History

King of Coorg - Chikka Veera Rajendra

The Last King of Coorg – Chikka Veera Rajendra

The majority of the early accounts of Coorg(Kodagu) are fundamentally eminent and the genuine record of history in Coorg is available only following the ninth century. On the word of inscriptions, Coorg was under the rule of many dynasties of South India such as Changalvas, Cholas, Gangas, Hoysalas, Kadambas and Pandyas.

It is believed that early on the northern part of Kodagu was under the Kadambas and the south under the Gangas. The Cholas were a powerful force in the eleventh century they defeated the Gangas. However, the Changalva Arasus continued o rule the south Kodagu when Raja Chola was ruling in Tanjavur.

The northern parts of Kodagu were ruled by the Kongalvas who were a vassal of the Cholas. The situation more or less remained the same till the invasion under Alauddin Khilji. In the fourteenth century the Changalvas became prominent rulers of Kodagu. For most of the period the influence of the Changalvas or the Kongalvas never reached beyond the borders of Kodagu.

The period between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries were tumultuous and rulers changed faster than the seasons. However, Kodagu continued to cling on to its independent stature. The fall of the Vijayanagara empire signaled a change and in this period Keladi Nayaks of Ikkeri took over Kodagu and established the Paleri(Haleri) Kingdom. Paleri kings, who were Lingayats of Veerashaiva faith, ruled the region for more than 200 years (1580 – 1834). The first ruler of Paleri dynasty was Vira Raja. His grandson Muddu Raja I was a popular ruler and ruled for more than 50 years. He moved his headquarters to current day Madikeri in 1681. It was called Muddu Raja Keri and later shortened to Madikeri. Under the Paleri dynasty Kodagu attained a status as an Independent kingdom.
Dodda Vira Raja ruled from 1687 – 1736. Under his rule the administration of the region was streamlined into villages and districts. Other notable figures in the history of Kodagu are Dodda Vira Rajendra (1780 – 1809) and Linga Raja II (1811 – 1820).

After taking over Mysore kingdom, Hyder Ali contested the territories of  Coorg. The Coorg King Chikka Virappa agreed to part  with certain territories captured in the previous wars with the Mysore Kingdom. Matters escalated into war.  In 1765 Lingaraja I, the younger brother of the Haleri King Muddayya attacked Hyder’s troops near the boundary with Mysore and Ali relented. More wars ensued till 1768 and the Mysore Army was defeated in their stronghold near Coorg borders. Hyder relented, a treaty was effected and the boundaries of Mysore and Coorg, fixed.

Once again, due to internal squabbling among the ruling kings, Linga Raja I escaped Coorg and asked Hyder Ali for his assistance to capture Coorg from his Horamale cousins who had taken control of Coorg. Hyder sided with Linga Raja I and suceeded in installing him on the throne with the help of disgruntled Coorgs, who helped Hyder’s army in the attack on Madikeri. After the takeover Hyder reduced Linga raja I to vassalge. The takeover  was distested by the Coorgs by sporadic rebellions. Lingaraja I died in 1780, leaving behind his two children to claim the throne. The war that broke out in June, 1782 was very successful and the Kodavas drove out Hyder’s troops and dignitaries, with Madikeri being the only territory in the hands of Mysoreans.

Hyder Ali sent his commanders with forces to subdue the Coorgs, they captured the minor princes and sent them to reside at Periapatna Fort. These developments further enraged the Coorgs and Madikeri soon fell. Hyder Ali died in 1782 and his son Tipu Sultan took over. After his victory against the British at Mangalore, Tippu Sultan marched through Kodagu with his whole army and defeated the Coorgs. He retained control of Coorg and strengthened the garrison at Mercara Fort. He called a meeting of Coorg chiefs and delivered to their hands written mandate accusing them of polyandry, plundering his armies & rebelling against Hyder seven times. He warned the Kodavas with dire consequences, if they would rebel again. Enraged, the Kodavas again rose up in rebellion, sacked and plundered Madikeri.

In 1784 Tippu entered Coorg with a 32,000 strong army, along with a French battalion commanded by General Monsieur Lally and defeated the Coorg Army, made true of his threat and hauled thousands of civilian and captured Coorgs to Srirangapatna.

In 1788, Coorgs rescued their king Dodda Vira Rajendra, the eldest of the princes, who had been taken prisoner by Tippu and held in Periyapatna fort. The Coorgs who escaped Tipu’s army, rallied around the the young Prince kept engaging Tippu’s forces in the battlefield. By 1790 Dodda Vira Rajendra had successfully attacked and sacked most of the forts garissoned by Tipu Sultan’s forces.

Coorg Warrior, 1850

Coorg Warrior, 1850

The same year Dodda Vira Rajendra came in contact with the British. In October 25, 1790 Dodda Vira Rajendra signed a treaty with the British, who promised to protect his kingdom against Tipu’s onslaught and offer him independence in running the affairs of his kingdom. In return, the Raja would have to assist and fight along the British forces in their war with Tipu Sultan. In 1791, after a prolonged siege, Tipu’s forces evacuated Mercara Fort and Dodda Vira Rajendra regained his entire kingdom.

Eventually, the Kodavas backed the British troops and Tipu fell in the year 1799.

Following Coorg’s British annexation in the early 1830s, the region was directly under British rule until the Indian Independence in the late 1940s. Coorg was recognized by the Indian Constitution as part “C” state and elected a government to assume office in the early 1950s with a chief minister of its own.

In November of 1956, the the State of Coorg was amalgamated with the onetime state of Mysore, as part of a state reorganization. Now, the district of Coorg(Kodagu) is part of the state of Karnataka.

Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains. The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbors and has always maintained their unique identity.