Amuktamalyada – Translated by Srinivas Reddy

Amuktamalyada, as translated by Srinivas Reddy

King Krishnadeva Raya is one of the most fascinating characters of Indian history. Of course, the more I read about him the more I know that he was not someone who turned everything he touched into gold. He had his share of misfortunes. Also he was not the goody-goody character that comics and hagiographies made him out to be. There were, as in all of us, shades of good and evil in him, with the former being dominant. But there is no denying that he was a magnificent ruler, a great leader, an inspiring personality, a patron of the arts, probably a skilful lover, a physical fitness fanatic and above all, a scholar.

The many works that bear his name vouchsafe the last to him. Of these, the best known is Amuktamalyada – Giver of the Worn Garland, which is Krishnadeva’s version of the life of Sri Goda or Andal as we know of her in Tamil country. In keeping with the tradition of the prabandhas of his time, the ruler takes up the then less-known story of Andal, which in his time was largely restricted to the Tamil-speaking regions and makes into a magnum opus.

It is my everlasting regret that I cannot read Telugu, though I do understand it to an extent. And so, my reading of this great work is restricted to an English translation. But what a translation! Srinivas Reddy, a professional sitarist and a scholar, has for the benefit of people like me, brought a fantastic book. It is a slightly abridged work when compared to the original, but it gives enough to understand what the emperor intended to convey. Going through it, I find there is a fascinating descriptions of Srivilliputhur, Madurai and Srirangam and I wonder if these are actually descriptions of Vijayanagar, which was at its zenith under Krishnadeva. Is the Pandyan ruler’s honouring of Periyazhwar actually a reflection of the way Krishnadeva honoured his ashtadiggajas? Is the way he describes the reaction of defeated scholars the way say Tenali Ramakrishna responded when he saw Alasani Peddanna being praised? Did the courtesans of Sule Bazaar in Vijayanagar look, behave, play games and entice customers the way the king describes the Devadasis in Madurai, Srirangam and Srivilliputhur? Let us not forget that Krishnadeva had a favoured courtesan, the winsome Chinna, whom he married. There is plenty of eroticism as well, much of it perhaps Krishnadeva’s own experiences! The best of these is Vishnu’s reaction when Goda’s hand accidentally brushes his neck during the wedding.

Oh, and by the way, there is a lot food as well.

For those who cannot read the original, this is a wonderful translation. And there are copious notes, explanations and a scholarly introduction.

Giver of the Worn Garland, Krishnadevaraya’s Amuktamalyada

Translated by Srinivas Reddy

This article is part of a series I do on books that I like. The earlier instalments can be read here