sultanate at Delhi. Kafur organised a month-long siege of Orugallu that ended with success in February 1310. Prataparudra was forced to make various symbolic acts of obeisance designed to demonstrate his new position as a subordinate but, as was Alauddin's plan, he was not removed as ruler of the area but rather forced thereafter to pay annual tribute to Delhi. It was probably at this time that the Koh-i-Noor diamond passed from Kakatiya ownership to that of Alauddin, along with 20,000 horses and 100 elephants.
In 1311, Prataparudra formed a part of the sultanate forces that attacked the Pandyan empire in the south, and he took advantage of that situation to quell some of his vassals in Nellore who had seen his reduced status as an opportunity for independence. Later, though, in 1318, he failed to provide the annual tribute to Delhi, claiming that the potential for being attacked on the journey made it impossible. Alauddin responded by sending another of his generals, Khusrau Khan, to Orugallu with a force that bristled with technology previously unknown in the area, including trebuchet-like machines. Prataparudra had to submit once more, with his obeisance on this occasion being arranged by the sultanate to include a very public display whereby he bowed towards Delhi from the ramparts of Orugallu. The amount of his annual tribute was changed, becoming 100 elephants and 12,000 horses.
The new arrangements did not last long. Taking advantage of a revolution in Delhi that saw the Khilji dynasty removed and Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq installed as sultan, Prataparudra again asserted his independence in 1320. Tughlaq sent his son, Ulugh Khan, to defeat the defiant Kakatiya king in 1321. Khan's army was riven with internal dissension due to its containing factions from the Khilji and Tughluq camps. This caused the siege on this occasion to last much longer — six months, rather than the few weeks that had previously been the case. The attackers were initially repulsed and Khan's forces retreated to regroup in Devagiri. Prataparudra celebrated the apparent victory by opening up his grain stores for public feasting. Khan returned in 1323 with his revitalised and reinforced army and, with few supplies left, Prataparudra was forced into submission after a five-month siege. The unprepared and battle-weary army of Orugallu was finally defeated, and Orugallu was renamed as Sultanpur. It seems probable, from combining various contemporary and near-contemporary accounts, that Prataparudra committed suicide near to the Narmada River while being taken as a prisoner to Delhi.
Tughlaq control of the area lasted only for around a decade. The fall of the Kakatiya dynasty resulted in both political and cultural disarray because of both disparate resistance to the sultanate and dissension within it. The structure of the Kakatiya polity disintegrated and their lands soon fell under the control of numerous families from communities such as the Niyogis, Reddies and Velamas. Surrounded by more significant states, by the 15th century these new entities had ceded to the Bahamani Sultanate and the Sangama dynasty, the latter of which evolved to become the Vijayanagara empire.
A brother of Prataparudra II, Annamaraja, has been associated with ruling what eventually became the princely state of Bastar during the British Raj period. This appears likely to be historical revisionism, dating from a genealogy published by the ruling family in 1703, because it records only eight generations spanning almost four centuries of rule. Such revisionism and tenuous claims of connection to the Kakatiyas was not uncommon because it was perceived as legitimising the right to rule and a warrior status. Talbot notes that there is a record of a brother called Annamadeva and that:
He is said to have left [Orugallu] for the northeast after anointing Prataparudra's son as king. Thus, the founder of the family fortunes in Bastar may very well have been a Telugu warrior from Telangana who was familiar with the prevalent legends about the Kakatiyas.
A revisionist interpretation of Prataparudra II himself appeared much sooner, within a few years of his death, and for broadly similar reasons. As early as 1330, Prolaya Nayaka,  chieftain based near Orugallu, was attempting to justify his attempts to oppose the sultanate and promote Hinduism by depicting Prataparudra as a heroic symbol of righteousness and claiming that his own actions were in the same mould. However, this and similar efforts to depict Prataparudra as the most eminent ruler of the Kakatiya dynasty and to demonstrate a dichotomy between the perceived barbarian invaders and the righteous Hindu inhabitants had generally disappeared by 1420, by which time social assimilation had occurred.
- The term andhra bhasa, meaning language of Andhra, appeared as a synonym for the Telugu language at least as early as 1053 and suggests an emerging correlation of linguistics and geography. The linguistic mapping of regions of India continues to the present day and formed a part of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956.
- Aside from the Kakatiyas, the dominant Hindu monarchies in South India and the Deccan around the 13th century CE were the Seunas, the Hoysalas and the Pandyas. The Seunas, Hoysalas and Kakatiyas had carved up what had been the area controlled by the Western Chalukya Empire, while the Pandyas controlled lands formerly under the Chola Empire.
- Kakatiya coins bore the Nandinagari script.
- Marco Polo referred to the kingdom as Mutfili, which was the name for the area around a major port of the dynasty, now known as Masulipatnam.
- Talbot (2001), pp. 11, 17, 19
- Rao & Shulman (2012), p. 17
- Rao & Shulman (2002), p. 4
- Eaton (2005), p. 13
- Ventakaramanayya (1942), p. 1
- Ventakaramanayya (1942), pp. 1–2
- Eaton (2005), p. 14
- Eaton (2005), pp. 14–15
- Eaton (2005), p. 12
- Subrahmanyam (1998)
- Eaton (2005), pp. 15–16
- Talbot (2001), p. 174
- Eaton (2005), p. 16
- Sircar (2008), p. 241
- Prasad (1988), p. 9
- Sastry (1978), p. 36
- Sircar (1979), p. 130
- Prasad (1988), pp. 119, 124
- Talbot (2001), p. 184
- Eaton (2005), p. 17
- Desai (1962)
- Kalia (1994), p. 21
- Rubiés (2000), p. 73
- Rubiés (2000), pp. 50, 73
- Chakravarti (1991)
- Suryanarayana (1986), p. 163
- Eaton (2005), pp. 9-11
- Asher & Talbot (2006), p. 35
- Jackson (2003), p. 56
- Asher & Talbot (2006), p. 40
- Kulke & Rothermund (2004), p. 160
- Eaton (2005), pp. 17–18
- Eaton (2005), pp. 18–19
- Eaton (2005), pp. 20-21
- Talbot (2001), p. 176
- Asher & Talbot (2006), p. 43
- Rao & Shulman (2012), p. 16
- Eaton (2005), p. 22
- Talbot (2001), pp. 192–193
- Talbot (2001), p. 177
- Eaton (2005), pp. 26-28
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- Talbot, Cynthia (May 1991). "Temples, Donors, and Gifts: Patterns of Patronage in Thirteenth-Century South India". The Journal of Asian Studies 50 (2): 308–340. JSTOR 2057210. (subscription required (. ))