The migrant rulers of Jamkhandi

The migrant rulers of Jamkhandi

The Patwardhans made Jamkhandi their home, ruling the jagirs of Miraj, Sangli and Kurundwad. Two centuries later, Dr B D Jatti was influential in getting the principality to be among the first Princely States to merge with the Indian Union, says Arjunsinh Jadeja.

Jamkhandi lies in the rain shadow of the Western Ghats in North Karnataka, close to the border towns of Miraj and Sangli in Maharashtra. It is in a hilly region in the basin of the River Krishna. In the times of Chalukyan rule, a temple existed deep inside a Jamun (Blueberry) grove.

 It was the Jambukeshwar temple from which the town derived its name. After the fall of the Chalukyas, the region was ruled by the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. The region later fell under Maratha rule. In the later 17th Century the Peshwas became the mainspring of the Maratha confederacy, with Pune as their capital. The Peshwas rewarded their kith and kin and dependants with grants of land. So we find the Chitpavan Brahmins strengthening their political influence and position in the Deccan Plateau. 

The Patwardhan rulers of Jamkhandi who were Chitpavan Brahmins, trace their origin to one Haribhat, from Kotawada, a village in Ratnagiri. He became the family priest of the chief of Ichalkaranji, another Chitpavan Brahmin. Three of his sons took up service with the Peshwa and distinguished themselves in the various conquests for their ruler. To honour their bravery and courage they were awarded Jagirs. So we find the Patwardhans ruling the Jagirs of Jamkhandi, Miraj, Sangli and Kurundwad.

Jamkhandi was one of the Maratha Princely States of British India, administered as part of the Bombay Presidency and later the Deccan States Agency. It was founded in 1811 by Gopalrao Ramchandrarao Patwardhan (1799-1840). He was succeeded by Ramchandrarao Gopalrao Patwardhan (1833-1897), a very capable administrator. He moved his capital to Ramtirth, a hill near Jamkhandi, beside an old temple.

 He built a beautiful palace, a school and polo grounds. Having no male heir, he adopted Parshuramrao alias Bhausaheb Patwardhan (1897-1924), who ascended the Gaddi in 1903 and was the third Raja of Jamkhandi. Educated in Kolhapur under British tutors, Parshuram Patwardhan travelled far and wide with the Queen, in India and abroad, to study ways to improve the lot of his people. 

As a token of appreciation of his ability as a ruler, he was bestowed with the honour of “Knight Commander of The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire” by Edward VII. During the First World War, he served with the British Indian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in France for four months. He was later moved to Mesopotamia to report on the work of the Red Cross. He also had the privilege to be the Honorary ADC to Lord Willingdon, the Governor General of Bombay. He was succeeded by his son Shankarrao Parshuramrao, alias Appasaheb (1924-1947), whose death was untimely when he was crushed to death by an angry elephant. It was Parshuramrao Ramchandrarao Patwardhan II, the fifth and last ruler of Jamakhandi, who signed the Charter of Merger with the Indian Union in 1947. 

Princess of the people

A very illustrious personality from Jamkhandi of those times was Dr Indutai Patwardhan (1926-1999), sister of the ruler Parshuramrao. The princess was educated in Jamkhandi and Kolhapur where she studied occupational therapy and homoeopathy. Sacrificing her palatial comforts, she joined Gandhiji’s movement in Sabarmati in 1942. She was later trained by Madam Maria Montessori, the Italian educationist herself, and worked at St Columbia High School, Bombay.

 She joined the Indian Red Cross and volunteered to work on the Burma front during the Second World War. She was the first Indian woman to work in South East Asia. After Partition, she worked for the rehabilitation and resettlement of refugees and women abductees from Pakistan in Ferozepur where, along with Lady Martten, she was the joint camp commandant. She was awarded the Dalit Mitra by Maharashtra and Tamra Patra Prashasti by Karnataka. Dr Indutai Patwardhan established Anandgram on the outskirts of Pune to care for leprosy patients.

Saint philosopher and social reformer Gurudev Ranade was born in Jamkhandi in 1886 is still revered by the people. He studied in the P B School there and stood second in the matriculation exam of Bombay University. This so elated the Maharaja that he personally distributed sweets to the whole town. He studied eastern and western philosophies and his monumental work on Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy was published in 1926. He taught philosophy at Allahabad University. He attained sainthood in 1924. 

Ranade established an ashram hear Nimbal where he passed away in 1957. Another famous son of Jamkhandi was Dr Basappa Danappa Jatti. He was a minister in the Maharaja’s government during independence and Jamkhandi was the first princely state to sign the merger agreement with the Indian Union under his influence. He went on to become a minister in the Morarji Desai government in Bombay State. He was also the chief minister of the Mysore State from 1958 to 1962. He rose to become the Vice President of India and Acting President for five months in 1977.

Today Jamkhandi is a bustling town, reaping a bounty from its sugar and jaggery industries. The palace atop the hill has been converted into a school and is managed by the present MLA Sidhu Nyamgowda. The descendants of the royal family Pranayrao Patwardhan, Rani Anjalidevi and Rajmata Lailaraje, and their family live in Pune. The beautiful hills around the town which were once adorned with Jamun and other trees now wear a denuded look.

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