Sri Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagara needs no introduction. One of the greatest military achievers of medieval era – equally a man of arms and a man of letters, and a great builder, he holds a special place in the history of South India – both as a folk icon and as a great ruler. His rule is considered to be a golden era in South Indian history and it’s no wonder that people still take his name respectfully even today. He is a great scholar in Telugu and Sanskrit with his Amuktamayada in Telugu being treated as one of the five toughest Telugu works to comprehend. In the same book, he gives his views over how a king should rule. A really commendable thing indeed when he lived for less than 45 years. In fact, on having a quick look at the same, one would note that most of them are applicable even today!! But, in an ironic twist of fate, he believed in the lies spread against one of the pillars of his kingdom – Saluva Timmarasa whom he got blinded in anger and repented all his life after that. Saluva Timmarasa refused any help from the king and died as a beggar in Tirupati while the king died shortly after this incident.

Protect the people, without losing patience at any time. Pay heed to the cry of the injured and redress their grievances. Do not entrust the execution of the (state) work to the wicked.
The subjects of a state desire the prosperity of the king who wishes to promote the welfare of the state. It should not be said that the desire of the subjects is of no use (to the king); for, does not God, who is immanent in all the people from Brahmans downwards, fulfil their unanimous desire?
The king should have power to command; even the commands of the chiefs of the Abhirs and the Bhils are obeyed (at the sight of) an arrow or a string of yarn; should not all people fear the commands of a sovereign who is an emperor?
Entrust (the command of) the forts only to Brahmans in whom you have confidence; and place no small forces under them, having in the plenitude of your power, lost the fear (of enemies).
No one who is at first raised to a high position remembers his former humble condition, if he is subsequently, reduced; but becomes enraged. So, increase his status gradually observing his conduct and exact service from him on all possible occasions.
If you desire to rule the kingdom, do not entertain in your service a man of low birth, a resident of the hamlet of the hunters, a person who has not learnt under a preceptor, an audacious liar, a murderer, an impudent and vicious fellow or a stranger, though he be a Brahman.
Don’t entertain (in your service) an outcaste and one who is brought up in a hamlet of the hunters (though he be a Brahman by birth). Did not formerly an outcaste Brahman kill for the sake of a single meal a heron that protected him?(The allusion is to the story of the outcast Brahman, Gautama, and Nagijangha, narrated in the Santiparva of Mahabharata)
A single day is enough for the various branches of royal administration to obtain stability, provided a learned Brahman who is afraid of injustice, who has studied the principles of political science, who is above fifty and below seventy in age, and whose ancestors are free from (hereditary) disease is induced by the king to accept the office of the minister and discharge his duties.
If such ministers cannot be had, a king should transact the business of the state himself, keeping in view the principles of political science, though he might not always be successful. If, on the contrary, being not disposed to remain content with (the power derived) from his wealth and army, he employs a wicked and uncontrollable person as minister, that minister not only causes annoyance but becomes, in course of time, the master of his master.
It is desirable to employ several officers to do the work which may be done slowly by a single person; for the work is quickly performed by these and all their dependents. Decrease in the number of the officers gives rise to grievance. Increase, on the contrary, causes contentment.
No work can be transacted by the expenditure of money alone without the willing co-operation of several nobles. Liberality, gentleness, and truthfulness are helpful in obtaining such co-operation.
Have we not heard of the kingdoms which fell a prey to the enemy owing to the decay of the treasury and the army they had, because they could not secure the services of suitable men?
A king who confers nobility on a Brahman prospers; for the Brahman stands at the post of duty even at considerable risk, either to avoid the ridicule of the Kshatriya and Sudra officers, or in emulation of the other Brahman officers in the king’s service.
Do not entrust (the administration of the properties) of temples and other (endowments) to the officer whom you employ to collect the revenues due to you; for, being anxious to collect money, he will make good any loss caused to the king’s revenue from the income (of the temples and other endowments), and send it to the royal treasury. That is not good. So, appoint a separate officer for the management of temple properties, etc. If he misappropriates some part of the income, he alone will be ruined.
Like a farmer who, having at first taken possession of an (untilled) field, plants a ledge of thorns (around it) and then begins to season the soil by digging it with a spade and tearing up the roots, stumps, etc., (the king) should (first make himself the master of his territory) either by befriending the enemy or by strengthening his own frontier forts; and having thus freed his mind from anxiety he should proceed to destroy the enemies within the kingdom.
Do not expel a tale-bearer precipitately with harsh words. If, on careful investigation, you actually find him to be a liar, leave him alone without discharging him from his office.
Grant temporarily to indigent foreign soldiers for their maintenance villages in the neighbourhood of inaccessible forests and hills, inhabited by savage tribes, who harass the neighbouring country. Whatever may be the character of their mutual relations, it will be quite proper, (i.e. to your advantage).
Moreover, the affliction of the people cannot be reduced, until the power of these mountaineers is brought under the control of the crown. The king should somehow dispel their fear, and draw them towards him. Distrust or faith, anger or love, bitter hostility or intimate friendship (with them) arises out of small causes, as these people are of limited intelligence, For instance, —
(Once) a hunter armed with bow (and arrows) paid a visit to another hunter who entertained him by feeding milk and rice. The visitor who noticed a pot (on the hearth) in which fibre was boiling believed that it contained meat. (Considering that his host had insulted him) the guest, forgetting the hospitality, resolved to kill him at a suitable place when the former came to give him a send-off. On the way, however, when the host sought his permission to go home soon, lest the fibre which was boiling in the pot should be spoilt, did not the hunter send his host away, having realised his own mistake?
These forest dwellers who are pleased even with that repast of milk and rice, never act treacherously (towards him who has fed them). If these unsophisticated men discover even a very small fault, they become hostile without considering the nature of the fault.
(A king) acquires mastery over the forest tribes by truth; the friendship of a hostile king by honouring the envoy; the regard of his foot-soldiers by timely payment of salary and the affection of his troopers by offering service with rewards.
Give the best horses and elephants only to trusted servants; it will be to your advantage when the occasion comes. Keep the horse and elephant stables with care; you should never entrust their management to your subordinates.
When one (councillor) gives good advice, another condemns it on account of jealousy. Paying due regard to the character of both (the councillors), you must not contradict either of them (during the sitting of the council); but when the council is dissolved, if you follow the good advice, it is advantageous to you.
The bad or faithless ministers take advantage of the hostility of the neighbouring states and encourage the freebooters in the country. When the king is caught in difficulties, they do not discharge their duties promptly but having spread their influence everywhere, they conduct themselves in such a manner as to make it appear that they alone are the protectors (of the king).
(The bad ministers) persuade (the king to offer (rewards) to their own dependents: and dissuade him from rewarding others. Moreover, they induce him to promise (rewards) to the people, but prevent the fulfilment, so that the people, believing him to be undependable, might not approach him.
If a (capable) outsider is made an equal of these (bad ministers), he will check their power like a powerful drug which strengthens the appetite spoilt by the union of kapha and other diseases.
You may ask how (an outsider) could be made equal to them in the teeth of their opposition.
If a wise and powerful monarch keeps his treasury and the horses and the elephants in his stables under his control, does not the obstruction (caused by the evil ministers) vanish by itself?
(The dependents who serve a king) wish him evil, if even a morsel is decreased in their food. Has a king (really) any friends? Is it wise to loosen your hold on the shoulder of the man by your side? You should, on the contrary, skilfully make him walk by your side (without relinquishing your hold). You must not trust him, though you have to deal with him kindly.
From the fact that a person does not loath an (evil) deed, estimate the nature of his other actions; (for instance), when king Drupada requested a sage to perform a sacrifice for compassing the death of some person, the sage replied that his elder brother would’ comply with the king’s request, as he observed him on one occasion picking up a fruit lying on filthy ground, which he himself had abandoned in disgust. Thus it is possible from (observation) of one (action) to know the whole conduct. It is not possible (for any one) to observe all (actions and estimate a person’s character).
Do not kill a person who takes advantage of your difficulties to do you evil, when you win victory; but wrest (from him) his wealth. What harm can a serpent do, when the sharpness of its fangs is destroyed? Your enemy will be loyal to you for the kindness which you show him.
The extent of the kingdom is the means for the acquisition of wealth. (Therefore), even if the land is limited (in extent), excavate tanks and canals and increase the prosperity of the poor (cultivator) by leasing him the land for low ari and koru, so that you may obtain wealth as well as (religious) merit.
The king, having an officer who acts like the jackal on the battle-field, does not persuade the impoverished cultivators migrating (from his district) to return, and wants to sell their cattle and grain and utilise the timber of their houses as fuel, that king cannot enrich himself, though he may conquer the seven continents (i.e. the whole world).
A king should reserve one-fourth of his income for charity and personal expenses, half for the maintenance of a powerful army; and store (the remaining) fourth in (his) well filled treasury. He should watch, by means of his spies, not only his enemies but the other six members of the state including the ministers. He should destroy the bandits in his own kingdom.
A king should punish a thief, discovering him with the aid of a well-cherished band of policemen. If, on the contrary, he inflicts punishment on an innocent person whom the police substitute for a runaway thief, does he not acquire disrepute like the king who had the corpulent merchant impaled?
A king proficient in political science – should learn three-fourths (of what he has to know) by his own efforts; the remaining fourth relating to things happening without his knowledge, from his friends and well-wishers, (Having acquired knowledge) in this manner, if he carries on the government without anger and cruelty in meting out punishment he can rule (the earth) without difficulty for a long time.
A king, while enjoying pleasures (bhogas), should watch (his internal and external foes), even as the bear which sleeps on the top of the tree closes only one eye, keeping the other open.
Gifts of money and of villages made from love of learning to the bhiksus and the ascetics with matted-hair encourage them to break their vows; their evil deeds have bad consequences such as famine, epidemics, and infant-mortality. (Therefore), devotion (to them) is enough. Their disappointment does not cause you any harm, you need not entertain doubts about it
Give the guilty persons who deserve death three opportunities for begging pardon; but those whose flight is likely to cause trouble must be put to death as soon as they are caught.
Though the king is himself a brave warrior, he must listen, without impatience, to the brag of his warriors. By that, they are greatly pleased. His object must be to manifest his prowess through their brave deeds.
A king should govern his ports so as to increase their trade by encouraging the import of horses, elephants, gems, sandal, pearls etc.; he should offer protection suited to the conditions of their race to people who migrate from other countries, owing to famine, pestilence, and (other) calamities; —he should send his faithful servants to superintend his gardens, cattle pens und mines.
Like an archer, who, holding the arrow steadily (in the bow), discharges it when he feels sure of his mark, a king should control his wrath against a criminal until the circumstances become favourable for his destruction.
Like the water that stagnates until it is set in motion by the arrival of a flood, an invader’s forces should march by short stages, for a few days, so that they may get impetus gradually by their conjunction with his other troops. If the enemy’s troops are numerous, he should return (to his capital) having honoured the enemy with presents. If, on the contrary, he learns from the spies that the enemy is weak, he should surround him without allowing him to escape.
On discovering that his enemy extorts money (from his subjects), consults despicable persons, makes peace (with other kings) by surrendering territory, and treats with, suspicion people that have done him good, a king should create differences between him and his subordinate chiefs by secret offers to the latter of protection and of jewels set with gems. He should also free himself from these faults.
A king should acquire the lasting friendship of his enemy by surrendering, if necessary, even one half of his kingdom, and free himself from the fear of internal enemies. The fear of the internal enemy is, indeed, greater than the fear of a serpent.
What is the use of needless discussion? If a king does not destroy the hidden enemies of his kingdom having discovered them by thorough investigation, and move about fearlessly like a man in the midst of women, what is the fruit of his sovereignty? Does kingship beget only misery?
It is proper that a king should, without coercion, induce a strong (neighbour) who keeps himself aloof from fear, to join him voluntarily like an angler, who having allowed a big fish to struggle with the line pulls it up (when it swallows the bait).
A king should avoid (the following) :—Cruelty in punishment, blind faith in the words of tale-bearers, obstinate refusal to conclude peace with an enemy; causing injury to a stranger who informs him of the harm done to him by other (kings); transacting business in such a manner as to enable a minister opposed to his interests to know (his motives); transacting business with a person who is known to be faithless; causing the estrangement of a loyal person; attaching importance to persons while discussing the affairs of state; indifference in punishing persons publishing state secrets; negligence to seek ways and means of averting (the evil results of) unnatural occurrences; indifferent treatment of respectable persons; fellowship with the mean; addiction to the (seven) vyasanas and vindictiveness.
When three kinds of unnatural phenomena occur, a king should in order to avert their evil consequences, spend large sums of money in feeding Brahmans and offering worship to the gods and performance of homa to Agni.
Kings should foster rivalry among their nobles and warriors so that their activities, loyal or otherwise, might not be hidden, Moreover, by competing with one another to obtain the royal favour by performance of loyal services, they abstain from disloyal activities.
A king should not march in person against all places. He should appoint another (person) commander (of the army) and despatch him (against the enemy), so that he (the king) might take rest. The commander, if he is weak, having no money, land, elephants and horses, cannot defeat the enemy, so, (the king) should give him territory well protected by forts and troops. If these are given to anyone but a Brahman, he may turn against the king himself. However, (the services of) the non-Brahmans are also quite essential.
Foster the growth of dense forests on the frontiers; and cause the destruction of jungles in the midst of your kingdom, go that (the people) may not be harassed by bandits.
The attempt to enumerate the crimes of savage tribes inhabiting the hilly tracts is to endeavour to wash the dirt of a wall built of mud. Punishment cannot completely eradicate their crime. If they are brought under control by an agreement and gifts, they are helpful in invading (an enemy’s country), and plundering the frontiers. A king who exercises his authority over all cannot contemplate the punishment of a thousand for the crimes of a hundred.
Acquire the friendship of merchants of distant islands who import elephants and horses, by granting them villages, spacious houses in the capital, frequent audience, presents, and (facilities to secure) good profits, so that they (the elephants and horses) may not reach your enemies.
A king should converse in the audience hall amicably with the ambassadors representing his neighbouring kings. He should explain to his dependents the neglected obligations (which his neighbours) owed him, and his desire to make war upon them. While doing this, he should talk euphemistically so as to preserve the (apparent) friendship.
A person who has been recently made a noble should not be admitted (to participate) in the secret deliberations (of the council); for being elated by his new position, he reveals (the secrets) to his friends; thus he ruins the chances of the success (of the enterprise), thereby compassing his own downfall
A king who appoints as the governors of his forts honest, loyal and warlike Brahmans learned in the Vedas, and dependent upon his family for generations; who stores up in his forts provisions including rarities sufficient to last for a lifetime; who distributes lands among his nobles without transgressing the bounds of moderation; who, spending less than his income, replenishes the treasury without oppressing his subjects; who, having watched the condition of his weak enemy by means of spies, swallows him crane-wise; and who causes harm to the enemy without trouble to himself and his subjects; that king sleeps placing his hand upon his heart, i.e., peacefully
That money which is spent on the purchase and the maintenance of elephants and horses, the payment of salaries to the soldiers, the distribution of gifts to Brahmans and Gods, and securing the personal comforts of the king, should not be considered a waste of public funds.
A king should not take a vow (to make war upon) an enemy. By marching with his army (upon the enemy), he may attain his object, or he may fail; or his desire may be fulfilled, on some future occasion, though not at that time. Is the king a politician or a lover of war?
If a king attacks an enemy (whom he desires to conquer) in places from which he cannot escape, he is obliged to turn round and offer battle, when he may either win a victory or die the death of heroes. The king (should not approach) the walls (of the enemy’s forts) which are protected by several (death-dealing) machines, but send only his men instead to attack them.
Kings generally summon for consultation a person who has given congenial advice on one or two occasions. Taking advantage of the influence acquired by frequent consultations, he is likely to induce the king, having received bribes, to do improper deeds. (Therefore) a king should, by means of his spies, examine his conduct outside (the council).
If a king feels confident that he can effect the destruction of his neighbour on the frontier, it is only proper that he should do so. Otherwise he should befriend him. If he becomes hostile, his neighbour (on the other side) is the proper person to subdue him. Then (the king’s) frontier becomes secure without effort.
Burn the kingdom of your enemy and seize his forts. If his wives happen to fall into your hands, treat them as you would treat your sisters and daughters. In the presence of his envoys, do not utter harsh words about him, for you may be obliged to conclude peace with him.
Do not enter a country where the devotees of black-magic abound, the water is poisonous, epidemics prevail, the hills and jungles are impassable, and the savages dwell, although you may obtain gold as large as the Meru; despatch only your troops to subjugate it.
A false servant, speaking sweetly, cleverly secures his object; he serves you while (you are) prosperous, but deserts you when your fortune is low. (Therefore) the king should learn to discriminate between (the true and the false) like the money-changer who detects the good and the bad coins.
A king who desires to rule long should gather around him expert mineralogists, and discovering (by their assistance) places where gold and other metals are found, acquire them; he should take only a small portion of the income of his subjects as tax, and suppress, by inflicting punishment, the violence of the mighty; he should with kindness protect all (people) and (maintain) the order of the castes putting an end to irregular practices; he should always show respect to Brahmans, and increase or decrease the population of the different districts of his kingdom, according to their conditions: arid,without forgetting to destroy his petty enemies, he should nourish the (seven) members of his sovereignty, even as he would the limbs of his own body.
A king who desires to live long should gather around him physicians cognizant of dhatus (vata, pitta and sleshma), take the medicines such as svarna-bhasma, prepared by them and eat such food is calculated to nourish the body. He should get rid of the excess of vata in his body by means of massage. He should take the abhyangana and nourish all the limbs of the body; he should get rid of greyness and discolouration (of the skin), having removed the defects (that cause them); he should endeavour to strengthen his teeth, develop all the parts of the body according to their proportion; he should attempt to impart lustre to the body and keep it under control without showing negligence in examining (it’s diseases).
It is desirable that a king should give audience to saukha-sayanikas(those people who ask one ‘Have you slept happily’), physicians and Brahman astrologers early in the morning; after (the first, yama he should be in the company of his ministers and nobles as well as the accountants (kayasthas) who are employed to acquire wealth; he should spend the midday in the company of massagers, wrestlers, cooks and hunters; and in the aparahna(the time between 12 noon and 3 p.m) having offered worship to the household gods, he should converse with elders, judicial officers, and ascetics; after dinner he should talk with the jester and listen to the pauranikas and the poets; he should give audience to the spies and the musicians during the evening; and he should enjoy the company of his queen at night, and then go to sleep.
Viewed from the standpoint of the king, (his) servants always fall into three classes, viz., friends (hitulu), friends and enemies by turns (hitahitulu) and constant enemies (sadahitulu). I shall describe them (to you)! Sinless one, listen!
Physicians, astrologers, learned men, poets, and purohits are friends, the people employed (by the king) for the collection of revenue and discharging other duties are both friends and enemies (according to circumstances); and the people who are desirous of getting back the wealth confiscated by the king (by way of punishment) are (his) perpetual enemies. Therefore, it is only right that the king should skilfully conduct himself towards them according to their disposition.
Having carefully observed a worthy person, it is desirable that (a king) should, without being asked or told, astonish him by offering him (gifts) like the appearance of the fruits of a jack tree and (wealth) in a dream.
According to the injunctions of the Vedas, the worship of the pitrs is more important than that of the Gods. Therefore being devoted to (the service of) the pitrs, give (the offerings of the sraddha) to the devotees of Vishnu who have attained tranquillity by the study of the Vedas, and the practice of virtue and tapas.
Give alms for the protection of Brahmans; acquire knowledge for the protection of the self; and take refuge with great devotion under Narayana; for you cannot escape hell which surely awaits you at the end of your reign by any other means.
The devotion of a wife to her husband, the observance, by men and women, of the rule of consanguinity, the control of the self of the ascetic, the obedience of the lower to the upper castes, and the faithfulness of the servant to the master, are all due to the fear of the punishment inflicted by the king.
Strangely enough, (the king) maintains law (dharma) by killing (criminals); observes brahmacarya by having intercourse with his wife (on proper occasions); becomes truthful by uttering falsehood (in order to save the life of another); fasts by eating (only twice a day); becomes a hero by avoiding (fight with elders), and rich by spending money (on good deeds).
A spy should be the resident of the king’s capital; he should know (several) languages, and be unknown to other spies. Moreover, he should bear no external marks of identity and be able to give money beyond the expectations of others (in obtaining information). (Unless he is enabled by the king) to spend so much money, he will not enter the profession.
As the king, is attached to (such luxuries) as massage, bath, food, unguent, dress, flowers, etc., suitable to the seasons he should acquire the merit derived from ascetic practices, by gifts of money only.
As the food consumed by the king consists of several desirable that he should dine either at anarahna or while his stomach is quite empty. Food consumed in hunger is very salutary.
Listen! A. king should treat the three vargas (dharma, artha and kama) alike. If, perchance, the share of dharma increases, he should feel happy like a farmer who finds his rice-field unexpectedly irrigated with the water lifted into another’s field, through a breach in the ridge.
Purchase gems which increase splendour so that you should appear radiant; for, they are necessary in order to enhance the dignity of your appearance. A king should wear (a separate set of) gems and jewels on every day of the week.
You should not think: “Our work is to govern the kingdom. (It necessarily involves sin.) Then, how can we get rid of sin?”. Even the Veda does not enjoin you to do the impossible. It (only) commands you (to rule justly) to the best of your abilities.
Manu, Dandadhara and others were known as righteous rulers, as they punished (the criminals) having understood their guilt well. Unless an anointed sovereign, who has been created by Prajanatha for the purpose of governing the people, who is known by the Vedic names Virat and Samrat and who is equal to god—removes the troubles of the earth enduring hardships, can his birth be said to be fruitful? Do not the bandit chiefs satisfy their sensual desires by raping captive women and with the wealth obtained by attacking caravans of merchants? You should not consider the protection of the earth a trouble, and be indifferent to it, for, formerly in the Krta age, Sahasrabahu, the son of Krtavirya, punished (the wrong doers), appearing with sword, club, bow and other weapons before them at all places and times in this earth protected well by his mighty arms. It is not possible for the kings of this last Kali age who are feeble in keeping with it, to punish (evil) in that manner. Therefore, you should carry on (the work of) protection and punishment according to your ability, without being indifferent to what you heard and seen. Regarding what is impossible, put your trust in the God Pundarikaksa, the protector of the suppliants, and conduct yourself humbly. Then, all your objects become easily attainable. A crowned monarch should govern the state, keeping dharma in view.


  1. Further Sources of Vijayanagara History
  2. Amuktamalyada

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