PALANATI YUDDHAM(BATTLE OF PALANADU)
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
Palanadu (Probably Pallavanadu) was a part of Kamma ( Now a caste in AP of fourth Varna ) Rashtra. It lies to east of Srisailam and to the South of the Krishna river. The area that comprise of Guntur District now lying on the south of Krishna river passing through present Nalgonda distrct of Andhtra Pradesh mostly comprise of Pala nadu. Macherla the great historical town lies immediately after crossing river Krishna near Nagarjuna Sagar dam which is around 130 Km from Hyderabad. Gurajala, Karempudi, Macherla form the important places in the history of Battle of Palanadu.
The story of the veera charitra of Palnadu or Battle of Palanadu ( Fought some where near 1184 or 1186) starts with one Anuguraju of Haihaya clan from a place called Jambhanapuri (Modern Jabalpurin MP state) coming on a pilgrimage to Andhra to mitigate his ancestral sins. It was said after having bath in the sea near Motupalli, his black clothes turned into white indicating he was purified from his sins. The local Chola ( Choda) king gave his daughter Mylamma in marriage to Anuguraju who was already having two wives and gave palnadu as dowry. Anuguraju started living in the capital city Gurajala along with his minister Dodda Naidu.
Dodda Naidu's eldest son Baada Raju was adopted and intially made successor by Anuguraju as he was childless for a long time. But later- on, he had Nalagama raju and Narasimha Raju from his elder wives and Peda Malideva and China Malideva Raju with Mylamma. After the death of Anuguraju and Dodda Naidu, dispute broke out between the sons of Anuguraju .Nalagama put his claim stating he was eldest while Malideva argued the kingdom was his mothers property .Finally, Brahma Naidu, second son of Dodda Naidu,who succeeded his father made Nalagama as the king with Malideva as Yuvaraja and started to rule Palnadu on their behalf, as they were too young.
Veerasaivism was established by Basaveswara in early 11th century in Kalyani in North Karnataka. It preaches superiority of Lord Shiva over other gods and irrespective of caste, one can achieve superiority by just worshiping Lord Shiva. This religion went down well with the lower castes who saw an oppurtunity to break the iron shackles of caste and climb up in the caste hierarchy. Basaveswara the PM of King Bijjala used govt funds for the spread of his new faith and order.This infuriated the king. Finally, there was religious unrest in Karnataka between Jains and Veerasaivas which finally led to a civil war in which the Jain king Kalachuri Bijjala was also brutally killed in the night.
In the neighbouring Andhra also there was impact of veerasaivism and lot of farmers and artisans converted to veerasaivism and under its influence overcame the inferiority thrust upon them by the rulers and priests, gained in confidence and were waiting for an opportunity to have their share of wealth and power.Kakateeya kings at Warangal who patronized Jainism earlier adopted Shiva worship accordingly.
One such farmer widow lady Nagamma had a chance to entertain the king Nalagama when he was on a hunting trip. She made good rapport with the king and slowly started visiting the court at Gurazala. Shrewd,cunning and intelligent, She slowly gained the confidence of the king.Under her spell the king who used to very highly respect Brahma Naidu, started ignoring him and even tried to imprison his step brother Malideva.Realising the situation,Brahmanaidu persuaded the king to divide the kingdom and built a New capital city Mahadevicherla or Macherla, on the bank of the river chandra vanka , shifted to Macherla along with his relatives and followers and crowned Mallideva as the king.
Brahmanaidu was a very highly respected person of his times.He was a indomitable warrior,scholar and reformer.He was a staunch vaishnavite and founded a new sect called Veera vaishnavism to counter Veera Saivaism.While Veera saivaism allowed the sudra castes into its fold disallowing the untouchbles,Brahmanaidu even opened his doors to this under priviliged people.To eradicate the caste system he started a reform called "chapakudu" where the people of all communities will eat a single heap of rice poured on a chapa or mat.He adopted children from lower castes like barbers,washermen etc,.and brought them up along with his own son Balachandra. He even made a untouchble kannamadasu ,Supreme commander of his army, which was unimaginable in those times.He constructed the famous Chennakeswara swamy temple at Macherla and it stands even today in all its glory where regular worship of the lord ( Vishnu) takes place.
Because of all these activities Brahmanaidu was hailed as "Vishnu" of Palnadu. Brahmanaidu captured the fort of Shimoga which was a strong hold of Veerashaivas on the request of King of kalyani and the Kannada king in a thanksgiving gesture, gave his daughter Siramadevi to Mallideva in marriage. Thus Malideva and Brahmanaidu grew in stature and power. Kalyani was a powerful seat of Kalyani Chalukyas.
All these developments infuriated Nagamma.She poisoned the king's mind by preaching him that a powerful neighbour is always a cause of concern. As beating Macherla by fair means was out of their capability,they hatched a plan based on the fondness of Brahma Naidu for cockfight.They invited Brahma Naidu and Mallideva for a festival and challenged them for a game of cockfight.In the final bout Brahma Naidu's cock was killed tactically by Nagamma by applying poison to the knife tied to the leg of Nagamma's cock.As per the conditionBrahma Naidu and his people gave up their kingdom and set out for exile (Vana Vaasam ) for seven years and stayed at Medapi.
Brahma Naidu tried his best to persuade king Nalagama to return the kingdom of Macherla to Malideva after seven years but to of no avail. Ala Raja who was the follower of Malideva and son in law of Nalagama was sent as an envoy to Gurajala to persuade the King Nalagma to return the kingdom. But Ala Raju was poisoned in the night under the orders of Narsinga Raju brother of Nalagma who harbored the desire to be crowned after Nalagama. Nagamma planned the murder in conspiracy with Narsinga Raju. The dead body of Ala Raja was retrrned to Brahmanaidus camp and there was a greatr rise of tempers. Peramma the wife of Ala Raju committed self immolation ( sati) on the funeral pyre of her husband not before valiant Balachandrudu son of Brahmanaidu took an oath that he would behead Narsinga Raja in battle and would thus take revenge for death of Ala Raja thereby bringing peace to the soul of Peramma. The Battle of Palnadu was thus set although all efforts were made by Brahamanaidu in all good faith. He was not a war monger. The war began around 1180 AD at Karempudi on the bank of Naguleru.Most of the south Indian Kings took part in this great battle by sending their armies. Rudradeva the Kakateeya king of Warangal sent 1500 cavalry in support of Nalagama. The factions were divided based on Shivites and Vaishnavites sects .
There was very heavy loss of life on both sides. Balachandra, Brahma Naidu's young son fought like Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata war. He cut off the head of Narsinga Raju in a duel on the battle field and thus kept up his promise made to Peramma. However he was also injured in the duel. He carried the head to Brahma Naidu and displayed it for which he was shown contempt. The infuriated Balachadrudu rode back into the battle field and continued his fight till he was grievously wounded. He went to Naguleru nearby, opened his bandage at the waist and breathed his last He and many others became folk heroes. Manchala wife of Balachandrudu has also become immortal as she sent her husband most willingly into the battle although she knew that it was the most dangerous battle. Most of followers of Brahamanidu including valiant Kommanaidu lost lives in the battle. Finally, Brahmanaidu too entered the battle and fought vigorously displaying great valor and the enemy forces fled. However Malideva gave up his life greatly pained at the death of his kin. The war was won by army of Brahma Naidu while NalagamaRaju and Nagamma surrendered. Brahma Naidu however forgave them and made Nalagama as king again and went into the mountains (called 'Guttikonda Bilam' near Karempudi and piduguralla)for penance. The fate of Nagamma was not known later. No record is available about her subsequent life. It is assumed that she was sent away or she was put in prison.The ballads state that dejected Brahma Naidu entered the Guttikonda Cave and never returned later. The cave exists even today and no one has tried to travel through the cave. . It has remained a mystery. Temples have been erected at the place of battle for the fallen war heroes and the weapons used by them in the war are well preserved till today at the temples and annually these weapons are worshipped at a great procession. Ballads are sung praising the heroes.Great Poet Srinadha who was in the court of Reddy kings at Kondaveedu wrote a book of poems in Telugu titled Palanati veera chartitra. He lived in 15 century.
The battle of Palnadu closely resembles the mythological war described in epic Mahabharata fought at Kurukshetra. It was fought for territory between two cousins and almost all the kings of Southern India took part in it. But its implications were tremendous and in a way changed the course of Andhra history. Politically the Kakatiyas under Rudra deva were able to bring the whole of Andhra under one flag (nearly a thousand years after the Satavahanas),because all the local kings were weakened by this catastrophic war. Socially,it was the begining of the end of the monopoly of the warrior community (The Kammas) as rulers and fighters. In fact the Kammas were fragmented into a new caste,viz velama with Brahma Naidu as its founder. The influence of agrarian communities started to rise. Among the untouchables, the mala community, the section to which Kannamadasu belonged (whom Brahma Naidu adopted with the title KannamaNeedu), the lowest in those times, started to claim superiority over other sections like the Madigas, who were famous as Gosangi Veerulu ( Famous in the war between king Manuma siddhiII and Katama Raju at Pancha lingala in 13 century where Khadga Tikkannna Commnader of Manumasiddhi became a martyr although won the war) . This is a classical example of the peculiar dynamics of the caste system. The malas even stopped doing some menial tasks like scavenging and cremating dead bodies, particularly in the Palnadu area. Some of the Malas even became priests in some vishnu temples and continue even today as such. The disparity between Mala and Madiga sects in dalits persists even today and now they are fighting for separate reservations in jobs and education in Andhra Pradesh.