The book “Krishna Deva Raya: The Boy Who Would Be King” by Abhijeeth Hiliyana is the first part in the historical fiction Vijayanagara trilogy.
Vijayanagara, 1485. The second son of a famed army commander, Tuluva Krishna sees around him a decaying empire assailed by the treachery of vassals and the belligerence of neighbours. Determined to restore peace and glory to the Vijayanagara Samrajya, Krishna, hot-headed and impatient, follows in his father’s footsteps and begins his military service under Emperor Saluva Narasimha.
Can Krishna navigate the intricate web of politics that threatens the great empire? And can he rebound from devastating betrayal and prove his mettle as a true leader?
Read an excerpt from the book below.
He heard it as though he was in a dream, the muffled sound of water striking the walls. But the smell of the earthy fragrance that followed the first showers told him it was not a dream.
‘Is it… raining?’ he asked, with some effort, his tone low and hoarse. Had anyone heard him? He wet his lips and asked again, louder.
‘Indeed, it is. The people are saying that even the gods are crying for you.’ The voice was deep and measured. He sensed the jest along with an overwhelming sadness in those words.
‘Quite unlikely,’ he snorted, and then quickly dissolved into raspy coughs. He took a deep breath and continued, ‘We seem to be rather eager to make gods out of mortals.’
‘You have been no less than a god to them, son.’
‘But I am a mortal, just like everyone else, Gurudeva, a mortal who is waiting helplessly for this disease to finally claim him.’
‘Is that bitterness I hear in your voice, Krishna?’
‘No, only an acceptance of the truth.’ ‘I can sense your fear, but I do not understand it. What can make Krishna Deva Raya afraid? Is it death?’
‘I have seen death too many times to fear it. I have lost so much in life, Gurudeva; death will only be a blessing.’ Tears welled within him.
‘Every person has a destined lifespan in this world, Krishna, do not grieve for others. They have gone to a better place.’
‘He was so young, my boy, my son,’ Krishna cried. He tried to wipe away the tears streaming down his cheeks but found he could not raise his hand. ‘Krishna Deva Raya, the lord of three kings, the absolute ruler of the Samrajya, whose very name inspires terror in the hearts of his enemies does not now possess even the strength to wipe his tears,’ he laughed bitterly.
Krishna now felt the touch of soft cotton on his cheeks. His guru, Vyasatheertha, was comforting him and wiping his tears, like he had done all through his life.
‘Death comes to all, Krishna. Most simply disappear from the hearts and minds of the people. A few remain as a cherished memory for decades or sometimes centuries. But your name, the name of Krishna Deva Raya, will live on forever. Even death will have no power over that.’
‘Eternal fame is not my desire, Gurudeva. I would willingly trade it for the eternal glory of the Samrajya.’
‘But its future is secure, thanks to you. You have achieved far more than any king before you. You have destroyed all the enemies of the empire. The people have had twenty years of strong and stable rule. The treasuries are full and your armies strong. You leave your kingdom in the hands of your younger brother. Why are you still worried?’
‘My brother is competent, Gurudeva, but he is surrounded by wolves. Wolves that I have failed to get rid of.’
Krishna closed his eyes, willing his body to give him strength for a few moments more. ‘Where do I begin? Ramaraya’s jealousy over not being the chosen one after me. The two Salakarajus, Achyutha’s brothers-in-law, coveting power. The parasitic military governors, the Nayakas, seeking to rebel against authority.’
‘You have faced and conquered many struggles, son. Why do you worry that your brother might fail? After all, the empire you are leaving him is infinitely stronger than it was when you received it from your own brother.’
‘That, Gurudeva, is the true problem. None of them, not even Ramaraya, have seen the depths to which our glorious empire had fallen during the days of the last Sangama kings. They were spared the terrible struggle that emperor Narasimha, my father and my elder brother had to go through to re-establish the empire. They did not live through the dark years when Vijayanagara was invaded and plundered, year after year, by the Bahmanis. I do not doubt my brother’s capability, but I worry that those around him do not know what they will lose if they fail to rise above their petty squabbles.’
‘Krishna, the affairs of this mortal world should no longer be your concern. You are going to a better world where you will meet your loved ones again,’ he said, gently stroking Krishna’s head.
‘I am afraid to stand before them, Gurudeva. How shall I respond if my father and my brother ask me why I have come there without ensuring the safety of our country? If Appaji asks why I did not believe him, what will I say?’
‘Let go of earthly concerns, Krishna. Think only of god,’ Vyasatheertha said in his baritone.
Krishna closed his eyes again and tried to do as he was asked. Outside, the relentless rain beat against the ground, nudging his consciousness, reminding him of another rainy day, the day when it all began.
Excerpted with permission from Krishna Deva Raya: The Boy Who Would Be King, Abhijeeth Hiliyana, Hachette India. Read more about the book here and buy it here.