Prataparudra Deva and Krishna Chaitanya (I)

(This is an upgraded version of a translation of Sri Kshetra by Sundarananda Vidyavinoda. I revised it for Journal of Vaishnava Studies, where it will be published in the next issue. The Sanskrit and Oriya verses have been removed.)

Sri Krishna Chaitanya, the ecstatic Vaishnava saint, accepted by his followers as an incarnation of Krishna and called Mahaprabhu, spent most of his latter life in Jagannath Puri in Orissa. After taking sannyasa in 1510, he established himself there until his death in 1534. During his stay there, Chaitanya attracted numerous followers and his brand of Vaishnavism, based on the chanting of the names of Krishna, spread throughout Orissa. Prominent amongst his devotees was the king, Prataparudra, whose meeting with Chaitanya plays a large part in the saint’s hagiographies. In this article, we will give a summary of those accounts.[1]

Prataparudra Deva acceded to the throne in 1497, succeeding his father, Purushottam Deva. Like his predecessors, Prataparudra used the titles Gajapati, Gaudeshwar, and nava-koöi-karëäöa-kala-vargeçvara (ruler of the Karnata town of Gulbarga[2]), indicating the breadth of his empire from the banks of the Ganges to the borders of Karnatak. He made his capital city in Cuttack.

In the Sarasvati-vilasa,[3] it is said that among Prataparudra’s many achievements, he succeeded in grinding to dust the pride of the king of Gauda, Hussein Shah, but that he gave him shelter when he surrendered. It is also said that he defeated Krishna Deva Raya, the king of Vijayanagar.

King Prataparudra’s empire

When Prataparudra was crowned king, his kingdom stretched from the Hooghly district in West Bengal all the way to Guntur district in modern Andhra Pradesh. The first part of his reign was characterized by consolidation of the empire. The Sultan of Bahmani, whose capital was in Bidar, was weak, the Salub dynasty in Vijayanagar was disintegrating, and the Sultan of Bengal, Hussein Shah, had not yet sufficiently established himself to be a threat. Nevertheless, Prataparudra does not seem to have had a taste for unnecessary military adventures and was not engaged in any expansionary expeditions.

In 1509, however, Krishna Deva Raya ascended to the throne in Vijayanagar and not long afterward started a campaign of conquest on the Orissan empire’s southern territories. When Krishna Deva Raya attacked Orissa’s southern frontiers, Prataparudra immediately rushed to confront him with his own army.

While Prataparudra was occupied on the southern front, the Sultan of Bengal Hussein Shah and his general Gaji Ismail took the opportunity to attack the kingdom’s eastern frontier. According to the Madala-panji,[4] this took place in the 12th year of his reign, or 1509-1510 AD. This coincides, as is clear from the data in his biographies, with Chaitanya’s post-sannyas journey to Jagannath Puri.

Hussein Shah’s army invaded Orissa as far as Puri, destroying a great many Hindu temples and shrines on the way. Kahnai Khuntia, a servant of Jagannath and associate of Chaitanya, writes that when the Shah was approaching Puri, he and other servants of Jagannath took the deities out by a secret passage through the southern gate as far as Bali Lokanath. Later on the same night, one of the priests, Nrisingha Mahapatra, took Jagannath to Garkengal, at the confluence of the Bhargava River and Chilka Lake. From there, Jagannath was moved to a cave on an island in the lake, after which the King was notified. By this time Mahaprabhu would no longer have been in Puri, as he had already left on his pilgrimage to south India after a short stay of only a few days.

On hearing the news of Jagannath’s displacement, Prataparudra immediately made his way to Chilka Lake. That night, during his sleep, Lord Jagannath appeared to him and chastised him for his carelessness. He then told him to take Vaishnava initiation, which he did. [5]

Maharaja Prataparudra quickly continued on to Puri, causing the Sultan and his army to flee. The King and his forces pursued the Sultan as far as the Hooghly River where the Sultan took refuge in the Mandaran Fort. Prataparudra surrounded the fort and laid siege to it. Unfortunately, a treacherous minister Govinda Vidyadhara chose this time to attempt a putsch in the capital and the king was forced to give up the siege and return to Cuttack. According to the Madala-panji, a compromise was made with Govinda Vidyadhara and he was given increased responsibility for running the kingdom. The “Kabali copper plate” inscription of 1511 mentions the battle with Hussein Shah.

The King remained in Puri for a few days to serve Lord Jagannath before being forced to return to the southern front to deal again with Krishna Deva Ray.

Though all of Chaitanya’s biographies indicate that the times were troubled when he traveled from Bengal to Puri in 1510, only Kavi Karnapur clearly writes that he traveled to Puri while open hostilities were underway between the Gajapati and Hussein Shah.[6] Karnapur writes how he and his companions were able to travel during this troubled time—

He is the indwelling soul of the entire universe and its sincerest friend. Who then is his enemy? And who would show him enmity? This is proved by the unfettered passage he and his five or six companions made through an area where two fierce armies opposed each other. The toll collectors in every village and the robbers and brigands on the jungle and mountain pathways, who normally are a source of anxiety for travelers, were overcome with ecstasy upon seeing Mahaprabhu and fell to the ground to let him pass. (CCN 5.5-6)

Kahnai Khuntia, however, states that Mahaprabhu arrived in Puri after fighting on the eastern front was over and Prataparudra had already returned to the south to stave off continued pressure from the Vijayanagar forces. Kahnai Khuntia specifies that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived in 1510, on a Friday, a dvadasi in the month of Chaitra. It is likely that Orissan forces in the east were still on high alert when Chaitanya and his companions passed through this area. However, none of Mahaprabhu’s biographers speak of hostilities in the south, even though he would have had to pass through a war zone when he left for a pilgrimage a month after arriving in Puri.

Indeed, Ramananda Raya was present on the southernmost province of the Orissan empire, according to Kavi Karnapur, and was its governor. Chaitanya met with him both on the way towards the south and again when returning to the north, which would indicate that this was still an Orissan possession and in relative peace.

Over the next several years, however, historical accounts indicate that Prataparudra was engaged in a lengthy war with the Vijayanagar king. Udayagiri in the Nellore district fell in 1513.[7] Krishna Deva Raya’s army consisted of 34,000 infantry and 800 elephants. Prataparudra’s army was much smaller, consisting of 10,000 infantry and 400 cavalrymen. Even so, he held off the larger army for a year and a half. Krishna Deva Raya imprisoned Prataparudra’s uncle, Tirumal Raghava Raya or Tirumal Kanta Raya.

In 1515, Krishna Deva Raya attacked Kondavidu in Guntur district. Prataparudra took a huge army to confront him there, but was defeated on the battlefield some distance from the Kondavidu fortress, a few miles from the Krishna River. Two months later, the Kondavidu fortress surrendered. On Thursday, June 23, 1515, Krishna Deva Raya entered Kondavidu in triumph. This date was significant in the annals of Vijayanagar history and is mentioned many times in a variety of inscriptions. Prataparudra’s son Birabhadra, who had until then been governor of these territories, was taken captive at this time.

In the meantime, Krishna Deva Raya’s minister Appaji bribed a number of high officers in Cuttack to change loyalties and overthrow the king while he was away from the capital city.[8] Prataparudra was thus forced to finally sue for peace. The two kings met and signed a treaty, in which Prataparudra gave his daughter Jaganmohini Devi, also known as Tukka, in marriage to the Vijayanagar monarch. As a dowry, he gave up all claim to the territories south of the Krishna River.[9] This marriage is mentioned by the Andhar author, Nandilla Gopa—

Coming from a family that had served in the court for generations, the brave general Salvatisma was the minister of Krishna Raya who married the daughter of the Gajapati king Prataparudra after showing his valor in battle, just as Arjuna married the noble Subhadra.[10]

According to the Cambridge history of India, the frontiers of Prataparudra’s kingdom at the time of his death were the Godavari River in the south and the Rupa Narayan River in the north, near the town of Pichalda in present day Midnapore district.[11]

Prataparudra’s support for Brahminical culture and Vaishnavism

Some people have suggested that Prataparudra was a supporter of Buddhism and Jainism.[12] However, there is plenty of evidence – whether it is the testimony of authors like Krishna Das Kaviraj, or that given in the inscriptions from his reign, or from the verses attributed to him preserved in the Padyävalé and elsewhere – that the King was a staunch Vaishnava. According to the Mädalä-païjé, Prataparudra may even have persecuted the Buddhists, ordering many of them to be beheaded. If Kanai Khuntia is to be believed, then he officially took Vaishnava initiation during the time of troubles in 1510, so this may have marked a change from a liberal to a more sectarian attitude on his part.

Nevertheless, even before meeting Mahaprabhu, Prataparudra followed the custom of sweeping the road before Lord Jagannath’s chariot. He was well educated and a patron of learning and Brahminical culture. He had already acquired a good knowledge of the Srimad Bhagavatam and discussed Krishna katha with Ramananda Raya. The biographies of Mahaprabhu all testify to this. Even prior to his meeting Mahaprabhu, his entourage included distinguished persons like Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Ramananda Raya and Kashi Mishra, none of who would have tolerated any kind of non-Hindu activity. The following quote from Balaram Das’ Siddhanta-dambara shows that Prataparudra opposed any disruption in Vedic practices, such as allowing outcastes to study the Veda.

Duli Bauri was the son of Padmalaya. He studied the Vedas with a Brahmin, the Brahmin being the senior and the Bauri the junior. The Brahmin said, “Study this, but be careful not to let King Prataparudra know about it.”

Even during his war with the Vijayanagar kings, Prataparudra led a disciplined and religious life. This is evident from the following account given to the Vijayanagar emperor by a spy: “[The Gajapati king] gets up from bed early in the morning two hours before sunrise and salutes two Brahmins before looking at any other person. Then accompanied by the Sixteen Patras (the Brahminical council), he goes on a ride of about twenty or thirty miles before returning to the palace. After taking his bath, he engages himself in the daily worship of Lord Jagannath, after which he takes his midday meal. After food, he recites Sankshepa-ramayana. Then, putting on official robes bedecked with jewels, he sits in the court and transacts his daily business.”[13]

Prataparudra’s valor

Ramananda Raya wrote his play Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka before meeting Lord Chaitanya, apparently prior to either his or the king’s receiving Mahaprabhu’s blessings. He was requested to write a play on the topics of Radha and Krishna’s loving pastimes by the king himself. Thus Ramananda dedicated his play to the king with the following verses:

I have been asked to put on this play about the pastimes of Lord Krishna by King Prataparudra, whose fierceness makes him the fiery god of destruction to the kings that oppose him. Upon hearing his name, the Muslim king Sikandar runs into the hills to hide in the caves, the king of Gulbarga looks at his family with tears in his eyes (knowing that death will soon separate them); the king of Gujarat considers his capital city to be nothing more than a deserted forest; and the king of Bengal feels as if he were in a rudderless boat adrift in a stormy sea.

King Prataparudra’s spotless glories are like an extension of Shiva’s mountain home, Kailasa; they are another manifestation of the moon, dripping ambrosia; they are the essence of the himalayas, the twin brother of the ocean of milk, an autumn cloud and the flowing heavenly Ganges. They purify the world at every moment.

Whenever he gives in charity, he is so generous that his gifts form a river, which brings such joy that the ocean praises him with its overflowing waves. His sacrifices have so pleased the gods that they do not leave his court for even a moment, but remain fixed there as his courtiers.

Elsewhere in the Jagannatha-vallabha-nataka (4.1), Ramananda writes that Prataparudra is an ocean of merit and “cooler than the rays of the moon”

Indeed, Ramananda dedicates every single song in this little play to King Prataparudra, indicating the extent of the king’s attraction for hearing the pastimes of Radha and Krishna. It can be concluded that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the combined form of Radha and Govinda, secretly entered the king’s heart and made him feel affection for Ramananda, who was his own dear, eternal associate. And what remains out of reach for who has attained the blessings of an intimate associate of the Lord like Ramananda Raya?

It must be underlined here that Ramananda was not one of those court poets who simply flatters his royal patron in order to extract worldly honor and wealth from him. He served and glorified him as a genuine devotee and servant of the Lord.

Kavi Karnapur also credits King Prataparudra with inspiring his composition of the Caitanya-candrodaya-nataka. He too glorifies the king, both as a great king and a great devotee:

Thought there is no smoke, one can recognize the presence of the fire of Prataparudra’s valor, for it brings joy to the saintly while burning the land’s locust-like enemies. Indeed, it seems that it was to protect the universe from the destructive power of this fire that the Husband of Lakshmi created seven coverings over it.

This Maharajah Prataparudra is the apotheosis of the heroic soldier, yet he has bathed his entire nation in the cooling waters of peace as the result of his devotion to the Supreme Lord, a devotion that has accumulated in his heart throughout his reign. Self-controlled and free from the slightest manifestation of passion or ignorance, he allows not a single desire for mundane pursuits to appear in his own or others’ minds. (CCN 1.4)

In his Gaura-ganoddesa-dipika, Karnapur identifies Prataparudra as an eternal associate of the Lord and a reincarnation of King Indradyumna, the legendary founder of the Jagannath temple.

He who was formerly Indradyumna, the worshiper of Jagannath, has today been born as Prataparudra, with the same opulences as Indra himself. (119)


[1] "This article is based primarily on the information found in Sundarananda Vidyavinoda’s Çré Kñetra (Bengali), Calcutta : Gaudiya Mission, 1951. Some additional research and information has been added, but the Gaudiya Vaishnava viewpoint of the original author has been preserved.
[2] 180 km west of Hyderabad.
[3] This work on the dharma-çästra is sometimes attributed to Prataparudra, but was in fact written by two of his court scholars, Lolla Lakshmidhara and Ramakrishna.
[4] The annals of the Jagannath temple.
[5] Mahäbhäva-prakäça, by Kahnai Khuntia. (ed.) Fakir Mohan Das. Bhubaneswar: Hari Sankritana Prakashani, 1981.
[6] hanta idänéà gauòädhipater yavana-bhüpälasya gajapatinä saha virodhe gamanägamanam eva na vartate. katham ayaà caturbhir eve parijanaiù saha gacchati. (CCN 5.14)
[7] Not to be confused with the Udayagiri in Ganjam district in Orissa.
[8] One can only wonder whether the treacherous Govinda Vidyadhara was involved in this plot as well.
[9] This summary account of the wars between Vijayanagar and Orissa are taken from Sources of Vijayanagar history, pp. 115-145 and R. Sewell’s A Forgotten Empire, p.320.
[10] In his commentary to Krishna Mishra’s play Prabodha-candrodaya.
[11] CC 2.16.159, 199. This seems to be the reference to the battles that took place during Sanatan’s escape. So it looks like Hussein Shah was still trying to take advantage of Prataparudra’s troubles in the south.
[12] Manomohan Ganguly. “Orissa and her Remains,” Calcutta, 1912. p. 19; Rev. Long in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Vol. XXVIII, nos. I-V, 1859.
[13] Dr. R. Subrahmanyam, “The Suryavamsi Gajapatis of Orissa.”


advaitadas said…
Jagat, I cannot find the text you quoted (5.5-6) in the Caitanya Candrodaya Natakam, neither in the Sanskrit nor the English file I have here. What is it? Did you give the wrong verse number perhaps?
Jagadananda Das said…
Yes, it should be 6.5-6. (Alternatively, 6.15-16, I think in Mani Babu's edition.) The verses are:

yo'ntaryAmI bhavati jagatAM yo'yam avyAjabandhur
yasya dveSyo na jagati janaH ko'pi ke taM dviSantu |
dvairAjye'smin paTu-vikaTayoH senayor eva madhyAn
niSpratyUhaM kalaya chalito bandhubhiH paJNchaSaiH saH ||5|| 15

api cha—
grAme grAme paTu-kapaTino ghaTTa-pAlA ya ete
ye'raNyAnIchara-giricharA bATa-pATa-chcharAsh cha |
sha~NkAkArAH pathi vichalatAM taM vilokyaiva sAkSAd
udyadbASpAH skhalita-vapuSaH kSoNi-pRRiSThe luThanti ||6|| 16
advaitadas said…
jeeeeez! In Kusakratha's edition it's only in verses 32-33! Anyway thanx for the text.

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