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The set-up of Kodagu's royal cemetery

Mookonda Kushalappa Jan 10 , 2017 0:04 IST
IN MEMORY A view of Dodda Vira Rajendra's mausoleum at Gaddige in Kodagu district.
Between the years 1583 and 1834, the Haleri kings ruled the erstwhile principality of Kodagu. They built the town of Madikeri and made it their capital. The chief monuments that they built in Madikeri are the palace, the Raja’s Seat and the Gaddige. The Madikeri palace is located within a fortress. The Raja Seat is somewhat similar to a gazebo and it overlooks a picturesque valley. Gaddige, the royal cemetery, is located in the northern-most portion of the Mahadevapet area in Madikeri town. This graveyard has three royal sepulchres built in the Indo-Saracenic style, with domes and turrets. How the cemetery came to be established is interesting.

During the early years of their reign, the Haleri kings had to contend with their predecessors, the local chieftains who were called the Kodagu Nayakas. Vira Raja, the first king, came to Kodagu in the disguise of a wandering monk. He established himself as a teacher and took the local people into confidence. He made Haleri, the village where he settled down, as the first capital of his dynasty.

One day, he threw aside his guise and declared himself the king. Kaliatanda Ponnappa, the tantric magician of Naalnaad, and Karnayya Bavu, the chieftain of Bhagamandala, were Vira Raja’s contemporaries. While Ponnappa acknowledged the Vira’s sovereignty, Karnayya raised a stealth army to attack Vira Raja. Karnayya’s men surrounded and shot dead Ponnappa. But later, the Vira managed to get Karnayya executed in order to establish absolute control.

While North Kodagu was under the Haleri kings, South Kodagu was still under the Nayakas of Kodagu. Kattera Chittiappa Nayaka of Anjigheri naad, Machangada Nayaka of Hattu gattu naad, Mukkatira Nayaka of Mathur and others ruled in South Kodagu. It was Vira Raja’s grandson Muddu Raja who built Madikeri in 1681 and made it his capital. He fostered Utha Nayaka of Beppunaad who would later marry his daughter, Neelammaji. Meanwhile Achchu Nayaka, son of Chittiappa Nayaka, grew mighty and came to dominate Kiggatnaad (South Kodagu). Muddu Raja’s eldest son Dodda Virappa succeeded him as the king. But Virappa’s brother-in-law, Utha Nayaka, rebelled against him. Also, Achchu Nayaka of Kiggatnaad and Kolhlha Kongi Nayaka of Kadiyatnaad were independent and powerful. Dodda Virappa however was able to consolidate his power. His dalavoy (general), Pardanda Ponnappa, succeeded in vanquishing the last of the Kodagu Nayakas.

The first mausoleum
In the 18th century, upon invading Kodagu, the Mysore Sultans imprisoned its princes. However in 1789, Dodda Vira Rajendra, the crown prince, and his family escaped confinement. He became allies with the British and built the town of Virarajendranapette, now known as Virajpet. He also built the Naalnaad palace in 1794. He then married Mahadevammaji in a grand ceremony in 1795. When the queen died in 1807, Vira Rajendra got her buried in Gaddige and founded Mahadevapet in her memory. He completed his memoirs, called Rajendra Name, the same year. After his death in 1809, he was buried next to the queen. The first mausoleum of Gaddige was built over their tombs by the king’s younger brother, Linga Rajendra, the same year.

Linga Rajendra built the Omkareshwara Temple of Madikeri and rebuilt the palace at Madikeri. He also compiled the Hukum Name, a record of laws and surveys in Kodagu, during his reign. When he died at the age of 45, his Queen Palanganda Devaki consumed diamond powder and passed away. They were buried next to each other. Another similar large mausoleum in Gaddige was built over their graves by Chikka Vira Rajendra in 1821. Chikka Vira Rajendra was Linga Rajendra’s only son and successor.

There is a third tomb present Gaddige. While it looks similar, it is smaller. This tomb belongs to Rajguru Rudrappa, the chief preceptor of the kings. Rudrappa’s tomb was built by Diwan Cheppudira Ponnappa in 1834 after the British exiled Chikka Vira Rajendra, the last king of Kodagu.


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