C. P. Belliappa's Column

Belliappa traces bloodline of last Raja of Kodagu

Bloodline of Chikka Veerarajendra

(By: C.P. Belliappa)

A few days back I received an e-mail from Hyderabad sent by one Dr. Praveen Sirdesai. He had read my book – Nuggets from Coorg History, and wrote to say that he had gone through my book with great interest. What made me really sit up was his mention in the letter that he is a direct descendent of the last raja of Coorg – Chikka Veerarajendra!

I requested him for more details, and this is what I have gathered:

When Chikka Veerarajendra set out for England in 1852 along with his favourite daughter Gowramma, he left behind seven sons and three daughters in Benares. The sons were named: Chitrashekara, Lingarajendra, Somashekara, Veerabhadrarajendra, Nanjundarajendra, Muddurajendra and Padmarajendra. The three remaining daughters were named: Veeramma, Gangamma and Muddamma.

Gangamma was the most beautiful of his daughters, and this fact has been recorded by Lord Dalhousie himself in his memoirs. Gangamma was betrothed to the then powerful Prime Minister of Nepal – Jung Bahadur Rana – when she was about ten years old. Muddamma too was briefly betrothed to Jung Bahadur. Unhappy in Katmandu, she returned to Benares, and subsequently married the Raja of Mahiyer in Madhya Pradesh.

Chikka Veerarajendra was much criticized by the Hindus in Benares for not settling his eldest daughter Veeramma. After he left for England, his remaining eleven wives along with their children lived in Benares on part of the pension that was allotted by the British. Veerarajendra was to return within a year from England, but he stayed on in London and subsequently died there in 1859.

The large family of the Raja faced a great deal of hardship. After the death of Veerarajendra, his wives and sons were allotted much reduced allowances by the British administration. Some of his sons tried to forge marriage alliances with brides from Coorg and Brahmin families in Kodagu, but were not successful.

Over several centuries, an annual congregation of Lingayat jangamas (priests) from all over India had been taking place in a jangamvadi (mutt) headed by a Lingayat Panch-acharya in the holy city of Benares. It was during one of these congregations around 1860 that a Lingayat jangama from Bodhan province near Hyderabad met the Raja’s family. He proposed marriage alliance for Veeramma with the Deshmukh of Bodhan, a prominent zamindar of the region. The marriage was solemnized within a few months, and Veeramma shifted to Bodhan.

Unfortunately, Veeramma and her husband were without an heir. It was then decided by the family to adopt a son of one of her brothers. After much discussion in Benares, the Deshmukh of Bodhan adopted one of the sons of Somashekara, named Lingarajendra. He inherited the large landed property. Lingarajendra died at a young age leaving a son named Somashekararajendra who was born in 1910. Somashekararajendra had one son and two daughters named – Lingarajendra, Parvathi and Laxmidevi. The son died very young. Laxmidevi is currently living in Bodhan. Dr. Praveen Sirdesai is eldest of the five sons of Laxmidevi. Somashekararajendra died in December 2000. He had adopted Laxmidevi’s second son Ajay in 1971, who has now inherited the family property.

Interestingly, a few months ago I was contacted by a great-great-great grandniece of Karunakara Menon, an officer who had served the British East India Company at Calicut. He was sent to Coorg as an emissary of the Company, but Chikka Veerarajendra imprisoned him. This action of the Raja was eventually used as a pretext by the British to attack Coorg. However, the Raja himself had become increasingly estranged from his principal officers and Kodava subjects. The British were able to annex Coorg in April 1834 with very little resistance.

My great-great-great grandfather Chepudira Ponnappa was one of the dewans in the court of the Raja. I find it remarkable that the great-great-great grandson of Chikka Veerarajendra and the great-great-great grandniece of Karunakara Menon have got in touch with me. Our ancestors, six generations removed, were contemporaries and interacted with one another!