Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Chikaveera Rajendra (A Kannda Novel)

Chikka Veerarajendra was the last king of Kodagu (Coorg) before it fell into British hands. This book provides a picturesque account of life and time of the ruler, cultural preferences of Kodava community (the locals), gods worshipped by them, and their attitude towards the rulers.

Chikka Veera Rajendra, a spoilt prince has only one confidant in kunta (lame) Basava and when he becomes king, he makes Basava his minister not to support him in administration but to make arrangements for his whims. The kingdom is mostly run by his other two ministers, Bopanna and Lakshminarayanaiah, while the king is busy fulfilling his bodily needs, leaving no money in treasury and acting cruelly when forced to take decisions. While the public in general dislike their ruler, a balancing act is done by the queen, making correcting efforts wherever possible to protect the interests of her family and the kingdom. The king has a sister, Devammaji and her husband Chennabasavaiah who is interested in dethroning the king and taking power into his hands by making his wife the ruler. Becoming aware of this plan, the king puts his sister in captivity but releases her later as per requests from the queen, his daughter and a priest, Dikshit who advises the same. Devammaji delivers a baby boy after her release and her husband devises a plan to run away from the clutches of the king and seek help from the British in dethroning the king. While he puts this plan to work, the couple in a hurry loses their baby on the way and it reaches the hands of the king and the palace. The king receives letters from the British to return the baby to his parents but he refuses to do so and in an act of madness, he kills the baby. This incident causes a revolt in his administration who could not tolerate evil deeds of the king anymore and the opportunist British too come down with a force to attack. The turnout of events leads to capture of the king by the British and Kodagu being annexed into the British administration.

After losing the kingdom and being deported from Kodagu, life of Veerarajendra continues, he lives on the compensation fund he receives from the British. His wife meets death on the pilgrimage and his daughter marries a British, goes on to live in London.

This historical novel won the author the prestigious literary honor Jnanapith award in 1983. This hardbound book also provides the images of paintings and historical photographs, and descriptions of references to the history and also about the life of the celebrated author Masti Venkatesha Iyengar.