Thursday 10 April 2014

The forgotten palegar

Mention Srirangapatna and the first name that comes to our mind is that of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.  Similarly, mention  Srirangapatna fort and the first thing that comes to the mind is the heroic death of Tipu on May 4, 1799 just a few yards away from the massive fortifications.
The Fort, perhaps, is the second most important monument of Srirangapatna which lends a unique character to the bustling town (The first important monument should be the sprawling Ranganatha Temple). There are a lot of legends and myths associating the Wodeyars, Hyder Ali and Tipu with the fort. 
But what many have forgotten is that the fort was initially built by a local chieftain whose name is now almost forgotten, so much so that the fort is more associated with Hyder-Tipu and the Wodeyars than this palegar.
There is no plaque, name board or even a sign board detailing the contribution of this Palegar. What is more astonishing is that it was this palegar who laid the foundations of the massive Srirangapatna fort more than seven centuries ago.
Moreover, it was also this palegar who contributed lavishly to the temples in Srirangapatna, Tonnur or Kere Tonnur and of course Melukote.
This palegar was the first chieftain to fortify Srirangapatna and also rule from the area but as a vassal of the might Vijayanagars. A devout Srivaishnava, he ruled justly and he was one of the top army commanders of the Vijayanagar forces.
This palegar is none other than Thimanna Hebbar, the chief of Nagamangala, who was also known as Thimmanna Dannayaka.
He rose to prominence because of his military and administrative prowess and in 1454 A.D., he took the permission of the Vijayanagar Emperor to build a mud fort in Srirangapatna.
However, even before Thimanna Hebbar fortified Srirangapatna, it was a thriving and important town. During the Hoysala rule(943-1340), Srirangapatna was one of the most important agrahara centres.
Once Veera Ballala (1291-1343) died, the Hoysala empire disappeared and Srirangapatna became a provincial capital of the Vijayanagars. Sometime in 1450 or a little earlier, Thimanna Hebbar took up the post of a palegar of Srirangapatna and he was a vassal of the Vijayanagars.
In 1454, Thimanna Hebbar laid the foundations of the mud fort and also dug a trench around it. He also repaired, renovated and donated liberally to the Ranganatha temple in Srirangapatna, the Nambi Narayana temple in Tonnur and the two main temple of Melkote-Cheluva Narayanaswamy and Yoga Narasimha.
These temples had been ravaged by Mailk Kafur during his south India invasion of 1311.
Thimanna Hebbar was a commander of the Vijayanagar forces under Emperor Mallikarjuna Raya (1446-1465) who continued him in the post of a palegar of Srirangapatna.
The descendents of Thimanna Hebbar were confirmed in the post of  palegar of Srirangapatna till 1495 when the Vijayanagar Emperor  Narasimha Raya (1491-1505) decided to appoint relatives of the royal family as Viceroys of Srirangapatna.
The royal family of  Vijayanagar continued to hold Srirangapatna as Viceroys till 1610 when Raja Wodeyar defeated Tirumalaraya in the battle of Kesare and made Srirangapatna his capital.
Raja Wodeyar realised the strategic importance of the Jaladurga or island fortress formed naturally by the north and south branches of the Cauvery and renovated the fort.
Later, Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar in 1654 and Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar strengthened the fortress and Hyder and Tipu too contributed immensely.
When the British stormed the fort on May 4, 1799, they admired the massive structure and refrained from pulling it down.
The fort is on the western end of the island and it is in the form of an irregular pentagon with a perimeter of about 4 kilometres.

The fort is a major tourist attraction as are the many additions to it made by Tipu. Of the brave and just palegar, there is no mention and it seems time has swallowed his name. 


  1. Nice and wonderful information

    thanks to share with us.

  2. Hi, you have mentioned the Battle of Kesare, have you written the story of the battle, i saw it in a newspaper in 2010..telling the story of the first Dasara on the occasion of the 400th..also any article on the history of apparently was a hoysala province..