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Raja Venkatappa Nayakas Hunt For Freedom

Struggle For Independence of India
Among the most famous legend to have lived was aggressive and belligerent Beydur Raja Venkatappa Nayaka of Shorapur. Beydur Nayakas ruled for more than three and half century near Gulbarga in central Karnataka. They lost their kingdom, regained it, amassed an empire, lost it again. This is a tale of Raja Venkatappa Nayaka whose palace once glimmered with diamond, garnet and gold. A forgotten kingdom rich in martial art of fighting, skilled in military warfare of besieging forts and citadels. An empire connoisseur for taming elephants, training monitor lizards for taking hold of parapet, ramparts and battlements. An indefatigable saga of confrontational young prince and his unremitting and unrelenting spirit of vengeance which sparked off fire and conflagration among vast horde of tribes of South India for their fight-for-freedom and ultimately at the end the thirst for independence of India... A K Singh

The Siege of Shorapur

Story of Revolt of 1857 unleashed by Raja Venkatappa Nayaka from Shorapur Karnataka

Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was a young prince. Like his forefathers he was dynamic, energetic and forceful. His life spanned fewer than twenty four years but it reshaped the spirit of revolution and reckoning against the imperial forces. Though he lived far too short but his style of warfare and courage of uprising were

revolutionary. His penchant blend with spirit of patriotism and sentiment of nationalism during the first war of independence of India manifests the legacy of his ancestors of their resolute and staunch convictions with Turk

Adil Shahs, Maratha Peshwas but against Mughals and Britishers. After Raja Krishnappa Nayaka in 1814, his son Venkatappa Nayaka, born in October 1834, a boy of seven years of age, was entrusted upon British resident Meadows Taylor a political agent of Shorapur for supervision of his upbringing and education. His certainty of mind, fervour of attitude and zeal of commitment were unremitting and unyielding. As a child, an embodiment of a tiger, as an adolescent a personification of trained tactics of a monitor lizard and as a youth, a sovereign prince at twenty four. A flamboyant star, he was an object of thought and supposition, gossips and legend in his own time of radical awakening. At the height of his power he impressed upon the entire south India, the last great kingdom of any

warrior kings. For a transitory moment he held the fate of Indias struggle for independence in his hands. A prince known to behold for a flicker of flash the fortunes and destiny of India. For a moment, he was an object of surprise and consternation among fleet of British regiments. He was a subject matter of whisper and conjecture in the corridors of powers at Government of India. His country wide upheavals from the hinterlands of Shorapur reliably reinforce a character of extraordinarily unforgettable reputation. Raja Venkatappa Nayakas end was sudden and sensational. But his memory is lasting and durable. He lodged himself in our Jhansi where she said: We fight for independence in the words of Lord Krishna, we will if we are victorious, enjoy the fruits of victory, if defeated and killed on the field of battle, we shall surely earn eternal glory and salvation. Meantime, bite of tallow-greased cartridges loaded with lard of pork and grease of cow in

imagination ever since the nostalgia of beginning of the fight for our independence. He was a prince who cocked a snook at the Britishers and fought hammer and tongs against the imperial forces till his last breath. Venkatappa Nayaka was Raja of Shorapur when it all started. With the winds of rising insurgence and rebellion in 1857 from Meerut, Lucknow and Jhansi, he heard of intrigues and manoeuvrings of Nana Saheb. He perceived the uprising and revolt of Rani of Jhansi the Laxmibai. He was influenced with the campaign of Tantya Tope for his incessant war of independence. Perhaps he would have heard the proclamation of Rani

Infield-Rifled-Muskets sparked off shivering-wave of Hindu Muslim divide which contrary to expectation filled all the lanes and street with a spirit of patriotism, loyalty and devotion throughout the country. British delivered the message of their intention of evangelism to people in general and Maharajas in particular to convert themselves and embrace Christianity which was greatly resented at large. British policy of expansionism, the Doctrine of Lapse expounded by Lord Dalhousie in 1849 which stipulates; if the feudal ruler did not leave a heir through natural process i.e. his own child, not an adopted one, the land become the property of the East India Company . It triggered the sudden outburst of retaliation in the minds of Maharajas all over India. East India Companys practice of financial extortion by heavy taxation and large scale failure to pay

these taxes almost invariably resulted in appropriation of property of Rajas. This had prompted them to revolt, retort and rebel in reprisal and revenge. Oppressive commands of feudal lords who were perpetrating arbitrary extortion of heavy tariffs on peasantry depreciated all the fibres of hope and optimism from the face of the poor, subjugated and downtrodden. Forcible eviction of Bahadur Shah Jafar the then Emperor of India for transportation out of his homeland to Rangoon, produced never ending shivering and reverberations down the spines of all the rulers, chieftains and local barons down-south all over India. Pangs of gluttony and voracious hunger of companys regime generated wide spread anger, annoyance and irritation throughout for Raja to show his heredity of indomitable will and invincible courage. It was an enticement for Raja to demonstrate his inborn power of impregnable audacity and resolute conviction which he inherited from his forefathers. If the name is indelible, the image is blurry. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka must be one of the most peculiar and honourable figure in the history of India but we have little idea as to what actually transpired at the moment. Only their coins portrait their actual life style issued in the lifetime of Beydur Nayakas which vividly elucidate as to how the Beydur monarchy and a fearless empire with a motif of shankh, nama and chakra would have been. An Insignia of name, fame and glory spread far and wide. We quite often remember him for the wrong reasons. A capable, clear vision sovereign, he knew how to build a fleet, raise an insurrection, control an anger and assuage the feelings of scorn and hatred. A British political agent Philips Meadows Talyor vouched for his grasp of military affairs. Beydur Raja was incomparably richer, wealthier and affluent in culture, tradition, customs and practices in the central Karnataka. And he enjoyed greater prestige and esteem than many other rival kings of his age. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka descended from a long line of hunters of tiger, huntsmen of leopard,

vast expanse of country. Imperial tactics of divide and rule and spread of hatred and disgust loomed large on the face of Indian princes and princely states. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka, being an ancient feudatory of Peshwas was given an invitation and call of honour to join the ranks of beleaguered Maratha warriors against the oppressive rule of British regime. It was a temptation which Raja could not resist. It was an inducement

trainers of monitor lizard and tamers of elephants and pachyderms, a martial art used in war tactics and battle strategy. Battle tacticians Bydur Kings, unbelievably ferocious and atrocious in their battle stratagem were so remarkably awe-inspiring that imperial powers had to circumvent recruiting them in their military and forces of defence . He faithfully upheld the family tradition but he was for his time and place, remarkably well behaved and men of high character and noble spirit. He, nonetheless, generations his family had styled themselves as hunter of wild beasts and disciplinarian of elephants. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was Beydur which means fearless and daringly valiant. It makes him approximately a Nayaka a fearless hero, a champion of bravery and a protagonist of courage and gallantry. Tender and temperate. Three hundred fifty years separate Raja of Beydur Kingdom from his famous ancestor Raja Kallappa Nayaka 1515 AD at Nastrabad near Anegundi in central south India peninsula. Rajas Venkatappa Nayakas simple call of a crow could have gathered not only numbers of Jamedars the chief organizers of battle, pack of Inamdars, team of Nayakvadis but also thousands of his lieutenants and associates. He had a readymade clout of Beydurs of Raichur, Bedas of Bellary, Nayakas of Dharwar and Shastradhari warriors of Belguam and those of Nishads of Mysore. Had he risen a bit more vigorous he would be a leader of tens of thousands of revolutionaries at his command in the land of Kannada ready for resurrection for the love-of-God, battle for life -and-liberty" and for war-ofindependence. Beydur Nayakas had the temperament of Tigers and Elephants. They vehemently opposed the tyranny and repression of Adil Shahs and the great Moghuls. Raja

survives as a beleaguered prince, fraught with an idea of struggle for freedom and laden with determined spirit of war of independence for his own country and for himself. A genuinely powerful prince, great raja who had been transformed into a shamelessly disgruntled rebel but mutated into a passionately defiant mutineer, a disciplined freedom fighter. Like all lives that lend themselves to poetry, Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was one of the disruption and commotion to the alien rule. He grew up amid unrivalled opulence, to inherit a kingdom in decline. For fourteen

Venkatappa Nayaka hardly forgot his daring ancestor Gadad Pid Nayakas exemplary show of taming an insane elephant in 1674 AD before Adil Shah of Bijapur and was conferred reward in terms of Jagirs at Shorapur worth annual revenue of Rs nine lakhs who was given an honourable title of Gajaganda Bhairanda Gadi Pid Nayaka Balawant Bahiri Bahadur. Memory of Farman the Order of Aurangjeb addressed to his ancestor Pid Nayaka in 1703 was still fresh with Raja where the Mughal Emperor of India Aurangajeb desired him to embrace Islam and be his brother in the conquest of South India. Farman of Emperor of India was intensely snubbed and rebuffed by Raja of scuffle of his precursor Pam Nayaka in 1727 with Mudgal taking Tirmal Rao a prisoner, besieging his fort and delivered him to Tanashah Abul Hasan of Golkunda who honoured Pam Nayaka with Turban Crest, howdah, weapons and armoured costumes. After demise of Baji Rao Peshwa 1851, Nana Sahib of Poona was to be heir-presumptive to the throne and was eligible for an annual pension from East India Company. However Company stopped the pension on the grounds of Doctrine of Lapse that he was an adopted son and not a natural born heir. Nana was raging with anger and great annoyance. It was an outrageous affront and shockingly despicable disrespect to the heritage of Maratha folklore. Nana Sahib was the adopted son of the exiled Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II of Poona. Nana Sahebs planning for assembling the a force of soldiers for besieging Kanpur was in the offing. British contingent of East India Company had taken refuge at entrenchment. Amid the prevailing chaos in Kanpur, Nana Sahib and his forces entered the British magazine. Nana Sahib announced that he was a participant in the rebellion against the Company, and intended to be a vassal of Bahadur Shah Jaffar the then emperor of India. Nana Sahib was busy restoring Maratha confederacy under Peshwa tradition and decided to launch a nation wide war against British forces. Siege of Salar Jangs jaghir of Koppal fort by Bhim Rao prejudiced Raja after which he influenced gathering of hundreds of Arabs, Rohilla mercenaries in addition to his own social group beydurs. There were clandestine meetings and surreptitious communication

Pid Nayaka. Instead he waged a furious war in their multiple attempts to lay seize of Wakingerah fort at Shorapur when the Mughal army commander of Aurangajeb Dalpat Rao and Ghazi Udin were dealt with crushing defeats number of times for fifteen years from 1690 to 1705 AD. Shorapur had distinguished itself for its dexterous negotiation; for the most part, it retained its sovereignty. It had also already embroiled itself in affairs of Maratha combats and fighting skills of reptilian war fares. Raja treasured the astoundingly twenty one days

with foreign freedom fighters and guerrilla combatants in Hyderbad in which Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was conceived to have been conjured up. Gallery of watchdogs focussed on Rajas concealed demeanour. Battery of surveillance was positioned to scrutinize Rajas veiled ulterior motives. Hard-hitting tussle of Tipu Sultan with British Forces at Srirangapattam in 1779 and Dhodiya Waghas heroic campaign against British troops led by Col Wellesley and Col Darlymple which started as an unprecedented revolt of an anarchy paving the way for war from Belgaum in 1829 who started gathering a compact group fighters and attacking treasuries, rich land owners and accomplices in British subterfuge and manoeuvrings. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka knew that Sangolil Rayannas revolt has divided t he society into anti and pro British rebels who inspired a never ending massive chain reaction of radical uprising and irreversible resurrection of multitude of ethnic rebellion forces in entire central south India during 1829. Nizams rampant and unbridle d oppression with a heavy taxation for maintenance of his army at Hyderabad and for payment of exorbitant annual tribute to British military upkeep and maintenance, given rise to peasantry revolt led by Koppal Veerappa who laid siege upon Bahadur Bhanda Fort near Koppal in 1819 with five hundred guerrilla fighters who valiantly trounced

of the worlds seeking independence were not only great nostalgia of that times but a nightmare. A Wagha a machoistic warrior with firm determination, enormous organizing ability with charisma of gallantry was painted by them as rogue bandit and crooked-brigand reminiscence of such events were not still doomed to oblivion. Memories of incarcerated queen Rani Chinamma of Kittur, first woman leader, prolific horse rider, sword fighter and untiring archer routed the British forces number of times in 1824 were still spanking around. Fazed with overwhelming demonstration of bravery and heroism by Sangolli Rayanna

Major Doughton and Brigadier General Pritzler and Nizams general Idrus Khan which ensued a brutal and ferocious battle for five days. Veerappas colossal temper and upright disposition brought wonder and brilliance to the freedom struggle which catapulted national insurgent mood to the brink of explosion. With each passing day Shorapur had been sinking under heavy debt

of over burdened taxation by Nizam for appeasing British Forces which appeared far too painful and agonizing for the natives of Beydur principality. More traumatizing were the state of affairs of cultivators who were obliged to make advance payment of revenue to the government of Nizam before the harvest of the crop. Hence, they were compelled to take loan, mortgage their ornaments and valuables with local barons, who used to advance credits to the borrowing farmers, levying inflated interest each time. This caused heavy flocking of debt burdened peasants and ryots around the corridors of government to lodge complaints against their lenders. These moneylenders also owed massive payment of handsome money to the government. This created vicious circle of borrow, cash credit and money lending which assumed cataclysmic proportions. This ushered in a mood of melancholy and sheer helplessness. A temper of doldrums and indisposition. Observing Raja Venkatappa Nayaka bent on organizing his forces commensurate with Nana Sahibs plan and Tantya Topes preparations, a strong contingent of British forces arrived near Shorapur under Col Malcolm and another under Col Huges from Madras regiment in Feb 1858. Lingsugur cantonment division was ready to act in concert with troops of both the platoons. Tantya Tope a close associate of Nana Sahib preparing for laying the siege of Kanpur placed inducement for Raja Venkatappa to assemble rebels, organize mutineers and arrange insurgents in secret to join in nationwide resurgence to drive a crushing blow of defeat on British forces. Capt Rose Campbell early in January 1858 was deputed by resident Meadows Taylor to watchdog Rajas acts and deeds. Princely state of Shorapur included Devadurg, Dhgaon, Andola and Shahpur in 1857. One

Nana Sankeshwar in November 1857 was sent with a message to Nana Sahib Peshwa by Raja. Bhim Rao Mundargi of Dambal, Babasahib Bhave of Nargund, Purushottam Bava of Talikote, Appa Sahib of Jamkhandi and Zamindar of Malkhed were stationed in league with Raja of Shorapur. Agents and emissaries were despatched to different British army positions to bugle insurrection from the ramparts of the Shorapur. Mahipal Singh, Chhotu Singh and Lakshman Prasad sent from Shorapura and Jamkhandi were caught red handed sharing stealthily the top secrets with Devi Din Jamedar in Belgaum at 29 th Native Infantry Regiment. Mahipal Singh was immediately tried by British Court and blown away from the gun. On 7 th Feb 1858 British Forces under Capt Arthur Wyndham arrived before the fort of Shorapur.

Systematic and well organized exercise was conducted by British forces to lay upon the siege of Shorapur. Next day 8 th Feb 1857 Shorapur Beydur cavalry under Jamdar Tasdiq Hussain, Lakhman Singh took British forces by surprise delivering a fierce and ferocious attack. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka and his force fought valiantly and gave an enormously tough fight . Violent and brutal battle ensued between the patriotic army and imperial forces. One of the most ferocious and viciously violent tussle, one of the most stern and fiercest skirmish British from the palace of Shorapur and surroundings. Amid such chaos and meyham Chief of Shorapur Raja Venkatappa Nayaka

forces ever met in the history of India. Larger reinforcements arrived under Maj Huge and Capt Newberry the same day. Capt Campbelle became the gruesome target of attack by many freedom fighters who wanted to finish him in an instant. Capt Newberry was killed in shockingly horrific and dreadful encounter the same day under the command of Raja of Shorapur. Enemy made the passage through secret path towards fort of Shorapur and the town by evening and plundered it for hours together looting all the precious belongings and valuable possessions

surrounded by four legions of army felt highly vulnerable and in jeopardy. Town of Shorapur was highly impregnable, full of defensible battlements, with approaches difficult to access, walls, ramparts and bastions positioned with freedom fighters. Massive cavalry and defence of Raja were waiting for Col Malcolms forces. Raja observing the enormous array of Col Huges army of 74 th Highlander march pasting towards Shorapur from a bit distant western frontier left with no chance except to arrive at Hyderabad to gain further reinforcement from Arabs, Sikhs and Rohillas. But Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was left in lurch. Raja was apprehended there and summoned before the Prime Minister Salar Jung who further sent him to the British resident. Raja was made a prisoner in the main guard of the Royals at Secunderabad and was handed over to the Military Commission for trial by a special Military Court of Brigadier William Hill and six other British military

officers on charges of collecting troops for which documentary evidence in Raj as own hand was available which adjudged Raja Venkatappa Nayaka guilty for the offence of treason, sedition and disloyalty. Commission sentenced him to death.Capt Meadows Taylor, who took his parental care met him and had long conversation with Raja. The young prince who was then 23 years of age, reforms and steadiness so that his lost principality of Shorapur was to be restored back to him. Lieut. Pictet was in command of the escort to the Raja of Shorapur. Their first halt was at Ambarpet six miles from Husain Sagar. During the halt, Lieut Pictet took off his belt, in which there was a loaded revolver, hung it over a chair and went out side the tent. Raja Venkatappa Nayaka was found in the pool of blood in the camp on 11 th May 1858. The ball had entered the stomach and pierced through his spine. Later, Lieut Pictet was tried for neglect of duty while in command of the escort to the Raja.

told him calmly: If they ( British Court) press me to disclose the names of those who incited me, I wont divulge the names at all ! I would rather die than be transported for life over to Cellular Jail at Port Blair or imprisoned at fortress ? No ! The pettiest Beydur cant live if he is detained and incarcerated like this ! Shall I, a Raja, a King of Shorapur ? I shall not tremble even if they tie me up to a canon and blow me off ! Do let them hang me, I have done nothing to be punished for like a robber. Capt Meadows Taylor got Rajas sentence commuted to transportation for life. Punishment was further commuted by Governor General Lord Charles John Canning to four years and Raja to be kept at Chinglepet in Madras presidency. He was allowed company of his wives, family and his own servants. Government asked him to show sign of improvement, evidence of

Raja Venkatappa Nayaka lost his life in mystery. Meadows Tayor told the death of Raja was ambiguous and shrouded in mystery. Returning back to Shorapur the family members of Raja Venkatappa Nayaka were not allowed to enter the palace. When Ranagmma the eldest wife demanded that the jewellery and clothes taken away from the palace be returned, she was given just a pair of clothing. Capt Meadows Taylor on his return back to Shorapur found the treasury accounts in shambles, new debts and balance sheets

contracted, repair of roads, bridges in mess and muddle, irrigation projects he started were in jumble and disarray by the end of 1859. Finally upset and disturbed Meadows Taylor gave over charge to his assistant Mr Ricketts in 1860 and left for Europe for two years sick leaves, never to return back again. In 1860 the treaty of 1853 with Nizam concluded by Lord Dalhousie was revised and modified. Princely state of Raja of Shorapur Venkatappa Nayaka was confiscated and ceded to His Highness Nawab Afzul-ud-Dowla Bahadur the Nizam of Hyderbad, as an acknowledgement of his services to the British Imperial Government in 1860. For staggering sum of annual stipend, Meadows Taylor secured the official position. A friend and ally of the Beydur people. He discovered that it was not sufficient to be a friend to the people of Shorapur, it was essential to befriend India as well. Affairs of the state of Shorapur declined, leaving us with affairs of heart for ever. A commanding King of Shorapur, Raja Venkatappa Nayaka well versed in his fight for struggle for freedom, well acquainted with diplomacy and governance of his times, fought a battle for our emancipation. He was fluent in five languages, firm-tongue, charismatic, joint creation of Maratha theatres of warfare and critical adversary, crucial challenger to the Mughal emperor Aurangjeb has placed an indelible and deep rooted mark in our heart as a legend, brave heart, a Beydur Nayaka which means a fearless hero who never yielded in the time of hardships and adversity. He rose for the revolution, for renaissance, the time of our awakening and arousal of self respect, esteem and admiration of values of deliverance and liberation. Raja was intimate with British right from the beginning and could have supported them like princes of that crucial time of reckoning. He was chief amongst vast multitude of rebel tribal and non tribal forces of South India. He never wanted to betray his companions therefore lost his life in saving them. Raja was victimized by shrewd and perceptively insightful imperial forces and perhaps murdered in most mysterious circumstances. He survives in our memory, in our folksongs, language and literature. An inspiring character, protagonist for equity, justice and fair play. Leading role for crusade against colonial injustice, imperial massacres, alien atrocities and racial discrimination. A King who fought a never ending war for our liberty, freedom and independence.


1. Forgotten History of Shorapur by Bhaskar Rao, Shahpur Yadgir. 2. South India in 1857 War of Independence by V D Divekar 3. Shorapur, Ancient Byedur Raj by Nawab Framurz Jung Bahadur the then Deputy Commissioner Raichur 4. Story of My Life. A Biography by Capt Phillips Meadows Taylor. 5. Cultural History of Surpur, A case study by Vidyashree P Nayak 6. Anti Colonial Uprising in Karnataka 1800-60 by Shivanand Kanvi 7. The Forgotten Empire by Rober Sewell 8. History of Aurangjeb by Jadunath Sarkar 9. Foreword Notes by Raja Venkatappa Nayaka 10. The Grand Resistance by M Y Ghorpade 11. History of India by John Key

A K Singh is the member of Indian Forest Service and presently serving as Working Plan Officer in Ministry of Forest and Ecology, Government of Karnataka. Contact:, 9481180956, Date 20.12.2012