Kings and their legacies have always captured popular imagination. While some have faded into the past, some survive in our memories. The story of the brave rulers of Kodagu and the significance of the beautiful mausoleums they built.

By 1791, Dodda Veerarajendra had consolidated his position in Kodagu and had successfully moved on from the Tipu Sultan era.

Dodda Veerarajendra started rebuilding his kingdom after years of conflict with Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. He had recaptured the important fort at Madikeri, and had constructed a modest palace in Nalaknad in the southern part of Kodagu. 

At the time, Dodda Veerarajendra and his royal consort Nanjammaji had an eight-year-old daughter named Rajammaji. The raja wished for a son to inherit his throne. In accordance with rajneethi he could marry a royal consort once every twelve years. 

After a long search for a suitable bride, he decided on a matrimonial alliance with the beautiful sister of his Kodava revenue official, Karanika Subbaiah. The bride was given the name Mahadevammaji.

In February 1796, Dodda Veerarajendra had a grand celebration at Nalaknad palace to commemorate the twin events of his coronation and marriage to Mahadevammaji in a specially built mantapa which stands well-preserved to this day.

However, much to Dodda Veerarajendra’s disappointment, Mahadevammaji whom he adored immensely, gave birth to three daughters in the ensuing ten years. In 1806, she was pregnant again and the raja fervently hoped he would have a son to carry forth his legacy.

He conducted several poojas, havans and homas to please the Almighty in hopes that he may be blessed with a male-heir. By then Mahadevammaji had become very weak and sickly.

Dodda Veerarajendra was aware that this would be the last chance for Mahadevammaji to endure child-birth. His worst fears came true when he had a double whammy on May 17, 1807. Days after his royal consort gave birth to their fourth daughter, a debilitated Mahadevammaji died leaving the raja totally heart-broken and deeply disappointed.

Eternal love

The grief-stricken raja chose a spot over-looking the town of Madkeri as the final resting place for his beloved wife. He named that part of the town as Mahadevpet in memory of Mahadevammaji. This name continues to this day.

Dodda Veerarajendra also started the construction of a grand tomb for his wife, the design of which had some likeness to the Taj Mahal. In his will, he gave detailed instructions that he would like to be buried next to Mahadevammaji when he would meet his end.

Dodda Veerarajendra had three sons, but they were born to his minor wives. He was now totally obsessed with who would succeed him after his demise. His first choice was his eldest daughter Devammaji born to Mahadevammaji. In 1808, when Devammaji was barely nine years old, he arranged her marriage to a young Kodava who was renamed Mallappa.

In his elaborate will, the raja wanted Devammaji’s yet-to-be-born son to be named after him and declared his successor. If Devammaji did not have a son, the eldest son born to one of her three sisters was to inherit the throne of Kodagu.

He further stated in his will that in the event his four daughters failed to produce a male-heir then the fittest amongst his three sons: Rajashekara, Shashishankara and Chandrashekara, from his minor wives would ascend the throne to continue his legacy.

In order to ensure his will was executed, Dodda Veerarajendra requested Arthur Cole, the British Resident at Mysore to be the executor of his will and also be guardian to his minor daughters.

Arthur Cole brought this to the notice of Governor General Lord Minto. Lord Minto wrote a letter in April 1809 recognising the raja’s will.

He also gave his assurance that the East India Company would ensure the will was implemented.

Dodda Veerarajendra’s health had taken a heavy toll, and on June 9, 1809 he breathed his last aged 46. In spite of all his efforts, his young daughter Devammaji could not hold on to the throne of Kodagu.

Dodda Veerarajendra’s wily brother, Lingarajendra, usurped the throne in 1811 with tacit support from the British. Lingarajendra completed the tomb of Dodda Veerarajendra and Mahadevamma.

Loyalty

There is another interesting story of a very able army commander – Biddanda Bopu – who served under Dodda Veerarajendra and took active part in their military campaigns against Tipu Sultan. After Tipu was ousted from Kodagu, Dodda Veerarajendra asked Bopu to name the reward he would like for having fought so gallantly against the enemy.

Everyone in the raja’s court expected Bopu to ask for large tracts of land, gold, silver and live-stock. But to everyone’s surprise Biddanda Bopu made a humble request: on his demise to be buried in the same premises as his beloved raja!

This Biddanda Bopu’s wish was fulfilled when he died in 1808. Years later, Bopu’s son Somaiah rose to the same rank as his father, during Chikka Veerarajendra’s reign. When Somaiah died in 1879, in deference to his wishes, the British Chief Commissioner permitted his mortal remains to be buried next to his father’s tomb. Both these tombs are intact.

When Lingarajendra died in 1820, an identical mausoleum was built by his son Chikka Veerarajendra on the right-hand side of Dodda Veerarajendra’s tomb. Another smaller tomb was built in 1834 on the left-hand side where the royal priest Rudrappa is interred.

This locale is known as Gaddige. The mausoleums are well-preserved, and currently the entire area is being landscaped and refurbished.

Courtesy : Deccan Herald


Author: C.P. Belliappa



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