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 ruled by Hyder Ali in 1763. 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.
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 Goud Saraswat 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.
Shivappanayaka's Sist (Sistu System)
Shivappa Nayaka is famed for his revenue settlement and this is called as ‘Shivappanayakana Sistu’. This system of his is compared to that of Raja Thodarmal, the Minister of Akbar. Under this system, Shivappa Nayaka divided land into five categories in accordance with the fertility of the soil.
The five categories are as follows:
- Uttamam (First Class Land) : Black Soil Mixed with Sand
- Madhyamam (Second Class Land) : Red Soil Mixed with Sand
- Kanishtam (Third Class Land) : Mixed Black Soil with a little Water
- Adhamam (Fourth Class Land) : Very Bad waterless hard soil
- Adhamadhamam (Fifth Class Land) : Barren soil unfit for cultivation.
After continuous cultivation for 12 years, the yield of the soil was valued. A record of the seeds sown and expenditures incurred in cultivation and the value of the yield were calculated. Every type of land having one Khanduga of sowing capacity was taken as a measuring unit and the highest and lowest rates for that unit were fixed for each of the five categories. For this purpose, each category of land was marked in every village and cultivation was carried out on an experimental basis and the rate of assessment was fixed as 1/3rd of the gross revenue. In every village, land was surveyed. The cost of seeds, cultivation expenditure, total produce and its value were all carefully calculated and perfect accounts were maintained. The total produce for five years and its market value were calculated. 1/3rd of the average value was fixed as the government share. With regard to the gardens of Arecanut, he fixed 1000 Arecanut trees as one unit. Every tree was to be not less than 18 feet in height for the purpose of assessment. The assessment was fixed on the area covered by the trees. The assessment was based on the yield of a unit of 1000 trees. It is interesting to note that Shivappa Nayaka planted trees in his own garden and fixed the assessment based on his own personal experience. The phrase ‘Shivappanayakana Sistu’ remains a byword for efficiency and discipline even today. This system remained in vogue for a long time. This revenue system was also praised by the British.
- 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
- 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