Shivappa Nayaka (reigned 1645–1660), popularly known as Keladi Shivappa Nayaka, was a notable ruler of the Keladi Nayaka Kingdom. The Keladi Nayakas were successors of the Vijayanagara Empire in the coastal and Malnad (hill) districts of Karnataka, India, in the late 16th century. At their peak, the Nayakas built a niche kingdom comprising the coastal, hill and some interior districts (Bayaluseeme) of modern Karnataka, before succumbing to the Kingdom of Mysore in 1763, which at that time was ruled by Hyder Ali. He was known as Sistina Shivappa Nayaka because he introduced a tax system called Sist.
Shivappa Nayaka is remembered as an able administrator and soldier. He ascended the throne in 1645. During this time, the last ruler of the diminished Vijayanagara Empire ruling from Vellore, Shriranga Raya III was defeated by the Bijapur Sultanate and sought refuge with Shivappa. The growing threat of the Portuguese was eliminated by 1653 and the ports of Mangalore, Kundapura and Honnavar were brought under Keladi control. Having conquered the Kannada coast, he marched down to Kasargod region of modern Kerala and installed a pillar of victory at Nileshvara. The forts of Chandragiri, Bekal and Mangalore were built by Shivappa Nayaka.
Later he invaded north of the Tungabhadra river and captured territory in the modern Dharwad district from the Bijapur Sultanate. In the south, when he invaded and laid siege to Srirangapatna in modern Mysore district, an epidemic broke out in his army forcing him the withdraw. In the south, he destroyed the Portuguese political power in the Kanara region by capturing all the Portuguese forts of the coastal region.
Shivappa Nayaka introduced a revenue settlement scheme called Sist, a policy that has found favourable comparison to revenue schemes formulated by the Mogul emperor Akbar. According to this scheme, agricultural lands were divided into five types depending on the type of soil and available irrigational facilities. A unit of sowing capacity called Khanduga was developed and every irrigable land was taxed in varying amounts based on this unit. The rate of taxation depended on the yield in each one of these five types of land, the rate varying from village to village and amounting to a third of the total yield. Shivappa Nayaka gave importance to agriculture which resulted in an expanding agrarian economy. A religious and tolerant man, Shivappa Nayaka performed Vedic sacrifices and rituals and patronised the Hindu Advaita order of Sringeri. He was tolerant towards Christians and gave them land to cultivate. He encouraged the mercantile communities of South India such as the Komatis and Konkanis to settle down and establish businesses in his kingdom.
An interesting episode from the time of Shivappa Nayaka's rule goes as follows. A poor Brahmin named Ganesh Mallya came to Keladi, the capital city, with the intention of finding a job. Having no money, he carried a bag full of home-grown coconuts. Before entering the city, every traveller had to pass through eight toll gates, each of which collected a tax. Because he carried no cash, Ganesh Mallya had to part with two coconuts at each toll gate, one as tax and the other as a gift to the official. He also paid with two coconuts at the city entrance. Frustrated with all the tolls, Mallya boldly set up his own toll gate (the ninth toll gate) and collected a toll after registering full details of travellers into the city in his own register. In return for the toll, Ganesh Mallya handed out a receipt with a note new custom station for eighteen coconuts, signature of Ganeshayya Raja of Kumta. This went on unnoticed for eighteen months before King Shivappa Nayaka heard of it. When summoned by the king, Ganesh Mallya admitted he had collected an illegal toll to make a livelihood. Impressed by his honesty and business acumen, Shivappa Nayaka took Ganesh Mallya into his service. Shivappa Nayaka was succeeded on the throne by his younger brother Chikka Venkatappa Nayaka in 1660.
- Kamath (2001), p220
- His revenue settlement scheme was later praised by British officials such as Francis Buchanan and Rice (Kamath 2001, p223)
- Kamath (2001), p222
- Kamath (2001), p223
- Portuguese Studies Review (ISSN 1057-1515) (Baywolf Press) p.35
- Kamat, Jyotsna. "Epigraphy Helps to Trace Genealogy of Mahales of Honavar". The Mahales of Honavar. www.Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved 2007-06-15.
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- Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore, 2001 (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041