The ordinary village of Kempapura in Magaditaluk, 75 km from Bengaluru, have a secret close to its heart. The secret is about the curse which did not allow its people to talk about Kempegowda, the founder of Bengaluru, for five centuries.
The memorial of Kempegowda lay in Kempapura, a village of 60 houses and a population of around 500 people with a sign dating back to the 16th century, yet no one talks about it.
A narrow muddy lane leads to his memorial.
Villagers believe those who utter the lines on the memorial, “Hiriya Kempegowdaru Kunigalninda bandu e baliye jagala madi, ikyragi kailsakke hoda sthala (Senior Kempegowda who traversed from Kunigal, fought in a battle in this place and travelled to heaven after a heroic death),” would die or their heads would split.
The fear is prevalent among the people even today.
A committee of historians confirmed that the memorial was indeed the spot where Kempegowda breathed his last in a battle that took place between 1568 to 1608, and the world heard about Bengaluru’s founder and his last days.
Immadi Kempegowda, the son and successor of Hiriya Kempegowda, built the memorial in his father’s memory and also constructed a tiny Basava temple just opposite the memorial.
The specialty of this temple is that Basava sits on Shivalinga, which is uncommon in Hindu mythology.
And villagers pay respect for their beloved king: every Monday, the villagers of Kempapura offered prayers and arati, and the practice continued till the 17th century .
“Hyder Ali and his army was passing through the village, and fearing he would destroy the memorial, locals decided to cover it with shrubs and bushes. For some reason, Hyder Ali camped near Magadi for quite a long time and the villagers stopped approaching the memorial,” recall village veterans.
The fear continued even after the death of Hyder Ali.
Chingamma Nanjappa Gowda, 105, the oldest person in the village recalls how the Maharaja of Mysore and chieftains often visited the memorial when she was a child.
Later, these visits stopped and parents narrating stories of heads splitting, that stopped children from venturing near the memorial. Villagers once used to have a moonlit dinner near the Veera Samadhi.
In early 18th century folk songs and short plays were commonly held near the memorial. Composed in Nadu-Kannada dialect, ancestors would sing lavanis on the Kempegowda dynasty, their heroic acts and sacrifices, recalls Kempapura’s villagers. While the veterans continue with agriculture, the young work in Bengaluru. Ragi is the main produce with silk cocoons as the second.
The city of Bengaluru (Bangalore) itself was established by KempeGowda in 1537, as the capital of his erstwhile kingdom. He is considered to be the founder of Bengaluru, currently the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka.
He is also noted for his societal reforms and contribution to building temples and water reservoirs in Bengaluru.