CHIEFTAINS OF KARNATAKA

Chieftains of Karnataka (ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದ ಪಾಳೆಯಗಾರರು) represent an interesting historical phenomenon that is pan Indian in nature. This in a way indicates a process of de-centralization of power. Empires and kingdoms did control these chieftains. But the local governance was left to these fiefdoms. Many a time, they were quite independent and indulged in shifting of their loyalties from one king to the other depending on the exigencies of the situation. Occasionally regional commanders appointed by the kings severed their relations and declared their independence. The word ‘pALeya’ literally means a temporary shelter. These chieftains stayed in tents erected outside the capital city whenever they visited the kings. Consequently they were called ‘pALeyagAr’s. These chieftains collected revenue from their subjects and were responsible for law and order. They had their own armies and rushed to support which ever king they owed their allegiance at a given point whenever the need arose. Some of them like the chieftains of keLadi, became very powerful and established their own dynasties. Another interesting point to be noted is that most of these pALeyagArs were neither Kshatriyas nor Brahmins. They belonged to a number of land owning and nomadic communities.

In Karnataka, ‘pALeyagAr’s became prominent during and after the reign of Vijayanagara kings. A few chieftains did exist even before that. For instance ‘gummareDDy pALya’ was established by Narasimhanayaka in 1243 A.D. Bahamani sultanate and the kings of the Adilshahi dynasty also allowed the chieftains to blossom under their control. M.S. Puttanna has written a pioneering book on the ‘pALeyagAr’s of Karnataka. Most of them flourished during the next few centuries. However they were more or less eliminated at least in South Karnataka during the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.

GummanAyakana pALya, tarIkere, harapana haLLi, citradurga, madhugiri, hosakOTe, ikkEri, yelahanka and cennapaTTaNa are the seats of some important pALeyagArs of Karnataka.  The rise and fall of some of these ‘pALeyapaT’s is dealt with briefly in the succeeding paragraphs.

The pALeyapaT of Tarikere was stablished in 1545 A.D. by Hanumappanayaka, a commander in the army of Vijayanagara. It is also said that they were ruling prior to that from ‘basavApaTTaNa’ in Davanagere district. The capital was shifted to Tarikere during the regime of Kengappa Nayaka. Hanumappa and his successors ruled from Tarikere and they enjoyed power over lands that brought in annual revenue of nine lakh gold coins. They were quite powerful for more than a century. Their power dwindled after early seventeenth century. They had to succumb to the powers of marATAs and Hyder Ali. Sarja Rangappa Nayaka, Sarja Hanumappa Nayaka and Krishnappa Nayaka are other important rulers who belonged to this fiefdom. Sarja Rangappa Nayaka took part in the third and fourth Mysore wars. He rose in rebellion against the mal administration of the British rulers after the death of Tipu Sultan. This rebellion is referred to as ‘bUdi basavappana dange’. This pALeyapaT became extinct by the beginning of nineteenth century. 

The pALeyagArs of ‘harapanahaLLi’ originally belonged to the ‘bEDa’ (hunter) community and later they embraced the Veerashaiva religion. This Fiefdom was established by dAdayya nAyaka in the mid sixteenth century. He was loyal to the Sultans of Bijapur and had love hate relations with the neighbouring chieftains. Somashekhara Nayaka was the most important king in this lineage. He was an able administrator. He paid appeasement money to Adilshahi kings and the powerful MaraTAs. Hyder Ali invaded this pALeypaT a couple of times. Tipu Sultan and the British rulers who succeeded him were particularly unkind to this fiefdom and HarapanahaLLi pALeyapaT came to an end in 1825 A.D. with the passing away of another sOmashEkhara nAyaka.

The chieftains of Chitradurga are dealt with in a separate entry.

The pALeyapaT of ChannapaTTaNa was established by rANOjirAya in the sixteenth century. They belonged to the Telugu Banajiga sect. However Jagadevaraya-1 is the most important king in this dynasty. He was valiant and defeated the Sultan of Bijapur at a war held in Penugonda. He expanded the Fiefdom to include regions stretching as far as the Western Ghats. His successors were less powerful and the kingdom of annexed by Chamaraja Odeyar of Mysore in 1630.

Yelahanaka pALeyapaT established in the fifteenth century itself has a long and illustrious history. Yelahanaka, MagaDi and Bangalore were their seats of power. Kempe Gowda a Chieftain belonging to this Fiefdom built the city of Bangalore.

There were many more pALeyapaTs in Karnataka particularly during the interval between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. They have played an important role in the evolution and administrative practices of Karnataka.

 

Further Reading and Links:

1.      ‘The Poligars of Mysore and Their Civilization’, 1943, by Ramachandra Rao P.B., Teppakulam: Palaniyappa Bros.

2.      ‘Chitrdurgada Paleyagararau’ by M.S. Puttanna, 1924, Bangalore.  

 

 

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