Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka – The History of Telugu Saffron Warriors

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the eminent freedom fighter, once said “Oh Motherland, sacrifice for you is like life. Living without you is death.’ Hundreds of year before Savarkar was born, a Kakatiya-era chieftain named Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka took the message to heart and was willing to sacrifice his life to expel the Delhi Sultanate from his motherland. The story of Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka is that of heroism, determination, and sacrifice. His story began when the Kakatiya’s story ended.

The Kakatiya Empire, a powerful and prosperous Telugu kingdom, was defeated with the capture of Warangal in 1323 by the Ulugh Khan of the Delhi Sultanate. What followed was a disintegration of Telugu polity and the rise of anarchy. According to the Vilasa Grant issued by Prolaya Nayaka, Brahmins were forced to give up religious practices, the murthis of the gods were overturned and broken, the agraharas of the learned were confiscated, and the cultivators and their families became impoverished. Seeing the disintegration and anarchy, a group of Telugu nobles and nayakas, such as Recherla Singama and Prolaya Vema Reddy, elected as their leader Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka. The consensus among historians, such as P. Raghunadha Rao, B.S.L Hanumantha Rao, Durga Prasad, K.Satyamurthy and etc, is that Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka was born into a martial-chieftain Kamma family from the town of Musunuru in the Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh. Prolaya and his cousin, Kapaya (shown below), led the confederation which included the Recherla Velama Nayaks and Prolaya Vema Reddy, to oust the Delhi Sultanate from the Telugu regions.

Image result for musunuri kapaya

With his mission set, Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka freed many areas of Coastal Andhra in just two years following the fall of the Kakatiya Empire. He established his capital in Rekapalli/Rekhapally on the Godavari River near the present-day border of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Musunuri Prolaya’s reign brought back the peace and stability that had been lost during the Sultanate’s reign. Prolaya restored the agraharas of the learned and granted new ones to scholars. In fact, the town of Polavaram, where the Polavaram Dam is being built, was an agrahara that was named after Prolaya by the great Brahmin scholar Vennaya. Moreover, Prolaya reinstated Hindu rituals and sacrifices that were restricted under the Sultanate’s rule. He initiated a simple ⅙ land tax on farmers’ produce in order to fund military renovations and establish an efficient administrative system. The farmers were said to have willingly contributed their share of taxes. He was assisted by his Minister Bendapudi Annaya Mantri in his endeavors. In his later years, the Vilasa Grant records his charitable actions and deeds.

Prolaya Nayaka died soon after he established an independent kingdom. He was succeeded by his cousin-brother, Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka, who expelled the Delhi Sultanate from Warangal, the former capital of the Kakatiyas. During his short reign, Prolaya was a true saffron warrior who led the confederacy to beat back the Delhi Sultanate. His actions and that of his successor inspired Bukka and Harihara to establish the Vijayanagara Empire. There is no better description for this king than the following one written by historian Jaywant Joglekar:

Prolaya Nayaka first led the movement of Hindu resurgence. He drew his sword against the Muslims to reestablish the Hindu Dharma, to restore the worship of the gods and to protect the Brahmin and the cow.”

Decisive Battles India Lost (326 B. C. to 1803 A. D.)

Pranams to Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka, the great saviour of Hindu Dharma in the Telugu regions.

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