Veerarajendra, the exiled raja of Coorg, and his eleven – year –old daughter Gowramma were the first Indian royals to land in Britain in the summer of 1852 . Veerarajendra used the pretext of his daughter’s embracing Christianity and acquiring a Western education as a ruse to secure permission to visit England . What was his true motive behind this journey? Futher more, as godmother to Gowramma. Queen Victoria had grand plans for the princess and another exited royal. Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab.
In this book, C.P Belliappa has reconstructed the extraordinary sago of the earliest Indian royals to visit and live in Victorian England . He has unearthed hitherto unpublished material that throws light on Veerarajendera’s and princess Victoria Gowramma’s life in England , and the amazing affection Queen Victoria bestowed on the young princess.
Victoria Gowramma The Lost Princess of Coorg C.P. Belliappa has written on several aspects of Coorg. He has a master's degree in chemical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. USA. Belliappa currently lives in Coorg, and besides managing his coffee estate, is involved in the administration of an engineering college. His other books are Tale of a Tiger's Tail &- Other Yarns from Coorg, and Nuggets from Coorg History.
On the last day of the sixteenth century, the British East India Company. was awarded the coveted royal charter from Queen Elizabeth to trade in the East Indies, especially India, that was then dominated by the Dutch and the Portuguese. The Company wanted the patronage of the British sovereign to facilitate their business plans of importing spices, cotton and other raw materials from the Indian subcontinent, in exchange for textiles, steel, and industrial products churned out by their factories in London, Manchester, and Leeds.
Around the time these events were unfolding that would usher in momentous changes in far away India, a young Lingayat prince named Veeraraja from the Ikkeri dynasty in the present- day state of Karnataka in southern India, sought permission from one of the nayakas or warlords in neighbouring Kodagu (Coorg) to establish a Lingayat religious mission, jangamvadi, in a small hamlet named Haleri.
While the East India Company exploited the rivalry between the local rulers to establish British supremacy in the Indian subcontinent, Veeraraja took advantage of the hopelessly divided nayakas of Kodagu to establish the Haleri dynasty in the thickly forested hilly region spread over 1500 square miles. His successors consolidated the dynasty's hold on Kodagu by vanquishing all the nayakas, and ruled the land for more than two centuries by winning the support of the indigenous martial race, the Kodavas or the Coorgs. The Haleri rajas fortified their bond with the Coorgs by forging several marriage alliances between the two communities. The Haleri rajas belonged to the Siva-worshipping Lingayat sect, which was alien to Kodagu. The Kodavas, the local inhabitants, mainly worshipped nature and their forefathers. The brazen determination exhibited by a few brave and audacious men, from a country seven-thousand miles away, in taking control of India, was replicated albeit on a lesser scale by the Haleri rajas in establishing their realm in Kodagu.
The paths of the British East India Company and the rajas of the Haleri dynasty crossed during Hyder Ali's reign in neighbouring Mysore. Hyder Ali, and later his son Tipu Sultan, understood the strategic importance of Kodagu in keeping the British at bay from attacking their domain from the western flank, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan made several forays into the inhospitable terrain of Kodagu to take over the land, but failed to gain total control. Unable to subdue the indomitable Kodavas, they held Kodagu tenuously from 1780 to 1791. The heir to the throne, Veerarajendra (popularly known as Dodda Veerarajendra) was imprisoned by Tipu, and attempts were made to forcibly convert him to Islam. In 1788, with help from his Kodava subjects, Veerarajendra escaped.
He fought Tipu for the next three years to regain his kingdom. It was during this period that the British approached the young Dodda Veerarajendra for a strategic partnership to defeat their common enemy- Tipu Sultan. The British East India Company recognised the importance of Coorg in their design to eliminate the powerful Tipu Sultan. They secured a foothold in Coorg by signing a friendship treaty with the raja of Kodagu in 1790. Both Dodda Veerarajendra and the British benefitted from this alliance, and Tipu was vanquished in the last Mysore war of 1799.
Dodda Veerarajendra's brother and successor, Lingarajendra, continued the friendship with the British. It was during the reign of his son, also named Veerarajendra (popularly referred to as Chikka Veerarajendra), that the relationship between the raja of Kodagu and the British soured. Chikka Veerarajendra's confrontation with the British started in 1830 and came to a head during 1834. His atrocities against the Kodavas alienated his subjects to a point where they supported the British in taking over the administration of the kingdom. Kodagu thus became a part of British territory, and Chikka Veerarajendra was exiled from his kingdom in April 1834. Chikka Veerarajendra and his family were first taken to Vellore where they spent about a year. He was then relocated to Benares in 1836.
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