Saturday, 1 June 2013

When Bangalore was gifted as pin money

Bangalore today is a jewel in the crown of India and it has shown the world how IT or information technology can be harnessed for making progress.
Going back to more than a thousand years, modern Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda, captured by the mighty Adil Shahis, gifted by Shivaji, overrun by the Mughals and finally traded to the Wodeyars for a few lakh rupees.
However, very few people would believe that just a little more than three centuries ago, Bangalore was given as pin money or as Choli Bangdi.
“Choli Bangdi”, according to the custom prevailing in those days among the then royal families of India was the gift made to a daughter at the time of her marriage. This can be termed as pocket money or money to meet the personal expenses.
Bangalore was given as Choli Bangdi by none other than Chatrapathi Shivaji, one of the greatest Emperors of India and the foremost Maratha leader. Shivaji personally came to Bangalore and ensured that the Choli Bangdi was carried out.
Astounding as it seems today, Bangalore then was snatched away by Shivaji who then graciously handed back the city to the wife of his half-brother as Choli Bangdi.
This is how the incident occurred.
It was 1638 and Mohammad Adil Shah was striving to ensure that another Hindu Kingdom did not rise in the south after the demise of the Vijayanagar Empire. When he heard about the riches of Bangalore and the rise of the Kempe Gowdas, he decided to decimate the principality.
Mohamma Adil Shah sent a huge army under two of his ablest commanders-Ranadullah Khan and Shahaji Bhonsale, the father of Shivaji. The Bijapur army laid siege to Bangalore and a despairing Kempe Gowda surrendered.
The Adil Shah conferred Shahaji the Jagir of Bangalore and Shahaji exiled Kempe Gowda to Magadi while he ruled Bangalore till his unfortunate death in a fall from a horse in 1664. After him, his son Venkoji, son of Tukabai of the Mohite clan,  inherited his jagir of Bangalore, while his more illustrious son, Shivaji, the son of Jija Bai, was making life miserable for the Adil Shahis and Mughals in Maharashtra, particularly around the Pune and Kolhapur belt.     
Though Shivaji never interfered with his half-brother’s Jagir, he kept a close watch on the political and social developments in south Karnataka, particularly Bangalore.
Shivaji was attached to Bangalore and he had fond memories of the city where he had spent two years. At the age of 12, Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji and his stepbrother Venkoji or Ekoji were further formally trained in statecraft. He married Saibai, a member of the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640. He then returned to Pune with a rajmudra (sovereign seal) and a ministerial council.
Venkoji was given to pleasures of life and he neglected the welfare of the people. When it became too difficult for him to manage Bangalore, he quietly slipped away to Tanjore or Thanjavur, now in Tamil Nadu. When news of this reached Shivaji, he marched towards Karnataka in 1676 at the head of a seasoned army.
Shivaji captured Bangalore and moved towards Thanjavur. He demanded that Venkoji hand him a part of the Bangalore Jagir as it formed part of their father’s jagir. A furious Venkoji wrote to the Adil Shah complaining to him about Shivaji;s behavior.
Venkoji wrote, saying that he had rightfully inherited the jagir from his father and that Shivaji had no claims on it. The Adil Shah realized the danger of falling into a family dispute and he wrote back to Venkoji saying that Shahaji was a Government servant and, hence, his son Shivaji was one too. “We know how to deal with such a servant and we do not want to interfere in family matters”, he replied.
Even after coming to know of Venkoji’s letter to the Adil Shah,  
Shivaji wanted a reconciliation. The initially promising negotiations were unsuccessful, so while returning to Raigad,  Shivaji defeated his stepbrother's army on November 26, 1677 and seized most of his possessions in the Mysore plateau, including Bangalore.
With the two brothers at war, Venkoji’s wife Dipa Bai, whom Shivaji deeply respected, took upon herself the task of opening negotiations. Shivaji, who deeply respected his sister-in-law immediately agreed to hold talks with Venkoji.
On her part, Dipa Bai convinced her husband to distance himself from the Adil Shah and his Muslim advisors. A reluctant Venkoji agreed and in the end Shivaji consented to turn over to her and her female descendants many of the properties he had seized.
Shivaji then conferred on Dipa Bai the city of Bangalore as Choli Bangdi. He made this one of the many conditions that Venkoji had to agree to if he wanted to keep his kingdom of Thanjavur and the province of Bangalore.
Maratha records of the day state that Shivaji in his letter to Venkoji mentioned that “The paragana of Bengril (Bangalore ) yields today with two neighbouring stations of Baskote (Hoskote) and Silekopte a revenue of two lakhs Barai. If they are brought under our administration, they will yield 5 lakhs. These I had conferred on Dipa Bai for Choli Bangdi, These should be continued in the female line. The mahals should be managed by you but the revenue should go to Dipa Bai.
After Dipa Bai, the revenues shall descend to her daughters as pin-money, and so on in the female line, from generation to generation. Shivaji also specified certain administrative details which Venkoji was bound to follow.
This is how the peculiar story of Bangalore being put up as a merchandise to realize pin money for Venkoji’s wife came about. Unfortunately, Shivaji’s gift of Choli Bangdi did not last long. Shivaji died in 1680 and the Mughals under Aurangzeb overran Bangalore before they sold it to the Wodeyars.
Venkoji continued as the King of Thanjavur till 1684 or a little later, though there is no consensus among historians about the date of his death. After him, the Maratha Kings of Thanjavur continued to rule till 1855 when the British annexed the Kingdom.  

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