They fled persecution and arrived at the foot of a hillock. Spurred by a dream they formed a village, eventually going on to found a city that is now a young metropolis. S Narayana Swamy traces the journey of the Morasu Wokkalu or Vokkaligas, that’s interspersed with peace, abundance, development, battles and even jail time.
It is related in the Mysore Gazetteer that about the end of the fourteenth Century a party of travellers, consisting of seven farmers with their families, halted at the foot of a hill named Ramaswami betta, to the east of Nandidurga. From their having arrived in carts they were called the bandi kapalu or cart raiyats, which may either indicate that carts were an unusual sight or have been equivalent to “ carriage people,” denoting the possession of greater wealth than those among whom they came to settle. They were of Telugu origin and subsequently became known as the Morasu Wokkalu, a name still borne by a large section of raiyats in this district. They were worshippers of Baira Deva, and had the strange custom of amputating the ring and little fingers of the right hand of their - daughters before marriage.
Flight from Kanchi
The leader of the band was Rana Baire Gauda, who had been forced to fly from the village of Alur, near Conjeeveram, in order to preserve his daughter Doddamma from misalliance with a powerful suitor of lower caste. The fugitives, escaping along the banks of the river Palar, were at one point in imminent danger of falling into the hands of their pursuers, when, the girl who was innocent and the cause of the flight, invoking the aid of Devi Ganga, cast her ear-ring into the water as an offering. Thereupon, the river miraculously divided and opened up, allowing her whole party to cross, and interposed its swollen currents to baffle the pursuers.
On the night of their encampment on the spot before mentioned, Rana Baire Gauda was directed in a dream to settle in that neighbourhood. They accordingly built some huts and formed the village of Ahuti, now called Avati, five kilometres north of Devanahalli. But before long they resolved to separate. Rana Baire Gauda remained at Avati and his son, who was the founder of Devanahalli, Dodballapur and Chikballapur, Sanna Baire Gauda betook himself to Holuvanhalli or Korampur, and founded Koratagere (Tumkur district); and Timme Gauda went to Sugatur near Jangamakote, and became the ruler of Kolar and Punganur. He also founded Hoskote, while a descendant of his founded Anekal.
The destination of three others is not known, but the seventh established himself at Yelahanka. This was Jaya Gauda, who acquired the title of Yelahanka Nadu Prabhu or lord of the Yelahanka and was a feudatory of the Vijayanagar sovereigns. He ruled for 15 years (1418-1433) and was succeeded by his son Gidde Gauda. Being without children, the latter is related to have made a vow to Kempamma, the consort of Baire Deva, that if by her favour he should be blessed with male issue, his descendants ever afterwards should bear her name. The goddess was propitious and he had a son, whom in accordance with his vow, he named Kempa Nanja Gauda. After a rule of 10 years (1433-1443) Gidde Gouda was succeeded by Kempa Nanja Gauda. This chief governed his territory with benevolence and justice for the long space of 70 years (1443-1513). Kempegowda, his son, the most distinguished of the line, succeeded, and acquired the favour of Krishna Deva Raya and Achyuta Raya, the kings of Vijayanagar.
Founding of Bangalore
Once, while making a tour through the Yelahanka-nadu Kempegowda came to a village named Sivanasamudram, 10 miles south of Yelahanka, and three miles north of Bengaluru. This was Hale (or old) Bengaluru as it was afterwards called, the site of which is pointed out near Kodigehalli, north-west of Hebbal tank. The Bangalore district was for a long time called the Sivanasamudram country. The site appearing to him favourable for the erection of a fort, Kempegowda obtained the permission of Achyuta Raya to establish his capital there, and in 1537 built a mud fort and transferred his capital to this new town, christening it Bengaluru (Bangalore). As a reward for his zeal and activity, the following places were granted to him by Achyuta Raya, namely, Old Bengaluru, Varthur, Yelahanka, Begur, Halasur, Kengeri, Tala-gattapur, Jigani, Kumbalgod, Kanalli, Banavar, and Hessarghatta. The revenue derived from the twelve hoblis amounted to 30,000 pagodas.
This accession of wealth was partly devoted to the erection of temples, of which the principal are those of Gavi Gangadhareshwara at Gavipur, a mile to the south of the fort, and those of Basaveshwara and others in the same neighbourhood. A large tank was formed near these edifices and named the Kempambudhi after the family goddess. Not content with feudal honours, the chief now usurped the prerogatives of royalty and established a mint (tankasale), whence issued the Baire Deva coins. At this period, Achyuta Raya, his patron, died, and was succeeded on the Vijayanagar throne by Sadasiva Raya, under the guardianship of Rama Raja. Rumour of Kempegowda’s doings having reached the court, he was summoned to account and cast into prison, his territory being sequestered and added to that of Jagadeva Raya of Channapatna.
After remaining in confinement at Anegondi for five years, Kempegowda obtained his release by the payment of a heavy fine, and his possessions were restored to him. His residence at the metropolis Vijayanagar apparently wrought some change in his views, for on his return he is said to have suppressed the custom of amputating the fingers of the marriageable females in his family, considering it incompatible with his dignity as lord of the country. (The observance of this barbarous custom continued in some branches of the sect—Wilks recorded this in 1805). In 1874, the custom was prohibited by the government.
He appears also to have secretly adopted the worship of Shiva in place of that of Baire Deva, the family god. His rule continued till 1568, being 43 years old before and five years after his imprisonment.
His son Immadi (or the second) Kempegowda succeeded to the seat. The lineage continued at Bangalore till 1638. During that year the rulers of Bangalore were forced to shift to Magadi by Dilavar Khan of Bijapur. In his place, Shahaji (father of celebrated Maratha King Shivaji) was appointed governor by the Bijapur Sultan. From Magadi, Kempegowda’s descendants continued the rule over the leftover portion (Magadi) of his state except Bangalore district.
The lineage of Kempegowda survived for almost a century at Magadi. They built many temples, tanks and forts in and around Magadi. As a precautionary measure to save from the onslaught of Muslim rulers, they built a subterranean town (Nelapattana) at the foot of Savandurga, where they stocked their wealth and hid the family during times of war.
But misfortune befell them in 1728. The Dalawayis of Mysore Kingdom besieged the Magadi fort and Kempegowda was defeated. The principality of Kempegowda was annexed to Mysore State. Kempegowda was kept as prisoner of war in Srirangapatna prison till he died. His family members were shifted to Hulikal- a village in Magadi taluk (where the lineage of Kempegowda still lives).
Later, during Poornaiah’s dewanship another line of the family of Kempegowda was pensioned off and rehabilitated by providing the descendants a few villages as jahagir in Hosur taluk of present Tamil Nadu. The lineage still continues there as farmers. The town Bangalore founded by Kempegowda has grown far beyond the four towers built at cardinal points, and the City is now an international metropolis, popularly called as “Garden City” as well as “IT-BT” city.