Kannada, Kannadiga, Kannadigaru, Karnataka,

Kannadigarella ondaagi Kannadavannu ulisona, kalisona and belesona



By Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy

Wrestling, a martial sport of India has a hoary antiquity going back to almost the beginning of our history. Our epics Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas portray wrestling in all its glory. Bhima is considered to be the greatest wrestler of Indian tradition. His fight against Jarasandha has been graphically described in Mahabharata. Hanuman was not only a great wrestler but was also elevated to the level of the God of Wrestling and all the wrestling institutions (garadi) have an idol or a portrait of Hanuman to whom worship is offered.

Many kings of Karnataka were proficient in wrestling and many of them had assumed the titles ‘malla’ connected with wrestling. Hundreds of hero-stones have been found in Karnataka which depict the sculptures of wrestlers in action. Perhaps the Vijayanagara kings made it a great sport by including it in Dasara festival daily.

Great patrons

The graphic description of wrestling competitions of the Vijayanagara period make an interesting reading. The Mysore Wadiyars being the cultural successors of Vijayanagara rulers were also the great patrons of this art. Even now wrestling competitions are held in Mysore city at Doddakere (Sahukar Channaiah Akhada).

Many ancient kings have claimed themselves to be great wrestlers but we do not know their real exploits. Perhaps most of them had ornamental titles. But there was an exception to this in the Wadiyar dynasty and that was Ranadhira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar I (1638-59). He was not a weak king as his predecessor Raja Wadiyar II. As soon as he came to the throne he eliminated Dalavoy Vikramaraya and assumed full powers.

It is said that at the temple town of Trichy an arrogant wrestler had hung his underwear (Chaddi) at the entrance of the fort and everybody had to walk under this underwear in great humiliation. Even the Madurai Nayaka was helpless in this matter. Some people who went from Mysore on a pilgrimage to Trichy found this as highly insulting and construed this as an affront to the Kannadigas by a Tamil wrestler and informed this to King Narasaraja.

He went to Trichy incognito and tore off the underwear. This created a great furore and the Trichy wrestler fought against Narasaraja but was defeated and killed in the wrestling. People of Trichy including the king heaved a sigh of relief. But before they could honour him, King Narasaraja returned to Mysore. This made him a Jagajatti (world class wrestler).

Three wrestlers together

Three jealous wrestlers of Tamil Nadu came to Srirangapatna and threw a challenge to Narasaraja; “If you are a great wrestler, you have to fight against all the three of us together”. Narasaraja accepted the offer and to the pleasant surprise of everyone, Narasaraja crushed the two wrestlers by his two arms and the third fellow between his thighs. This incident confirmed that he was a great wrestler.

Some mischievous people out of jealousy wanted to insult Narasaraja. A male wrestler was dressed up like a woman wrestler and she challenged Nara-saraja. The king’s spies brought the news that it was not a woman but a man in the guise of a wo-man. Narasaraja accepted the challenge to the dismay of the spectators. He did not fight but simply removed her (his) dress and lo ! There stood a man with just a loin-cloth. People cheered the King Narasaraja for this clever feat.

We should not be under the impression that the King was whiling away his time in wrestling. He defeated many kings including the Mughals, Bijapur Sultan, Marathas, Madurai Nayakas and many Palegars and extended the Mysore kingdom upto Tamil Nadu.

Tirumala revolted against Narasaraja and the Mysore King had a novel idea of punishing the enemy. He ordered that nose of the enemy soldiers be chopped off as a punishment. This was resorted to faithfully and this war became famous as a war of noses.

Navakoti Narayana

He took special steps to augment the resources of his kingdom and gold coins flowed in huge quantities. These coins amounted to nine crores (navakoti) and he assumed the title ‘Navakoti Narayana’. He declared independence from the Vijayanagar rulers and to commemorate this great event, he opened a mint. For the first time coins of Mysore Wadiyars came to be minted. These gold coins of Narasaraja were called Kanthiraya hanas. They contained on one side various gods and goddesses and his name Kantirava in Kannada on the other side. He also strengthened the Fort of Srirangapatna and built a temple of Narasimha there.

He got a stone sculpture of himself prepared and placed it in this temple as a mark of devotion to the deity. It is said that his father had a mistress by name Bangarudoddi, and Narasaraja built a canal near Srirangapatna and named it Bagarudoddi nala. He was also a patron of literature, and the work ‘Narasaraja Vijaya’ written by Govinda Vaidya is an important work of this period. Though Kantirava Narasaraja Wadiyar had ten wives, he had only one son who predeceased his father. Some scholars feel that he had no sons at all.

Thus Ranadhira Kantirava Narasaraja Wadiyar was a powerful, popular and colourful Maharaja of Mysore Wadiyar dynasty. A large number of folk songs and stories have been woven around him and thus he had become a legend by his wrestling prowess. Such kings are really rare.



February 23, 2008 - Posted by | History of Karnataka


  1. Ranadhira Kanteerava was never known by the appellation Navakoti Narayana . On the other hand King Chikka Deva Raja Wodeyar ( 1673-1704) was known by the appellation Navakoti Narayana ( Annals of Mysore Royal family – page 151). It is said that during Navaratri when his wealth was assessed it was found to exceed Navakoti ( Nine Crores), he was hailed as Navakoti narayana as he was also a staunch Vaishnavaite.

    Author is wrong in stating that Ranadhira’s father had a mistress by name Bangara doddi. Ranadhira had a Gandharva Patni by name Doddajammayya ( Annals of Mysore Royal Family- page 91), who was his favorite consort. As during floods people were stranded inside the fort and also make Cauvery water available within the fort , She requested Ranadhira to construct an acqua -duct to serve both the purpose. It is a tribute to the Engineering marvel of the people of that time that they constructed a dam across cauvery near Chandra vana to the south of Gautama Kshetra, where it divides itself in to two branches and the water thus stored in was led to the capital city by means of a canal running from the bridge in the south west and means of a Acqua duct over the River near Pashimavahini . Ranadhira is further said to have laid down that the crops raided under the new scheme were set apart for services in the temple of God Ranaganatha. Originally this canal had three branches – one which went inside the fort, the second up to Daria Daulat ( it was originally Known as Navaratri Mantapa) and the third to Gumbaz area. It is said to be the oldest extant Acqua Duct in the world and only one of its kind where water of the same river is led across it also. It is also the oldest agricultural canal of Cauvery River. Mysore- Bangalore Vehicular Traffic passed over this bridge-duct till as late as 1964. It is unfortunate such a heritage site is neglected. Some portion of the canal was near the mouth of the duct was realigned during the the construction of the New 4 lane Mysore- Bangalore High way.

    Ranadhira had one son by his first wife biLuguli Ayyammanni who died when he was 5 year old. All ten wives committed sati after his death.

    A Bhakata Vigraha of Ranadhira along with his successor Dodda Devaraj acan be seen at Trinayaneshvara Temple at Mysore Fort.

    Late Dr. Rajkumar , Narasimha Raju and Balakrishna had produced a Kannada Film called Ranadhira Kanteerva which was a big hit.

    Later another Kannada Film called Kakana Kote was also made which featured the King.

    Comment by raja | June 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. It is a very well known fact that the chola kingdom wrestlers defeated the mysore wrestlers repeatedly and not just once. These wrestlers later learnt about wrestling from the chola kingdom wrestlers and those branches were set up in mysore and hampi. Tamilians are always better in ALL aspects in the entire Universe.

    Comment by Tamil Selvan | August 25, 2009 | Reply

    • I agree with Tamil Selvan. Proof for the Tamil Selvan’s theory is well documented in tamiLu talegaLa naduve by BGL Swamy. Can be found at http://ibhprakashana.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&category_id=70&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=2186&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=26&vmcchk=1&Itemid=26

      Comment by Nontamil Selvan | November 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Google about Vijayanagar empire, we kannada people ruled entire south india that tamils never did.

      Coming to modern era, if you are better in all aspects, why do you go begging for food and jobs everywhere in the world?. Why is there no prosperity in TN?

      Comment by Kumar | December 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Dick head wake up, stop using these tamil, kannada things.. grow up u idiot. Its not enough if u show ur maturity in bed(lol). Wake up fool. we r all indians . Until u recognise this fact, others will all take advantage of us.

      and for the information provided here. thanks for the piece of history

      Comment by ur a dick head | January 22, 2010 | Reply

  3. There was no Tamilnadu or Karnataka at the time of King Narasaraja. What is the meaning of jealous wrestlers of Tamilnadu? I could not believe that such words are coming from a educational expert , Professor A.V.Narasimha Murthy. I will make you people to understand one thing. People who are living in present Tamilnadu state- most of us are from Northern & southern districts of present Karnataka. Our roots are there only. Our deities are Doddaraya and Honnamma. You people better vacate our place and move to north from where you came and give back our place. Don’t give loose talks.

    Comment by Sundar | January 1, 2013 | Reply

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