A Forgotten Empire Chapter 17

A Forgotten Empire Chapter 17

The Story of Barradas (1614) <i> Chandragiri in 1614 ~~ Death of King Venkata ~~ Rebellion of Jaga Raya and murder of the royal family ~~ Loyalty of Echama Naik ~~ The Portuguese independent at San Thome ~~ Actors in the drama ~~ The affair at "Paleacate." ~~ List of successors ~~ Conclusion. </i>

The following note of occurrences which took place at Chandragiri
in 1614 on the death of King Venkata I. will be found of singular
interest, as it relates to events of which we in England have hitherto,
I think, been in complete ignorance. In consists of an extract from a
letter written at Cochin on December 12, A.D. 1616, by Manuel Barradas,
and recently found by Senhor Lopes amongst a quantity of letters
preserved in the National Archives at Lisbon.[355] He copied it from
the original, and kindly sent it to me. The translation is my own.

"I will now tell you ... about the death of the old King of Bisnaga, called Vencattapatti Rayalu,[356] and of his selection as his successor of a nephew by name Chica Rayalu; setting aside another who was commonly held to be his son, but who in reality was not so. The true fact was this. The King was married to a daughter of Jaga Raya by name Bayama, and though she eagerly longed for a son she had none in spite of the means, legitimate or illegitimate, that she employed for that purpose. A Brahman woman of the household of the Queen's father, knowing how strong was the Queen's desire to have a son, and seeing that God had not granted her one, told her that she herself was pregnant for a month; and she advised her to tell the King, and to publish it abroad, that she (the Queen) had been pregnant for a month, and to feign to be in that state, and said that after she (the Brahman woman) had been delivered she would secretly send the child to the palace by some confidant, upon which the Queen could announce that this boy was her own son. The advice seemed good to the Queen, and she pretended that she was pregnant, and no sooner was the Brahman woman delivered of a son than she sent it to the palace, and the news was spread abroad that Queen Bayama had brought forth a son. The King, knowing all this, yet for the love he bore the Queen, and so that the matter should not come to light, dissembled and made feasts, giving the name 'Chica Raya' to the boy, which is the name always given to the heir to the throne.[357] Yet he never treated him as a son, but on the contrary kept him always shut up in the palace of Chandigri,[358] nor ever allowed him to go out of it without his especial permission, which indeed he never granted except when in company of the Queen. Withal, the boy arriving at the age of fourteen years, he married him to a niece of his, doing him much honour so as to satisfy Obo Raya, his brother-in-law.[359]

"Three days before his death, the King, leaving aside, as I say, this putative son, called for his nephew Chica Raya, in presence of several of the nobles of the kingdom, and extended towards him his right hand on which was the ring of state, and put it close to him, so that he should take it and should become his successor in the kingdom. With this the nephew, bursting into tears, begged the King to give it to whom he would, and that for himself he did not desire to be king, and he bent low, weeping at the feet of the old man. The King made a sign to those around him that they should raise the prince up, and they did so; and they then placed him on the King's right hand, and the King extended his own hand so that he might take the ring. But the prince lifted his hands above his head, as if he already had divined how much ill fortune the ring would bring him, and begged the King to pardon him if he wished not to take it. The old man then took the ring and held it on the point of his finger offering it the second time to Chica Raya, who by the advice of the captains present took it, and placed it on his head and then on his finger, shedding many tears. Then the King sent for his robe, valued at 200,000 cruzados, the great diamond which was in his ear, which was worth more than 500,000 cruzados, his earrings, valued at more than 200,000, and his great pearls, which are of the highest price. All these royal insignia he gave to his nephew Chica Raya as being his successor, and as such
he was at once proclaimed. While some rejoiced, others were displeased.

"Three days later the King died at the age of sixty-seven years. His
body was burned in his own garden with sweet-scented woods, sandal,
aloes, and such like; and immediately afterwards three queens burned
themselves, one of whom was of the same age as the King, and the
other two aged thirty-five years. They showed great courage. They went
forth richly dressed with many jewels and gold ornaments and precious
stones, and arriving at the funeral pyre they divided these, giving
some to their relatives; some to the Brahmans to offer prayers for
them, and throwing some to be scrambled for by the people. Then they
took leave of all, mounted on to a lofty place, and threw themselves
into the middle of the fire, which was very great. Thus they passed
into eternity.

"Then the new King began to rule, compelling some of the captains to
leave the fortress, but keeping others by his side; and all came to him
to offer their allegiance except three. These were Jaga Raya, who has
six hundred thousand cruzados of revenue and puts twenty thousand men
into the field; Tima Naique, who has four hundred thousand cruzados of
revenue and keeps up an army of twelve thousand men; and Maca Raya,
who has a revenue of two hundred thousand cruzados and musters six
thousand men. They swore never to do homage to the new King, but, on
the contrary, to raise in his place the putative son of the dead King,
the nephew of Jaga Raya,[360] who was the chief of this conspiracy. In
a few days there occurred the following opportunity.

"The new King displeased three of his nobles; the first, the Dalavay,
who is the commander of the army and pays a tribute of five hundred
thousand cruzados, because he desired him to give up three fortresses
which the King wished to confer on two of his own sons; the second,
his minister, whom he asked to pay a hundred thousand cruzados,
alleging that he had stolen them from the old King his uncle; the
third, Narpa Raya, since he demanded the jewels which his sister,
the wife of the old King, had given to Marpa. All these three answered
the King that they would obey his commands within two days; but they
secretly plotted with Jaga Raya to raise up the latter's nephew to
be King. And this they did in manner following: ~~

"Jaga Raya sent to tell the King that he wished to do homage to him,
and so also did Tima Maique and Maca Raya. The poor King allowed
them to enter. Jaga Raya selected five thousand men, and leaving
the rest outside the city he entered the fortress with these chosen
followers. The two other conspirators did the same, each of them
bringing with them two thousand selected men. The fortress has two
walls. Arrived at these, Jaga Raya left at the first gate a thousand
men, and at the second a thousand. The Dalavay seized two other
gates of the fortress, on the other side. There being some tumult,
and a cry of treason being raised, the King ordered the palace
gates to be closed, but the conspirators as soon as they reached
them began to break them down. Maca Raya was the first to succeed,
crying out that he would deliver up the King to them; and he did so,
seeding the King a message that if he surrendered he would pledge his
word to do him no ill, but that the nephew of Jaga Raya must be King,
he being the son of the late King.

"The poor surrounded King, seeing himself without followers and
without any remedy, accepted the promise, and with his wife and
sons left the tower in which he was staying. He passed through the
midst of the soldiers with a face grave and severe, and with eyes
downcast. There was none to do him reverence with hands (as is the
custom) joined over the head, nor did he salute any one.

"The King having left, Jaga Raya called his nephew and crowned him,
causing all the nobles present to do him homage; and he, finding
himself now crowned King, entered the palace and took possession of
it and of all the riches and precious stones that he found there. If
report says truly, he found in diamonds alone three large chests full
of fine stones. After this (Jaga Raya) placed the deposed King under
the strictest guard, and he was deserted by all save by one captain
alone whose name was Echama Naique, who stopped outside the fortress
with eight thousand men and refused to join Jaga Raya. Indeed,
hearing of the treason, he struck his camp and shut himself up in
his own fortress and began to collect more troops.

"Jaga Raya sent a message to this man bidding him come and do homage to
his nephew, and saying that if he refused he would destroy him. Echama
Naique made answer that he was not the man to do reverence to a boy
who was the son of no one knew whom, nor even what his caste was;
and, so far as destroying him went, would Jaga Raya come out and meet
him? If so, he would wait for him with such troops as he possessed!

"When this reply was received Jaga Raya made use of a thousand gentle
expressions, and promised honours and revenues, but nothing could turn
him. Nay, Echama took the field with his forces and offered battle to
Jaga Raya; saying that, since the latter had all the captains on his
side, let him come and fight and beat him if he could, and then the
nephew would become King unopposed. In the end Jaga Raya despaired
of securing Echama Naique's allegiance, but he won over many other
nobles by gifts and promises.

"While Jaga Raya was so engaged, Echama Naique was attempting to obtain
access to the imprisoned King by some way or other; but finding this
not possible, he sought for a means of at least getting possession of
one of his sons. And he did so in this manner. He sent and summoned
the washerman who washed the imprisoned King's clothes, and promised
him great things if he would bring him the King's middle son. The
washerman gave his word that he would so do if the matter were kept
secret. When the day arrived on which it was the custom for him to
take the clean clothes to the King, he carried them (into the prison)
and with them a palm-leaf letter from Echama Naique, who earnestly
begged the King to send him one at least of the three sons whom
he had with him, assuring him that the washerman could effect his
escape. The King did so, giving up his second son aged twelve years,
for the washerman did not dare take the eldest, who was eighteen years
old. He handed over the boy, and put him in amongst the dirty clothes,
warning him to have no fear and not to cry out even if he felt any pain. In order more safely to pass the guards, the washerman placed on
top of all some very foul clothes, such as every one would avoid; and
went out crying 'TALLA! TALLA!' which means 'Keep at a distance! keep
at a distance!' All therefore gave place to him, and he went out of
the fortress to his own house. Here he kept the prince in hiding for
three days, and at the end of them delivered him up to Echama Naique,
whose camp was a league distant from the city, and the boy was received
by that chief and by all his army with great rejoicing.

"The news then spread abroad and came to the ears of Jaga Raya, who
commanded the palace to be searched, and found that it was true. He
was so greatly affected that he kept to his house for several days;
but he doubled the guards on the King, his prisoner, closed the gates,
and commanded that no one should give aught to the King to eat but
rice and coarse vegetables.[361]

"As soon as it was known that Echama Naique had possession of the
King's son, there went over to him four of Jaga Raya's captains
with eight thousand men; so that he had in all sixteen thousand,
and now had good hope of defending the rightful King. He took,
therefore, measures for effecting the latter's escape. He selected
from amongst all his soldiers twenty men, who promised to attempt to
dig an underground passage which should reach to where the King lay in
prison. In pursuance of this resolve they went to the fortress, offered
themselves to the Dalavay as entering into his service, received pay,
and after some days began to dig the passage so as to gain entrance
to the King's prison. The King, seeing soldiers enter thus into his
apartment, was amazed, and even more so when he saw them prostrate
themselves on the ground and deliver him a palm-leaf letter from Echama
Naique, in which he begged the King to trust himself to these men,
as they would escort him out of the fortress. The King consented. He
took off his robes hastily and covered himself with a single cloth;
and bidding farewell to his wife, his sons, and his daughters, told
them to have no fear, for that he, when free, would save them all.

"But it so happened that at this very moment one of the soldiers
who were guarding the palace by night with torches fell into a hole,
and at his cries the rest ran up, and on digging they discovered the
underground passage. They entered it and got as far as the palace,
arriving there just when the unhappy King was descending into it
in order to escape. He was seized and the alarm given to Jaga Raya,
who sent the King to another place more confined and narrower, and
with more guards, so that the poor prisoner despaired of ever escaping.

"Echama Naique, seeing that this stratagem had failed, bribed heavily a
captain of five hundred men who were in the fortress to slay the guards
as soon as some good occasion offered, and to rescue the King. This
man, who was called Iteobleza,[362] finding one day that Jaga Raya
was leaving the palace with all his men in order to receive a certain
chief who had proffered his submission, and that there only remained
in the fortress about five thousand men, in less than an hour slew
the guards, seized three gates, and sent a message to Echama Naique
telling him to come at once and seize the fortress. But Jaga Raya was
the more expeditious; he returned with all his forces, entered by a
postern gate, of the existence of which Iteobleza had not been warned,
and put to death the captain and his five hundred followers.

"Enraged at this attempt, Jaga Raya, to strengthen the party of his
nephew, resolved to slay the King and all his family. He entrusted this
business to a brother of his named Chinaobraya,[363] ordering him to
go to the palace and tell the poor King that he must slay himself,
and that if he would not he himself would kill him with stabs of
his dagger.

"The prisoner attempted to excuse himself, saying that he knew
nothing of the attempted revolt. But seeing the determination of
Chinaobraya, who told him that he must necessarily die, either by
his own hand or by that of another ~~ a most pitiful case, and one
that I relate full of sorrow! ~~ the poor King called his wife, and
after he had spoken to her awhile he beheaded her. Then he sent for
his youngest son and did the same to him. He put to death similarly
his little daughter. Afterwards he sent for his eldest son, who was
already married, and commanded him to slay his wife, which he did by
beheading her. This done, the King took a long sword of four fingers'
breadth, and, throwing himself upon it, breathed his last; and his
son, heir to the throne, did the same to himself in imitation of his
father. There remained only a little daughter whom the King could
not bring himself to slay; but Chinaobraya killed her, so that none
of the family should remain alive of the blood royal, and the throne
should be secured for his nephew.

"Some of the chiefs were struck with horror at this dreadful deed, and
were so enraged at its cruelty that they went over to Echama Naique,
resolved to defend the prince who had been rescued by the washerman,
and who alone remained of all the royal family. Echama Naique, furious
at this shameful barbarity and confident in the justice of his cause,
selected ten thousand of his best soldiers, and with them offered
battle to Jaga Raya, who had more than sixty thousand men and a number
of elephants and horses. Echama sent him a message in this form: ~~
'Now that thou hast murdered thy king and all his family, and there
alone remains this boy whom I rescued from thee and have in my keeping,
come out and take the field with all thy troops; kill him and me,
and then thy nephew will be secure on the throne!'

"Jaga Raya tried to evade this for some time; but finding that Echama
Naique insisted, he decided to fight him, trusting that with so great
a number of men he would easily not only be victorious, but would
be able to capture both Echama Naique and the prince. He took the
field, therefore, with all his troops. Echama Naique entrusted the
prince to a force of ten thousand men who remained a league away,
and with the other ten thousand he not only offered battle, but was
the first to attack; and that with such fury and violence that Jaga
Raya, with all the people surrounding his nephew, was driven to one
side, leaving gaps open to the enemy, and many met their deaths in
the fight. Echama Naique entered in triumph the tents of Jaga Raya,
finding in them all the royal insignia belonging to the old King
and these he delivered to the young prince, the Son of Chica Raya,
proclaiming him rightful heir and King of all the empire of Bisnaga.

"The spoil which he took was very large, for in precious stones alone
they say that he found two millions worth.

"After this victory many of the nobles joined themselves to Echama
Naique. So much so, that in a short time he had with him fifty thousand
fighting men in his camp; while Jaga Raya, with only fifteen thousand,
fled to the jungles. Here, however, he was joined by more people, so
that the war has continued these two years,[364] fortune favouring
now one side now the other. But the party of the young prince has
always been gaining strength; the more so because, although the great
Naique of Madura[365] ~~ a page of the betel to the King of Bisnaga,
who pays a revenue every year of, some say, 600,000 pagodas, and has
under him many kings and nobles as vassals, such as he of Travancor ~~
took the side of Jaga Raya, and sustained him against the Naique of
Tanjaor. Yet the latter, though not so powerful, is, with the aid of
the young King, gradually getting the upper hand. Indeed there are now
assembled in the field in the large open plains of Trinchenepali[366]
not only the hundred thousand men that each party has, but as many
as a million of soldiers.

"Taking advantage of these civil wars, the city of San Thome[367] ~~
which up to now belonged to the King of Bisnaga, paying him revenues
and customs which he used to make over to certain chiefs, by whom
the Portuguese were often greatly troubled determined to liberate
itself, and become in everything and for everything the property
of the King of Portugal. To this end she begged the Viceroy to send
and take possession of her in the name of his Majesty, which he did,
as I shall afterwards tell you. Meanwhile the captain who governed
the town, by name Manuel de Frias, seeing that there was close to the
town a fortress that commanded it, determined to seize it by force,
seeing that its captain declined to surrender it. So he laid siege
to it, surrounding it so closely that no one could get out."

In the end the Portuguese were successful. The fortress was taken,
its garrison of 1500 men capitulated, and a fleet came round by sea
to complete the conquest.

The foregoing story relates to events never before, I think, made
known to English readers, and so far is of the highest interest. Let
us, for the moment, grant its accuracy, and read it by the light of
the genealogical table already given.[368]

King Venkata I. (1586 ~~ 1614) had a sister who was married to a
chief whom Barradas calls "Obo" (perhaps Obala) Raya. So far as
we know, his only nephews were Tirumala II. and Ranga III., sons
of his brother, Rama III. Since Tirumala II. appears to have had
no sons, and Ranga III. had a son, Rama IV, who is asserted in the
inscriptions to have been "one of several brothers," it is natural
to suppose that the nephew mentioned by Barradas, who was raised to
be king on the death of the old King Venkata I. in 1614, and who had
three sons, was Ranga III., called "Chikka Raya" or "Crown-prince"
in the text. He, then, succeeded in 1614, but was afterwards deposed,
imprisoned, and compelled to take his own life. His eldest son at the
same time followed his example, and his youngest son was slain by his
father. The "middle son" escaped, and was raised to the throne by a
friendly chief named Echama Naik. This second son was probably Ranga
IV. Two of King Venkata's wives were Bayama, daughter of Jaga Raya,
and a lady unnamed, sister of Narpa Raya. A niece of Venkata I. had
been given in marriage to a Brahman boy, who had been surreptitiously
introduced into the palace by Bayama and educated in the pretence
that he was son of King Venkata. The plot to raise him to the throne
was temporarily successful, and Ranga III. and all the royal family
were killed, saving only Ranga IV., who afterwards came to the throne.

How much of the story told is true we cannot as yet decide; but it
is extremely improbable that the whole is a pure invention, and we
may for the present accept it, fixing the date of these occurrences
as certainly between the years 1614 and 1616 A.D. ~~ the date of
Barradas's letter being December 12 in the latter year.

It will be observed that the inscriptions upon which the genealogical
table given above, from the EPIGRAPHIA INDICA, is founded do not yield
any date between A.D. 1614 and 1634, when Pedda Venkata II. is named
as king. In 1883 I published[369] a list of Vijayanagar names derived
from reports of inscriptions which had then reached me. I am by no
means certain of their accuracy, and it is clear that they must all
be hereafter carefully examined. But so far as it goes the list runs
thus: ~~

Ranga 1619
Rama 1620, 1622
Ranga 1623
Venkata 1623
Rama 1629
Venkata 1636

The last-mentioned name and date are apparently correct.

In 1633 the Portuguese, encouraged by the Vijayanagar king, still
at Chandragiri, attempted to eject the Dutch from "Paleacate," or
Pulicat. An arrangement was made by which the Portuguese were to
attack by sea and the Rajah by land; but while the Viceroy sent his
twelve ships as agreed on, the Rajah failed to attack, alleging in
explanation that he was compelled to use his army to put down internal
disturbances in the kingdom. A second expedition met with no better
success, the plans of the Portuguese being again upset by the non
fulfilment of the king's part of the bargain. On the departure of the
fleet the king did attack the Dutch settlement, but was bought off by
a large payment, and the Hollanders remained subsequently undisturbed.

Senhor Lopes tells me that he has found in the National Archives
in the Torre do Tombo, amongst the "Livros das Moncoes," a number
of papers bearing on this subject. The most interesting are those
contained in Volume xxxiv. (fol. 91 ~~ 99). These were written by the
Captain-General of Meliapor (St. Thome), by Padre Pero Mexia of the
Company of Jesus, and by the Bishop; and amongst the other documents
are to be seen translations of two palm-leaf letters written by the
king of Vijayanagar, then at Vellore. It appears from these that
the king was devoid of energy, and that one Timma Raya had revolted
against him.

We know that in 1639 the king of Vijayanagar was named Ranga or
Sri-Ranga, and that he was at that time residing at Chandragiri;
because in that year Mr. Day, the head of the English trading station
a Madras, obtained from the king a grant of land at that place,
one mile broad by five miles long, on which Fort St. George was
afterwards constructed. The country about Madras was then ruled over
by a governor or Naik, and so little heed did he pay to the wishes or
commands of his titular sovereign, that although the Raya had directed
that the name of the new town should be "Srirangarayalapatnam" ("city
of Sri Ranga Raya"), the Naik christened it after the name of his own
father, Chenna, and called it "Chennapatnam," by which appellation it
has ever since been known to the Hindus. Such, at least, is the local
tradition. This king was probably the Ranga VI. of the Epigraphia list,
mentioned as living in 1644 A.D.

After this date my (doubtful and unexamined) inscriptions yield the
following names and dates: ~~

Ranga 1643, 1647, 1655, 1662, 1663, 1665, 1667, 1678
Venkata 1678, 1680
Ranga 1692
Venkata 1706
Ranga 1716
Mahadeva 1724
Ranga 1729
Venkata 1732
Rama 1739 (?)
Venkata 1744
Venkata 1791, 1792, 1793

From Sir Thomas Munro's papers I gather that the territory about the
old family estate of Anegundi was early in the eighteenth century
held by the Rayas from the Mogul emperor of Delhi as a tributary
state. In 1749 it was seized by the Mahrattas, and in 1775 it was
reduced by Haidar Ali of Mysore, but continued to exist as a tributary
quasi-independent state till the time of Tipu (Tippoo Sultan).

Tipu, who never suffered from an excess of compunction or compassion
when his own interests were at stake, annexed the estate bodily to his
dominions in 1786. Thirteen years later he was killed at Seringapatam,
and in the settlement that followed the little territory was made over
to the Nizam of Haidarabad, the English Government retaining all lands
on their side of the Tungabhadra. Partly in compensation for this loss
of land the Government has till very recently paid an annual pension
to the head of the Anegundi family. This has now been abolished.

A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar; A Contribution to the History of India by Robert Sewell.

wA Forgotten Empire Chapter 17  

A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar


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