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Soopa Shastra: Did soup flow from Karnataka ?

King Mangarasa III proved himself more of a chef than a king. His treatise named ‘SoopaShastra’ on cookery of medieval Karnataka stands out to be the only compilation in a regional language during the medieval ages. King Mangarasa III belonged to the Chengalvu dynasty who were subordinate kings ruling under the suzerainty of Hoysala kings in the 16th century Karnataka. Mangarasa’s palace once stood in the present day Kallali in HunsurTaluk in Karnataka.

Mangarasa being a well-knownpoet, versified SoopaShastra in 385 stanzas running into six chapters during 15-16th century. The first chapter, ‘Pistakadhyaya’ describes as many as 50 wheat preparations. The next chapter called ‘Panakadhyaya’ deals with food-drinks. Mangarasa in old Kannadameant a good king (manga=good, beautiful; rasa=king). So there were Kings with the same name ruling the same kingdom but they were not related to each other - Mangarasa I wrote on poison; Mangarasa II came up with a dictionary; and Mangarasa IV became a chronicler of Kings in Kashmir.

The existing palm leaf manuscript of SoopaShastra, a poetic treatise in old Kannada was transcribed into prose by S.N. Krishna Jois around sixty years back and later published in 1969 by Mysore University. And now it has been translated into English by MadhukarKonantambigi under the patronage of INTACH, an organisation working towards art and culture. ‘Soopa’ in Kannada means cooked pigeonpea (arhar/tur dal)in semi-liquid form with salt, chilli and turmeric. However, SoopaShastra in general means the science of cooking. The present day English word ‘soup’ may have arisen from this soopa of Karnataka.

Only two Sanskrit books - Bhima and Nala are devoted on cookery but fall short in being called profound works. Mangarasa has obtained help from both these books and besides got inspired by a character of an adept chef, Gouri, Hindu God Shiva’s spouse as mentioned in SkandaPurana. Two earlier Kannada literatures, Lingapurana and Lokopakara have more than fifty stanzas devoted on cookery. However, unlike Soopashastra they are not entirely devoted to cookery. Soopashastra stands apart from all other work done till then in Kannada.

Prodigious culinary acumen
The king uses a hundred items, as spices in his cooking. N.P. Bhatt co-editor of the English translation says, ‘Things change as spices as if magic in his hand. He roasts a coconut in full and uses the contents as a spice. He grates a coconut, puts the contents after a spiced rice is cooked, on top of it and closes for some time and then removes the same and it gives the effect of a wonderful spice!’ Mr Bhatt confesses, ‘The poetry is so eloquent. I was never interested in cookery.’

Mr Bhatt goes eloquent on the king’s strategies - ‘He packs the contents of an item into the leaves of turmeric or plantain or beetle tree and brings the effect of an aromatic spice’. And for all this the king devices vessels right from the mud pot up to the golden vessel to render the desired effect. Mangarasa made use of an impressive array of spices (other than the regular ones) such as cooked semolina, flowers of Bengal gram (chicken pea) and green grams. He also contrived spices for instance by roasting coconut on burning coals with its shell.

Vegetable preparations
Seven types of cooking methods are mentioned in SoopaShastra  - roasting, seasoning or tempering, burning or baking, boiling in water, steam baking and subjecting to prolonged heat to refine.Mangarasa though a practicing Jain where onion is not allowed, describes food items where onion is used liberally. Interestingly, we find many preparations of bamboo from a chef king in the southern part of India. As such, bamboo preparations in south India are perhaps unheard of. But Mangarasa cooked bamboo sprout porridge, bamboo sprout fry, bamboo sprout milky way and variant preparations of bamboo sprouts.

The book contains several quaint  and quirky though ingenious preparations. For instance, Flowered vermicelli, rice flower bloom and umpteenth of Mangarasa’a innovations.

Rice preparations
Several exotic names crop up in SoopaShastra - butter treated rice, coconut treated mixed rice, milk porridge, macaroni porridge, butter porridge, coconut porridge, cream porridge, cream rice, mango rice, tamarind rice, mustard rice, spiced butter milk rice, milk wheat porridge and curd wheat porridge.

Soft drinks
In the chapter Panakadhyaya devoted on soft drinks, Mangarasa dwells on various types of butter milk. In one preparation, he advises, salt, mustard powder, fresh ginger, onion, coriander leaves and flavours of fragrant screw pine (ketaki). In one other type, he advises, ‘Put the raw butter, crushed mango to flavor it.’  The preparation, milky bloom on the sling uses milk cream, curd cream, thickened cream, juice of sooji, juice from grated coconut, milk, pepper powder, salt and ghee.

King Mangarasa devised several methodologies for making curd, ‘Rasaladahi’ that is citron tinged or made by mixing cardamom, dry ginger and sometimes onion which makes it last longer than otherwise curds last. Again by mixing processed mango juice with milk while curdling, ‘one can get exquisite mango coloured and flavoured sweet curd. Red saffron can also be mixed in the same way and it will be saffron flavoured excellent curd called kumkuma (kashmirs) RanjithaDahi.’ Mangarasa also mentions of curd with bael fruit essence.

The present relevance and feasibility of SoopaShastra holds aplomb

Dr B Manjula in her book, KannadadalliSoopaShastra or SoopaShastra in Kannada Literature comes up with several interesting corroboration to adjudge Mangarasa.

In the chapter, Pishtakadhyaya, items made with flour such as rotti, mandige, garige, dose, iddali have been described. What is mentioned as rotti, rotiks in Sanskrit and rotti, rotte, rottia in Dravidian languages has been in practice in India for centuries and the term ‘katorti’ mentioned in ‘RamcharitaManasa’ by Tulsidas resembles ‘roti’. Again, in the 16th century, the work ‘BhavaPrakasha’ by Bharata Mishra has mentioned the Sanskrit term ‘rotiks’. Ancient Kannada poetry has used ‘rotika’ even earlier.

The much sought after dish, mandige has been in vogue right from the seventh century. Mangarasa has dealt upon preparing dose (dosa)using different corns and grains that still goes on using mediums like gramdal, green gram, wheat, rice, jowar, ragi and sooji. Mangarasa has mentioned a type of dosa called ‘chandramandala’ that bears close resemblance with the present day iddali prepared on steam in small plates. Mangarasa describes a dish called veiled vada whose preparation is exactly same as the modern blackgramvada.

Surprisingly, Mangarasa has not mentioned the proportion of ingredients. Perhaps, it has been left to the sense of the cook. Certain vegetables like cabbage, ladyfinger, potato and green chillies do not find any mention. Strange enough, bitter gourd which grew in abundance in the area at that time is nowhere mentioned by Mangarasa.

Reading the book will sizzle epicurean taste buds. Do not feel morbid to set the platter. Although some of the dishes, and the procedures the poet describes, may not appear useful or practicable, his works remain epochal. There is mention of innumerable delicious items that could be successfully cooked with judicious changes according to modern tastes and trends. Amazingly, Mangarasa’s work can serve as a very good guide to cooking even today. Bon appétit!

(The writer RatnadeepBanerji is a senior journalist with varied interests, reachable at

[Source:TheSoopaShastraoh of Mangarasa III; Edited in English by N.P.Bhatt, N Modwell] 


Related Topics
Idly Origin
Kannada Kings

Noble Persian in Service of Kadamba Maharaja in Ancient Gandhara

During clearance of storage boxes in the Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin, Dr Caren Dreyer came across a bunch of old photographs taken by Mr G.W.Leitner in the Museum of Lahore at the end of the 19th century. Most of the pictures show well-known Kharosti epigraphs. The few Brähmi epigraphs are likewise well-documented. One picture, however, labelled 'VIII 10159' shows a rectangular stone-slab of about 60x20 cm length, never before presented in photography.

Some time before 1911 an estampage was made and in that year sent to the office of the Govemment Epigraphist for India by G.A. Wathen, Curator of the Lahore Museum.  In 1919, D.R. Sahni (1920) wrote a note on 'Unpublished inscriptions in the Central Museum, Lahore'. At least for this and three more pieces he seems to have seen only the rubbings, not the objects themselves. He reported on its origin «in a spring tank three miles from Abbottabad» , probably based on the notes sent by Wathen. Abbottabad is about 60 km north-east of Taxila and can be regarded as part of the cultural sphere of Gandhära, although the area today called Hazara is situated geographically at the periphery of it.

It was only in 1953 that D.C. Sircar, then Chief Epigraphist, came to see the rubbing. He published the rubbing together with his reading, referring to the fragmentary decipherment as found in Sahni's note. He dates the inscription on paleographical grounds as 3rd century AD. The Inscription came in four lines as below.

sa(m}) märgasira di pratha kärito ya
kumärasthanam gasurana makaputrena
säpharena mahäriija-kadambeSvaradäsa-ra(?)[e?]
data(h}) bhak{s}a(h})

Year 25, first day of Märgasirsa, this place for Kumära was caused to be made by
the Gasura saphara, son of Maka, [during the reign?] of the Mahäräja [calIed] the
'Servant of the Lord of the Kadamba[ -tree]'.
Food has been provided

Maharaja kadambesvaradasa
Sircar equated the King kadambesvara to be a Kushan king and tried to fit into kushan chronology. But left it off without any further additions.

We can see here that Kadambesvara is Kadamba king of South India. Kadambas worship kadamba Tree. So Kadambesvara dasa can only mean Kadambas of Banvasi. But Kadambas ruled in South India about 2000km from Abottabad. Now does the inscription says king is servant of the person, No it says the lord of the person who gave the inscription is kadamba king. Did kadamba rule extended to Afghanistan. That possibility looks remote.

Now let us come to the early part of the inscription. It says Saphara built temple of kumara (kumarasthanam). Kumara is other name of karthikeya. Now kathikeya or Shanmuga or skanda has special place in the kadamba kingdom. In Mahabharata mother of Karthikeya is venerated as Kadamba. Kadamba inscripton speaks of skanda from Kadamba tree helped to establish the dynasty.

Now kadambas are well known from the times of Mayuravarman. Mayuravarman alludes to Karthikeya, whose sign is peacock feathers. Kadamba inscriptions talk about their diety as skanda, karthikeya, Mahasena all denoting the kumara.

The spelling admits to versions, Gasurena, Gasuranam, Sircar said the inscription says Gasurana. The Term is Gasura is also spelled Gusura, Gosura or Gausura. Gusura comes from documents of Central Asia. Documents says high souled (noble) Gausuras and Servants of kings. First group is higer than later. Luders points out gusura mahatvana found in Niya Documents, regarded the highest titles in the area. Burrow says to H W Bailey, that Gusura means son of the house from Aramic and Avesta texts. H W Bailey rather than pointing out says its military rank and points to inscription from Swat by senavarman of Odi in reference to Kujula Kadphises. So Gausrana seems to either nobleman or leader of some rank.

Maka in kannada means Son. But here it seems to denote son of maka. Ancient Magas is well known. We cannot deduce maka is name of father or the clan or country he comes from.

Sapharena is name of the person giving inscription or who established the kumara temple. Sims-williams says it Saphar as name from Rabatak inscription. Now the name ends with phara, which is persian farnah similar to Gondophernes. So it indicates Persian or Iranian Background.

What does it say
The Inscription presents a highborn soldier or Knight, who is probably leader of group of soldiers. He must have been in service of Kadamba Maharaja. The knight installs a place of worship in Hazara for Kumara or Karthikeya, who is regarded as the power to kadamba king.

1. Soldiers from Northwest India (Afghanisthan), Perisa, Central Asia came to serve under leadership of Kadambas.
2. It talks about leadership qualities of Kadambas
3. Even after he goes back to his native place, he still considers to his master and dates inscription to the year of the king.
4. The kind of devotion shown by kadamba to Karthikeya , that person from different background, religion, language takes the faith of the kadamba ruler.
5. This inscription marks the beginning of the end of Karosthi and start of Brahmi inscriptions or replacement of Karosthi by Brahmi.
6. The Inscription marks the beginning of sanskrit replacing Prakrit.
7. Skanda cult was very popular in Northwest, but here the kadambas are held high on this regard replacing the local tradition.
8. The Name Hazara is derived from Urasha. Did the name came from kannada word UR (meaning from city). Did Sapharena renamed his region as URs from kannada.

Kadamba king did not go to Abbottobad to make the inscription, but his fame has reached this place. The Noble soldier in service of the kadamba king still revers the king he served even after 25 years of service and creates the temple to kartikeya worshipped by his lord kadambesvara. This shows the great Personality , Leadership, Character  of Kannada king, that person of foreign origin, born with different background, takes him as his lord, eventhough he is far removed and years have passed, out of free will with no swords dangling on him in the age of no TV, Radio or Internet. That is true character.

Six Early Brahmi Inscriptions of Gandhara by Harry Falk
Studies in the religious life of ancient and medieval India By Dineschandra Sircar


Related Topics 
Karnatka and Persia (Iran)
Buddhist Legacy
Kannada Kings

Brahmagiri, Maski and other Ashokan Archeological Sites

Brahmagiri is located in the Chitradurga district. BRAHMAGIRI (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2). Excavations at the site have revealed considerable archaeological evidence pointing to Brahmagiri having been an important centre in south India even well before the Mauryan period. Continual habitation for many thousands of years resulted in its emerging as an influential town, particularly after it had become one of the southern outposts of the Mauryan empire. It may also have been the starting point of pilgrimages to the sources of the two rivers, Godavari and Kaveri.

Bricks built caityas have been excavated in Brahmagiri 1942 and again in 1947, There is no evidence to date the caitya, though the brick sizes are similar to those from Dharanikota. A comparison with similar structures from the north is revealing.

At that time the place was called Isila Patna. The kannda word – Sila was pronounced as Isila in Prakrit, the language used by Asoka in the edict. So the place name must have been Sila Patnam (sila – rock, patnam – town). Let us see more details.

Archeological  Excavations

The site was first explored by Benjamin L. Rice in 1891, who discovered rock edicts of Emperor Ashoka here. These rock edicts indicated that the locality was termed as Isila and denoted a part of the Mauryan empire. The Brahmagiri site is a granite outcrop elevated about 180 m. above the surrounding plains and measures around 500 m east-west and 100 m north-south. It is well known for the large amount of megalithic monuments that have been found here. The e settlements found here has been dated to at least the 2nd millennium BC.

After being explored by Rice in 1891, M. H. Krishna who belonged to the Archaeological Department of the Mysore state, excavated the area in 1940. In 1947, Mortimer Wheeler further excavated the site on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India. The region was excavated again in 1956 by Seshadri and by Amalananda Ghosh in 1965 and 1978.

During his excavations, M. H. Krishna discovered medieval stone temples, pottery, terracota beads and figurines, semiprecious stones and megalithic structures. After digging 16 trenches he identified the following cultures: Microlithic, Neolithic, Iron Age, Maurya and Chalukya-Hoysala. He named the microlithic culture as Roppa culture after the Roppa village within which the microlithic trench was located. He also found out that the neoliths found in this region were evidence of the occupation of this region by farming-herding communities in the pre-megalithic period.

In 1947, Mortimer Wheeler did further excavations at Brahmagiri, found ten domestic structures and classified them as belonging to a sequence of three cultural periods: Period I - Neolithic or Neolithic-Chalcolithic, Period II - Megalithic and Period III - an early historical culture. Brahmagiri was identified to contain a mortuary of 300 tombs with burials made in rectangular cists, cist-circles (stones surrounding granite cists) and pit-circles. The cists also included artefacts like vessels with graffiti, stone beads and iron and copper tools

Period I (Neolithic)
Dated to 3rd Millennium to 2 Millennium BC. The objects found in this period included a large number of polished stone axes made of dolerite, microliths like crescents, gravers and blades made of jasper, agate carnelian and opal, and ornaments worn by humans like bronze rings and beads of magnesite, agate and shell. Handmade vessels made of coarse grey fabric and with shapes like globular vase, shallow bowl and spouted bowl were also found. The infants who died in this period, had their body folded and were buried in urns while the adults were buried in pits in an extended way.

Period II (Megalithic)
Dated to 2nd Millennium to 1st Millennium BC. It was found that the humans who inhabited Brahmagiri during this period used iron for agricultural tools like sickles and for weapons like spears, swords and arrowheads. Pottery of this period were made in shapes like hemi-spherical deep bowl, funnel shaped lid, shallow dish and three-legged pots among others. The vessels appear in three kinds of fabrics: polished black and red ware, all-black ware, and bright and coarse dull-red ware.The burials in this period were done in stone cists or excavated pits which were surrounded by boulders arranged in the shape of a circle or concentric circles. The cists also contained funeral pots and objects like iron implements and beads.

Period III
Dated to 1st Millennium BC. In this period, sophisticated pottery was made using fast wheels. The vessels were made in shapes like shallow dish, cups and vases, coated in a russet colour and painted with geometrical designs in white colour. Ornaments found included bangles of shell, clay, bones, glass and gold, and beads of magnesite, agate, carnelian and terracotta.

Period IV (Ashoka and Satavahana period)
The Ashokan and Satavahana period sites are well documented.

K A Nilakantha Sastri, said that the Brahmagiri site, near Ashoka Siddapura, "is remarkable for its culture continuity extending from the polished stone axe culture to early historic cultures.” He also said that there were two phases of the stone axe culture here (known from a study of the pottery found here)., and that the authors of this culture knew how to use Neolithic celts, microliths, and how to work copper and bronze. The French Institute of Pondicherry, has published a Historical atlas of South India. If we superimpose the maps of the Stone Age, the New Stone Age and the Iron (Megalithic Age), we can see that Bellary had a continuous human civilization from 5,000 years.

N Kameswara Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, has published a research paper in which he said that the megalithic stone circles at Brahmagiri, which have been dated at 900 BC show clear astronomical orientation.

The geometrical properties of the circle indicate the sunrise and the full moon rise at the time of solar and lunar solsitices and equinoxes. “The megalithic people were aware of the 18.61 period of the moon's solstice, in addition to keeping track of the sidereal day, the seasons and the year.”

Nearby Sites

GAVIMATH (Minor Rock Edict 1). Gavimath is situated in modem Mysore and is one among the group of places in the neighbourhood of Siddapur where this edict is found with great frequency. Its importance may have been largely due to its being a mining area or on an important route.

JATINGA-RAMESHWAR (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2) This site lies about three miles from Brahmagiri and the inscription belongs to the Mysore group. It might originally have been a place of religious interest since the inscription is within the precincts of the present Jatinga-Rameshwar temple.

MASKI (Minor Rock Edict 1). Maski is in the Raichur district. It lies on the bank of the Maski river which is a tributary of the Tungabhadra. The site came into prominence with the discovery of a minor rock edict of Emperor Ashoka by C. Beadon in 1915. It was the first edict of Emperor Ashoka that contained the name Asoka in it instead of the earlier edicts that referred him as Devanampiye piyadasi. This edict was important to conclude that many edicts found earlier in the Indian sub-continent in the name of Devanampiye piyadasi, all belonged to Emperor Ashoka. The edict is etched on a rock-face of Durgada-gudda, one of the gneissic outcrops that are present in the site.

An identification of Maski with Suvarinagiri has been suggested but it is unacceptable as will be clear in the consideration of the location of Suvarnagiri.

Maski was studied initially by Robert Bruce Foote in 1870 and 1888. In 1915, C. Beadon, a mining engineer, discovered Ashoka's rock edict here. In 1935-37, the archaeological department of Hyderabad state explored this region and in 1954, Amalananda Ghosh excavated this place on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The excavations indicated that the region was occupied across four different cultural periods; Period I: Neolithic-Chalcolithic, Period II: Megalithic, Period III: Early historical and Period IV: Medieval. In Period I, microliths and blades made of agate, chert, carnelian and opal are found. Ornamental beads of agate, coral, shell and other materials are also found. Dull-grey ware and painted-buff ware pottery are found, some of which were painted with linear patterns. Animal remains of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat are also found. Period II saw the introduction of iron and five different forms of burials were discovered. Lances, ferrules, daggers and arrowheads were found, apart from beads of gold and terracotta objects. The pottery of Period II consisted of the megalithic red-and-black ware, all-black ware and red-slipped ware, some of which had graffiti on them. Coins were discovered in the Period III which also saw the use of Russet-coated painted ware. The earliest specimens of Indian glass were also discovered at Maski. A cylinder seal has also been found here.

Maski inscription is Important Inscription in three ways , first it was the first inscription to give both Priyadarshan and Ashoka , thus identifying Ashoka with Priyadarshin.

Second is Identification of Suvarnagiri with (karnataka). Before this inscription was discovered various places were identified as suvarnabhoomi and there was a wide speculation on where the ancient swarnabhoomi was. With this inscription we know swarnabhoomi is the golden land of karnataka

Third the Earliest specimen of Glass. Which shows karnataka was the pioneer of high technology in India not just now but also in ancient times as well.

PALKIGUNDU (Minor Rock Edict 1). Palkigundu lies at a distance of four miles from Gavimath. This site again belongs to the group around Brahmagiri.

To the west of Palkigundu, there is a hillock called the Malimallappa hill, on the top of which are a number of dolmens. Some of these dolmens, which are locally called Moriyara-angadi or Moriyas shops, are intact, while others are disturbed. The fields between this hill and the Palkigundu hill are called Pandavara vathara

SIDDAPUR (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2). Siddapur lies one mile to the west of Brahmagiri, and three miles south of the location of the Jatinga-Rameshwar inscription. This group of inscriptions may have marked the southern boundary of the empire, in addition to their importance from other points of view which we have already considered. one at Siddapura is found on ‘Emmetammana Gundu’

SUVARNAGIRI (Minor Rock Edict). Suvarnagiri is the modern town of Kanakagiri south of Maski in Hyderabad. The word means 'golden mountain' and this has been connected with the ancient gold-mining area in Raichur which to this day shows traces of ancient gold workings. Suvarnagiri was the capital of the southern province of the empire.

Brahmagiri Revisited: A Re-Analysis of the South Indian Sequence  by KATHLEEN D. MORRISON

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Environment Friendly Mining in Ancient Karnataka

by Tushar Gandhi

During my travels through Karnataka and And­hra, I have seen evidence of how our ancestors were very mu­ch aware of the importance of metals and minerals. How to explore them, mine them and extract metals from ore. Ancient Indians were smelting zinc, apart from producing brass, copper, iron, gold and silver, and producing complex alloys long before Damascus became famous for steel. The complex composition of the Ashoka Pillar at Qutub Minar still baffles mo­dern metallurgists.

Last week, I visited a tiny hamlet in Chickmagalur district of Karnataka. Towards the west of the village, on a hilltop there is a temple built by the villagers in memory of a saint who had done penance in a cave on the hilltop for the betterment of the residents.

The man-made cave, in which the sage did penance, was an ancient mine. A mine discovered and developed by our ancestors some seven to eight hundred, or even more years ago. The ancient mine is a well planned and developed, an example of expertise and engineering skills. Ancient Indians had even built a large tank on the hilltop to store water required for mining operations. British explorers have lavishly praised the ancient mine and marvelled at its technological brilliance. The ancient mine was not a gold or diamond mine, it was a mine for zinc, lead and traces of silver.

We went up to the summit of the hill and hugging its ea­stern slope, we walked do­wn tracing the path where anci­ent Indians worked. The ancient mine starts at the peak of the hill, goes across the summit and then down the north slope into the plain. It is not a series of holes in a hillside, it’s not a bunch of tr­enches; it is a well designed underground mine. An ancient geologist had prospected and discovered the mineral deposit and had accurately mapped its occurrence identifying where the rich deposits existed and then sunk a series of shafts, audits and dug out an underground mine. The mine consists of many shafts and a long underground tunnel; a tunnel almost a couple of hundred metres long. The men who designed the mine had calculated how much rock needed to be chipped off so that the did not cave in and crush the miners and yet they extracted the maximum qu­antity of ore. They only st­opped when they hit hard rock, impervious to their pr­imitive tools.

The beauty of the ancient mine is that there are no signs of the mining activity harming the surroundings or causing ecological damage. Today, in not too far off Bellary, Karnataka, one witnesses the devastation caused by modern miners and shudders to see how man’s insatiable greed for minerals and metals is ravaging the environment. Modern Bellary is an example of the devastation caused by mining; the ancient mine I visited is a shining example of how mineral extraction doesn’t need to damage or ravage our environment and leave behind a wasteland. Now, centuries la­ter, the roof of the old mine has collapsed. In ancient ti­mes, when it was a producing mine, it must have been an awe-inspiring site, it still is.

The old mine in Chickmagalur district is not a stray incident of the brilliance of our ancestors. In Gadag district of Karnataka, I have seen many ancient works where our ancestors, many centuries ago, mined for gold. I have climbed a hill that has a large deposit of gold ore; the hill is peppered with holes dug by our ancestors to extract gold bearing ore. One sees no evidence of the gold on the surface, I was accompanied by geologists who showed me gold ore, only then did I realise that I was walking on a mountain of gold. Ancient Indians could identify gold-bearing ore, knew how to mine it and how to extract pure gold from the ore. In another place, where gold ore is available on the surface, I have seen cr­aters where ancient gold pro­spectors patiently ground the surface of the ore-bearing rock, collected the grinds and extracted gold. The rock surface here is dimpled by craters large and small, where ancient miners ground away patiently and extracted miniscule quantities of gold. They knew that the rock contained gold.

In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh too, I have gone down shafts and tunnels dug by our ancestors in pursuit of gold. Ancient India was famous for its diamonds and gems and its mineral wealth, a wealth explored and extracted by those whom we call primitive people.

India was the jewel of the world, a world that lusted for our wealth and our vast kn­owledge. Because of our ancient wisdom and technology, we became the envy of the world. We discovered metals and how to extract them and then lost the technology and wisdom, Europeans recognised the importance of metals and minerals and based on that, ushered in the industrial revolution and conquered the world. We abandoned our ancient wisdom and knowledge; we forgot the technical skills of our ancients and were enslaved.

(Tushar Gandhi is Founder President of Mahatma Gandhi Foundation)

Technical prowess of ancient India

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Legends of Ganga Dynasty Origin

There are various legendary stories of Ganga Dynasty Origin, especially when during 8th to 10th century AD. Let us analyse them

Legends of Origin
Ikshvaku Lineage
Traditional Account of Gangas, says Harischandra of the Ikshvaku vamsa (ikshvaku of Ramayana, Mahabharata) had a son named Bharata, whose wife Vijaya Mahadevei bathed in Ganges to remove her langour and begot Gangadatta, whose posterity were Gangas. On one of inscription, Bhagadatta, was betowed the government of Kalinga, while to sridatta his brother, was given the ancestral kingdom with the elephant which became the Ganga Crest. God Indra gave to priya Bandhu one of this dynasty five tokens with a warning that they would disappear if the king proved an apostate. During the agression by Mahipala of Ujjain on the territory of Padmanabha Ganga demanding surrender of the five tokens, the two sons of padmanabha Ganga with their sister and attendent brahmins and the tokesn were sent southwards to escape assault. These two sons Didiga and Madhava were the founders of Ganga Dynasty. This is 9th century Legend.

Ganges Lineage
Kalinga Ganga inscriptions says that Purvasu, son of Yayati being without sons practiced self restraint and propitiated the river Ganga, which means the obtained a son Gangeya, whose decendents were victorious in the world as Ganga Line.

Krishna Lineage
Durvinita is mentioned in the Gummareddipura Plates as belonging to the lineage of Krishna.

Kanva Lineage
Jayaswal says that Gangas are from Kanvayanas of Magadha. Last king of Kanvayanas was Susarman was taken prisoner and removed to the south by satavahana. The Kanvayana empire according to Jayaswal ended in 28 BC. So he says the Ganga Empire started around that time.

Tumbura Lineage
In the Andhavaram copperplate inscription of Indravarman III of Ganga dynasty, the Gangas are described as the descendants of the Tumbura dynasty. Vayu Purana that at the foot hills of the Vindhyas, there was a Janapada (human habitation) named Tumura, Tumbura.

Kongu region.
Some historians claim the earliest home of the Gangas was the Kongu region in Tamil Nadu accepting in to the twelfth century Shimoga inscription. They further qualify their reasoning with a seventeenth century chronicle called Kongidesarajakkal. They have identified Perur (the place where the prince supposedly met the Jain guru) as a location in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. This is because some inscriptions call them Konganiyarasas (kings of Kongu region).However it has been pointed out that this epithet may have come into use only because the Kongu region came under their control quite early in their rule. However studies has proven that the earliest lithic record calling the Ganga kings Konganipattam (Kongani crown) starts only with the Serugunda inscription of 6th century, during the rule of King Avinita, indicating the conquest of the Kongu region by Avinita. This is proof enough, , that the Gangas were not natives of the Kongu region of modern Tamil Nadu either. Perur is now identified as Cudappah, Andhra Pradesh.

Ganga Pallava Theory
The Ganga Pallava Theory was propounded by Mr.Hultzsch . His theory is based on Bahur plates which also mention that Konkani verma who is the ancestor of Gangas. According to this theory.

Nirputanga is not a pallava , He unsurped the title of Pallvas, Name Konkani verma present in the geneology in Bahur plates proves that he is decendent of Western Ganga Dynasty not Pallava Dynasty. If you see Ganga-Pallava theory then it is based on the presence of Name.Kongani verma in the plates.

This theory does not take into account that that there is not proof to establish that Nirputanga is decendent of Konkani verma, Konkani mentioned in plates is same as konkani verma of Ganga dynasty, Nirputanga is not decendent of Nandi varma pallavamalla. In this background another person called Venkayya came into picture and added more masala into it. His theory is based on the premise that if the king calls himself pallava then he is pallava. He adds further that the Dantivarman mentioned in Triplicane, Tiruvellarai inscriptions and Nandipottaraiyan of Pallavatilaka family are Pallavas, so the family continued to exist after the death of Nandivarman pallavamalla at the hands of western chalukya king vikramaditya II. But he does not apply the theory to Bahur plates, where Nirputanga calls himself Pallava. And Venkayya proposes the Nandivarman, Danti, are pallava family and there existed another Ganga-Pallava dynasty consist Narashimavarman, Danti, Nandi and Nirputanga of Bahur plates. They carry titles Vijaya. This theory fell flat when inscriptions of Valuvar,Velurpaliayam proved beyond doubt that Successors of Nandivarman pallavamalla has Ko-Visaya Prefix and Nirputanga is son of Nandivarman III. The deciphering of Vayalur plates has given complete geneology of Pallvas as after pallava, asoka, Harigupta, Aryavarman, and Some others. , we have Kalinda, Byamalla, Kamalla, Vimala, Konkanika, Kalabhartri, Chutupallava,Vikrakurchamalla. Which shows the close political association and Marital relations between Pallavas and Gangas.
Bharata Lineage
According to the 1122 AD. inscription of Kalluragudda the Gangas were descendents of the Ikshvaku dynasty which was ruling Ayodhya. The queen Vijayamahadevi, wife of Bharatha of Ayodhya while taking bath in river Ganga birth to a son Gangadatha. The dynasty of Gangadatha who was born by the grace of Ganga river became the Gangas. Vishnugupta of that lineage was so valorous that Lord Indra was pleased by him and he gave him an elephant as a reward. The elephant thus was adopted in the emblem of Gangas. This is a legend and could not be accepted as an historical evidence. However, the story further runs up to the establishmeht of a kingdom by Dadiga and Madhava. Indra was pleased with Padmanabha, another king of this lineage and gave him five emblems or ornamentals seals and cautioned him that if any of the king’s descendents took to unethical path the seals would be destroyed. The king Mahipala of Ujjaini wanted these emblems and brought pressure on Padmanabha. But he refused to give them up and a battle was waged. However, as a precaution he sent his two sons Madhava and Dadiga to south. These brothers who thus came to south met a jain ascetic by name Simhanadi and under his directions they established a small kingdom. It was called Gangavadi 96,000.

Northern origins.
Dr. S.N. Rajaguru has given the following opinion:“Different royal dynasties, while narrating their geneology, were eager to identity themselves with the famous solar or lunar dynasties of the Puranas” Dr. H. K. Mahatab and other historians have given similar opinions and have said that for this reason the geneology available from these inscriptions do not tally with the historical facts.

Ganga and Gangas
Most theories has been based on Ganga and River Ganges. Somehow they should be related. Ganga Empire is called Gangavadi or Gangapadi. However Gangas started their kingdom in Kolar and later Nandi Hills(Near Bangalore). Only later Talavanapura (Talakad) was established as Capital. Inscriptions call them Konganis after their Kongani verma, though they call themselves Kanga vamsa.

Kalinga Gangas
The Western Ganga king Durvinita is mentioned in Gummareddipura Plates as belonging to the lineage of Krisna, a fact which induces the conclusion that the both Gangas were same like the Kalinga Gangas who formed an important line in the seventh and eigth centuries and continued their rule down to the sixteenth century.

Pallava - Ganga
Ganga Harivarma was installed to the throne by Pallava Simhavishnu. We can arrive at the Chronology by Synchronism of Pallavas and Gangas for the starting point of Ganga Dyansty. We arrive at 340 for Kongani Madhava Coronation.

Simhanandin cornation of Dadiga.
Konganivarman and son Madhava if assumed ruled for 100 years than, we arrive at date 350 AD. Now his brother Dadiga helped by by Acharya Simhanandin for foundation of Ganga Rule. This is mentioned in many inscriptions and is a collateral fact. Acharya Simhanandin is mentioned with Elacharya Padmanandin. But nowhere is Kundakunda is Mentioned, whose is dated in 8 BC- 44 AD. Now Samadrabhatra is mentioned before Simhanandin in inscriptions and he cannot be dated before 250 AD. But this will also take Simhanandin past 300 AD. So Cornation of Kongani Verma is around 340AD.

Simhanandi Vow for Gangas.
If you fail in what you promise, if you
descend from the J aina Sasana, if you take the
wives of others, if you are addicted to spirits or
flesh, if you associate with the base, if you give
not to the needy, if you flee in battle-your
race will go to ruin

(From Inscriptions we get )
Kampa (Founder)
Padmanabha (Saka 111 or 188 AD) (188 - 239)(Contemproary of Mahipala)(Daughter Alabbe)
Madivarma (Madhava Verma) (Married Alabbe)(Sons Konganivarma Madhava, Dadiga, Unknown)
Konganivarman Madhava Mahadhiraja (340-370AD)(Son Madhavavarma)(Conquerer of Bana Mandala)
Dadiga (Defeated Matsya Army)(Crowned by Simhanandi)
Kiriya Madhavavarma Mahadhiraja I (Wrote Commentary on Dattaka Sutra) (Sons Harivarma, Aryavarma, Krishnavarma)

Talakad Mainline
Harivarman (390-410AD) (Used Elephants in War, Built Capital Talavanapura(Talakad))
Vishnugopa (Worshipper of Narayana (Vishnu), protector of Brahmans, Cows)
Madhava II Tandangala (430-466AD) (Married Sister of Kadamba Krishnavarma)(Worshipper of Tryambaka (Shiva))
Avinita Kongani(466-495AD)(Appointed as Infant on Mothers Lap)(Under Jain Guru VijayaKirti) (Married Daughter of Skandavarma Raja of Punnad)
Durvinita Kongani (495 - 535AD) (Wrote Commentary on Kiratarajuniya (by Bharavi))(Jain Grammarian and his Perceptor Pujyapada wrote Sabdavatara)(Defeated Pallava Jayasimha, annexed Kaduvetti and placed his daughters son on throne)(Conquered Andari,Alattur(in Coimbator), Porulaye(in Chengalpet), Pennagara(in salem) and others)(Worshipped Vishnu)
Mushkara (Mokkara)(535-608AD)(Married daughter of Sindhu Raja) (Son Srivikrama)
Srivikrama (608 - 654) (Sons Bhuvikrama(Monovinita, Sri Vallabha, Kesiga), Durgamara(Dugga), Shivamara(SthiraVinita, Ghana Vinita, Sripurusha, Navakama, Nava Chokka, Sivakumara)(Married Princess of Sindhu Raja(Sindha ruler of Erambarige))

(Bhuvikrama of Kolar Branch Took over the Talakad Branch after Death of Srivikrama)
Sivamara I (Sons Duggamara, Ereganga (Ereyappa)) (Navakama, Prithuvi Kongani,Sripurusha I) (679 - 713)(Has under his guardianship two grandsons of Pallavas)
EreGanga (Son Sripurusa II (Muttarasa))
Prithvipati (Prithuyasas)(726)(Defeated Pandya Varguna, lost life saving his friend)(sons Marasimha, Kamaranava(brothers Went to Kalinga to establish Eastern Gangas))
Sripurusha II (Muttarasa, Permanadi, Prithuvi Kongani) (726-777) (Grandson of Sivamara)(Sons Sivamara,Duggamara, Lokaditya)(Reconquered Kaduvetti from Pallavas)(Changed capital to Manne in Nelamangala)(Reinstated Bana King Hastimalla)(Author of Gajas Astra)
Shivamara II(Saigotta) (780 - 814) (Son Marasimha)(Author of Gajashataka)(Took on the Combined might of Rastrakutas, Chalukyas, Haihaya Chiefs at Murungundur (Mudugundur,Mandya))(Twice Imprisoned by Rastrakutas)(Died Fighting Rastrakutas)
(Rastrakuta Appointed own Viceroys Dharavarsha's Son Kambha or Ranavaloka (802AD), Chakki Raja (813AD))
Vijayaditya (814-869)(Brother of Shivamara)
Rachamalla I (Satyavakya)(869 - 893)(Son of Vijayaditya)(Sons Ereyappa, Buttuga)
Ereyappa (Mahendrantaka)(921 AD)
Butuga (Ganga Gangeya)(930-963) (Slew half brother Ereyappa and took Crown)(Married Rastrakuta Amoghavarha Daughter)(Expanded Kingdom to Banavasi, Belvola, Purigere, Kisukad, Bginad, Subdued seven Malavas)(Defeated and Killed Chola king at Takkola)(Son Marula Deva )
Neetimarga I (Marula, Nanniya Ganga)(Son of Buttuga)(893 - 915) (Married daugher of Rastrakuta Krishna)
Marasimha (Nolambakulantaka)(963-974AD)(Slain all Nolambas)
Rachamalla II (974 - 984AD) (Indepedent of Rastrakutas)(Minister Chamunda Raya Erected the Gomata Image at Sravana Belgola)
Rakkasaganga (Govindara) (984) (Brother of Rachamalla)
Ganga Raja (996-1004)
Neetimarga Permanadi (1004- 1025AD)

Paruvi Branch
Vijaya Krishnavarma (Sons Simhavarma, Viravarma)
(reunited to Talakad Branch by Madhava II)

Kaivara Branch

(reunited to Talakad Branch by Madava II)

Kovalala Nadu (Kolar) BranchSrivallabha(Defeated Pallavas under Mahendra Varma Pallava 633AD)(Married Princess of Renadu Chola)
Ajavarma Mahadhiraja Kaduvisama
Jayateja (810AD)

Inscriptions linking Gangas to North India and Ganges, come in 9th and 10th century AD, when every dynasty in India linked themselves to Rama, Krishna or Ikshvaku lineage. Gangas are no exception. The rulers mentioned Kampa, Madiverma, Kongani, Dadiga, Durvanita, Avinita are all Kannada Names, though Padmanabha, Madhava are sanskrit names. The Kannada Names indicate that they are local dyansty. Ganga rulers were also one of the earliest dynasties to use Kannada in Administration and Inscriptions.

There are several Gangavadi's in Karnataka alone, let alone South India. So Ganga being a Holy river, it is not surprising that Gangas called their kingdom Gangavadi.

Indologists have confused us lot about chronology due to multiple branches of Gangas ruling simultaneously. Now many inscriptions which were termed spurious has been found to be genuine in the context of acceptance of multiple branches of Ganga Dynasty. The same problem has been found and solved in the case of Multiple Branches of Kadamba, Pallava Dynasties has been now identified and chronology corrected.

Certain Branches of Ganga and Pallava had matrimonial relations. So there are Ganga names in Pallava inscriptions and vice versa. That should not be the basis for Ganga Pallava theory.

Eastern Gangas are decendents of Prithvipati of Ganga Dynasties. So both have same stories on their origin.

Kongu desa rajjakkal was composed in 19th century AD under British, it is based on this the kongu claims are based. We have to note here that the author dates rastrakutas ahead of Gangas and cheras in the Kongu region, because he likes them more. This work is anything but historical. If you see its claim kongani madhava cornation by Simhanandi in Skandapura, there are twenty odd places in Karnataka with the name Skandapura and goes against inscriptional evidence that he was crowned near Nandni hills and there is even a skandapura in Doddaballarpur known today known as Kandavara.

Kongu region got its name because it was conquered and ruled by Kongani Madhava. Even today you can see Koundar (Related to Gowdas of Karnataka) in Kongu region speaking Tamil with Kannada Grammar. These region were under Ganga rule for around 800 Years. The Indigenous rulers who came out of Kongu region like Adigaman dynasty can be seen owing alligence to Hoysalas rather than Cholas. So there is a strong link between Kongu region and Gangas. But to suggest that Perur near Coimbator is Ganga perur and Kongani got his name from Kongu region is false. The Simhanandi Perur has been identified as Ganga perur near Cuddapah region. We can see that nearby Raichur region in karnataka in ancient time was known.

Early Gangas of Talakad by Srikanth Shastri
Gangas of Talakad by M V Krishna Rao
Sources of Karnataka History by Srikanth shastri
Indian Archeology Review 1978-79
The Origin of Ganga Dynasty - A New Insight by Harihar Kanungo

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Anti-colonial uprisings in Karnataka 1800-1860

The micro-stories from different parts of Karnataka during the six decades of 19th century (1800-1860) give us an indication of the wide-spread nature of anti-colonial struggles in different parts of India. Clearly they had spread among commoners and gentry and a national anti-colonial consciousness had seeped down to the remotest village.

It is unfortunate that we in India have not studied the facts regarding the 1857 revolt nor have we digested the lessons from it. Our conception is dominated by the British narrative. In short, they painted the revolt as a feudal reaction to the modernity of industrial Britain. British historians took great pains to paint all the leaders and heroes of 1857 as decadent, two-faced, selfish, reactionary, turn-coats who were fighting against loss of privileges and had no conception of national consciousness or peoples’ welfare. More over according to British historians, to carry out their personal agendas, the leaders inflamed religious fanaticism and misled people who were otherwise happy to be ruled by the British. Of course they also displayed British colonial “even handedness and fair play”, by pointing out that there was “some disaffection in the population and even the troops of the British Indian Army caused by the high handedness of some Company officials, however things became fine after the Company was replaced by the British Crown through Queen Victoria’s Proclamation in 1858 and “the rule of law” was established".

However a remarkably rich literature exists in various Indian languages in the form of ballads, folk songs and legends and even documents and reports, which is not accessible to English readers. An excellent beginning in giving the Indian point of view was made by V D Savarkar in his book “The Indian war of independence 1857”, published underground in 1907. It has been followed up in the last 20 years by various micro studies and finally by a significant two volume work, “War of Civilisations: 1857 AD” by Amaresh Misra.
This article tries to put together some highlights of anti-colonial struggles in the post-Hyder-Tipu-Karnataka from 1800-1860. In 1779 itself Hyder and Tipu had tried to put together a confederacy and worked out an agreement with Nana Fadanvis, Janoji Bhosle, Mahadji Scindhia and Nizam according to which Hyder was supposed to attack the Arcot area and Madras, Janoji Bhosle on Bengal, Nana Fadanvis and Mahadji Scindhia on Bombay and the Nizam on Circar districts. While Hyder and Tipu went ahead with the plan the others did not. If this grand plan had succeeded then perhaps India would have been rid of British colonial rule 80 years before 1857. However the narrow concerns of some rulers enabled the East India Company to meticulously play on petty selfishness and rule a continental sized diverse country like India for almost two hundred years.

In this article we have put together some highlights of anti-colonial uprisings in Karnataka between 1800 and 1860. The great struggle between Hyder Ali-Tipu Sultan and the British was already over by 1799 with Tipu’s death in the 4th Anglo-Mysore war. The micro-stories from different parts of Karnataka in those six decades tell us how wide-spread the anti-colonial struggles were in different parts of India and how they had spread among commoners and gentry and how deep the consciousness had seeped down to the remotest village.

On the occasion of Golden Jubilee of the formation of Karnataka State many historians have documented to a considerable degree the colonial history of Karnataka. They have recorded dozens of armed uprisings in Karnataka prior to 1857 besides the most famous one led by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. One can see concrete linkages of these revolts with the uprising in the North. Many letters of request of support written by Nanasaheb to various principalities in North and coastal Karnataka, which were responded to by local kings have also come to light.

After the defeat and Tipu’s death in the battle field in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war (1799), Karnataka was literally torn asunder between the British presidencies of Bombay and Madras; Nizam of Hyderabad and Marathas. A small dependency was created under the tutelage of Wodeyars as the kingdom of Mysore, which increased the land revenue and the burden on peasantry in an arbitrary manner to satisfy British demands. This led to uprisings in kingdom of Mysore as well as areas of Karnataka which had now been brought under, Nizam, Maratha and British rule. A few of them are briefly described below:

Dhondiya Wagh (1800):
One of the first to revolt against the new arrangement was Dhondiya Wagh. He was born in Chennagiri near Mysore. He joined Hyder Ali’s cavalry in 1780. Later he developed differences with Tipu, who incarcerated him. Hence British soldiers found Dhondiya in Srirangapattana’s prison when they ransacked the city after the death of Tipu. Dhondiya was released, who however immediately vanished and tried to gather the demobilised Tipu’s soldiers. Very soon he built up a significant armed force with a cavalry etc. He kept moving from territory to territory and capturing small towns and forts that had been taken over by Marathas, British and the Nizam. Governor General, Richard Wellesley was exasperated by Dhondiya’s revolt and assigned his brother Arthur Wellesley (Later to be known as Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napolean at Waterloo) to suppress Dhondiya’s revolt. He sent troops not only from Madras but even summoned some from Bengal.
The theatre of Dhondiya’s war encompassed forts at Chitradurg, Savanur, Shimoga, Bidanur, Honnali, Harihar, Shikaripur, Kittur, Londa, Ranebennur, Kundgol, Shirahatti, Kunigal, Dharwad, Gadag, Raichur, Hungund etc. Practically it encompassed all of Central and North Karnataka. He was supported by the people and smaller principalities (samsthana) that were discontented with the British. Tipu’s son Fateh Hyder supported him and Tipu’s former soldiers were the core of his forces which at one point grew to over 70,000 with a 30,000 strong cavalry. The British troops were led by Col, Stevenson, Col Wellesly, Col Tolin, Col Mclean, Col Darlymple. The heroic campaign lasted from June 1799 to September 1800. In the end Dhondiya was cornered by British, Maratha and Nizam’s troops and fell for a bullet in the battle at Konegal.
British historians have painted him as "rogue bandit”, whereas Dhondiya himself had the title of “lord of both the worlds” among his people. Edward Clive a British officer later admired his organising ability and said “what started as an anarchic revolt became a major international war”. Nationalist historians have described him as, “a person with great determination and a magnetic personality”.

Venkatadri Nayak (1803)
Aigur (Ballam) Venkatadri Nayak was another leader who started his revolt when the British were tied down by Dhondiya Wagh. His father Krishnappa Nayak, was made the ruler of Aigur by Hyder Ali. But Krishnappa betrayed him and joined the Marathas in 1792 and helped the British. After the war he was scared of Tipu and ran away to Kodagu (Coorg). However Tipu did not punish him but instead reinstated him. On Tipu’s defeat in 1799, Krishnappa’s son Venkatadri Nayak became the ruler of Aigur. He was ambitious and started expanding his territory. Venkatadri Nayak captured Subrahmanya Ghat, a crucial pass in the Sahyadris with access to Mangalore. He attacked the British troops at Arakere and also defeated a 2500 strong army sent by Wodeyar of Mysore.

Venkatadri Nayak came to be known as the Bull Raja and Ballam Raja. Wellesley took his revolt very seriously and made an elaborate plan to capture him by getting troops from Mangalore as well as Bombay, Bidnur and Sondha. The British tried to organise all the Patels of surrounding villages against him and also terrorised the population by executing many of his sympathisers. They generally followed a scorched earth policy to prevent him getting any food supplies. The campaign lasted nearly three years and finally on February 10, 1803 he and his 6 followers were arrested when they were in search of food supplies. All the insurgents were later executed. Thus two great warriors were suppressed by the British with Machiavellian tactics using the Mysore Wodeyars, Marathas and the Nizam.

Koppal Veerappa (1819):
As mentioned earlier Karnataka was torn asunder between Nizam, Marathas and the British after Tipu’s defeat. The North eastern parts were taken over by Nizam, who put unbearable burden on the peasantry. The Nizam was totally under British control with the Subsidiary Alliance signed in 1800. As a result of which the Nizam had to pay for the British Subsidiary Force stationed to “protecthim” and even accept the humiliating condition that the British would decide who the top bureaucrat—the Diwan of Hyderabad would be. As Nizam’s unbridled oppression with heavy taxation increased, there was no way but for the peasantry to revolt. One such revolt was led by Veerappa in Koppal in 1818. Veerapaa was a small landowner in Koppal, he built a force and captured Koppal and Bahadur ( forts built by Hyder Ali 40 years earlier. British forces led by Major Doughton and Brig General Pritzler rushed to crush Veerappa and Nizam’s general Idruskhan also joined them. Veerappa fought valiantly for five days with only 500 men and died in battle. Even though Veerappa’s rebellion was confined to a small area around Koppal, it represented a popular peasant revolt and inspired many more in the region.

Deshmukhs of Bidar (1820)
After Tipu’s defeat the remnants of the old Bahmani Kingdom of Bidar too were incorporated into Nizam’s rule and burdened with heavy taxation. As a result revolts started appearing in 1820 in Udgir. Using Suliyal as their base the local Deshmukhs led by Shivalingayya, Tirumal Rao and Meghsham led this revolt. Hence this revolt is known as the revolt of Deshmukhs. The Nizam relied on British help to suppress the Deshmukhs. Lt. Gen. Sutherland was assigned for the same and he defeated them in a campaign lasting two months and imprisoned them.

Sindagi Revolt (1824)
The popular revolt against the British spread to Bijapur too and in Sindagi, 40 km from Bijapur the local people led by Chidambar Dikshit, his son Diwakar Dikshit and Diwakar’s comrades Shettyappa, Raoji and Rastiya declared sovereignty of people of Sindagi. They took over Sindagi Taluk and boldly declared that “British Raj does not exist here and we anyway do not recognise it. We are sovereign”. British could not tolerate this challenge to their rule in such a brazen way even if though it was confined to a Taluk in North Karnataka. They sent forces led by Lt. Stevenson to capture the leaders. However the forces could not locate the leaders. A traitor Annappa Patne however showed the hiding place to the British. The local people who came to know the same lynched Annappa on the spot. However the British were able to capture the leaders and imprison them. The revolt was confined to a Taluk, but showed advanced consciousness.

Rani Chennamma and the Kittur Revolt (1824)
Rani Chennamma of Kittur is a veritable icon in Karnataka and was perhaps one of the first women leaders who fought against British Raj. To this day she inspires people. She was born in the Desai family of Kakati, a small village in the wealthy kingdom of Kittur, which stood around 5 km north of Belgavi in Karnataka. In her youth she received training in horse riding, sword fighting and archery. She became the queen of Kittur on her marriage to Shivalinga Rudra Sarja, of the Desai family of Kittur.

Kittur was a principality (samsthana) covering large parts of Dharwad and Belgavi districts and was paying tributes to Marathas after the fall of Tipu. However after the fall of Marathas in 1818, Kittur came under British rule. Shivalinga Rudra Sarja did not have children and when he fell sick, he asked his close confidant Gurusiddappa to choose a boy from the surrounding region to be adopted as the heir to the throne. Shivalingappa was such a boy who was then trained in appropriate manner, renamed Mallasarja and adopted as the heir to Kittur. Shivalinga Rudra Sarja died soon after on September 11, 1824.

Chennamma started ruling the kingdom in the name of the minor prince. However Thackeray the then collector and political agent in Dharwad arbitrarily refused to recognise this and asked the British Governor, Elphinstone in Bombay to take over the kingdom under paramountcy—a ruse three decades later formalised by Dalhousie as the Doctrine of Lapse.

In a clear act of provocation he declared that the treasury of the kingdom was not safe and hence brought in his own guards and administrators to “protect” the same. He even left a few soldiers to “guard” the main gate of Kittur Fort. These provocations enraged the people of Kittur. Chennamma patiently tried to get justice and sent her emissaries to talk to the “Company Sarkar” (British East India Company) and at the same time started strengthening the fort and carrying out various military preparations anticipating a conflict. She called all the loyal fighters from the surrounding region and discussed the situation with them, sought their advice and loyalty. Thackeray was surprised by the Rani’s gumption. He invited the Rani for talks, which she refused. While Thackeray was gathering his forces the fighters of Kittur readied themselves inside the fort and carried out a daring attack on the British forces. Chennamma directed the battle from the ramparts of the fort. On her orders, Balasaheb Sayyad, Rani Chennamma’s loyal sharpshooter, killed Thackeray. Thus Thackeray came to a sorry end on October 23, 1824 and along with him two more officers Capt.. Black Stevenson and Lt. Dicton also died. British forces were roundly defeated and many were taken prisoners by the insurgents.

This was a great setback for British Raj and its cultivated image as an invincible force in the region. They soon gathered forces from Sholapur, Mysore and Bombay and neared Kittur. Rani sent them a message that if they attack Kittur then all British prisoners of war will be put to death and then the people of Kittur will fight to death. Taken aback, Chaplin, Commissioner of Deccan sent a message that if the British prisoners are released and Sardar Gurusiddappa is handed over then the status quo will prevail. Chennamma refused to hand over Gurusiddappa but released British prisoners as an act of good faith. However Chaplin had no intention of keeping his end of the deal and sent his forces under the leadership of Lt.. Col Deacon to siege Kittur on Dec. 3, 1824. The fighters of Kittur fought bravely for three days, however due to treachery they found that their gun powder had been mixed with cow dung and made useless. The fort fell. Rani Chennamma escaped with the younger Rani Veeramma through a secret passage towards Sangolli where she had supporters.

However British were able to intercept her on her way and capture her. She was imprisoned in Bailhongal prison. After incarceration of four years Chennamma died in prison on February 3, 1829. The Kittur countryside was full of rebellion for over five years. The leader of this rebellion was Rani Chennamma’s ardent admirer Rayanna of Sangolli.

Sangolli Rayanna (1829)
Rayanna was born in a shepherd family in Sangolli, a village in Belgavi district. The family had a fighting tradition and was loyal to the Desais of Kittur. Rayanna fought with the Kittur army in 1824 and was captured by the British after the defeat of Rani. However soon he was released as a part of British pacification program. His family members had generous tax free lands given as Inam by the Desais, for their earlier bravery and loyalty. However the Company Sarkar now increased the taxes and eventually confiscated his lands. In November-December 1829, when he was restless, some of his friends invited him to lead a revolt against the British. Rayanna soon started a guerrilla war suitable to the surrounding landscape. He gathered a compact group of fighters and started attacking treasuries and rich land owners who were British collaborators. He seized mortgage and debt documents of peasantry from them and burnt them. He soon gathered over 1000 fighters and harassed the British and their collaborators relentlessly.
Realising that it was not possible to capture Rayanna by conventional warfare, British adopted other means to do so. They sent in some spies into his army and caught him unarmed when he was bathing in a river. He and his associates were executed and many sent abroad for life imprisonment.

Interestingly though British rewarded the traitors who betrayed Rayanna very generously through land grants, the entire community socially boycotted them. Even today the legend has it that those families are cursed for generations and if anyone goes to their homes for a lunch or dinner as a guest then the food in their plates will turn into maggots!

Rayanna’s revolt inspired other loyalists of Kittur too to rise up time and again. Gurusiddappa, Shankaranna, Gajapati, Savai Shetti, Kotagi, Shaikh Suleiman, Bheemanna, Kaddigudda Balanna, Waddar Yellannaetcled several uprisings against the British in support of Kittur for almost a decade. The rebels executed the traitors who had betrayed Rayanna and rose up time and gain demonstrating their love and pride for the Rani Chennamma of Kittur.

Nagar Peasant Revolt (1830-31)
Nagar comprised of the taluks of Sagar, Nagar, Kowlidurga, Koppa, Lakwally, Sorab, Shikarpur, Shivamogga, Honnaly, Harihar, Chennagiri, Tarikere, Kadur, and Chickamagalur. Besides, there were 5277 villages, 1277 hamlets. Its population was 459,842. The Ikkeri dynasty ruled this region and gained respect and prestige through an independent distinguished rule from the Vijaynagar times to late 18th century when they were taken over by Hyder Ali and Tipu. The region had a fighting tradition. When the Wodeyars and Diwan Poornaiah were installed in Mysore by East India Company after Tipu’s defeat, the region came under heavy taxation. In fact nearly 60% of the Kingdom’s revenues were coming from this region alone. After suffering from the duo’s arbitrariness for three decades, 1800-1830, the region was ripe for rebellion against the Wodeyars and their protectors—the “Company Sarkar”.

The administration was entirely corrupt and filled with nepotism and casteism. The local Nayak’s and Patels and ryots were fed up of this state of affairs and the heavy tax burden. This situation was utilised by Boodi Basavappa, who assumed leadership of the uprising and declared himself the new ruler. He declared sovereignty and pardoned the heavy taxes and peasant debt to Sahukars (money lenders).
The result was one of the largest peasant revolts in colonial India.

According to Dr.. Siddalinga Swamy, the greatest burden to cultivators was an advance payment of money to the government before the grain was harvested. As no renter, or cultivator had money to advance, he was obliged to take recourse to the Sahukars, who advanced money at the rate of two percent per month and extracted a present of five percent upon the advance. For the second and third instalment, a present was not demanded; but when the fourth was to be paid the crops were to be mortgaged. Most lenders insisted upon an immediate sale, and became the purchasers themselves at the bazar price, which would then be lower than at any other period. Many debt burdened ryots flocked to the government to make complaints against Sahukars. But the government were powerful. The Government also owed large sums of money to Sahukars. In February 1826 the peasant debt to Sahukarsin Nagar was estimated at 4 lakh.

This sorry state of affairs depicted a weak and ignorant government managed by corrupt officers, unable to correct the sources of evil inherent in it. As the Wodeyar’s Government was corrupt, no control was exercised over the district officers. Naturally the people were enraged by the unjust and arbitrary acts of those officers. There was no process in the country which required public servants to hear the complaints of the ryots. This was the fertile ground for the insurrection in 1830.

Taking advantage of this, Basavappa spread the news that he had assumed the sovereignty of the country and promised the ryots full remission of all balance debt. A reduction of the Government tax demand on their lands was also promised, if they would espouse his cause. Many inflammatory speeches were made by supporters of Boodi Basavappa in August 1830, asking ryots to join them. One of his supporters, made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fort of Anandapur in Nagar province. On 23rd August the ryots of Nagar circulated a letter in the other fouzdaris, inviting other ryots to assemble in a koota (assembly). On 23rd September the ryots of Chennagiri refused to pay their taxes, and other taluks in Nagar fouzdari followed them. In December, Fouzdar Viraraj Urs employed troops to disperse demonstrators at Holehonnur. The ryots of the Chitradurg and Bangalore Divisions also refused to pay taxes and joined the movement.

In the meantime efforts were made by Diwan Venkat Raj in Bangalore and Chitradurg Divisions to pacify the ryots. The Maharaja himself under took to tour some of the taluks in December 1830. However he was humiliated by the ryots in Channarayapattana and in many other places.

The rebels gave a good fight to the troops. They captured some of the forts in Nagar, and in many places they repulsed the Mysore troops.

On the 21st of December 1830 a Proclamation was issued directing all persons carrying bones and Neem leaves (the symbols of insurrection) to be seized, tried and if convicted, to be hanged. On the following day instructions were given to the fouzdar of Bangalore to fire on the protesters and to catch one or two protesters in each taluk and hang them to spread terror among the populace. Many of the rebels were caught and hanged. Some of the rebels’ noses and ears were cut off resulting in several persons being badly disfigured.

The Raja said that this measure was indispensable to put down the rebellion. As a result hundreds of ryots were hanged throughout the territory. The Raja asserted that in ordering executions he did not act of his own accord, but in compliance with the advice of the British Resident.

The reverses to the Mysore troops led to the employment of Company’s forces to quell the revolt. On 31st May 1831, the stronghold of the rebels, Nagar, was captured and the revolt was practically quelled. But stray bands of insurgency continued till 1832 when it was completely suppressed.

The rebellion was spontaneous and did not have a visionary leadership but it however demonstrated the widespread anger among different sections of Kannadigas against the British rule and as well as their puppets like the Wodeyars and Poornaiah. The Company however used the occasion to further strip any element of autonomy from the Wodeyars and Governor General William Bentinck, appointed commissioners to administer the region.

Coastal Uprisings (1830-31)
There were widespread uprisings against heavy taxation in the coastal regions of Karnataka. These regions had first protested the taxes earlier in 1809-1810. The later agitations learnt from this experience and were consequently more audacious.

The documents of East India Company have called these revolts as Koota revolts. Kootaswere general assemblies of people of a village or town, where they asserted their sovereignty, and hence a form of direct democracy.

The mass struggle started in early 1830 and assumed a host of forms. The most important of these, however, was the koota or simply ‘gathering’. The mass awakening was ignited through their assembly into kootas which was a broad forum to organize the masses. While the struggles might have been spontaneous, the form was quite well developed.

The signs of the peasant unrest could be seen in the closing months of 1830, when the ryots gave general petitions complaining of their losses. But they developed and came to the fore in the beginning months of 1831. The ryots of Kasargod, Kumbla, Mogral, Manjeshwar, Bungra Manjeshawar and Talapady sent general arzees (petitions) and complaints of their losses to Dickinson the Collector of South Kanara.
In their petitions, the ryots not only complained about the harsh revenue assessment of November 1830, but they also demanded remission to them all at a uniform rate.

In the second stage, beginning of January 1831, the ryots started their Kootas or assemblages.
It was in Bekal (Kasargod) that the Kootas started in the first week of January 1831 and within a few days they spread to the northern parts of Kanara.

Barkur, Brahmavar, Buntwal, Madhur, Manjeshwar, Mulki, Kadri, Kumbla, Malluly (Malali), Wamanjoor, Mogral, Udyawar, Uppinangadi and Vittal were some of the important places where the ryots of the respective regions had assembled in Kootas or assemblages. The Kootas extended to North Kanara also. Manjunatha temple at Kadri was the centre of these peasant uprisings, where the Grand Koota [MahaKoota] was organised towards the end of January 1831. Ryots from other important centres of the district such as Kasargod and Buntwal came and met at Kadri. The Venkataramana temple at Basrur, the Mahamayi temple at Mangalore, the temple at Manjeswar and another temple at Wamanjoor were other important centres of the Koota movement.

In order to organise these Kootas, the ryots assigned one Patel and two head ryots in each of the villages. When any aspect was discussed and plan or action was proposed in the Kootas, these leaders disseminated them to the ryots in the villages. Further, each of the Kootas had its own leaders and all of them met and discussed (at the Grand Koota in Kadri). The organisers of these Kootas also made use of a ‘Secret Council’ or a secretariat. The object of this Council was to maintain the secrecy of the whole organisational affair of the Kootas. However, the result of the deliberations of this Council was communicated to the various assemblies or Kootas. Thus the Secret Council played the role of a linking and organising body in these peasant uprisings. It in fact acted as a think-tank of the rebellion. Further, anonymous pamphlets were made use of by the leaders to spread their ideas and programmes among the ryots.

The participants in these Kootas at times made bold to attack Government servants. Before Dickinson left Kundapura for Mangalore at the end of January 1831 he received reports from the Tahsildar of Barkur that the ryots of that taluk had assembled in Koota and had assaulted some of the public servants. The report of the Tahsildar of Barkur says that a Magane Shanbhog, who was deputed to read a government proclamation was severely assaulted. Again at Mulki the ryots roughed up an Ameen who had been sent to read them a proclamation issued by the Government. The ryots were determined to refuse to give taxes to the Government, until a fresh settlement was made, and their mood was so defiant that they unhesitatingly attacked those public servants whom they feared not long back. The growing sense of unity among themselves and faith in their organisational strength had emboldened them to take such postures of defiance. The peasant rebellion that surfaced in the month of November 1830 continued up to the end of March 1831. It was after Cameron’s promise (March 1831) to the riots that their petitions would be considered and remissions would be made after an examination of their losses to redress their hardships that they dispersed and stopped organising the Kootas. Thus by April 1831 the rumblings of Koota rebellions died down.

Kodagu (Coorg) Revolts (1833-37)
After the defeat of Tipu, the East India Company could not directly rule Kodagu. They had to restore the kingdom to the traditional kings of Haleri dynasty who were earlier displaced by Hyder and Tipu. However these Haleri kings were fiercely independent and particularly Chikka Veera Rajendra (1820-34) was a proud and independent king. He refused to follow British diktat and instead armed his population and built up his forces to resist any British attack. He corresponded with Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab and sought his support against the British.

There were constant skirmishes between him and the British administration, which was based in Bangalore and Mysore and finally a war between the British and Kodava forces was inevitable. Despite brave fight put up by the Kodavas the British were able to capture the Madikeri fort through treachery in 1834 and depose the king. He was sent in Exile to Bangalore, Kashi and later London.

However the fighting people of Kodagu did not take this lying down and several revolts took place. These were led by Swami Aparampaar, Kalyan Swami and Putta Basava. All these fighters claimed to be heirs to Kodagu throne one after another and sought support from the people in their fight against the British in the name of Haleri dynasty. Each one of them was given due respect and recognition by the people as true heirs of Kodagu and thousands joined them. All of them sought to throw out British from Kodagu, cancel the taxes imposed by them and fought for an independent life for Kodavas. These uprisings went on from 1834 to 1837.

Other revolts before 1857
There were several other revolts which were local and minor in dimension but which had a lot of impact on the psyche of the people of North Karnataka between 1840 and 1857. One of them was in Badami, a town in today’s Bagalkot district, which has an ancient history and was the capital of Chalukyas who ruled much of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh between 6th and 8th centuries CE. An army built by loyalists of the deposed king of Satara took over the fort and established their rule in 1839-40. They were suppressed by British Army and the leaders sentenced to death and life imprisonment.
Similarly there were uprisings in Nippani, currently in Belgavi district, in 1840-41, where over 300 Arab fighters under the leadership of local Zamindar, Raghunath Rao attacked the fort and took it over. Later they were suppressed by the Company Army. In 1849 the Paleygar of Chitradurga rose up unsuccessfully. Revolts led by Lingappa in Bidar in 1852 harassed the British for several months and he had captured several forts.

Uprisings in Karnataka during Ghadar of 1857
There were several uprisings in Karnataka during the Ghadar in 1857 and went on till 1860. Unlike the Gangetic belt, where the revolt was signalled by mutiny of British Indian Army, which were then followed by revolts led by Nanasaheb, Zeenat Mahal, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Kunwar Singh et al, the Karnataka revolts were popular uprisings led by local peasant leaders, or small principalities who linked their local struggles with the larger national one that was being fought under Bahadur Shah Zafar and Nana Saheb’s leadership. The area of uprising covered the entire districts from the coastal Canara (present day Karwar and Mangalore) in the Madras Presidency, to the eastern Raichur and Koppal districts under the Nizam; from Bijapurand Dharwadin the North in Bombay Presidency to Sringeri and Hassan in the south.
Notable among them are the uprisings of: Bedasin Halagali near Bijapur; revolt of Nargund near Gadag and Dharwad; revolt of Mundargi Bhimaraya; revolt of Venkatappa Nayak of Surpur near Gulburga and Supa revolts near Karwar.

Bedas of Halagali
One of the fighting tribes which fought the British tooth and nail from 1820’s to 1942 and formed the backbone of many uprisings in the Deccan (comprising Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra) were Bedas who descended from hunters. They have been called Ramoshis, Berad, or Bedas, Boya, Dorabiddu and Valmiki in different areas.

Bearing arms to protect themselves and the community and their king was part of their life and they did it with great pride. The prince of Mudhol had accepted British overlordship and the Bedas in the area were seething with dissatisfaction. The East India Company announced on 11 September, 1857 that all Indians should disarm, submit their arms to the company and then get licences to carry arms. This was simply out of question for Bedas. Hence when the Company Sarkar’s edict was sought to be implemented by the King of Mudhol principality, the Bedas of Halagali and surrounding area considered it a great insult and defied him. They did not allow any official to enter their villages. They did not even allow an arms’ census to be taken and did not accept the offer that they will not be actually disarmed but will all be given licences to bear arms. They said, “Bearing arms is our birth right and why should we take anybody’s permission for the same?”
The revolt, which started in a small village called Halagali, kept snowballing and started spreading to surrounding areas. The British Raj saw it as a serious threat to its rule and when the local ruler was not able to suppress it, Major Malcolm summoned the southern Maratha regiment let by Lt. Col Seton Karr. The bedas, though vastly outnumbered, fought fiercely for their rights. The British followed a scorched earth policy in the region and after the final battle captured 290 Bedas and hanged 19 leaders of the uprising in Mudhol market in December 1857.

Nargund Bandaya (revolt)
The principality of Nargund used to be under the Peshwas after the defeat of Tipu. After the defeat of Peshwas in 1818, it came under British overlordship. Bhaskar Rao Bhave also known as Baba Saheb rose to the throne of Nargund in 1842 and administered this region efficiently. However he did not have a son and told the British that he would adopt a son to create an heir for Nargund. The British refused permission and asked him to return some of the land received as Inam. This enraged Baba Saheb and he got in touch with several rulers in Karnataka like Mundaragi Bhimaraya, Surpur Venkatappa Nayakaand many others. He was aware of the north Indian uprising and wanted to time his revolt also in June of 1857. However he postponed the date at the last moment. Meanwhile the British came across his correspondence with other rulers due to some traitors and informers. They were alarmed by it but Baba Saheb’s external conduct with them was friendly and proper and hence they were lulled into not taking immediate action. However, when they came to know that he had accumulated a large amount of artillery and ammunition in his fort in Nargund, they asked him to deposit the same in Dharwad. He readily agreed and sent them with an escort to Dharwad. Simultaneously he secretly organised an attack on the convoy and brought them back to Nargund, while claiming innocence.

In May 1858 when the British sent a force to prevent his networking with other rulers, he attacked them and brought the decapitated head of officer Manson, the head of British force sent to suppress him, to his fort and displayed it to the people. Meanwhile he discovered treachery within his fort leading to sabotage and adulteration of gun powder with cow dung. While he went to attack the fort in Amargol near Hubballi, British came to Nargund with a large force. Baba Saheb had over 2500 soldiers within the fort who fought valiantly, when the defeat was imminent, Baba Saheb consulted his comrades and decided to escape to a nearby forest. However in the forest near Torgal he was betrayed by some camp followers. This led to his capture and later execution in Belagavi on June 12, 1858. Nargund Bandaya is a legend in North Karnataka.
Interestingly, when a large peasant movement started in 1980 in North Karnataka, in the Malaprabha basin, it took a massive turn due to brutal police firing on agitating peasants in Nargund and the vast mass peasant movement that developed came to be known as the second Nargund Bandaya.

Surpur Venkatappa Nayak
Surpur or Shorapuris situated in the hills, about 50 km west of Yadgiri, a district headquarters. It was ruled by Beda Nayak kings who had a fighting tradition. They had resisted even the mighty Mughals under Aurangzeb. Later they were harassed by the Nizam, the Peshwas and the British and the kingdom was reduced in size toonly Surpur and Shapur taluks. When Raja Krishnappa Nayak died in 1842, prince Venkatappa Nayak the 4th,was only 8 years old. So the British created regency where the prince was enthroned but Meadows Taylor a British administrator was appointed as the Regent. Taylor was a scholar-administrator and greatly improved the condition of the kingdom in terms of treasury, accounts, clearing the old debts owed to the Nizam and Peshwa, public works, irrigation etc. In 1853 Taylor handed over the reins to 19 year old Venkatappa Nayak and retreated into the background.

In 1857, British got wind that some representatives of Nana Saheb came to Surpur and had secret meetings with young Raja Venkatappa Nayak. In the meanwhile, Mahipal Singh, a rebel from 1857 revolt, was captured by the British and he disclosed to them that he was carrying out instructions of Raja Venkatappa Nayak. The Company had actually administered the kingdom under regency and the King had a close almost filial relationship with Col Meadows Taylor. Even then, the British were very suspicious of Bedas in general as they were playing an important anti-colonial role. So they started interfering more and more in the affairs of the kingdom. Finally in February 1858, they sent troops led by Capt. Windham and Maj Hughes to attack Surpur, but the fort of Surpur was very strong and a fierce battle ensued. When they were outnumbered, the Raja escaped to Hyderabad and tried to get Nizam and his Diwan’s support for the uprising. Unfortunately however, they handed him over to the British. The Raja was sentenced to life imprisonment and while he was being transported to Chenglepet jail from Sikandarabad, he was killed. The Raja Venkatappa Nayak of Surpur was a lynchpin in a coordinated uprising covering Miraj, Kolhapur, Koppal, Raichur and Surpur and hence the British were greatly relieved by his defeat and the kingdom was given to Nizam for the services rendered to the East India Company.

Mundaragi Bhimaraya
Bhimaraya of Mundaragi is a legendary hero of Ghadar of 1857 in Karnataka. There are many lavanis (ballads) written about him. He was not a Raja but a commoner with extra ordinary vision and organising and mobilising ability. His father was a local judge and Bhimaraya himself served as a Mamledar (a land revenue official) in Bellary, Hoovina Hadagali and Harapana Halli. He could not stand the exploitation of peasantry under British rule and in protest he resigned and came back to Benne Halli, his village.

He had observed the development of anti-colonial movement in Karnataka and networked with various like-minded leaders. Nana Saheb’s call to the people of India and all Desais, Deshmukhs, Deshpandes, Jahagirdars, Patels and Kulkarnis of Karnataka greatly influenced him. He had sent many emissaries in the garb of Sadhus and Swamijis to contact others. He is also rumoured to have secretly visited Bangalore and written a letter in vain to the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wodeyar 3rd. Bhimaraya encouraged people in various areas to refuse to pay taxes to Company Sarkar. He contacted various groups of Beda fighters and started accumulating arms and creating ammunition dumps at various places. On 23 May 1858 the fouzdar of Dambal raided one such arms cache and sealed it. On hearing the news Bhimaraya came with his army attacked the armoury and took back all his arms and ammunition and shifted to a safer place in Shirahatti. Then he started raiding British armouries in various places. Many local land owners and kings supported Bhimaraya and joined him in the revolt. When British took Bhimarayas wife and kids as hostages, Bhimaraya came with his army freed his family and went to the fort in Koppal and prepared to fight with a large stock of food, arms and ammunition. British gathered a large force from their stations at Dharwad, Raichur, Hyderabad and Bellary and marched on Koppal fort. After a fierce fight Bhimaraya fell to British bullets on 1 June, 1858. British carried out brutal reprisals against Bhimaraya’s associates and supporters.

Canara Revolts
The district of Canara consisted of present Mangalore (Dakshina Kannada) and Karwar (Uttara Kannada) districts and after Tipu, they were made a part of Madras presidency. However these coastal districts were thickly forested and mountainous and the large distance from Madras led to further reasons for a weak British colonial state in the area. As uprisings in coastal Maharashtra spread during 1857, Canara too became a refuge for revolutionaries and also a centre of resistance. Here the revolutionaries who came from Savantwadi played a major role. They also tried to get support from some Goans as well as Portugese and moved into Khanapur, Supa, Ulavi, Dandeli etc. They were also joined by Siddis (African slaves brought to India by Portugese and who had escaped to the dense forests of Canara near Karwar). Though many British historians have said that these revolts were caused by the increased land and salt taxes, it is clear that they were inspired by the stories of 1857 uprising in the North and were waiting for Nanasaheb to move southwards. Despite the death and capture of many leaders, new ones kept springing up in this region for nearly three years. Finally British divided the district into two and attached Karwar to Bombay presidency in 1862.

This brief account of anti-colonial uprisings in Karnataka suffices to understand the deep felt hatred of British rule in every corner of India. Karnataka threw up its own heroes and legends in resistance like Dhondiya Wagh, Swami Aparampar, Rani Chennamma, Sangolli Rayanna, Nargund Baba Saheb, Mundargi Bimaraya, Surpur Venkatappa Nayak, Bedas of Halagali and others. Moreover, the revolts and networks clearly demonstrate the development of a broad national consciousness among Indian people much before the so called modern era, despite India being composed of many nationalities, languages, religious sects, cultures and castes.

1) “Kannada Bhoopradeshagalallina Sashastra Bandayagalu” (Armed uprisings in Kannada Region)- by Dr. D. N. Yogeeshwarappa, from Charitrika Karnataka (History of Colonial and Contemporary Karnataka) -Ed by Dr. C. R. Govinda Raju (2010), Kannada
2) “Peasant Revolt of Nagar in 1830-31"- Dr. Siddalinga Swamy, pre-print
3) N. Shyam Bhat, “South Kanara, 1799–1860: a study in colonial administration and regional response", 1998,
4) “Ramoshi/Berad-Lingayat-Maratha Heroism, Jain Dilemma and the Haider Ali-Tipu Sultan Memory: Perspicacious 1858 Karnataka Battles”, Chapter 55, War of Civilisations- India AD 1857, Vol II –by Amaresh Misra, Rupa& Co (2008)

by Shivanand Kanavi


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