During the time of Krishnadevaraya, the Vijayanagara Empire reached its peak greatness. Vijayanagara was the most powerful empire in the Indian subcontinent during this time.
The effects of the empire can still be seen today in the form of temples, customs and laws created during this time.
A major part of south India can be said to still live in the shadow of this empire. Many contemporary accounts speak of the splendor of the empire.
Krishnadevaraya had trade relations with most of the major powers of the day, including the Portuguese colonialists.
People of many faiths, including Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims were accommodated in his kingdom.
However, only forty years following his reign, the empire was virtually completely destroyed by an alliance of Bahamani Sultans. Although Krishnadevaraya never lost a battle, he did not ensure that his heirs were competent. He favored his heirs on the basis of attachment instead of competence.
His son-in-law, Aliya Rama Raya, who came to rule the kingdom following three relatively weak rulers proved himself to be decently competent. However, he ignored his enemies unifying into an alliance and blindly trusted his commanders who eventually turned out to be turncoats. At the ripe old age of 80-90 years, Rama Raya led the battle against the Bahamani attack in the battle of Talikota where Vijayanagara suffered a devastating loss. Following this, the Bahamanis brutally destroyed the magnificent capital of Hampi and made off with so much wealth that it is said they spent six months to carry it all away.
In the long history of India, there have appeared several kings who were highly trained in shastra (multidisciplinary sciences). Traditionally, kings underwent rigorous training in all the shastras.
The Kalyani Chalukya king, Someshvara III, wrote a voluminous encyclopedia in Sanskrit, known as Rajamanasollasa, in which he lists 100 different disciplines to be learned by kings.
Emperor Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara was also a prolific author who authored the Amuktamalyada.
In ancient times, many royals contributed to the Upanishads. Buddha himself was born a prince.
In the life of Vidyaranya, one finds an example of genius in multiple fields, including politics, art, culture, dharma, spirituality, social reform etc.
He lived a rich life of over eighty years. His name, taken on after entering sannyasa (monastic order), translates to ‘forest of knowledge’. This provides an indication to his level of erudition. He took monastic vows during the last eight years of his life. He was known as Madhava in his pre-monastic life.
He was one of the visionary leaders behind the creation of the Vijayanagara Empire, which ruled a vast portion of India for more than three centuries between the 14th and 17th centuries. The empire held off invasions and established several cultural, legal and social trends which influence society even today.
Vidyaranya ably advised the founder brothers, Harihara and Bukka, who established and stabilized the kingdom in its initial days. He organized the realms of the kingdom and appointed regional heads from the royal family. He sent four of his own brothers to advise the regional heads.
Vidyranya also commissioned many works of art and literature and himself wrote a number of classic works in Sanskrit which was used as the common language in the multi-lingual kingdom.
In the realm of dharma and adhyatma (metaphysics and spirituality), he left his mark by composing classics such as Panchadashi. After taking on monastic vows, he became the head of the Sringeri Peetham, a monastic and dharmic institution established by Adi Shankara.
From studying his life, it becomes apparent that his was a life of sacrifice and his goal was to serve in the interest of the general good of society.