Continuing our series on great Andhra Personalities, our spotlight this week is on Maharani Rudrama Devi of Warangal.
Born Princess Rudramba to King Ganapati Deva, she was the first and only ruling Queen of the Kakatiya dynasty and one of united Andhra’s greatest rulers.
While considered to be the most prominent of the lineage, Rudrama devi’s father who was undefeated for most of his reign, met his first reverse at the very end against the rising power of the Pandyas in the Tamil country . A powerful monarch in his own right, Ganapati Deva did not have any sons to continue his line, and he believed only an energetic successor could restore Kakatiya prestige through chastisement of Sundara Pandya.
On the advice of his ministers, he conducted the ancient putrika ceremony that consecrated Rudrama Devi has the legal equivalent of a male successor. She was then invested with authority and recognized as his heir apparent, ruling jointly with her father until the end of his reign.
Along with her father’s building of the Kakatiya imperial state, Rudramba had the additional advantage of being married to a Vengi Chalukya prince, Veerabhadra (whose father ruled over Nidadavolu, a.k.a. Niravadyapura). This Telangana queen married a Coastal Andhra Prince and united the Telugu land in administration and spirit.
While there was originally a mutiny in the ranks of some of her nobles, her loyal generals were able to rally around her and secure her claim against the rebellious Murari and Harihara Deva. These loyalists include Janniga, Prasaditya, and Malyala Ganda. Later, the famous Gona Gana Reddy became an effective lieutenant as well.
Rudrama Devi’s rule from 1262-1289 C.E. is replete with a litany of accomplishments.
The first of them was tackling the bitter rivals of the Kakatiyas, the Yadavas of Devagiri. Their king Mahadeva had a casus belli in the sheltering of his co-claimant to the throne, Prince Samrapani, who had been made a governor of the Kakatiya kingdom’s many fiefs. The Seuna (Yadava) king declared war and attacked Kakatiya territory, eventually laying siege to Warangal itself. The courageous Rudrama Devi sallied forth from her citadel and routed the Yadavas. She eventually chased them back to Mahadeva’s territory. He was forced to surrender Bedadakota (Bidar) to the Kakatiyas and paid a huge ransom for the release of his captured soldiers.
Next, the Queen had to face off against the Gajapati ruler of Orissa, Bhanudeva I. The Odias had taken advantage of Kakatiya troubles to march on Vengi. Rudramba sent Kakatiya forces under Pathi and Proli Nayaka, who inflicted a defeat on the invaders.
Finally, her last great achievement was also her tragic undoing and was accomplished posthumously. While her generals Janniga and Tripurari Deva restored Nellore to the Kakatiyas, their successor Amba Deva, who ruled from Kadapa, would later revolt and declare himself independent. The rebel Amba Deva cleverly schemed against Rudrama Devi by establishing friendly political relations with the rival Yadava and Pandya dynasties. He then isolated the loyal Kakatiya vassal Ganapati and removed him from Nellore as well as another Ganapati (Sripati) from Gurajala, annexing the latter to his rebel kingdom.
The indomitable Rudrama Devi could not brook such defiance and, despite her advanced years, personally led the expedition against him. Tragically, both she and her general Mallikarjuna Nayaka lost their lives in this disastrous prong of the campaign against Amba Deva. Nevertheless, true to the spirit of this great Queen of Andhra, she attained a glorious death in battle, worthy of every true Kshatriya.
Perhaps Rudrama Devi’s greatest accomplishment, however, was in expanding the structure of the wall complex surrounding Warangal. It was these very battlements under Prataparudra that would long defy the depredations of the Delhi Sultans. Indeed, it took them 5 campaigns and new advancements in catapult technology to finally bring down these stubborn parapets.
The 27 year reign of Queen Rudramba has created a legacy that stands testament to the important place of women in historic Andhra society. From the generals who rallied around her to the great fortress of Warangal (whose expansion she completed), she remains one of our most beloved figures.
She was a brilliant administrator, noble ruler, and warrior Queen. After her victory over the Yadavas, she took the title Rajagaja kesari (which had also been held by her illustrious father). Visitors such as Marco Polo spoke of her enlightened rule, happy subjects, and palace’s splendor. Though being groomed for military exploits and statecraft, Rudramba is not remembered as a patron of the arts, the unique Kakatiya style of sculpture is nevertheless traced to her reign.
Like her father, Rudrama Devi also had only her daughters, but towards the end of her rule, her grandson, the famous Prataparudra, was ready to take over the reigns of power. The son of Rudrama’s youngest daughter and the minister-noble Induluri Annaya, the Andhra Pratap had been groomed to become a capable warrior-general and King. And while Rudramba gloriously fell in battle during the campaign against Amba Deva, her grandson avenged her by making good on that claim and defeating the rebel.
Thus, in the truest sense, she, like her grandson, stands as one of the heroes and heroines of united Andhra as home of the Telugu people and culture.
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012.