Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kempe Gowda

Kempe Gowda I (ಕೆಂಪೇಗೌಡ in Kannada) (1513-1569) was a chieftain of Yelahanka (now in present day Bangalore), a tributary of the Vijayanagara kingdom. He is credited with having established the Indian city of Bangalore in 1537. Kempegowda built the four towers which mark the boundaries of Bangalore.

Hiriya Kempe Gowda (c 1513-1569, c 1510-1570 AD) is also called Kempe Gowda, Kempe Gowda I or Bengalooru Kempe Gowda. He showed remarkable qualities of leadership from his childhood. He had the burning desire to extend his Kingdom to provide a just rule over it and to work for the preservation of Hindu Dharma. He studied in a Gurukula type of school in Aivarukandapura (Aigondapura), a village near Hesaraghatta, for nine years.

The story goes that one day he went westward from Yelahanka with his Minister Veeranna and Advisor Gidde Gowda in search of game and arrived near a village called Shivasamudra (near Hesaraghatta) some 10 miles (16 Km) from Yelahanka. While relaxing under a tree he conceived the idea of building a suitable city which would be his future capital. The city he planned was to have a fort, a cantonment, tanks (water reservoirs), temples and people of all trades and professions to live in it. He got the necessary Imperial permission of the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achyutharaya (Dasarahalli record dated 1532) and built the Bangalore fort and the town in 1537 A D. His capital was then transferred from Yelahanka to the new Bangalore.

On the site of the present Kodigehalli village towards the North-inward side of Hebbal tank, there was a small hamlet called "Hale Benga-looru" from where his mother and his wife hailed, Therefore he gave the name Bengalooru, to the new town.

There is another story about the origin of the name, Bengalooru The Hoysala king, Veera Ballala II, during one of his hunting trips in the area of present Bangalore lost his way and after hours of wandering reached a hut of an old woman. The humble woman offered cooked beans to the hungry king, which he gladly accepted and satisfied his hunger. The Prince named the place Benda-kaalu-Ooru (meaning "Boiled-Beans-Town") and in the combined form Bendakalooru. In later usage it became Bengalooru and in the Anglicized form, Ban galore. The 9th century (890 A D) inscription found in Begur, near Bangalore, speaks of the existence of Bengalooru much before the Hoysalas came into history. Therefore, historically the story is not acceptable.

There is an incident of a great sacrifice while the Gowda was building the mud fort of Bangalore. After the fort was built and one of its gates was about to be fixed up, it so happened that the portion so laboriously built all day long, used to collapse during the night The event plunged Kempe Gowda in deep thought. Suggestions were not wanting to remedy the problem. One of them was that if a pregnant woman was offered as a sacrifice at the gate, it would stand. But Kempe Gowda did not agree for that or the offer of his daughter-in-law, who was in the family way, to get herself sacrificed. However, one night his daughter-in-law (Lakshmamma), stole to the fort gate with a sword in hand and praying to her Goddess that the good work of her father-in-law may prosper without any hindrance, she beheaded herself. In the morning the workers found the gate standing intact but they also discovered the immolated body of Lakshmamma with the destructive sword in hand. Kempe Gowda bemoaned her loss and eventually built a temple at Koramangala, a suburb of Bangalore, and installed in it the idol of the heroic Lakshmamma.

Kempe Gowda built eight gates for the fort with a moat surrounding it. Inside the fort two wide roads ran from North to South and East to West. The other roads were made parallel or perpendicular to them. It is said that at the auspicious moment fixed by the astrologer, Kempe Gowda harnessed the bullocks to the ploughs at the central Doddapete square, at the junction of Doddapete (Avenue Road) and Chikka pete, got the ground ploughed and worked the four main streets running in four directions. One ran from Halasoor (Ulsoor) Gate to Sondekoppa Road from East to West, and another from Yelahanka Gate to the Fort running from North to South. These roads are the present Nagarthapete and Chikka-pete; and Doddapete respectively. The streets and the Blocks were demarcated for the purpose they were meant, like for business or residences etc. Streets of Doddapete, Chikkapete, Nagartha-pete were for marketing of general merchandise; Aralepete (Cotton pet), Tharagupete, Akki pete, Ragipete, Balepete etc. were for marketing of commodities like cotton, grain, rice, ragi, and bangles respectively: kurubarapete, Kumbara-pete, Ganigarapete, Upparapete etc. were for trades and crafts, and residences of Kuruba, Kumbara, Ganiga, Uppara castes respectively and similar petes' (Blocks). Halasoorpete, Manava-rthepete, Mutyalapete (Ballapurapete) etc. were meant for other groups of the society. The Agraharas were for the priests and learned classes. He got skilled artisans and craftsmen from the neighboring as well as far oft places and got them settled so that they could pursue their avocations.

Temples of Vinayaka and Anjaneya were built at the Northern Yelahanka Gate of the fort (near the present State Bank of Mysore). Dodda Basavannanagudi (The Bull Temple) and in its neighborhood, Dodda Vinayaka and Dodda Anjaneya and Veerabhadhra temples, were also built outside the fort on the Southern side. Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple in Gavipura was extended; Gangadhareshwara's (Shiva) Ayudhas' (Weapons), 'Thrishula', 'Damaruga' and the two 'Suryapanas (large discs of Sun supported by pedestals) of about 15 feet high, were carved out of a solid rock. A phenomenon witnessed on 'Makara Sankranthi' Day (January 14 or 15) in Gangadhareshwara temple should be pointed out. The rays of the setting Sun enter the 'Mukha Mantapa' through the Western window, pass between the horns of the 'Nandi" (Bull) and reach the 'Shiva Linga' located in the sanctum of the cave. Temples were endowed with substantial land grants, for the maintenance of daily 'poojas' and special 'poojas' on festival days.

Tanks were built for the water supply to the town, to the moat around the fort and for the irrigation of crops. Inside the fort, a big pond enclosed by masonry of dressed granite stones was dug and built (on the South-Western corner of the present Sri krishnarajendra Market). Dhar-mambudhi tank, which supplied water to the town (present Subhash Nagar, Bangalore Transport Service (BTS) and Karnataka State Road Transport Services (KSRTC) bus stands, in front of the city Railway Station), Kempambudhi tank (named after Ranabhaire Gowda's family Goddess, Doddamma or Kempamma), in Gavi-pura Guttahalli (recently dried up) and Samp-igambudhi tank (named after one of the daughters-in-law: present Kanteerava Stadium), which were meant for irrigation, were also built. Irrigational facilities gave much impetus to agriculture and horticulture and also encouraged laying of gardens and raising groves of fruit crops.

Kempe Gowda enlarged his territories and exercised humanness and justice over his subjects. These various developments reached the ears of the Vijayanagar Emperors. They were pleased with his activities and in appreciation, they bestowed on him the villages of Halasooru (Ulsoor), Begur, Varthur, Jigani, Thalagattapura, Kumbalgodu, Kengeri and Banavara, which were yielding an annual revenue of 30,000 Pagodas (a gold coin of Rs 3.5 value).

During Kempe Gowda's reign there was peace and prosperity in his kingdom. The people were contented and prosperous and carried on their avocations without any fear of frequent invasions. He set up his own Mint and struck Bhairava Nanyas (Pagodas or Varahas).

In the mid 16th century the Vijayanagar Emperors, who were well-disposed towards Kempe Gowda were dead and Sadashivaraya was on the throne. He was a weak Emperor and Aliya Ramaraya was all powerful. The neighboring palegar, Jagadevaraya of Channapattana, who had inherited the principality from his father-in-law, a penukonda ruler, was jealous of the prosperity of kempe Gowda and carried tales to the Vijayanagar Court. The minting of his own coins without the Emperor's prior approval and the rise in power of Kempe Gowda reached Ramaraya, who got the Gowda summoned to appear before the Imperial Court. When the Gowda did so, he was imprisoned at Penukonda and his territories were confiscated. Gowda kept his courage and cool and gradually gained the confidence of the Emperor, who recognized the real merit of the Gowda and restored his territories. He was released after being imprisoned for five years.

After he returned from Vijayanagar, the Gowda devoted more time to spiritual and moral welfare of his people He visited Shivaganga, which is famous as Dakshina Kashi, and prayed to the deities, Gangadhara and Honnambike The temples were in the midst of inaccessible rocks and ascent was difficult He built steps leading to the temples and a hall, to the East of the temple, called even today as "kempe Gowdara Hajara" (Audience Hall) Ulsoor Someshwara temple was extended by building a 'Navaranga', 'Mukha Mantapa' and the main 'Gopura'

One of his social reforms was to prohibit the custom of amputating the last two fingers of the left hand of the married women during "Bandi Devaru", an important custom of Morasu Vokkaligas. Besides being a benevolent and just ruler, he was a patron of art and learning. He authored "Ganga-Gouri Sallapamu" an Yakshagana in Telugu, the official court language at that time

After the defeat in the Battle of Talikote in 1565, the Emperor Sadashivaraya and Thiruma-laraya moved to Penukonda. As they were weak rulers many Palegars became independent of the Vijayanagar Empire

It is worthy of Kempe Gowda that Ban galore, which he had the inspiration to found and the foresight to build at the Southern part of Vijayanagar Empire, has grown to vast proportions and blossomed into a modern Metropolis in today's India

He ruled for about 56 years and died in c 1569 There is a metallic statue of Kempe Gowda posthumouslyinstalled(1609)in

Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivaganga and recently in 1964 another statue was erected in front of the Corporation offices in Bangalore According to some literary sources Bengalooru Kempe Gowda's elder son, Gidde Gowda, succeeded his father and he ruled for 15 years (c 1570-1585) but no inscriptions have been found to corroborate this. After him Immadi kempe Gowda (Kempe Gowda II) came to power in 1585.


  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger Namana said…

    Superb collection of information! Too good! Keep posting!

  • At 11:12 PM, Blogger Nagaraja Shivarama said…

    Thanks Namana,

    This is not a just a blog, to read it for sometime and forget later. I want all kannadigas to remember about our history, our culture and go with it.


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