Doddavirarajendra, the swashbuckling 18th century Rajah of Coorg was the most famous ruler of this tiny, erstwhile kingdom. His daring escape from captivity in Tipu Sultan’s prison at Periyapatana, aided by the Coorg Chieftains, his successful military campaigns to win Coorg back from Tipu and his dramatic life are all the stuff of legend.
In the heartland of Coorg, Nalaknad, an area that was once dense with forests, lies a monument to a less well known, but important episode in his life. A modest, two-storied structure known as the Aramane, or Palace, with its simple rooms, pillared verandah and walls decorated with murals was the stronghold of the Haleri Rajahs, a place they retreated to particularly when they wanted to indulge in a favourite Coorg pastime, hunting. Doddavirarajendra chose Nalaknad, secluded, and surrounded with great natural beauty as the location for his second marriage to the woman who had won his heart.
During one of his many, bloody, military campaigns, he had lost his entire family, who were betrayed to an enemy, and wiped out. In February 1796, he married for the second time, a woman he fell deeply in love with, Mahadevamma.
In front of the Aramane is a pavilion, elegant in its simplicity, which still stands as a reminder of this legendary Rajah of Coorg and his beloved Rani. Decorated with plaster bulls, and low relief panels of flowers, this is where he and Mahadevamma were married, and she was placed ‘upon the throne and anointed.’ According to historical records, a large number of people from Coorg and the nearby territories, as well as an Englishman, Mr. Alexander Bell and a Company of Sepoys from Malabar attended the celebrations.
Doddavirarajendra had four daughters with Mahadevamma. When she died, on 17th May 1807, he was devastated with grief, and began to display unstable and violent behaviour, becoming paranoid and killing his subjects on mere suspicion of disloyalty. It was generally believed that it was the death of his beloved wife that drove him to madness. He died a tormented soul, two years after Mahadevamma.