Nayakas of Keladi

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Keladi Nayaka Kingdom
Official language Kannada
Capitals Keladi, Ikkeri
Government Monarchy
Preceding state Vijayanagar Empire
Succeeding states Kingdom of Mysore
Granite yali pillars, Aghoreshwara Temple, Ikkeri, Shimoga District
Granite yali pillars, Rameshwara Temple, Keladi, Shimoga District
Wall motif, Rameshwara Temple, Keladi, Shimoga District
Parrot feeding nestling in frieze, Rameshwara Temple, Keladi, Shimoga District

Nayakas of Keladi (1499–1763) were an important ruling dynasty in post-medieval Karnataka, India. They initially started to rule as a vassal of the Vijayanagar Empire. After the fall of the empire in 1565, they gained independence and ruled significant parts of present day Karnataka including Shimoga, most areas of the coastal and the central Tungabhadra districts. In 1763 AD, with their defeat to Hyder Ali, they were absorbed into the Kingdom of Mysore.

They played an important part in the history of Karnataka,[1] during a time of confusion and fragmentation that generally prevailed in South India after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Nayaka clan

Chaudappa Nayaka (1499–1530) from Keladi was the earliest chieftain to rule the area surrounding Shimoga was a lingayath

Sadashiva Nayaka (1530–1566) was an important chieftain in the Vijayanagar Empire and earned the title Kotekolahala from emperor Aliya Rama Raya for his heroics in the battle of Kalyani. The coastal provinces of Karnataka came under his direct rule. He moved the capital to Ikkeri some 20 km. from Keladi.

Sankanna Nayaka (1566–1570)

Chikka Sankanna Nayaka (1570–1580) was an opportunistic ruler who took advantage of the confusion in the Vijayanagar Empire following its defeat at Tallikota and grabbed a few provinces in Uttara Kannada district.

Rama Raja Nayaka (1580–1586)

Hiriya Venkatappa Nayaka (1586–1629) is considered by scholars as ablest monarch of the clan. He completely freed himself from the overlordship of the relocated Vijayanagar rulers of Penugonda. Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle, who visited his kingdom in 1623, called him an able soldier and administrator. In his reign the kingdom expanded so that it covered coastal regions, Malnad regions, and some regions to the east of the western Ghats of present day Karnataka. He is also known to have defeated the Adilshahis of Bijapur in Hanagal. Though a Virashaiva by faith, he built many temples for Vaishnavas and Jains and a mosque for Muslims.

Virabhadra Nayaka (1629–1645) faced many troubles from the start, including competition from rival Jain chieftains of Malenad for the throne of Ikkeri and invasion by the Sultanate armies of Bijapur. Ikkeri was plundered by the Bijapur army during his time.

Shivappa Nayaka (1645–1660) is widely considered as the ablest and greatest of the Keladi rulers. He was the uncle of Virabhadra Nayaka. Shivappa deposed his nephew to gain the throne of Keladi. He was not only an able administrator; he also patronised literature and fine arts. His successful campaigns against the Bijapur sultans, the Mysore kings, the Portuguese, and other Nayakas of the neighbouring territories east of the western ghats helped expand the kingdom to its greatest extent, covering large areas of present day Karnataka. He gave importance to agriculture and developed new schemes for collection of taxes and revenues which earned him much praise from later British officials. A statue of him and the palace built by him containing many artifacts of his times are reminders of the respect he has earned even from the present generation of people of the region.

Chikka Venkatappa Nayaka (1660–1662)

Bhadrappa Nayaka (1662–1664)

Somashekara Nayaka I (1664–1672) The King who was once a good administrator, gave up his interest in administration after his associastion with a dancer named Kalavati. Bharame Mavuta, a relative of Kalavati slow poisoned the king which eventually led to his death.

Keladi Chennamma (1672–1697) She was an able ruler who some scholars claim was allied with the Maratha Shivaji and later his son Sambhaji to defeat all rival claimants to the throne. She gave shelter to Chhatrapathi Rajaram when he fled from the Mughal army. Chennamma of Keladi is well remembered by local people through tales of her bravery.

Basavappa Nayaka (1697–1714) He was a brave ruler and was adopted by Rani Chennammaji from their relative Markappa Shetty of Bedanur [2]

Somashekara Nayaka II (1714–1739)

Kiriya Basavappa Nayaka (1739–1754)

Chenna Basappa Nayaka (1754–1757)

Queen Virammaji (1757–1763) was defeated by Hyder Ali who merged the Keladi kingdom with the Kingdom of Mysore. The queen was captured by Hyder Ali and was kept in confinement along with her son in the fort of Madugiri.[3] They were however rescued in 1767 when Madhavrao I of the Maratha Empire defeated Hyder Ali in the battle of Madugiri. Later, they were sent to Pune the capital of the Maratha Empire for protection.[4]

Decline and the end

For more than two hundred years the kingdom controlled the coastal and malnad regions of present day Karnataka and fostered a rich tradition of trade with the English, the Portuguese, and the Dutch. However, in the period of gloom brought about by the fall of the last great Hindu empire, the Vijayanagar empire, constant wars—campaigns against local chieftains and the Mysore Kingdom and the harassment of the Marathas finally drained the treasury and resulted in the end of the kingdom.



Linganna wrote Keladinripavijayam, Shivagita by Tirumalabhatta are important works of literature. Sanskrit

Shivatattvaratnakara of king Basavappa, Bhattoji Dikshita wrote Tattva Kausthuba, Ashvapandita wrote Manapriya.


The Keladi Nayakas built some fine temples in Ikkeri and Keladi using a combination of late Kadamba, Hoysala, Vijayanagar, and Dravida styles. The use of granite for their construction shows they simply followed the Vijayanagar model of architecture. The Aghoreshwara temple at Ikkeri and the Rameshwara temple at Keladi are the best examples of the Nayakas' art. Vijayanagar-style pillars with hippogryphs are common; called yali columns (depiction of horses and lions as seen in Hampi) is found here. These are pillars with lions, either with their forepaws raised or simply in a sitting position, and pillars with a mythical horse-like animal with front legs raised, balancing on its rear legs, and with an armed rider on its back which are worth seeing at Ikkeri. A roof sculpture depicting a Gandaberunda, the mythical two-headed bird of Karnataka, is found in Keladi. Also, in the Rameshwara temple, a pillar sculpture shows Maratha Rajaram with Keladi Chennamma (history has it that Rajaram was protected by the queen when he was on the run from the Mughals).

Religious Tolerance

The Keladi Nayakas invited Kazi Mahmoud who was a grandson of chief kazi of Adil Shahi kingdom of Bijapur to settle in Bhatkal. The revenue of Tenginagundi village was given to Kazi Mahmoud. The kazi family of Bhatkal is popularly known as Temunday Family due the ownership of lands in Tenginagundi. Many Nawayath Muslims were appointed in the administrative positions. The families of these nobles Nawayath still use their surnames as Ikkeri and are mainly settled in and around Bhatkal. The Golden Kalasa on the dome of Bhatkal Jamia Masjid popularly known as 'Chinnada Palli' meaning 'Golden Mosque' is believed to be a generous gift from Keladi rulers.

See also


  1. ^ A journey from Madras through the ... – Google Books. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  2. ^ A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar Vol 111 – 1807 – Francis Buchanan -from page 254 "[1]"
  3. ^ Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707-1813 by Jaswant Lal Mehta p.458
  4. ^ Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707-1813 by Jaswant Lal Mehta p.458
  • K.R. Venkataraman. The throne of transcendental wisdom: Śrī Śamkarācārya's Śāradā Pìtha in Śringeri, Page 58.
  • Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, 2001, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)