In my previous article, I had mentioned the beauties and mystics of Coorg, the gorgeous hill town situated in Karnataka between Mysore and Mangalore. Here, I dig out the interesting past of this hill station which was ruled by almost all the major South Indian dynasties – Moreover, the facts behind the truth that the Coorgis hated Tipu Sultan and remained loyal to the British till they left our homeland.
The Early Days
To start with, Coorgis are assumed to be the direct descendants of the armed forces of Alexander the Great who marched into India in 327 B.C. These Greek soldiers then married the girls of the local community and settled along the coastline. Inscriptions from the past reveal that by the 9th and 10th centuries, Kodagu was ruled by the Kadambas throughout its northern parts while, the southern provinces were sequentially allied with the Ganga reign up to the 11th century and was ruled by Changalvas, the rulers of Changa-nad. By the 11th century, however, the powerful Cholas defeated the Gangas and the Cholas emerged as the only rulers of the entire Kodagu.
Once more, through the 12th century the Chola Empire declined was ousted by the Hoysala rulers. After 200 years of successful rule, the Hoysalas were then defeated by the strong Vijayanagar Dynasty.
Later in the 16th century, when Kodagu was still under the grasp of Vijayanagar empire, a Chenglava King well known as Nanja Raja established a brand new capital Nanjarajapatna and even ruled Kodagu independently once the Vijayanagar Empire collapsed in 1565.The king was however, not so powerful and so constantly had to fight with the neighboring Mysore Kings to safeguard their land and during one of these battles, the last of the Chenglava kings,Vira Raja died in defense of his territory capital. Yet, the Mysore realm was not able to rule Kodagu due to a sturdy revolt from the localities and intheir struggle to keep several of the enemies at bay. Consequently, a prince of the Bednur or Ikkri family thrived in bringing the entire Kodagu in unison under his control, his children continued to be Kodagu Rajas up till the year 1834.
The Conflict of the Throne and help from Tipu Sultan
When the Ikkri dynasty came into power, the capital was shifted to the present Madikeri (Mercara) in 1681 by the then king Muddu Raja.
Every thing went fine but after nine years, a clash happened. This led Linga Raja of the Ikkri line to approach Tipu Sultan, the Sultan of Mysore for backing in claiming the throne. Together they managed to make Linga Raja the king. Tipu Sultan even gained few territories of the Ikkri dynasty for his help. At the time of his death his sons were minors so were positioned under a guardian in the Madikeri fort by Tipu Sultan and his soldiers. This irked the local people who thought it was unnecessary on the part of Mysore king to interfere in their kingdom and so they threw out the Mysore troops from Ikkri.
The Entry of the British
Besides, the local people of Kodagu there was yet another person who had issues with Tipu Sultan and that was former Mysore King, Vira Rajendra Wodeyar, who had lost to Tipu Sultan and had fled from his custody, who then went to the British and also the local Coorgis to aid him in order to defeat Tipu Sultan. This is how the British was introduced to Tipu Sultan and this is how the foreign power got access to Kodagu. Later, to express his gratitude to the British, Vira Rajendra founded a new city around the same spot where he had met the British General, Abercrombie and named it as Virajpet.
A historical spot in the present day Madikeri, the Raja’s Tomb is the mausoleum of these kings of Kodagu. The monument has three tombs in which the first tomb was built after the death of Veera Rajendra and the second one was constructed by his brother Linga Rajendra. The third and the small tomb built much later as a dedication to their royal priest Rudramuniswamy or Rudrappa.
The British Invasion
Vira Rajendra died – he had no son and so his daughter Devammji was made the queen. His brother Linga Rajendra, who acted as a regent for his niece later succeeded the throne in the year 1811. But, he too died roughly after 9 years and was then succeeded by his son who was also known as Vira Raja. This king was however very brutal and a monster. He terrorized his kingdom and even held Devammji under his captivity. This gave the British a chance to get a hold over the Kodagu area and so they drove out the monstrous king out and took control of the entire Kodagu in 1834.
Thus, Kodagu became a part of East India Company’s terrain and was given its English name Coorg. The local people remained loyal to the British till they left India as they had had saved Kodagu from the mayhem of Vira Raja,
After India’s independence in 1947 Coorg became the smallest province in India with an area of just 1582 square miles and in 1950, it became a state. But, when India was simplified further into states with respect to language, Coorg became a district of the then Mysore state, now identified as Karnataka.
By: Deepti Verma