Monthly Archives: December 2020

Kampila Deva, the First Hindu chief to challenge the mighty Delhi Sultans

Normally when we think of Hindu kings who fought against the tyranny of Muslim rulers in India, the names of Rana Sangram, Rana Pratap and Shivaji comes to our mind. But much before these rulers, a ruler of a small principality in Karnataka which flourished for a period of only fifteen years challenged the mighty and ruthless Sultans of Delhi that too with limited resources and refused to submit before them and preferred death to dishonour. This lion-hearted ruler was Kampila Deva who was assisted by his equally valiant son Kumara Rama.

The origin of the Kingdom

The kingdom of Kampili came into existence during the troublous years of the fourteenth century when south India had to face a series of Muhammadan invasion under the leadership of the Khilji and Tughlaq sultans of Delhi. Mummadi Singa, a nobleman working under Ramachandra, the Sevuna ruler of Devagiri established the kingdom of Kampili probably around 1306-07. It was during that period that Devagiri was captured by Malik Kafur, who sent its ruler Ramachandra to Delhi to pay obeisance to the Sultan. The history of Kampili as an independent kingdom must have commenced in 1313 after the death of Shankara Deva, son of Ramachandra who had succeeded to the Devagiri throne after the latter’s death in 1312. In the beginning the principality of Kampili was limited in extent and extended a few square miles of land around Kummata. Mummadi Singa was ruling from Doravadi in Kurugodunadu which corresponds to the Bellary and Hospet taluks of Bellary district in Karnataka state. Mummadi Singa probably died in 1314 and was followed by his son Kampila Deva.

Expansion of the kingdom under Kampila Deva

Kampila Deva was born to his queen Mahanayakiti (Manchale Devi) after long prayers to God Someshvara of Kampili. Under Kampila Deva’s rule the kingdom was extended and it included large parts of Bellary, Chitradurga, Raichur, parts of Ananthpur, Shimoga and Dharwad districts. The capital of the kingdom appears to have and been shifted constantly owing probably to the extension of the territory and the requirement of strategy. The earliest was Kampili, two and half miles to the east of Hampi. Kummata and Hosadurga also were their important power centres. After the death of Sevuna Ramachandra in 1312, his son Shankara Deva defied Delhi’s rule and as a result Alauddin Khilji sent his general Malik Kafur to subdue him and in 1313 Shankara Deva attained martyrdom. Later Malik Kafur took steps to bring into submission the feudatories of the Sevunas who did not accept Delhi’s suzerainty and that included the ruler of Kampili. Malik Kafur laid siege to Kummata for a week but as he was recalled returned to Delhi. After the death of Harapala the last Sevuna ruler in 1318, Kampila Deva claimed its right over tracts of territory of the Sevunas on the basis of being their one time subordinate. This led to war with the Hoysalas and trice in 1320, 1321 and 1325 both fought without any party gaining any decisive advantage. Kampila Deva had several wives of which the famous Kumara Rama was born to his queen Hariyala Devi after prayers to Jatinga Rama.

Defied Muhammadan authority

Kampila Deva was actively hostile towards the Tughlaq from the beginning. He is said to have demolished the imperial palanquin which was sent with the officers of the imperial state for demanding tributes and chastised the chiefs who attempted to avenge the insults heaped upon the Sultan. Kampila Deva also gave shelter to fugitives who fled the from Warangal after it was captured by the Turks.

The reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq as Sultan of Delhi saw widespread rebellions. His own cousin Bahauddin Garshasp, the governor of Sagar who had some personal grievances against the Sultan, laid claim to the Delhi throne and revolted in 1326. Muhammad ordered Malik Ahmad Ayaz, the governor of Gujarat and Majir-Abu-Rija, governor of Devagiri to deal with Garshasp and he was defeated somewhere on the banks of Godavari. Garshasp then retreated to his fort at Sagar and was pursued by his enemies. Seeing his chances of success bleak, he fled towards Kampili kingdom with his wives and children and begged Kampila Deva to offer him protection. Kampila Deva promised him protection even if by this act he brought death upon himself and ruin upon his kingdom. Meanwhile Muhammad had taken the field in person and had come to Devagiri and hearing the news of the defeat of Garshasp and his flight to Kampili, he ordered the destruction of the kingdom of Kampili. But the task was not so easy as he expected it to be.

Defeated the imperial army twice

Muhammad bin Tughlaq had to send three expeditions against the ruler of Kampili before he could subdue it. The first one was led by Malik Ruknuddin who besieged Kummata. Kampila Deva’s two sons Katanna and Ramanatha fell upon them and the Muslim forces suffered heavy losses both in men and material and Malik Ruknuddin had to retreat.

The defeat suffered by Ruknuddin lowered the prestige of the imperial army and broke the spell of the invicibility of the might of Islam. The second expedition was led by Qutbul Mulk and once again Kummata was besieged. Kumara Rama charged the Muslims and unable to bear the vigorous onslaught of Ramanatha most of the Muslim officers were slain or taken prisoners and this led Qutbul Mulk to flee. The Sultan felt humiliated of a second defeat and then despatched a third expedition under Ahmad Ayaz Malik Zada, one of the ablest of his officer who laid siege to Kummata which lasted for over two months. Though Kampila Deva came out of the fort and tried to fight they were defeated and had to return back to the fort. When Kampila Deva found Kummata could not be defended he resolved to abandon it and retire to Hosadurga. He slipped out of Kummata along with Bahauddin Gurshasp to Hosadurga. But there he found difficulty in feeding thousands of non-combatants and therefore retaining 5000 ordered others to evacuate the town. Malik Zada after taking Kummata arrived at Hosadurga. Scarcity of food and other provisions forced Kampila Deva to send Gurshasp to the care of Ballala III and make final preparation for facing the enemy.

Preferred death to dishonour

To protect the honour of his womenfolk who if captured would be dishonoured by the Muslim soldiery Kampila Deva commanded a huge pyre to be erected in front of the palace and invited his wife, daughters and other women of the royal family to enter it. They readily agreed and after taking bath, applied sandal wood paste on their bodies, kissed the ground, bowed before Kampila Deva and threw themselves upon the fire. The wives and daughters of the nobles, ministers and chief men of the Kingdom followed their example.

Then Kampila Deva ordered the opening of the gates of the fort and advanced upon the enemy and caused havoc in their ranks until at lost overcome by weariness and numerous wounds dropped dead. His head was severed from the body and stuffed with straw and sent to the court of Muhammad bin Tughlaq. His sons Kumara Rama and Katanna also perished fighting against the Turks. Kampili was annexed and Malik Muhammad was appointed as its governor. Soon after the fall of Kampili, Baichappa, who had been the prime minister of Kampili kingdom under Mummadi Singa and Kampila Deva took measures to safeguard the wealth of Kampili including its golden throne and later helped Vidyaranya and Harihara in the establishment of Vijayanagara empire. The golden throne of Kampili was passed to the Vijayanagara rulers.

Was it a Sacrifice for a futile cause?

It should be noted that Bahauddin Garshasp was one among the numerous Turk nobles who came to south India to wage war against the Hindu kingdoms. Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s suppression of Garshasp’s rebellion would had decreased one Turk noble whose hands had been strained with the blood of numerous Hindus who had fought to protect their independence. Hence the chivalrous act of Kampila Deva unnecessarily culminated in the end of a Hindu kingdom ruled by a valiant king like him and ended in the life of his equally valorous son Kumara Rama. Instead of involving himself in the mutual fights between the Turks, Kampila Deva could have had used his energy to drive them out of south India. But the sacrifice of Kampila Deva, his son and his followers did not go in vain for in the ruins of the kingdom of Kampili rose the mighty Hindu empire of Vijayanagara. Kampila Deva was the forerunner among the rulers of south India who fought against the Turks tyranny and rulers like Ballala III, Kapaya Nayaka and Sangama brothers followed his footsteps resulting in the annihilation of the Muslim rule in south India by 1378.

Immortalised in folklore

Several centuries have passed since the martyrdom of Kampila Deva and his son Kumara Rama. But the heroic deeds of this father and son duo have become legendary and are preserved in folklore.


K.Abhishankar edited – Bellary District Gazetteer, 1972

K.A.Nilakanta Sastri, N.Venkataramanayya – Further Sources of Vijayanagara History, University of Madras, 1946

N.Venkataramanyya- The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, University of Madras, 1942

M.H.Rama Sharma – The History of the Vijayanagar Empire, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1956

M.H.Rama Sharma – Studies in Vijayanagara History, Quarterly Journal of Mythic Society, vol XX, October 1929, No.2