In the 16th & 17th Century, the Kings of Mysore were proactively expanding their kingdom. One of the terriotory they wrested from Coorg was Seroor 1 a dependent principality of Periapatna – which was a part of Coorg. This happened during the reign of  Raja Wadiyar I (1578–1617) of Mysore.

The Mysoreans kept up the pace and took many principality of other Chiefs and Kings in the neighborhood.  Their takeovers brought them in conflict with the Ikkeri in the west & Coorg Kingdom in the south. While Coorg was not affected much with their hostile takeovers, the Ikkeri had lost some parts of their Kingdom to the Mysoreans and the conflict with them was maintained.

During those times Viraraja I, Appajiraja & Mudduraja(in order), were ruling over Coorg 2. Seroor seems to be only pricipality which the Mysoreans took in the decades that passed by and the Coorgs did not bother themselves much with its loss.

Chikka Deva Raja becomes king at Mysore and captures Periapatna & Bettadpur

In 1673 Chikka Deva Raja (CDR) became the King of Mysore. His rule saw further expansion and a bloody crackdown on protests in Mysore. At the receiving end were the Lingayat priests who were spear heading the protests. CDR had introduced various taxes and that did not down well with the gentry, while the soildiers were exempted from the same. At the same time they also did not like the regime poking their noses in other religious/customary issues. The Lingayats and the Brahmins seemed to be have differences with each other. The Brahmins had the patronage of the Kings, CDR’s father Dodda Devaraja was honoured with the title “Protector of Brahmins” (Deva Brahmana Paripalaka) for his support to Brahmins and they were well received in the ruling clique 3

As protests increased and the King devised a treacherous scheme to put an end to it. He invited over 400 Lingayat priests for a gala dinner and had them massacred. That ended the protests in Mysore. This news must have reached Dodda Virappa (DV), the King of Coorg, who himself was a Lingayat, because a tit for tat did ensue as the preceding part of history tell us.

During this time, Periapatna & Bettadpur were ruled by Nunjunda, a relative of DV, while DV himself lorded over Coorg at Madikeri. Some court officers at Periapatna opened a line of communication with CDR and invited him to invade Periapatna. When Nanjunda got to know about the scheme he left his son Viraraja I in defence of periapatna and rushed to Madikeri and requested assistance from DV. CDR got to know about the Nunjunda’s trip to Coorg. He did not waste time and attacked Periapatna 4.

By the time DV rushed with Coorgs and reached Siddapur, he got the news that Periapatna had fallen and Viraraja I killed in its defense.

I wonder how Dodda Viraraja would have felt? Maybe like Veeru.

CDR tries capturing Coorg, is defeated. Uttu’s misadventure. Raja of Kottayam is killed in Coorg

Boldened by his success at Periapatna, CDR now planned the conquest of Coorg. The Mysore Army advanced towards Coorg. They camped near the borders at Balele 5. DV launched and assault at dawn. 15,000 men and 77 officers were killed by Coorgs. The remaining fled back into Mysore, to be chased and caught up by Coorgs at Hampapura, where the Mysoreans lost 350 of their noblemen 6.

DV must have been humming Celeste Buckingham’s Run Run Run all along

While the Coorgs were engaged with the Mysoreans, one of DV’s  Karyakara & Nayaka(Civil & Military Chief) of South Coorg – Nayakanda Uttu 7 conspired with the Raja of Kotangadi(Kottayam) Viravarma and invited him to invade Coorg.  DV got the wind of this and sent 1500 men in advance towards Tomara where Viravarma had fortified his troops. After defeating the Mysoreans, DV rushed to Tomara where the other Coorgs were engaged with Viravarma’s men. The backup came handy, Viravarma was killed and his troops were slained.

DV launches attack on Hassan, See-Saw battles ensue. Mysore territories are captured.

DV sometime later attacked Belur/Hassan, which was conquered by CDR. Hassan was hard pressed by Coorgs. The fallout at Hassan bore the hallmark of communal butchery and a tragic scene. Not only the Mysore Army was the target but also Brahmins. While the Coorgs did not harm any Gowdas, they killed any brahmin which fell into their hands, in the most barbaric fashion. DV seemed to be hell bent on taking revenge for the massacre of the Lingayats at Mysore. Considerable looting and pillage was carried out in Hassan at a length. By 1724 the Coorgs shifted from guerrilla campaigns to open warfare. In 1724 the Coorgs attacked the Mysore army at Hassan in open field.  The unprepared Mysore Army fled the scene, leaving their baggage and weapons behind. Following this victory the Coorgs went on to retake Periapatna and capture other Mysore territories, some with no-resistance at all. The outnumbered Coorgs razed the forts to the ground rather than manning the same.

To understand the social character of DV and the fear of Coorgs by the populace of their assaulted and captured territories, one should ponder at the local lore of Hassan, in vogue during those times. It went as mentioned below;

18th Century Lore of Hassan
It is said that he[Dodda Virappa] has already drawn up his testament and that among the recommendations that he leaves therein for his sons, who are as good as him, there is one, that after his death they should skin him and make from the skin a drum, whose sound alone will suffice to make Mysoreans flee. 8

Mysore General Chennaraja sent to check the Coorgs. Chennaraja invades Coorg.

CDR sent his General Chennaraja(CR) with the army to defeat the Coorgs.  Some Gowda Chiefs of Hassan refused to serve under him. As soon as he arrived at periyapatna, the Coorgs retreated north towards Magge to attack the Mysore Army stationed there. They sacked the settlement and laid siege to Maharajanadurga Fort. The siege last for around 3 weeks, while Chennaraja arrived with his forces to relive the siege. Coorgs retreated back to their hills 9. Chennaraja chastised the local Gowda Chief for co-operating with the Coorgs. In revenge , he ordered the Gowda villages to be set on fire. The principal Gowdas were captured and jailed in the fortress of Hassan. He encamped in the region till August or early September and took the lull in Monsoon as an opportunity and invaded Coorg. He advanced further and further into Coorg, without encountering a single Coorg. He suddenly remembered the debacle of  CDR near Balele, and rushed back to Arkalgud in Hassan.

Coorgs return and attack the Mysore Army at Gorur in Hassan. Are defeated. Hide and Seek ensues. The Coorg Commander-in-Chief  is killed in a battle.

As soon as CR left for Arkalgud, DV trailed him and a pitch battle was fought at Gorur in Hassan. The Coorgs were defeated and made to retreat. CR moved back to Periyapatna and from there left for Mysore. The Coorgs were back again and they laid siege to Maharajanadurga Fort. They stayed put for 2 Months. CR returned and a bloody battled was fought in which the Coorg Commander-in-Chief was among the men killed. Coorgs retreated back to their hills. Once CR left again for Mysore, the Coorgs returned to regain the territory.

The most interesting part of the campaigns to note is – that the Coorgs always retreated during monsoons and returned  to fight after the season ended. It maybe due to that Monsoon was a nati season(rice planting season) and unlike their numerical superior opponents the Coorgs had no standing army. The farmer doubled up as an armyman. So whenever monsoon arrived they headed back to Coorg for their agricultural pre-occupations, only to return and once the season passed by.

Tired of wars, CDR proposes diplomacy. Is accepted by DV.

CDR demanded that DV give back that land it captured from Mysore. CDR sarcastically replied, telling CDR that he “was as opportunist as CDR was and wont give anything back”. The Mysoreans fortified the areas in vain. The Coorgs kept on with their assault on them. CDR opened diplomacy with DV and proposed that he will transfer some of the lands captured by the DV on a condition that the revenue from them be provided to Mysore. DV agreed and at last Mysoreans and Coorgs were playing ball with each other, peacefully. 10.

Notes:

  1. Wilks,Vol 2, p.45
  2. Richter, 239
  3. Wilks, Vol 1, 58
  4. This event is mentioned by Wilks to have taken place in 1644 during the time of Dodda Devaraja. See Wilks Vol 1, p.53
  5. I presume this would have happend after CDR’s capture of Bettadpur
  6. Francis Hamilton, 137
  7. Richter, 241, Moegling,81
  8. Dr. Sanjay Subramanayam, via Relacao, p.76
  9. It was monsoon season
  10. Meogling, p.82,83

2 comments to “My name is Dodda Virappa. No one messes with me and gets away with it”

  1. Kushal.Mucon says:

    The 18th century lore about Dodda Virappa is very interesting. There is an interesting Coorg folk song which speaks about the origin of the Dudi (Coorg drum), a goddess killed by a demon was skinned alive and her skin was made into the drum. When the drum was struck then the drum wailed out her sad story. Her brother, the king of a fort, heard this and was enraged, he avenges the death of his sister and brings her back to life. The traditional drumheads were made of monkey skin until lately when plastic has replaced animal hides.

Leave a Comment