Friday 26 April 2013

When Marathi displaced Kannada

Though much has been written about Bangalore and the many Kingdoms that it came under such as the Cholas, Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar, Kempe Gowda, the Mughals, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, Wodeyars and finally the British, there is not much information available about the Maratha hegemony of Bangalore.
What makes this all the more surprising is that when the Marathas ruled over Bangalore and surrounding areas, including Nelamangala, Hoskote, Doddaballapur, Begur, Yelahanka and Domlur, they made Marathi the language of the State and imposed Marathi on the people.
Kannada took a beating as the Marathas pushed for Marathi. Kannadigas were not preferred for high posts in the administration and Marathas were appointed in large numbers. The language of communication too was Marathi and it quickly replaced Kannada.
This is really surprising as no other dynasty tried to impose any other language on Bangalore and surrounding areas which largely remained Kannada-centric.
There are not many records about this facet of Bangalore’s history. However,  the history of Marathas in Bangalore can be gleaned from several inscriptions of Shahaji, the father of Shivaji, and Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji and accounts of the life and times of Shivaji. All these accounts testify to the importance that the Marathas gave Bangalore.     
However, the first few or earliest inscriptions of Bangalore date back to the time of Gangas and Cholas. The inscriptions are in Kannada and Tamil. Though the Cholas have left behind a few temples in and around Bangalore such as the Chokkanatha temple in Domlur, the only temple ascribed to the Western Gangas is that of Nageshwara in Begur, which is now a part of Bangalore.   
Kempe Gowda left behind among others the Someshwara Temple in Ulsoor and Gavi Gangadheshwara temple in Gavipuram Guttahalli. The Kempe Gowdas also left behind several other buildings, lakes, Kalyanis.
Hyder and his son Tipu then renovated the mud fort built by Kempe Gowda and built the present fort with stones. Tipu also built a palace.
But in the period between the end of the Kempe Gowda rule and the rise of Hyder, Bangalore was ruled by the Adil Shahis and then by the Mughals and Wodeyars.
Books on history, Maratha records and Adil Shahi documents tell us that when the Adil Shahis defeated Kempe Gowda, they handed over Bangalore and a few surrounding areas as Jagir to Shahaji, the father of Chatrapathi Shivaji, the great Maratha warrior and founder of a Hindu Rashtra.
Shahaji was part of the many generals of Adil Shahis led by the redoubtable Ranadulla Khan in 1638 who succeeded in driving out Kempe Gowda from Bangalore. What many Bangaloreans and even historians are not aware is that though Bangalore remained in the hands of Adil Shahis for a few years, it was actually the Marathas who effectively took over the administration of Bangalore and surrounding cities and areas.
The Marathas held on to Bangalore for 49 years before the Mughals took it. Shivaji himself spent close to two years in Bangalore and he had a special liking for the city. He also conquered Bangalore along with other forts.
The Adil Shahis of  Bijapur took over Bangalore in 1638 A.D., but very soon they realised that it was not easy to hold on to Bangalore. They entrusted Bangalore and its surroundings, including Yelahanka, Begur and Sira as Jagir to Shahaji and turned their attention to first thwart the Mughals and then the rising Maratha power under Shivaji.
However, Shahaji too had very little time to give personal attention to Bangalore and other jagirs. Though he held the position of a Governor, he was not able to leave any permanent mark on Bangalore.
Apart from Bangalore, Shahaji is known to have resided in Kolar and Doddaballapur. A good administrator, Shahaji tried to streamline the administration and he entered into alliances with several Hindu rajas of the region. An outstanding warrior and military strategist, Shahaji should be credited with making Bangalore an important military and political centre.    
Unfortunately, Shahaji Bhonsle was busy with the frequent military expeditions he undertook on behalf of the Adil Shahis. After 1646, Shahaji fell into the bad books of Adil Shah and he was recalled to Bijapur and imprisoned for a short time in 1648. But very soon, the Adil Shah realised that Shahaji could be counted upon to resist Mughal attacks. 
The Adil Shah reinstated Shahaji  as the Jahagirdar of Bangalore. Shahaji then decided to make Bangalore the southern military headquarters for the Adil Shahis.
He then set about opening training camps and military bases in the old petes of Bangalore apart from setting up ammunition dumps, gun factory, horse stables, and soldiers’ tents.
Shahaji also loved in a fortified palace in Chickpet. Today, there exists no evidence of any such building and we can safely assume that it was either pulled down by Tipu or fell prey to the bombardment by the British in the third Anglo-Mysore war of 1791.
The palace that Shahaji lived was called Gauri Mahal and there is evidence to prove that Shivaji also spent some time in this palace. The Marathi book, Shivabharath, gives a detailed description of the life and times of Bangalore during the Maratha period.
Shahaji and his immediate subordinates appointed Maharastrian officers and Pandits to important and  responsible posts in the Durbar. Preference was given to Marathas in the military and civil administration.
Shahaji employed a large band of Maratha cavalry which was then called Bargeer. The Bargeers differed from the Silhadars in the sense that they were provided with horses by the State itself.
Many records of Maratha domination during the period can be gleaned from inscriptions of Sambhaji (son of Shivaji) dated 1663 and 1680 (Kolar and Chikabalapur), Sambhaji’s wife (Kolar), and Sambhaji’s sons (Mulabagal and Chintamani).
One of the most evocative inscriptions of the Maratha domination is the one on the wall of a temple at the summit of Nandidoorg or Nandi Hills.
Shahaji took a series of measures to strengthen the administration of Bangalore. Many of the measures benefited Marathi and Marathas at the cost of locals. For the first time in centuries, Kannada was given a backseat and Marathi was encouraged. Shahaji made Marathi the official language and also the language of  imperial communication. Slowly, Marathi took over as the language of trade and commerce. Since Marathi was spoken in the Adil Shahi capital of Bijapur along with Urdu and Persian, the language of the Marathas too received a fillip.
Kannada for almost 50 years was relegated to the status of a second language and that too one spoken by localities. The elite spoke Marathi and Urdu. Kannada thus suffered a fall in its status. Kannada had to bear this fall from grace, the first of its kind, In 1638, a large Bijapur army led by Ranadulla Khan, accompanied by Shahji Bhonsle, defeated Kempe Gowda III and captured Bangalore. Shahji was granted Bangalore as jagir. He lived in a palace called Gauri Mahal in the present Chickpet area.
Chickpet was among the many petes that was surrounded by a fort. This fort was different from the present fort that we see in City Market. Thus, Bangalore had two forts-one in which Kempe Gowda constructed a few temples and had his palace and another which was populated by the masses.
The Maratha domination of Bangalore was cut short when the Mughals managed to wrest control over Bangalore and Kolar in 1687 and subsequently they were handed over to the Wodeyars-Chikadevaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704) for Rs. 3 lakh pagodas.  It is to the credit of the Wodeyars that they reintroduced Kannada language and literature and also gave a fillip to local culture and customs.

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