The acorn which was planted by the great visionary Kempegowda, has grown into an oak that is Bengaluru. It was Kempegowda who designed the dna and the template of Bengaluru, the information technology and biotechnology city.
Kempegowda called the new fort and township Bengaluru, a name which already existed in antiquity and found in an inscription at Begur. Kempegowda ‘s foresight was beyond the horizon. The city grew beyond the confines of the fort. And today the City has grown beyond the Ring Road.
Kempegowda was a master builder. The fort, the town, tanks and temples were his pioneering efforts over a period of nearly 50 years of his rule. He laid, what can be considered as, the foundation of modern Bengaluru.
The man who founded Bengaluru was a pioneer in many ways. He was the great grandson of Jaya Gowda, who established a separate dynasty, the famous Yelahanka Nada Prabhus. Kempegowda I ruled for 46 years commencing is reign from 1513.
He conquered the surrounding areas and extended the Yelahanka principality. He became the envy of neighbouring palegars (chieftains). But what made him really great was his incessant constructive activity and the concern for the welfare of his subjects. He constructed, tanks, lakes, temples and forts (including minor forts) and agraharas, something similar to today’s layouts.
Kempegowda began his adventurous career with raids on the neighbouring principality of Sivagange, which 30 years later he added to his principality. Next he turned his attention to Domlur, a place of some importance since the days of the Cholas, and annexed it to his kingdom. Kempegowda took possession of this area and allowed the forest to grow thicker since it provided a natural barrier and thus gave protection to his principality.
Somewhere within this vast area lay the spot on which Kempegowda was to erect a fort. Years later he built a township here. This township became what is today’s Bengaluru. It is believed that “Hale Bengaluru” (Old Bangalore), a hamlet in today’s Kodigehalli, near Hebbal, was to lend the name to the new township.
Kempegowda brought Halasur (ulsoor) and Hesaraghatta under his principality. He tapped the economic potential of these regions by bringing vast areas under cultivation by constructing tanks, digging wells and cutting canals across arable land. His reputation rose and he became a popular chieftain.
But his crowning glory was the founding of Bengaluru in 1537. He chose an auspicious day to commence his town building work. One fine morning on 1537 four bullocks were assembled at a place which is today’s Dodpet Square, in the heart of the City. The bullocks were harnessed to four ploughs. The were driven by young men furrowing the ground in four directions up to the limits marked. The routes traversed by those four ploughs became the nucleus of the new town’s four main streets.
Thus were laid Bengaluru’s oldest streets – Chickpet and Dodpet. These narrow streets continue to exist to this day and are the busiest commercial centres of Bengaluru. A strong mud fort was erected around the township. Within this fort walls were localities (called pete) earmarked for different trades and occupations.
Kempegowda then shifted his capital from Yelahanka to Bengaluru. He invited skilled artisans to the town and patronised them increasing the commercial prosperity of the place.
Territorial additions of the villages of Begur, Jigani, Varthur, Kengeri, Banavara and Kumbalgodu, familiar names of places on the outskirts even today, increased the importance of Bengaluru, his capital. Kempegowda’s fame spread far and wide and today his name adorns the international airport at Devanahalli.
Kempegowda’s long reign was marked by monuments and structures found even today. The cave temple of Gavi Gangashareshwara at Gavipur, the Basava temple at Basavanagudi, Kempambudhi and Dharmambudhi tanks. His successors continued his work with the addition of Halasur lake, Karanji tank, Sampangi tank, Ranganatha temple and Someshwara temple at Halasur.
Kempegowda’s successors immortalised him in inscriptions and statues. There are figures in Someshware temple in Halasuru and identical carvings in Hampi.
There is a small statue of him with folded hands, which exists in the principal temple at sivagange, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. This exquisite statue has an inscription in Kannada: Kempegowda, son of Kempacharya Gowda, of Bengaluru, who is always making obeisance to the feet of Lord Gangadhareshwara.” It was excuted nearly 50 years after his death by his successor.
On 1st November, 1964, by the then Corporation of Bangalore City had his statue erected in front of its main office in the Narasimharaja Square.
Until recently, the location of Kempegowda’s tomb was not known.. However in September 2015, Karnataka Ithihas Academy has confirmed that the tomb found in Kempapura village near Magadi is that of Bengaluru founder Kempegowda I.
The Kannada inscription on the tomb says it is that of Hiriya Kempegowda (Kempegowda I) who died at the spot while returning from Kunigal.
Until the tomb was discovered local people were not aware of the historical significance of this tomb, which was covered with shrubs and weeds.
An expert team set up by Bruhut Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) reaffirmed that the tomb found near Magadi is indeed that of Bengaluru founder Hiriya Kempegowda, and that it was put up at the place where he died while fighting a war. The BBMP has allocated funds for the development of the tomb.