Migrations to Bangalore / Mysore
The contents of this section are from the
1937 Silver Jubilee Souvenir of Mahratta Education Fund, Chennai.
THE MAHRATTAS IN MYSORE
Rao Saheb C. HAYAVADANA RAO, Bangalore
[Rao Saheb Raja Charitra Visarada C. Hayavadana Rao is a journalist of great reputation in Mysore ; and we are grateful to him for having contributed this article, in which he marshals forth all the necessary facts and figures to make the subject of his choice interesting - ED]
The story of the Mahrattas in Mysore has its origin Vijayanagar times. Mahratta families, while they generally sought service under the neighbouring Shahi States of Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmadnagar, seem to have been occasionally connected also in some capacity or other, with the administration of the great Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar in its heyday (1336 - 1565). From a lithic record of Sadasiva (1542 – 1570) dated 15441, we learn that a Mahratta nobleman by name Vithalesvaradeva-Maha-Arasu was a Viceroy of his (Sriman Mahamandaleswara Sri –Marateya Vithalesvara-Deva-Maha Arasu) in the Sivasanasamudra-Sime, and that his jurisdiction extended over Bangalore, where he was represented by an agent (Karya-karta).
On the fall of Vijayanagar (1565) and the shifting of the Imperial capital to Penukonda, direct connection of the Mahrattas with the Hindu Empire of the South almost ceased, and they found increasing opportunities of serving under their Muslim sovereigns (particularly of Bijapur), and distinguishing themselves as civil and military officers for over one hundred years – a period which was marked in the main by the rapid decline of the empire under the fourth or the Aravidu Dynasty, the gradual rise to prominence of the Kingdom of Mysore under the Wodeyars, and the systematic penetration into the Karnataka and far South of arms of Bijapur and Golkonda. The names of Shahji, Madaji, Vedoji, Ananthoji and Balaji Haibat Rao, among others, loom large in the history of this period as Mahratta officers taking an active part in the Karnataka expeditions under Muslim leaders.
To Shaji (1594 – 1664), son of Maloji Bhonsle, however, definitely belongs to the credit of having laid the foundations of the Mahratta power, and begun the first Mahratta settlement, in Mysore. Changing his allegiance alternately to Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and the Mughal Emperor, that remarkable man, ultimately in 1632, went over to the Adil Shah of Bijapur. In 1637-38, he accompanied Ranadulla Khan on his invasion of the Karnataka, and about the cose of 1638 was placed in charge of Bangalore, taken from Immadi Kempe Gauda of Magadi (1569-1655). During the next twenty five years –interrupted by a short interval of his arrest and imprisonment at Bijapur (in 1649-1650) – Shahji, while ostensibly attached to the interests of his master, the Bijapur Sultan, gradually extended his sway over parts of Bangalore and Kolar districts, ruling them in an independent capacity assisted by Mahratta Brahmans as officials, and maintaining unimpaired the Hindu traditions of Government in the conquered tracts. Meantime, about the middle of 1654, the wars of Bijajpur and Golkonda in the Karnataka were practically over, the two powers finally accomplishing the division of their conquests in 1656. The Bijapur belt of territory to the north of the Kingdom of Mysore, under the arrangements effected, went by the designation of Karnatak-Bijapur-Balaghat while the territory below the Ghats, almost co- terminus with the South-Eastern frontier of Mysore, by the designation of Karnatak-Bijapur-Payanghat. Shahji was continued in charge of the entire tract, being confirmed in the possession of Bangalore, Hoskote, Kolar, Doddaballapur and Sira as his Jahgir. These developments tended to increase the power and prestige of Shahji locally, and we find him in 1657 referring to himself as Ajaraka-Khan Maharaja- Rajasri Sahujiraja-Saheb. With Bangalore, the head quarter of the Jahgir, as the base of his power in the South and his ancestral fiefs of Poona and Supa in the distant North under his second son Sivaji (the eldest Sambhaji I having died in 1653), Shahji, in the service of Bijapur, continued his warlike activities in the Karnatak till his own accidental death in Basavapatna in January 1664.
Thereupon Ekoji (Venkoji), son of Shahji by his second wife Tuka Bai Mohite, stepped into the Mahratta inheritance in Mysore. Indeed there is evidence of Ekoji having succeeded to the patrimony as early as 1662, if not 1664. Evidently Shahji, already during his lifetime, had nominated him to the Jahgir. Theoretically exercising the powers of a Bijapur general, Ekoji stayed in Bangalore till his conquest of Tanjore from the Nayak family and his eventual usurpation of all sovereign authority there in 1675. From hence he threw off his allegiance to Bijapur, and Tanjore become his headquarters. Ekoji’s conquest of Tanjore, though a distinct loss to Bijapur, was a landmark of considerable significance from the Mahratta point of view. With Bangalore as the nucleus of his power, it meant the first step in the advance of the Mahrattas in South India at just the time when Bijapur and Golkonda, hard pressed by the Mughals and the Mahrattas (under Sivaji) in the Deccan, had to retire homeward, leaving their Karnatak possessions –under their deputies – to their own fate.
Even after his conquest of Tanjore, Ekoji continued to maintain a foothold on the distant Jahgir of Bangalore, while the Mahratta arms under him gradually went about establishing themselves on the frontiers of the growing Kingdom of Mysore and proceeded as far as Trichinopoly by 1676. Ekoji’s government of Tanjore since 1675, however, had been far from satisfactory, and his eventually led to Raghunath Panth, the able confidential minister of Shahji then in charge of Ekoji’s heritage in Mysore organizing an expedition to the Karnataka under the rising power of Sivaji (half brother of Ekoji) from the Deccan, in 1677, with a view to securing the Kingdom of Tanjore, and perhaps the sovereignty of the entire South, to him. The expedition, while it was on the whole attended with success, left Ekoji practically master of Tanjore and Sivaji, after passing through his ancestral possessions in Mysore, returned to the Deccan about April 1678. Incidentally Sivaji’s invasion of Karnataka left the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Mysore undisturbed, his progress in that direction in August 1677 (during his march from Gingee) having been definitely arrested by her then ruler, Chikka-devaraj Wodeyar (1673-1704), who, as the natural heir and successor of the Vijayanagar Empire, had asserted his claim to rule from the throne of the Karnataka country as early as 1675, under the titles Karnataka – Chakravarti and Dashinadik Chakravarti.
Mahratta sovereignty in the South, however, tended rapidly to assume a definite shape in the wake of Sivaji’s expedition to the Karnatak, and more particularly after his death in April 1680. Of that sovereignty, extension of Mahratta power and influence over the length and breadth of South India, and the establishment of outposts at convenient points, which would enable them to levy and realize their dues (the Chauth and Sardesmukhi) from the conquered tracts, were the prime features. Already by 1678, the Mahrattas had been reckoned a force in South India. Besides, Bangalore, Ginjee, Vellore and Tanjore had become the strongholds of Mahratta there. And between 1678-1680 they were extending the sphere of their activities from the Karnataka-Bijapur-Balghat in the North up to Trichinopoly in the far South. Further, in keeping with the theory of Mahratta sovereignty, we find Sambaji II, son and successor of Sivaji, assuming the title of Emperor (Sambhaji Chakravarthi), for the first time in July 1680.
In the realization of their ambition, however, the Mahrattas during 1680-1686, found themselves drawn into an inevitable conflict with Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar of Mysore, who, as the sole representative of the Vijayanagar Empire in South India, had been since 1673 systematically extending the frontiers of his kingdom at the expense of Madura in the far South and Bijapur in the North, and in 1682 laid siege to Trichinopoly itself, the objective of the Southern expansion of Mysore ever since 1642. In that conflict, the Mahrattas, though at first they sustained serious reverses in the neighborhood of Seringapatam during a diversion of their forces from Trichinopoly in 1682, eventually came to successful, and were, in July 1686, obliged to come to terms with Mysore and retire from the South, hard pressed in their homelands by the advance of Mughal arms on the Deccan.
The withdrawal of the Mahrattas was followed by the fall of Bijapur (September 1686), the influx of the Mughals into South India and the rapid recovery by Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar from the effects of the Mahratta wars in Mysore. These circumstances doubtless told heavily on Ekoji, who found it exceedingly difficult and expensive to maintain Bangalore, the seat of his father’s Jaghir in Mysore, from distant Tanore. Accordingly early in 1687, he managed to sell it through his Vakil to Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar for three lakhs of Rupees. The place finally passed into the possession of Mysore on July 14, 1687, after nearly fifty years of Mahratta sway there.
Mahratta connection with portions of Bangalore, Kolar and Tumkur districts – which originally formed part of Shahji’s Jahgir – however, continued during the closing years of the seventeenth century (1687-1700) and a greater part of the eighteenth, down to 1761. Mahratta armies and irregulars freely passed through these tracts during their struggles with the Mughals in the Karnataka (1689-1698). Again, during the renewed bid for supremacy in the South in the eighteenth century (c 1720-1761) these tracts, with their well-garrisoned outposts, formed the base of operations of the Peshwas against the kingdom of Mysore and other rivals (like Nizam and Nawab of Arcot) as far as Trichinopoly, and provide a fertile ground for their systematic collection of chauth and Sardesmukhi in the Karnatak and the realisation of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao’s (1740-1761) grand ideal of Hindu Empire (Hindu-pad-Padshahi). The soaring ambition of Balaji was unluckily frustrated by the last battle of Panipet (1761), when, under the stress of necessity, he had to recall his reserve forces from Mysore for the service of his country and nation ; and this contributed not a little to complete the usurpation by Haidar Ali of Mysore, followed by his acquisition of the Mahratta outposts in rapid succession. Mahratta power in Mysore thus ended as fortuitously as it had begun, though they never ceased to have an eye on the kingdom, and sought to maintain diplomatic relations with the Court of Seringapatam, throughout the regime of Haidar Ali and Tipu (1761-1799) ; while individual Mahrattas had increasing opportunities for distinguishing themselves as civil and military officers in the State during the period of Restoration and after- from 1799 onward – a period marked by the decline and fall of the Mahratta Empire in India.
The earliest of these documents, dated November 3, 1637 records the grant of a rent free land in Hasugur by the Srimanta the Desakulakarni Samanna. The next series of records belong to the time of Shahji and range from 1647 – 1663. One of these,dated September 29, 1657, registers his gift of lands in Lakkur (Nelamangala Taluk) to Bavanur Ahammad, for his own merit. Another, dated January 12, 1660, refers to his grant of the village of Naguvalli, in Channapatnasthala as a rent-free estate to Siddalinge-Gaude. A third, dated October 5, 1660 records a gift of land to Antraji-Pandita (a Mahratta Brahmin official under Shaji). A fourth dated September 1, 1661, relates to a grant of dry field of the soaking capacity of 100 1/2 Khandugas to Byalisi Javiranna. And a fifth, dated May 1, 1663, registers a gift of lands yielding 6 Khandugas of paddy to one Alambigiri Tippa Setti for having restored the old tank of Holur, belonging to Kolar. Again one of the records, dated March 3, 1647, relates to a grant by Sambhaji I (eldest son of Shahji) of the village of Hanchipura to Channabasappa Wader of the Saji Matha. Another dated November 5, 1653 refers to the rent-free gift (Kattu Kodige) of the village Kondiganahalli by Kanayaja Pandita, agent of Sambhaji for the border district of Kolar sime. A third dated October 20, 1654, relates to a grant by the same official of land under the Muduvadi-Mallasamudra tank to Chandaya Tambarahalli Depa Gauda, for having constructed the tank. A fourth, dated August 16, 1661, records the construction of a pillar for the service of God Venkatesvara of the Bevur Hill in the Malur Hobli of Channapatana- Sthala by Dundoji Haibat Rao ( son of Balaji Haibat Rao), another official under Shahji. And a fifth dated March 14, 1662, refers to the gift of rent free land (nettauru-Kodige) by Baranajai Raja Havaldar of Rahadurga under Shaji, in honor of Simangala Chikka- Deva’s son, Timmappa (who fell, perpaps, in a bettle). We have again a record of Ekoji’s time dated January 20, 1666 in which Jayanta Bai ( ? daughter in-law of Shahji) makes a grant of Uttur village in the Kolar sime (belonging to Kolar –chavadi) as an agrahara to one Bhavaji Pant, son of Virupaksha Sankara of Kasyapa Gotra. Among the records of the time of Sambhaji II (son of Sivaji), one dated July 31, 1680, communicates an order (nirupa) of his to the Karukun of Kolar, regarding the gift to one Venkatesa Sastri, son of Chenni-Bhatta, of the village Uttanur-Madavala, with all rights. Another dated January 29, 1685, relates the grant of a plot of land of the sowing capacity of half a khanduga in the Agraharam village, Hoskote Taluk, for the worship of god Madesvara, by Devaiya Nayaka. And a third dated January 4, 1686 registers the gift by Malukoji (?son of Sambhaji) of the village of Avalambagiri (Alamagiri) in the Kaivara-sthala of the Kolar-sime for services to God Tiruvengadanatha.
Among the epigraphs of the eighteenth century, one, dated in April 1727 refers to the grant by Manukoji-Raja of land to Hadakanahalli Baira –Gauda as a rent free estate. Two document dated January 15, 1728 relate to a gift by Annaji to Sesho Pant for having built a big tank in front of Sulibele, Hoskote taluk. A fourth dated January 10, 1740, records a grant by Subdar Yantaji Basale Rao to Mari Gauda for a similar service in front of Daserahalli near Vokkaleri, Kolar Taluk. A fifth, dated August 28, 1759, refers to a grant by the Srimanta Sahib (Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao) with the Sar-Jamindar, in the presence of the Settis of the Sagar Pete of Basavapatna, to Marilingappa for the office of a Setti, as a Palaki Umbali of the village of Udova belonging to Kole in the Sulekere sime. We have also documents dated 1767 and 1775 registering gifts by Malhari Rao, Madhava Rao Ballal Pradhan and Murari Rao Ghorpade.
Most of the Mahrattas resident in the State to-day are descendants of those who had followed in the wake of the Mahratta incursions since 1565 A.D barring those who might have followed the organized Mutts of Sankara and Madhva between the 14th and 16th centuries. During the period of the earlier Mysore kings individuals Maharatta mostly Brahmins served in the higher offices of the state. Khande Rao, who opposed Haidar in his usurpation of sovereign power in the states, was one such. He was a trusted minister of king Krishnaraja II. Toshikhana KrishanaRao, who led the insurrection against Tipu was the faithful Treasury officer of the reigning sovereign. Bishtopanth Badami (the Bisnapah Pandit of the Wellington Despatches) who commanded the Army in the earlier years of the post restoration period was another Mahratta Brahmin whose services were much appreciated by H.H Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and the British. When Baji Rao II fell in 1818 and the Peshwa’s territories were annexed, a number of Mahratta families’ dependent on him emigrated and sought shelter in Mysore. Krishnaraja Wodeyar II not only gave them an asylum but also afforded opportunities for service under him. The continued effect of the influence wielded by these Mahratta families in the State has been the spread of Marathi language as the language of the administration at one time and the spread of Mahratta culture which made active service for the good of the State its primary duty. Whether in the higher administrative or the military walks of life, the Mahrattas have always distinguished themselves by their zeal, hard work, and infinite capacity for taking pains in the interest of common good. Politically they have been in the forefront, their sagacity, alertness and adaptability being well known. At present the Mahrattas in the Mysore State number about 53,000, but this figure does not include Mahratta Brahmins. They are to be found scattered through the eight districts of the State, but more largely in the Shimoga, Kolar and Bangalore district. The Marathi language is spoken by about 50,000, a number of the Mahratta families having taken to Kannada under local influence. A good part of the Mysore Army (part of the Indian army of to-day) is manned by the Mahrattas who have always supplied recruits for it. Among the officers are a number of Brahmans of Mahratta origins, most of whom can trace their descent back to ancestors who won distinction centuries ago in the service of the Mysore Kings.