Nagara,(ನಗರ) now a small town at a distance of about twenty kilometers from Shivamogga was known earlier as Bidanur, Bidarur and also as Venupura in a sanskrtised version. This was the capital city of the Keladi dynasty after 1640. The capital was shifted hrom Keladi to Nagara was made during the regime of Veerabhadra Nayaka. However the person who was responsible for the growth and wealth of Bidanur was Raja Shivappa Nayaka whose administration was so disciplined as to be described as “Shivappanayakana Shistu’ even to this day. (prahara paTTi or aDike hAlattu) The word ‘shistu’ also means ‘tax’. Land revenues were assessed and collected in a very scientic manner. This town was in a trade route that facilitated the movement of merchandise from the hilly regions (malenaaDu) to the costal regions. This fact contributed hugely to its development. Forts and palaces were built in a phased manner and Bidanur boasted of a fort which had a circumference of twelve kilometers. It had ten entrances which were given different names. The fort is entered by a gateway supported by two round bastions. The courtyard inside shows signs of a former guard room. Inside the third wall is a large open court facing which is a terrace overlooking the fort. There was a palace on a small hillock and which was surrounded by another small fort.

However this glory did not last long. Hyder Ali invaded Bidanur in 1763 during the regime of Rani Veerammaji and assumed the throne. He established a military centre in the town and named it as Hyder nagara. The town housed a small mint which created coins called Hyderi Pagodas. They were also manufacuring ammunition for fire arms in a small factory. Bidanur was taken over by the British government after the defeat of Tipu Sultan and gradually it was marginalised. An act of rebellion against Mummadi Krishnaraja Odeyar the king of Mysore took place at Bidanur in 1830.

Devagange, built by the kings of Bidanur is an engineering marvel. Water flowing from the hills above was collected in seven ponds which different shapes. Two lakes shaped like a lotus and a star are particularly beautiful.

Nagara has many temples among which Neelakatheshvara takes the pride of place. It’s built in the architectural style peculiar to malenaaDu. But it has a dome built in the Islamic style. Gudde Venkataramana temple and the Srirama temple have door frame made in the Hoysala style and bells manufactured in Amsterdam , Holland .

It is interesting to note quite few literary works are produced with Bidanur as the locale. “Chennabasavanyaka' a novel by Masti Venkatesha Iyyengar who has won Jnanapeetha award for Kannada, depicts the last days of the Keladi dynasty and the confrontation between Veerammaji and Hyder Ali. ‘Nagarada RaNi’ by Veerakesari Seetharama Shastry’ is another novel with the same theme.


1.      References: Samak S.G.: Art and architecture of the nayakas pf keladi with special reference to kaavaledurga and nagara (bidanur) (a micro study) 1996, Dept of History, Bangalore University , Bangalore




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