The dying days of Vijayanagar Empire was a saga of betrayals and superhuman struggles for survival till the complete empire except a few areas completely disappeared. It is interesting to note that Vijayanagar is one of the very few empires where literally everyone in the top are self made including the Emperors. Take the case of Matla Chiefs. They are just nobody who just got lucky. But, then, they proved themselves scintillatingly till they hit a bad patch.
The genealogy of the Matla Chiefs comes primarily from Kakutstha Vijayamu by a scion of the family and Abhishiktaraghavamu. Based on both the books, it is estimated that the Matla Chiefs are Kshatriyas of Chola lineage. In Abhishiktaraghavamu, the author Nidimanti Venkatapati says, the founder of the line Bommaraju has an alternate name – Devachoda and that they are of Kasyapa Gotra, Apasthamba Sutra and Yajus-Shakha indicating they are from one of the Telugu Chola families.
The family according to them, was founded by Bommaraja. Nothing is known about Bommaraja and his son Timmaraja. We enter the realm of history only by the time of the third in the line, Konaraja.
During the reign of Sadasivaraya, Vengali Konaraja, the third generation in the dynasty moved to Matli of Rayachoti taluk in Guttivishaya. From then on, they were called as Matla people. He reached Matla, a ruined village with no houses with just four bullocks and three horses. He stayed in the ruined Siva temple, where during a thunderstorm, he found a treasure, hidden inside the Nandi statue of the temple and appropriated it. He got two sons during his stay in the temple – Ellamaraja and Tirumalaraja. Konaraja was followed by Ellamaraja, who married four Kshatriya women – Dademamba, Tirumalamba, Ellamamba and Rangamamba. The story becomes clear only after that. These marriages indicate that whoever he was, Konaraja got hold of some money and settled in a far off place where people don’t know him. Then, they invent a lineage for them and get social legitimacy. Another classic example we have is that of the Recehrla family which ruled Rachakonda and Devarakonda. May be, this is a standard way in that time? If we dig deeper, we don’t know how many such obscure families exist.
Ellamaraja gained control of Matla with the strong arms of his five sons, one of his sons Tirumala gained access to the royal court and got a grant of three villages, Ponnapalli, Penagaluru and Pondaluru. He donated Ponnapalli to the temple of Raghunayaka in Vontimitta with the inscription dated 18 June 1570. This date is important because it sets a starting date for the start of the Matla chieftainship. Pengaluru was renamed Ellamaraja Samudram and donated as an Agraharam. This grant was made by Tirumalaraya, the Vijayanagar Emperor on request of Matla Tirumala. Pottapinadu is also granted to the family. It is important to note that the military services expanded their areas.
In 1579, in a feud, Dasariraju Kondaraju and his brothers occupied the estate of Sari Obana who applied to Velugoti Kasturiranga who marched promptly in their aid. Kondaraju enlisted the services of Ellama stating Kasturiranga insulted Matla Tirumala by crossing his territory without permission. In the Battle at Kodur, Matla Tirumala and his brothers Chinna Timma and Varadaraja were killed and another brother of his, Ananta was captured. It was a decisive victory for Kasturiranga.
Matla Konaraja, the eldest, died fighting against some local palayagars and Ananta was the only one left among his father’s sons who is alive.
A main reason for the rapid rise of Matla Chiefs is their staunch support to Venkatapati Raya during the chaos after the death of Sriranga I. It looks like even this is opportune for the governor of Pottapinadu Kondraju Tirupatiraju annexed a few villages from Matla Ellama in the process of declaring independence. Venkatapati Raya appointed Ellama as his commander, who destroyed Tirupatiraju’s fort at Utakuru after a battle in which Tirupatiraju was killed. The defeated armies were chased and massacred. This was followed by his brother Matla Tirumala’s attack on Tirupatiraju’s brother Venkatadri where Venkatadri was killed. The areas Pulugulanatisima, Pottapi nadu, Siddhavatam were handed over to him in recognition of his services by the Emperor. That was followed by annexation of vast areas in Kamalapuram, Porumamilla, Duvvur and Badvel with royal consent and subjugation of many forest chiefs. It looks like this Matla Tirumala was killed in one of those fights. Ellama was a also part of the forces which tackled that of Nandyala Krishnamaraja’s, the governor of Nandyala and a relative of the Emperor.
A poet, Uppu-Gunduri-Puri Venkata Kavi told Ellama the most meritorious thing is to get a book dedicated to him. Ananta was assigned the task to write the book and Kakutstha Vijayamu was the product. However, it should be noted that Ananta had a fine grip on Telugu and Sanskrit and the book is a fine piece of later Vijayanagar literature.
Since whatever Ellama acquired is through force of arms, a rebellion of the local chiefs broke out immediately on his death approximately in 1605. Konaraja, Ellama’s eldest son died trying to crush the rebellion. Matla Ananta, Ellama’s youngest and only surviving son crushed the rebellion and succeeded his father.
Ananta, as time progressed, got the titles Aivaraganda, Mannehamvira, Rachabebbuli.
During the Golconda Invasion of 1588, Ananta, possibly under Kasturiranga was one of the commanders who rushed to the aid of Venkatapatiraya during the siege of Penugonda and forced the Golconda armies to retreat. Though it is given as Venatapatiraya was not ready, the presence of Raghunatha Nayaka in that area with full force is no coincidence. The Vijayanagar counterattack led to Golconda forces on the back foot from Gutti to Kondavidu. Matla Ananta and Velugoti Kasturiranga defeated a Muslim army supported by the governor of Gurramkonda, Ravella Venkatadri at Kamalakuru. While Kasturiranga went after the Muslim forces, Ananta had Gurramkonda under siege – he killed Venkatadri and occupied Gurramkonda. Ananta was a part of the 1599 invasion of Madurai led personally by Venkata to chastise the Madurai Nayak who launched the banner of rebellion.
When Lingama Nayaka, the governor of Vellore fort rebelled, all his estates were completely annexted. This clearly indicated what fate awaited the Tamil Nayaks if they are reclariant and united against the Empire, with Lingama Nayaka in tow. Matla Ananta was sent to crush the rebellion. First Lingama was defeated. Then, Tanjore Nayak and Madurai Nayak, Muttu Virappa by 1610. In the meanwhile Lingama Nayaka fortified Vellore and got ready for a siege. But, he was taken down by Ananta returning from the southern campaign.
Next was the rebellion of Tammaya Gouda in Kolar – while Ananta took Kolar, Venkatadevaraya himself intercepted Tammaya Gouda marching in aid of Kolar at Krotta-Kanuma and crushed him in battle.
Matla Tiruvengalanatha was a warrior of note by the time he succeeded his father. As a recognition to his services in crushing Muttu Veerappa of Madurai, Venkatapati Raya granted him golden drums, the Pandyan fish standard, his own horse and elephant along with their trappings. He held the titles of Pekkandru-rajula-kokkettu-manya-mandalikara-ganda, Airavanaganda, Suryavamsoddharaka among others. His military exploits include
1. Capture of Gutti, Enumugonda, Surapura, Rayavara, Rayavidu, Vellala
2. Battle of Macholu where he defeated the combined forces of Gandikota and Kandanavolu,
3. Took Pandillapalli, Kokatam and Kallur in a single campaign.
4. Capture of Nandimangala and Kamalapura
5. Battle of Bahuda
6. Battle of Narasapura where he defeated the Hande Chiefs
7. Battle of Porumamilla
It is important to note that during the rebellion of the Gobburi family, Tiruvengalanatha forced the Velama armies of Yachama to retreat from Vogur where Gobburi Ramaraya is based. But, he joined the bandwagon against the Gobburi family after Gobburi Jagga Raya massacred the royal family and helped declare Ramadeva as the next emperor. Though there is no direct reference to the involvement of Matla chiefs at Toppur, it is estimated that they would have fought in support of the Emperor, lead by Yachama and Raghunatha Nayaka of Thanjavur.
With the whole empire split vertically, Bijapur put siege to Kandanavolu. The first one was beaten back with the help of Golconda but the second siege, three years later, turned disastrous. Possibly, the weakening of Vijayanagar after Talikota was due to the fact that governors directly pitted one Bahamani Sultan against another instead of the Raya.
After the failure of the first siege, Adil Shah sent a bigger army to take Kandanavolu. On appeal of Gopalaraja, Matla Tiruvengalanatha and two minor chiefs, Dharmaravu and the Hande Chief joined him. Inspite of the fact that it was understood to be a lost cause and Dharmaravu and the Hande Chief withdrew, Tiruvengalanatha preferred death over surrender or withdrawl.
Kumara Ananta succeeded him and it is said he did a Tulabharam against him and distributed the gold among the Brahmins. It is possible he is not so old when he came to the throne and consequently, a considerable number of polygars instigated his brother Ellamaraja to rebel. Ellamaraja was captured, Kumara Ananta defeated all the polygars, advancing almost till Udayagiri. Matla Kumara Ananta built three gopurams in Tirupati – the one for the Govindaraja temple and two on the steps from Alipiri to Tirumala – Gali Gopuram and Kotta Gopuram. Ellamaraja was later pardoned and an estate was given to him. Kumara Ananta himself is a poet of note, writing Kumudvati Kalyanamu. Due to the quantity of food he had for a meal, he was popularly known as Manuvu Bhojanam Kumara Ananta. He had no sons and adopted his brother Chinna Ananta’s son Anantaraja. His reign saw Mir Jumla’s invasion which crushed the life force out of Vijayanagar. First to fall was Udayagiri through treachery. Next in line was the Matla fiefdom. Ananta, even after surrendering territories, had to buy peace with a large sum of money. With no hope left, Sriranga left to Mysore forcing the Amaranayakas to fend for themselves. The next invasion started from the Matla fiefdom. Ananta, with the support of his uncle Ellama defeated the Golconda army under Bakshi Tryambakrao at Siddhavatam killing two Subedars. Ananta understood that the next war is going to be the end of his fiefdom and migrated with his people to Ikkeri, thus ending the Matla fiefdom for good.
The territories were assigned to Tryambaka Sankarji Pantulu. After the death of Ananta, his sons, Anantaraja and Venkataramaraja migrated to Golconda and as military commanders, help subjugate major Vijayanagar forts like Gutti, Gurramkonda and Penugonda. For the services they offered, their ancestral territories were handed over to them – they made Yerragunta their capital city, a place which they acquired from Yarra Vennkatapati Rayudu, the local chief of that area. Venkataramaraja was succeeded by his nephew Tiruvengalanatha in place of his son Kumara Ananta. But, his Diwan Panchiraju Govindaraju started acting as if Tiruvengalanatha chief is non-existent. He was assassinated after taking permission from the Nawab of Cuddappah. His cousins, who were denied the chieftainship migrated out of the territory out of discontent and launched an invasion after some time with the help of some discontent family members. In the Battle of Tanguturu in 1711, Tiruvengalanatha and his brother Kumara Ananta were killed. The estate reverted over to Chennamaraju and Narasingaraju. The next rebellion was launched by the sons of Tiruvengalanatha’s heir Venkataramaraja. In the Battle of Rallacheruvupalle, a prominent supporter of Chennamaraju, Ranga Reddi is killed and the chief decamped. The fiefdom reverted to Kumara Ananta, the son of Venkataramaraja in 1712. The Nawab of Cuddappah, Abdul Nabi Khan, his suzerain asked Kumara Ananta to suppress a rebellion in his territory which Ananta did successfully. In return, Abdul Nabi Khan granted him all the estates of the subjugated Polygars. Kumara Ananta is noted for his religious and secular donations and was succeeded by his brother Ananta. The bandit, Venkata, who infested Pulugula Nadu and whom Kumara Ananta was able to subdue, Ananta captured him and blinded him. He died in Yerraguntla in 1730. From then on, they were one of those just another Polygars in that area, ending the show as the Rajas of Chitvel.
Dynastic Succession to the fiefdom till 1730.