A Revised and Enlarged Account of the Bobbili Zemindari/Bobbili Zemindari/Sketch Account of The Bobbili Zemindari

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"This estate is in Vizagapatam District. It is surrounded by the British talooks of Gujapatinugger, Cheepoorpully, Saulore, Parvatipore, Palcondah, and Bobbili. It consists of five pergunnahs, Bebbooly, Rajam, and Kavitey, Seetanagaram, and Mettoogramamoolu, and yields to its owner a revenue of Rs.3,75,000 per annum. Of this, Rs.90,000 is paid to Government as peishcush. The estate possesses an interesting history. When in 1652, Sher Mahomed Khan, the Nawab of Chicacole, entered the district, he was accompanied by two men, rivals to each other, one being Peddarayoodoo, the ancestor of the present chief of Bobbili, and the other the ancestor of the Vizianagaram family; and from this time dates the rivalry between the two houses.

Peddarayoodoo soon after received in reward for gallantry the estate of Rajam, where he built a fort, naming it Bebbooly (the royal tiger), in honor of his patron's designation, Sher (tiger). From Bebbooly the name of the town and zemindari has been corrupted into Bobbili. This estate bordered on Vizianagaram, and the ill-feeling between the chiefs was increased by constant conflicts of interest. In 1756 the disorderly behaviour of the Poligars called for measures of repression, and M. Bussy marched with a European force to restore order. On his reaching Vizianagaram the Rajah assured him that the chief of Bobbili was the instigator of all disturbances, and to testify his own loyalty, joined the French with a force of 11,000 men to assist in crushing his rival. Before attacking the latter, M. Bussy offered the chief a pardon for the past, and land of equal value elsewhere, if he would abandon his ancestral estate; but the offer was refused. The attack on the fort of Bobbili is one of the most memorable in Indian History. At daybreak, the field pieces began to play on the mud defences, practicable breaches were at once made, and the assault sounded. After four hours' desperate righting, hand to hand, Bussy called off his men to allow the cannon to widen the breaches. A second assault was then ordered, but with no better results; for not a man had gained footing within the ramparts when five hours later Bussy again withdrew the storming party to repeat the argument of artillery. The defenders now recognised their desperate position, and collecting their wives and families put them to death, and returned to their posts. The assault soon recommenced ; and when at sunset Bussy entered the fort as victor with the remnant of his army, it was only because every man of the garrison was dead or desperately wounded. An old man, however, crept from a hut, and leading a child to Bussy presented him as the son of the dead chief. Four other men had preserved their lives; and two nights later, when the Vizianagaram camp was buried in sleep, they crept into the Rajah's tent, and before the sentries had discovered and shot down the assassins, they had stabbed the Rajah to death with thirty-two wounds. The child, Chinna Ranga Row, saved from the slaughter, was invested by Bussy with the chiefship of the lands that had been offered to his father; but before he attained his majority, his uncle regained by force of arms the former estate of Rajam. At last the Vizianagaram family compromised with their rivals, and leased to them the Kavitey and Rajam pergunnahs. The old feud, however, again broke out, and the Bobbili chief fled into the Nizam's country. In 1794, when the Vizianagaram estate was dismembered, Chinna Ranga Row was restored by the British to his father's domains, and in 1801 a permanent settlement was concluded with Chinna Ranga Row's adopted son, Rayadappa, at an annual tribute of Rs. 90,000. Since then the peace of the estate has been undisturbed. Rayadappa was succeeded in 1830 by his son Swethachellaputty, who was an excellent manager of the property. Dying in 1862, Swethachellaputty was succeeded by Seetharamakrishna, whom he adopted out of the family of the Zemindar of Pittapur in the Godaveri District. Seetharamakrishna having died childless in 1868, his widow, Lakshmee Chellegoomma (Chellayyamma) succeeded to the estate. In 1876, the title of Ranee was conferred upon her in consideration of her liberality in contributing 1,000 garces of paddy to alleviate the distress during the Bengal famine. In 1871, she adopted the present Zemindar, Vencata Swetachellaputty, out of the family of the Zemindar of Vencatagherry in the Nellore District. Vencata Swetachellaputty assumed charge of the estate in 1881 on his attaining majority."

In the Imperial Gazetteer of India by W. W. Hunter, Vol. III., on page 21, a similar account is given about Bobbili.

Evidently Pedda Rayadu came in 1652 in the train of Sher Mahammad Khan, Nawab of Chicacole. The other chief was Madhava Varma, the ancestor of the Vizianagaram family. Madhava Varma and Pedda Rayadu could not be common persons coming in the train of Sher Mahammad Khan to help him in the conquering of the Circars. Madhava Varma was said to be a chief of Pusapadu near Kondapalli, close to Bezwada. At that time, the country as far as the southern bank of the River Krishna was under the Venkatagiri Raj. The then Rajah of Venkatagiri was Nirvana Rayappa alias Pedda Rayappa. He was generally called by the latter name, and must in all probability be the same Pedda Rayadu who came in the train of Sher Mahammad Khan. In the history of the Venkatagiri family, he is placed in the fifteenth generation of that line. He must have been a great warrior and a distinguished person; otherwise the name Rayappa would not have been given to several descendants of the families of Venkatagiri and Bobbili. Before him there was not such a name as Rayappa in the Venkatagiri family. At Bobbili, Pedda Rayappa or Pedda Rayadu, being the founder of the Raj, his name was given to several descendants of the Bobbili House, as hereinafter shown in the genealogy. There are also two big tanks that bear his name in the Zemindari, each of them being called "Rayaningari Tank."

From the above circumstances it is pretty clear and certain that Nirvana Rayappa 'alias Pedda Rayappa, the fifteenth lineal descendant of the Venkatagiri family, came to the Circars in the train of Nawab Sher Mahammad Khan, rendered valuable military services to the Mogul Government in conquering the Circars, and, in return, was granted this Zemindari by the Mogul Government.

Mr. Carmichael in his Manual says that Pedda Rayadu soon distinguished himself by rescuing the Nawab's son out of the hands of certain rebels, for which the Nawab rewarded him with Rajam Hunda, then called by that name, as the town of Bobbili was subsequently built. The Bobbili taluq was then known as the Sitanagaram taluq. Mr. Carmichael also says the hereditary title of Ranga-Rao was also conferred upon him at the same time. It is a well-known fact that Rajah Lingappa Ranga-Rao was the rescuer of the Nawab's son, and that for his services he received the title Ranga-Rao and also twelve villages in the Zemindari free from peishcush. When I come to Rajah Lingappa Ranga-Rao I shall write a full account of his valour. Rajah Lingappa Ranga-Rao's valour in the battle of Rangavaka and the title Ranga-Rao conferred upon him have become household topics of conversation in these parts.

Now let us see what is said of Pedda Rayappa in the Venkatagiri history. On page 28, it runs as follows : —


" China Singama Naidu's son was Nirvana Rayappa Naidu alias Pedda Rayappa Naidu. This individual defeated the Rajahs of Velugodu, took possession of the fort, and planted his white umbrella thereon. Hence he obtained the title of Velugodugu Raya Vibhudu from a descendant and namesake of the great Pratapa Rudra Maharajah.

"Nirvana Rayappa Naidu was also noted for his liberality and religious disposition. He was a strict follower of the Vishnava sect, and he is also said to have granted away a large number of houses to Brahmins on account of their having invoked rain on one occasion, when the country was suffering from drought.

"Poet Mallanna has written a poem called 'Vykuntarohanam' on his death.


"Nirvana Rayappa Naidu had four sons, of two of whom nothing is known. The descendants of the eldest are known only for five generations after him, but nothing is known about them.

"The third son Kumara Timma Naidu continued the line. This individual is said to have ruled his dominions from his capital Velugodu and to have conquered all his enemies. He was also very liberal to Brahmins and gave them houses and lands."

In the above quotations nothing is said about Pedda Rayappa's obtaining the Bobbili Raj. But it is said he had four sons, and of the second and the fourth of these the compiler of the history knows nothing. And even of the eldest nothing is known but the names of his descendants for five generations. But nobody knows why the eldest did not succeed his father. Of the second and the fourth son, nothing is mentioned in the book. The youngest or fourth son's name is Rangappa; in Telugu, the letter "Ra" and the letter "La" are written in such a way that many people, unless they are clearly written, mistake one for the other. In the old days, I need not say, it must have been far more difficult to distinguish those letters when written on palmyra leaves, the writing material of that time. Therefore, very likely, the name Lingappa was misread or miswritten as Rangappa.

Evidently Pedda Rayadu must have gone to the Circars in the train of Sher Mahammad Khan with his youngest son, Lingappa, left him to reign over the newly-obtained Zemindari of Bobbili, and returned to Venkatagiri. Or Pedda Rayappa must have given to the accompanying youngest son, Rangappa, the name of his great ancestor Lingappa, of the ninth generation of the Venkatagiri family. This Lingappa reigned from A.D. 1434 to 1476. During his reign he came to the Circars, conquered the country as far as Jagannad or Puri, to the entire appreciation of the Maharajah Gajapati, the then Maharajah of Jagannad or Cuttack. The country thus conquered extended from Jagannad on the north to Kondavati Seema in the south, and from Calingapatam on the east to Cheekati in the west. In one battle he killed 32 chiefs who combined together against him.

Mr. J. Talboys Wheeler in his History of India, in describing the battle of Bobbili of 1758, says: —

"The Raja of Bobbili claimed to be a Rajput of high descent, whose ancestors had fought under the ancient Maharajahs of Jagannath in the old mythical wars against the South."

Though Mr. Wheeler calls these wars mythical, yet as a myth contains a germ of truth, the germ in this case, as gathered from the Venkatagiri history, seems to be that Lingappa conquered the Circars as shown above. Therefore, it is pretty certain that Pedda Rayadu's son Lingappa, whose name must have been misread or miswritten in the history of Venkatagiri, or changed by his father for his great ancestor's name, is the one who built the fort at Bobbili and resided there. Thus Pedda Rayadu becomes the founder of the Bobbili Raj, and Lingappa the second in generation. That Pedda Rayadu, who, it is said in the Venkatagiri history, was a strict follower of the Vishnavite religion, was the founder of the Bobbili Raj, is to a certain extent supported by the fact that the members of the Bobbili House have been strict Vishnavites.

I have shown and explained this account in detail to my brother, the present Rajah of Venkatagiri, K.C.I.E., Dr. J. Marsh, my old tutor, and several others, all of whom have concurred in my conclusions as above stated.