Venugopala Swamy Temple in Rajamahendravaram – Andhra Kingdoms

Compilation – Ch Kalyanachakravarthy

On this 10th Day of September 1324 CE, history stands a mute spectator to the violent religious fundamentalism and bigotry. History of Rajamahendravaram  ( Rajahmundry ) is an indicator of how Islamic invaders ruined the ancient Venugopala Swamy Temple which was built by Eastern Chalukyas. To date, the main entrance of the present surviving Royal Mosque in Rajahmundry gives clear indications.

Venugopal Swamy Temple ( present day Royal Mosque or Pedda masjid / పెద్ద మసీదు )

Erstwhile Venugopal Swamy temple is located in Rajamahendravaram main road, a distance of just 2km from Rajamahendravaram railway station and bus station. This `Royal Mosque’ is the first mosque in Andhradesa, also called as Pedda Masjid. The Principal Mosque / Jumma Masjid was once a great Hindu temple, the Sri Venugopala Swamy temple, constructed by the Eastern Chalukya king Rajaraja Narendra in 11th Century CE. The Venugopala Swamy temple was built within the post on Swethagiri hill, the current location of the Royal Mosque. The mosque, typical of Eastern Chalukyas is east facing, it has a Persian inscription on the main entrance ‘On the order of Ghiyasuddin Thughlaq, Mohammad Bin Thughlak (also called Ulug Khan) conquered Kakatiya empire in 1323CE and occupied the post in Rajahmundry. Thughlak destroyed the Venugopala Swamy temple and built a Masjid in its place, with 32 Chalukyan architectural pillars. A large old rock-well constructed by Eastern Chalukyas is present on the north side.

History of Rajamahendravaram

Pulakesin II, the renowned ruler of Chalukyas conquered Vengi (at a battle near Eluru) in 624 CE from Vishnukundinas and installed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana (624- 641) as its ruler. Vishnuvardhana after an interval established himself as independent monarch, the first of a long line of powerful sovereigns. His dynasty, known as the Eastern Chalukyas, ruled for a century. The rulers of Eastern Chalukya dynasty founded by Kubja Vishnuvardhana, ruled at first from Pitapura, then from Vengi and later from Rajamahendri (Rajahmundry). Many rulers held sway over the kingdom and their history is, at times largely a record of disputes about succession. Whether affected by actual invasion on the part of the Chalukyas or by failure of heirs to the Chola male line is not certain, but in 1070 CE, the Eastern Chalukyan king Rajendra ascended the Chola throne and assumed the name of Kulottunga Choladeva I; and after this event history regards him as a Chola. After 1070 CE, the joint country was called Chola, and Vengi became the capital of the province administered by the now Chola royal family. Here, therefore, ends the story of the Eastern Chalukyas.

War with Kakatiyas

In his inscriptions, Kulothunga Chola III also lists Vengi across the Northern Circars, which is the area comprising modern Prakasham, the West Godavari and East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. ‘Kulothunga Chola III waged war once again in the north in 1208 CE when he claims to have subdued Vengi’. Further, Kulothunga Chola III also claims to have ‘entered’ Warangal, capital of the Kakatiya kingdom, which ‘was ruled at the time by the powerful monarch Ganapati’. This is a pointer to the fact that Kulothunga Chola III did venture northwards to Vengi and on the way back there was a skirmish with the Kakatiya forces, which did not lead to any territorial loss to the Cholas. The Chalukya-Cholas period came to an end with the conquer of Ganapathi Deva of Kakatiya dynasty. Ganapathi Deva of Kakatiya dynasty conquered and annexed Rajamahendravaram into Kakathiya kingdom.

Kakatiya Rule (1218 – 1323)

Rudra was succeeded by his younger brother Mahadeva who died in a conflict with the Yadavas of Devagiri. His son Ganapathi succeeded to the Kakatiya throne, he conquered Divi in Krishna district, and successfully sent an army to Kalinga to reduce it to subjection. The eastern Ganga ruler Amiyanka Bhima III and his son Narasimha I were continuously in conflict with Ganapathi. Ganapathi sent an army across northern side of Godavari, where a great battle was fought and the enemy was forced to a hasty retreat. In a conflict with the Pandyas of Madhura, Ganapathi inflicted a crushing defeat on them and compelled their ally Kopperunjinga to acknowledge his suzerainty. As a result of this victory, the Kakatiya power remained undisturbed in the Godavari valley until the end of the reign of Ganapathi.

Islamic Invasions

The Kakatiya kingdom attracted the attention of the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji because of the possibility for plunder. The first foray into the Kakatiya kingdom was made in 1303 CE and was a disaster due to the resistance of the Kakatiya army in the battle at Upparapalli. In 1309 Alauddin sent his general, Malik Kafur, in an attempt to force King 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, and was 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 The new arrangements did not last long. Taking advantage of a revolution in Delhi that saw the Khalji 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 1321CE. Khan’s army was riven with internal dissension due to its containing factions from the Khalji and Tughluq camps. 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 1323CE with his revitalised and reinforced army and, with few supplies left, Prataparudra was forced into submission after a five-month siege. Muhammed Bin Tuglak (Ulug Khan) conquered Kakatiya Empire in 1323CE and occupied the fort in Rajahmundry. Humayun Gujjar was appointed as the governor of this region and all the coastal districts came under the rule of Muslim kingdom during this period. The name `Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’ can be seen on an inscription in Rajahmundry mosque even today.

According to researcher, Alexander Rios, the mosque was built on an existing Venugopala Temple (court temple of chalukyas during that time), the pillars of front portico and the inside wall coverings resemble a Hindu temple. He further states that this is a good example of a Hindu temple which retains its original features after being converted into a muhammadan mosque (refer `A Forgotten Chapter of Andhra History’ by Sri Mallampalli Somasekhara Sharma).

Hindu Resistance

By 1448 CE, the entire Rajahmundry region came under the rule of Kapileswara of Gajapathi kingdom. Kapileswara constantly fought with Reddy kings of Rajahmundry; however the Vijayanagara king Devaraya II assisted Reddys. After the demise of Devaraya, Kapileswara conquered Rajahmundry and Reddy dynasty vanished. The region was under the rule of Gajapathis for almost a century from 1448 – 1533 CE.

Vijayanagara Kingdom (1512-1533)

After the death of Kapileswara Gajapati in 1470 CE, there was a succession fight between his sons Hamvira and Purushottama, Hamvira succeeded in occupying the throne with the help of Bahmanis, Purushottama overthrew him later. Muhammad Shah III battle to Rajahmundry, concluded with a peace treaty. After the death of Muhammad Shah III, Purushottama Gajapathi overran the whole of the Godavari-Krishna doab and drove away the Bahmani forces as far south as Kondaveedu. Sri Krishna Devaraya became the king of Vijayanagara in 1509 CE, he conquered Udayagiri, Kondapalli, Telangana and finally Rajahmundry and Simhachalam. He signed a treaty with Prataparudra Gajapathi, who gave his daughter in marriage to Krishnadevaraya in return of the territory north of the Krishna conquered by Krishnadevaraya; as per this treaty, Gajapathis ruled all Andhra region north of Krishna River and thus Rajahmundry came under the rule of Gajapathis once again.

Later Quli Kutb Shah invaded Gajapathis and occupied Rajahmundry and Eluru regions. The Qutbshahi kingdom expanded to Krishna and Godavari deltas during his period. Ibrahim Kuli Kutb Shah conquered the Vijayanagara kingdom and Mohammed Kutb Shah destroyed all the mutinies aroused in Rajahmundry. In the internecine battles with Bobbili, Ananda Raju, the new Raja of Vizianagaram, invited the English to Northern Circars; the tussle that ensued between the French and the English ended with the French losing all possessions in Northern Circars. Salabat Jung was subsequently deposed by his brother Nizam Ali Khan who leased out Rajahmundry and Chicacole (Srikakulam) to Hasan Ali Khan. Lord Clive, entered into negotiations for the ceding of the Northern Circars and obtained a Firman to that effect in August 1765. General Cillaud was sent to Machilipatnam to undertake military operations; the battle with Nizam was prevented with the conclusion of a treaty where by English agreed to hold the Northern Circars on payment of a tribute, accepting at the same time to furnish the Nizam with some troops. This treaty was confirmed by another treaty in 1768. Hasan Ali Khan`s lease expired in 1769 CE and Rajahmundry and Eluru came under the control of the newly constituted chief and council at Machilipatnam. The Zamindars came into prominence during the period preceding the transfer of the district to the English. The Zamindars of Rampa, Peddapuram, Pithapuram, Kota and Ramchandrapuram were the important Zamindars of this region. In 1769 CE Godavari region was placed under the British administration of the Chief and Council at Masulipatnam. In 1794 Collectorates were established at Cocanada, Rajahmundry, and Mogalturu. The district of Rajahmundry was first established in 1823 combining Cocanada (Now Kakinada) and Rajahmundry, head-quartered at Rajahmundry.




  3. Forgotten history of Andhra country , Mallampally Somasekhar Sharma