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Nayakuralu Nagamma was a renowned statesperson and minister to King Nalagama, the ruler of Palanadu in Guntur District. She is one of the key characters, along with Bramha Naidu, in the epic war - Palnati Yudham (War of Palnad) set in the medieval Andhra Pradesh, a southern state of India. She can be listed as one of the most powerful women in the medieval times in India and in the world.
Even though the ballad of Palanati Yuddham mentions that Bramhanaidu has won the battle, there are enough reasons to think that he has lost it. In fact, the Velma clan under the leadership of Bramhanaidu, migrated lock, stock and barrel to Kakatiya kingdom. It has been normal for the lost warrior clans to find patronage in distant kingdoms while those who won rule. There are reasons for maligning Nagamma, an astute military strategist. Her being a woman in the medieval times has not helped. Historians and feminists till date have not been able to retract her personality from the maligned version presented by the patriarchal ballads. The Velama clans settled beneficially under Kakatiya Kingdom and financed a community of balladeers to tell their version of the war. Telugu films are but poor versions of these biased ballads.
There are historians who believe that Nagamma hailed from a village called Aravelli, under Pegadapalli mandal of Karimnagar district of the present state of Telangana. Her father was Rami Reddy, who was a wealthy farmer. Nagamma's mother is believed to be from Palanadu region (present Guntur district) of the 11th century. Nagamma's maternal uncle, Mekapotula Jagga Reddy, belonged to Jittagamalapadu village in Palanadu.
Nagamma was still a child when the region of Karimnagar was believed to have been afflicted with severe drought conditions. There are reasons to believe that Rami Reddy sold his properties and shifted lock, stock and barrel to Jagga Reddy's village in Palanadu and settled there.
Nagamma is said to have been widowed at an early age. Her husband, Singa Reddy, died on the third day of their marriage due to snake bite. Singa Reddy was Rami Reddy's sister's son.
During her life in Jittagamalapadu village, Minister Gopanna is believed to have tutored Nagamma in all the crafts of warfare including sword fighting and horse riding. Gopanna also taught her the art or skill of conducting government affairs. By virtue of which, Nagamma later rose to become the prime minister of Palanadu kingdom under the rule of Nalagama Raju.
She was proficient in Telugu, Kannada and Tamil languages.
Historians also have another view of him. They view Bramhanaidu as an enterprising warlord keen on setting up a Velama kingdom. He is accused of scheming to divide the Haihaya ruling clan and managing to set up a small kingdom in Macherla, where he started running the affairs as de facto ruler. His much valourised chap koodu or veera vaishnavism is seen as a poor copy of veerashavism, which shook the kalchuri empire in Kalyani. More than reform, his intention was to create unrest and capture power in the neighboring kingdoms. Even the Ballad of Palanati Yuddham mentions how he kept Balachandra, his son, away from war as he wanted him to anointed king after the Haihaya clan is destroyed. Even though he is valourised in popular culture, he remains a mysterious figure, and his actions are highly suspect.
In popular culture
- Palnati Yudham, 1947 and 1966 Telugu films depicted various aspects of the war and the human emotions surrounding it.
- The 1947 film was directed by L. V. Prasad, one of the pioneers of Indian cinema and a Dadasaheb Phalke Award recipient and starred Govindarajula Subba Rao as Brahmanaidu, P. Kannamba as Nagamma and Akkineni Nageswara Rao, another Dadasaheb Phalke Award recipient as Balachandrudu.
- The 1966 film starred N.T.R as Brahmanaidu and Bhanumathi Ramakrishna as Nagamma.
- B S L Hanumantha Rao, Social Mobility in Medieval Andhra, Telegu Academy Press
- Palanati Vira charitra, Oral Epic