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House of Rangapathi

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Rangapathi Dynasty (Rangapathi Raju Samsthanam): A Brief Description[edit]

The Rangapathi Dynasty, known as the Rangapathi Raju Samsthanam ("House of Rangapathi"), was a contemporary of the Narapathi Vijayanagara Emperor.[1] By the 20th century, it existed as a conglomeration of tightly-knit Telugu Kshatriya families with no real political power. [1]

Ancestry of the Rangapathis[edit]

This family is closely related by blood to the erstwhile Araveeti family. It is seen that one of their ancestors, (Jagadevaraya's own paternal grandfather-Rana Tirumalaraya) married his paternal grandmother Araveeti Singaraju's daughter. Araveeti Singaraju was the elder brother of Araveeti Tirumalaraya, who betrothed his own daughter to Jagadevaraya.[2]

Araveeti Srirangaraya, the maternal grandson of Krishnadevaraya, in turn married Rana Jagadevaraya's daughter Tirumaladevi. It is to be noted that Araveeti Srirangaraya then married his daughter to Immadi Jagadevaraya (grandson of the first Rana Jagaevaraya).[3]

Their Telugu descendents who ruled the Baramahal region of Tamil Nadu and a large area under the Mysore Kingdom from AD 1578 to 1669 in four to five generations for about 91 years[4] came to be known as the "Rangapathi Dynasty". [1]

History of the Rangapathy Dynasty's Rule of Baramahal[edit]

Rana Jagadeveraya was a relative of the Chandragiri Annuvantava as the representative of Vijayanagara. Bijapur Sultan Ali who invaded Chandragiri fought fiercely with Shah's forces and defended the country. Because of this, Sriranga Devaraya gifted Baramahal to Rana Jagadevaraya in 1578 AD and gave his daughter in marriage.[4]. Jagadevaraya settled in Jagadevi which is now named after him. He cleared the forest and gave a lot of land to the family that followed him. Later, he shifted his capital from Jagadevi to Rayakottai[5]

Baramahal was a land area that includes Krishnagiri , Dharmapuri , Uthangarai , Tirupattur Circles and Kandikutty Samindar.[6] It is said that Jagadevaraya, who assumed the rulership of the Paramagal region, built twelve forts and left them in charge of his twelve sons[7]

A total of 12 forts (i.e., Baramahal, or "twelve forts"), or "kotas", were ruled by Jagadeva's descendants and relatives, known as the "Rangapathi Dynasty"[8]

Immadi Jagadevaraya[edit]

After Rana Jagadevaraya, his son Immadi Jagadevaraya took over the Rangapathi Dynasty. Around 1589, AD Muhammad Qudshah of Golconda waged war on Penugonda . In this battle, he fought bravely and broke the siege. As a reward for this, the Vijayanagara king Venkatapati Raya throned him as the jagir of Chennapatnam [9]. The areas under his rule were Bangalore , Mysore , Ramanagaram , Mandya , Hassan , Tumkur , Kolar and the Baramahal region in Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts. Some notable kings in this dynasty were Rana Ankusa Raya, Rana Kumara Jagadeva Raya and Immadi Ankusa Raya; associated matrilineal and patrilineal successors continued the Rangapathi Dynasty, better known as a conglomeration "of Telugu Kshatriyas" by the middle of the 20th century.

Fall of the Rangapathis and Status of Descendants[edit]

The Rangapathi Dynasty was taken over in the 18th century by the Wodeyar Kings and holds no political power in a modern democratic India. Their descendants were recognized to be Telugu Chandravamsha or Suryavamsha Kshatriya families who carried its legacy,[1] possibly through descent from marrying Jagadevaraya's female descendants. They may have also undergone the Hiranyagarbha or Vratyastoma rituals themselves to distinguish themselves as an elite "pure Kshatriya" family, as was popular with ancient and medieval Kings.[10]

Descendants of the Rangapathi Raju Samsthanam in the 20th century all possessed a "raaja pravaraa"[royal lineage] and royal coat of arms, largely intermarried with Kshatriya Rajus or royal descendants of the Kota Balija Madurai and Tanjore Kings, who were also invested with the sacred thread and rishi gothras. The suffix "Raju" has been historically used by the Telugu Kshatriya community.[11] Their last names included "Gokaraju, Keerthipati (Keerthi Raja Zamins), Sampeta, Bhupathiraju (Bhupathi Raja Zamins), Ranavaaru, Bhujabhalarajus, Jilakaraju (Jilakara Raja Zamins), Poosapaadi, and Singaraju". All of these families were considered to be Royal families, included in the Kshatriya Vamsa Ratnakaram by Buddharaju Varahalaraju or medieval heroic edicts dictated by King Chokkanatha Vijayaranga, which outlined "relatives of the Vijayanagara Royalty". [12] [13]

Traditions of the Rangapathi Dynasty Descendents[edit]

Their diet, like other Telugu warrior clans such as the Razus and Telagas, included fowl, which was interestingly outlawed for true Kshatriyas by the dharma sastras. [14] [15].

After the birth of a paternal grandson or at an age when they felt appropriate, they were known to undergo the Sri Vaishnava initiation of Pancha Samskara and eschew all violence and meat; some even going as far as to forgo onions and garlic even in the 1970s. Unlike other Kshatriyas, they were proud in their tee-totalling habits and were known to shame those in their family who partook in spiritous liquor. This closely-knit group of royal families who claimed descent from the Rangapathi Dynasty had largely intermarried with only each other, other Rajus, or descendants of Krishnadevaraya's relatives such as the "Araveetis, Singaraajus[Simhadri Zamins], Thupakulas, Rajanayani, Annayagaris, Garikepatis, Kandirajus, Sampeta, Chokkarappu, Gajapathees" "and the Narapathis".[1] It is worth noting that since at least the 19th century, they had been large-scale entrepreneurs, chieftains or Zamins rather than military personnel, although a Kshatriya was meant to be a warrior per the Dharma Sastras.[16] [1] Under Jagadevaraya's name, they had successfully built many educational, charitable and industrial institutions which no longer exist. [11]

Special importance was given to the learning of religious texts and languages, given Immadi Jagadevaraya's proficiency in Sanskrit and Telugu exhibited in his works Adhyatma Ramayana, Chandikaratnamu and Uttara Naishadha. [1] A great deal of importance was given to train sons in various martial arts such as Kusthi and all children in the fine arts.[1] Charity and honor to given promises were known to be an integral value for these families, with a Rayalaseema chieftain in British India by the "name of Rajagopala" donating lands and property to help the needy..."all at the expense" of his own family's financial well-being.[1]

Status of the Royal Women and Martial Customs[edit]

As with other upper Telugu castes, such as the Brahmins, Balijas, Reddiars, Velamas and Kammas, a great deal of importance was given to blood and marital alliances; members recorded to have been excommunicated for converting to Islam or for first marrying a maiden of another caste, such as the Tamil Chettiars, Kapus or Kammas, without first marrying a Kshatriya maiden. Women were known to observe strict gosha if they ever wished to leave the house, as was the norm for royal females and as a sign of respect to the founder Jagadevaraya's "Kote Musugu Sampradaya".[1].[17]

At the time of weddings, great importance was given to their royal coat of arms, which is believed to be imbibed with energies of deities and confers the grace of their ancestors. Their marital procedures include the Sri Vaishnava markings as with other castes such as the Ayyangars, Balijas, Reddiars, etc. They follow their own unique set of Chandravamsha rituals, including the Upanayana ceremony as is customary for Kshatriyas [18], but utilized a floral basikamu (bridal crown) and crescent moon placed on the groom's turban; afterwards, they worship a special type of dagger ('katari') and the Deccan long sword, both of which Jagadevaraya's clan is supposed to have wielded in order to fend off the Muslim invaders..[15]. [1]

Religious Practices of the Rangapathi Dynasty Descendants[edit]

The self-proclaimed descendants of the Rangapathi Dynasty, like Jagadevaraya, followed Sri Vaishnavam and revered Sri Ramanujacharya as a kula-guru. As such, they were "biological Vaishnavas". However, they did worship the shanmatha ("6 faces of Parabramhan") as preached by Sankaracharya and included the saint in their Guru worship. [1]

At auspicious ceremonies, they were also known to revere the "Siddha Purushas", starting from Agastya Muni and 'Gurnatha' or 'Aumkaaranatha'. It is said that when faced with a curse for having harmed a daughter-in law for trespassing gosha rules, the Rangapathi royal family sought refuge with a Tamil Siddhar after many generations. [1]

Members of the royal family traditionally sent their sons to learn "limited portions of the Veda" and "raacha neethi" from descendents of the Srirangapattna Kings, of which HH Sri Tiruchi Mahaswamigal descended from.[1] [19]

While all of them recognized "Srinivasa Perumal" as their Kula-Devatha, many of them also included deities such as "Muniswara, Ayyanar, the Sapta-Matrikas, Ganga, Gouri and Nimishamba" as their Kula-Devatha. They would perform a child's first head shaving ceremony and ear-piercing at the shrines of their Kula Devathas "with great fervor". [1]

Historical Varna Status of the Baramahal (Rangapathi) Kings[edit]

Jagadevaraya himself and the 'Kote Musugu Bannajiga' clan that originated from him and his relatives were initially considered Kshatriyas, known as "Raajaas" by their bards and familial priests,[1], but the next generation of poets and later historians placed Jagadeva and the larger Balija caste as 'Sudras' by the time of the Baramahal Census. [4] [20].

It was recorded that several of the Chandravamsha Kshatriya Bannajigas, or Ramanuja Dasa Kshatriya Bannajigas (possibly different from the modern-day Nayudus), were invested with the sacred thread [13]. and were indeed Kshatriyas who ruled Vijayanagara, with a history of overseeing powerful mercantile expeditions. Such Kshatriya status was attested to by Sri Vaishnava Brahmin Gurus such as Saraswati Putra Puttaparthi Narayanacharya, who was the direct patrilineal descendant of the Thathachariar Guru of Krishnadevaraya. [1]

This was further supported by the Rangapathi Kings' legitimacy as Kings at a time when varna-sankara, or mixing of the castes would result in expulsion of caste or occupation. His own female progeny and paternal female ancestors married into and originated from erstwhile recognized Kshatriya families, such as the Araveetis.[4] However, it is undeniable that the related latter-day Musugu Balijas were placed as Shudras by the time of the first British Census[3], possibly due to the larger "Balija" group expanding into various subsects as it accommodated "those of mixed castes"[13].

Change of Varna in Historical Accounts[edit]

According to Bramhinical scriptures, a more proper term for those who stopped following Vedic Kshatriya rights would be vratyas, while those who continued the Kshatriya rituals with proper rishi gotras remained as Vedic Kshatriyas, such as the Rajus, Kerala Kshatriyas, Ramakshatriyas, Rajputs and Kshatriya Bannajigas.[21] That being said, Mahamahopadhyaya Panḍuraṅga Vamana Kaṇe recorded that the medieval scholar Kamalākara Bhaṭṭa disagreed with the opinion that vratyas can never rise up in caste. His opinion was that [translated] "if a descendent of vratya Kshatriya & vratya Vaishya families performs prayascittas like Vratyaṣṭoma, then that person can regain his varṇa back". It is unknown if the descendants of Jagadevaraya underwent the Vratyastoma and became known as "pure Kshatriyas" as they "heralded the Rangapathi Raju Samsthanam" in modern times, [1] or simply married into more ancient Kshatriya families.

It is seen that many of the warrior clans at the time of the Census were labelled Shudras, since many Brahmins believed that there could be no true Kshatriyas in the Kali Yuga. As many ruling Kshatriyas adopted Jainism and Buddhism, ignoring the Vedic sacraments and forgetting their proper gothras, many of the Brahmins considered them to be Sudras.[22] Most continued as Sudras unless they performed the Hiranyagarbha ritual to reinstate their rule.[21]. The Chalukyas, in fact, professed the "Manavya gotra" as the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutras recommend for Kshatriyas who had forgotten their rishi pravaras. [23] It is interesting to note that despite many clans claiming Kshatriya status in the Deccan, only the Kshatriya Rajus, Kerala Kshatriyas, Konkani Ramakshatriyas and the Jaina Kshatriya Banajigas (Rajula Balija) were recorded as Kshatriya clans possessing rishi gothras and the sacred thread at the time of the first British Census.[13] However, mostly all of these tribes (barring the Ramakshatriyas) claimed descent from ancient dynasties who were once regarded as Shudras until they either underwent the Hiranyagarbha ritual such as the Vishnukundina Kings, the Kota Vamsa, Travancore Royals, the Kakatiyas and the Chalukyas.[24] [25]

Relation of the Rangapathi Dynasty with the Balijas[edit]

This Samsthana originated from the first King of the Baramahal Fort, Jagadevaraya of the Rana Family, who belonged to the Kota Balija community.[3] Erstwhile Balija kings differentiated themseleves as 'Kshatriyas' of the lunar race, different from the mercantile Peta Balija community, who was involved in trade at the time of the British Census.

Although Jagadevaraya, the founder of the Rangapathi Samsthana himself, was indeed a Kote Balija, the Rangapathi Dynasty descendents ("Rangapathi Raju Samsthana") were, by the 20th century, led by a close-knit group of entrepreneurial Kshatriyas.[1] However, objective research does show marital links to elite Balija clans, such as the: "Nethuvaaru, Orugentis, Konidenas[Konidelas], Koneris, Pagadalas, Mutyala, Nemillee Zamins, Miriyala, Kathula", and the "Vogeti Zamins, Kurma Zamins, Raghupathi, Kotas[Kodis], Medooru Desayi Settys, Polusettyvarmans, Gaazavaaru, Kaiwara, Savaralavaaru, Kotari, and Mothavarapu Estates". [1] It is unknown if they only received their daughters from these families or if also they gave their daughters away to them, but these clans were reputed as being "highly privileged", having produced historical spiritual leaders such as "Kaiwara Nareyanappa" and latter-day politicians, cricket players and post-modern celebrities. [26] [27] [28]

Jagadevaraya himself possessed a Rishi Gothra, was fluent in Sanskrit, and was proficient in weaponry,[1] characteristics which were reserved only for the upper varnas. The Vishnuvardhana Gotra of their ancestor Jagadevaraya may also imply descent either from the Hoysalas, of which Bitti Deva changed his name to Vishnuvardhana after conversion to Vaishnavism; it may also signify descent from the Kubja Vishnuvardhana of the Chalukya Dynasty.[1]


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