The Sleeping Kings

Nalaknad Palace
Nalaknad Palace at Coorg

Doddavirarajendra, the most famous of the Haleri rulers of Coorg chose his final resting place on a leveled hilltop at the northern end of Madikeri town. Enclosed by high mud embankments, is a pair of elegant tombs, known as Gaddige, amongst the most memorable monuments in Coorg. The two tombs are identical, standing on a wide base, with large domes were capped with brass kalashas that catch the sun, and could once be seen glinting and flashing across the town of Madikeri. The original, panoramic view has been considerably obscured by new buildings that have sprung up all around.

                        Doddavirarajendra, who began the construction of his tomb in 1809, died in the same year. He chose – somewhat ironically, after a lifetime of having been Tipu’s sworn enemy – a distinctly Indo- Islamic style of architecture for his mausoleum, very similar to Tipu’s own tomb. The result is a beautiful hybrid, the plain, solid silhouette of domes, verandahs and small minarets standing out well against the landscape, contrasting with the rich, intricately carved relief work of Hindu gods, sages and mythical creatures on the interior. Siva, who was particularly favoured by the Rajahs, who were followers of the Lingayat faith, can be seen in various interesting forms here. An open verandah with a low, pierced enclosure wall runs around the tombs, and Doddavirarajendra lies beside the woman whom he loved passionately, Mahadevamma, his queen, in an enclosure with a covered corridor around it. The stories and legends of his times seem to hover in the air.

             Right next to this structure is an identical tomb, where the remains of his brother, Lingaraja and his queen lie buried. This was built several years later, in 1821,by Chikkavirarajendra, the last Rajah of Coorg. Several window frames of both tombs are beautifully worked, and worth attention. A steep, narrow flight of covered stairs leads up to an airy balcony that offers what were once fabulous views of the surrounding countryside, now sadly built up. This complex also holds the tomb of one of the revered gurus of the Lingayat rulers.

Chikkavirarajendra, the last Rajah of Coorg who was deposed and exiled by the British in 1834,was denied the right to be laid to rest with his ancestors.

Although the monuments are sadly neglected, hemmed in by an untidy sprawl of encroachments, it is still possible to capture some of the airy beauty and serenity of the location that the battle – hardened Doddavirarajendra chose as a resting place. From here he looks eternally over the rooftops of his capital, Madikeri, and the distant, western ranges of the Coorg hills, where he lived, fought innumerable battles, and died.

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