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Tales of a chieftain's valour

Mandikal Purushottham, Dec 4, 2012

Heritage

RARE RELICS Many objects belonging to chieftain Bisegowda’s time can still be found in his descendants’ homes and in the fort at Harapanayakanahalli  in Mulbagal taluk. (photos by the author)

 Bisegowda was a chieftain who ruled the Mulbagal region two centuries ago. Many artefacts belonging to his time, including arms and ammunition, are testimony to the man’s bravery, reports Mandikal Purushottham.

Many objects, said to belong to a palegar, Bisegowda, who lived and governed the Mulbagal region two centuries ago, can still be found at Harapanayakanahalli, a small hamlet in the taluk.

The artefacts are in line with narratives recorded by historians from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The chieftain was known not just in Karnataka but also in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for his valour.

In fact, even today, wedding ceremonies in parts of Andhra Pradesh, especially Kurnool district, have a tradition that is called ‘Bisegowda Veelya’ (an offering that has betel leaves and betel nuts).


There are records of the chieftain in Telugu writer Bathanapalli T Muniratnam Reddy’s work ‘Shri Kalabaireshwara Sthala Purana Charithra’.

The work notes that Bisegowda’s several iron weapons and ammunition were placed amidst the huge boulders in Andhra Pradesh’s Patthikonda.

According to the narrative, in 1766 AD, Hyder Ali attacked Cuddapah district and held captive the Nawab of Cuddapah. He then appointed Meersaab as his representative of the region. Even Chittoor was under the control of Hyder Ali.

There were as many as 180 palegars under Hyder Ali’s 15-year rule. He was known to take firm steps against dissidents. Hyder had entrusted the responsibility of keeping the palegars in the northern part of his territory under check to Bisegowda. He had also provided Bisegowda enough ammunition for self-defence.

Bisegowda himself had constructed a 200-ft-wide and 18-ft-high fort for his protection. The fort stands even today.

Bisegowda didn’t have male offspring. All his descendants are his daughter’s lineage.

The British government in pre-Independent India, according to historical records, issued a notice to the chieftain to hand over the thousands of weapons in his possession back to them, in 1942.

While some were handed over to the British, the others are with the descendants of the chieftain.

Conquest of Chandragiri

Bisegowda was known to ensure that the other palegars regularly paid a certain sum to the principal ruler, who in this case, was Hyder Ali. The chieftain even waged a battle against the ruler of Chandragiri upon orders from Hyder Ali.

Recently found records say that Bisegowda indeed launched such an attack. When Gowda’s men had to launch an attack against Chandragiri with 1,000 horses and 2,000 brave soldiers, they had to invariably take the Patthikonda route.

But the palegar (chieftain) of Patthikonda did not want Bisegowda to take this route. And yet, Gowda, the chieftain took that route, without seeking permission from the Patthikonda ruler. Once Bisegowda returned from his Chandragiri conquest, he was attacked by the Patthikonda ruler. This story of how he fought is part of the region’s folklore even today.
 

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