Mudhol's royal chapter

Mudhol's royal chapter

Descendents of the Sisodia Rajputs of Chittor, the Bhonsales, later known as the Ghorpades, gave rise to the royal families of Kapasi, Gajendragad and Sondur. Arjunsinh Jadeja throws light on the intriguing history of the gallant royals of Mudhol.

As you drive towards Mudhol, in Bagalkot district of Uttara  Karnataka, you are welcomed by miles and miles of sugarcane fields. The river Ghataprabha that runs in a small trickle in the lush Ghats of the Konkan near Gadinglaj and Amboli, meanders down to the Deccan plateau through the Gokak falls and to the plains of Mudhol before merging into the mighty Krishna. The river has been contained with a series of check dams, so that there is water all year round in Mudhol. There are at least ten factories, within a 50-km radius, producing sugar, ethanol, chemicals and power.

There are a few mini and mega cement plants, distilleries, and wineries. Prosperity is visible everywhere.

Much before all this development and even before history was recorded, Mudhol must have been a pastoral cluster of huts, with a population of a few hundred. Back then, either bank of the river must have been thickly wooded and wild game aplenty in the forests. Small clearings must have been farmed and the chief occupation must have been agriculture with main crops being jowar, rice and wheat. The people might have been goat herders who were nomadic and small game hunters. They favoured the Khilari breed of cows and bullocks to procure milk and for transport. The earliest mention of Mudhol that we find in history texts is from the 9th Century, during the reign of the Chalukyas whose capital was Badami, 60 kilometres to the south-east.

Muduvolalu — as it was then known — was on the banks of the Ghataprabha. The texts say that it is the birthplace of Mahakavi Ranna who rose to fame in the Badami court of King Tailappa II, as a poet who wrote the “Gada Yuddha” based on the Mahabharata. The language was old kannada or halegannada.

With the advent of the Bahmani kings and the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, the Chalukyas lost most of the Deccan and southern regions. The Bahmani and the Adil Shahi armies were peopled by foreigners comprising the Afghans, Turks, Persians as well as Rajput warriors. They, in turn, were given Jagirs to govern and maintain an army.

So we find that the Jagir of Mudhol was given to one Bhairavji by the Bahmani emperor Ferozshah in 1400 AD. The Jagir remained in the family even during the reign of the Adil Shahis. Mudhol then had evolved into a fortress town. There were huge entrances erected to the north, east and west which were manned by sentries and locked up at night. The Wada, where the Kings family resided, was in the centre. The river was to the south-west.

In those times, as with most places on the Asian continent, succession to the throne was fiercely contested. We have heard many sordid tales of the Moghuls and other dynasties killing their own fathers or brothers or uncles, trying to usurp the throne.
The norm was for the eldest son to succeed to the throne while the other sons looked to find their fortune elsewhere. They travelled to other kingdoms and earned themselves Jagirs, while providing an army and services to the king. Thus they became the soldiers of fortune.

The Rajas of Mudhol trace their origin to the Sisodia Rajputs of Chittor. It is in the first quarter of the 14th Century that we find Sujansinha leaving his native land of Rajasthan to carve out his own destiny. Sujansinha had a son Rana Ugrasen who, in turn, had two sons Rana Karansinha and Rana Subhakrishna.

The Ghorpade dynasty of Mudhol are the descendants of Karansinha. He was of the same lineage as that of the Maharana of Mewar. The brothers were then known in the Deccan as the Bhonsales, after the name of a fort that they lived in. Incidentally, Subhakrishna is the ancestor of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire.

The family soon acquired another surname by the dint of their valour. While fighting in a battle for the Bahmani king, Karansinha and his son Bhimsinha used a Monitor Lizard, called Ghorpad in Marathi, to scale the impregnable fort of Khelna (presently, Vishalgad in Maharashtra). Karansinha died in the battle, but his son Bhimsinha (1403-1455) was feted for the feat. He was conferred the title “Raja Ghorpade Bahadur” by the grateful Bahmani ruler. The royal families of Kapasi, Gajendragad and Sondur are also the descendants of Bhimsinha.

Right from the 14th Century we find that the Deccan region and, for that matter, much of India, was in constant turmoil. There was never a time when the Ghorpades of Mudhol were not waging a battle.The battlefield was their karmabhoomi. They fought wars for the Bahmani Sultans and later, were involved in the conquests of the Adil Shah of Bijapur.

They also fought against Aurangzeb and fought alongside the Peshwa against the British. Since they were occupied in one war or another, for most of the time, they were away from their Jagir of Mudhol. It was only during the reign of Venkatrao Ghorpade (1861-1899) that there was some semblance of peace.

Venkatrao organised the judicial, revenue and educational systems in Mudhol. He made primary education free and built water tanks to supply water to the town. Roads were laid and trees were planted. The kings’ titles were continued by the British till they merged with the Indian Union in 1947.

Mudhol has also earned a permanent place in history as the origin of the “Mudhol Hounds”. The Mudhol Hounds were bred by Raja Malojirao Ghorpade (1884-1939).

They were bred from a strain of the Caravan Hound or the Arabian Hound. They were slender and sleek dogs trained for hunting. When they were presented to King George V of England, he was most impressed by these curious dogs and named them the “Hounds of Mudhol”.

Malojirao Ghorpade expired in 1939. Rajmata Parvatidevi (formerly of the Jadeja clan of Saurashtra) ruled as regent on behalf of her minor son Raja Bhairavsinh Malojirao Ghorpade, the last Raja of Mudhol (1929-1984). He signed the merger agreement with the Union of India in 1947 and joined the Indian Army; he served as an officer with the Poona Horse Regiment.

He is succeeded by his wife Indiraraje and a daughter Menkaraje, who is married to Vijaysinh Maurya, a builder and property developer. While much water has flown down the Ghataprabha in the last 800 years, the hounds still roam the streets.

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