Even today he is more known for his wrestling bouts than any other deed. A man of immense physical strength, he took to Kusthi or wrestling from an young age and excelled at it.
Though a King, he always appreciated a fair game of Kushti and rarely if ever lost a match. If an opponent tried to deliberately tank a match, the King would not spare him.
His physical strength was such that there are umpteen number of stories told about it even today. One story goes thus. He could climb the Chamundi Hills in
with a bullock on his back. True or not, the story gives us a glimpse of his immense strength. Mysore
He was also a well-known musician and a patron of arts and literature. He is Narasa Raja Wodeyar I (1638–1659), popularly known as Ranadheera Kanteerava (It can also be written as Kantirava).
He took or as given the name Ranadheera as he was recognized as a man of immense physical strength and bravery. He once went to Trichy in Tamil Nadu in disguise and defeated a wrestler there. The reason; he wrestler had hung his “chaddi” or wrestling shorts on the gate of the city and anybody coming in or going out would have to pass under it. If they did not want to go under it, they had to fight the wrestler.
A group of pilgrims had gone from
to Trichy and they found such an entry distasteful. They then brought it to the notice of their king, Narasa Raja Wodeyar, who was ruling from Srirangapatna as his capital. Mysore
Narasa Raja Wodeyar went incognito to Trichy, defeated the wrestler in a bout, had the chaddi removed and came back to Mysore with a note left behind, saying that a wrestler from Mysore had come and defeated your wrestler.
This anonymous act enraged some people of Trichy. When they realized that he was the
Mysore King who himself had come to the city, they sent a group, including three wrestlers, to the . Wodeyar Kingdom
The three wrestlers challenged Narasaraja Wodeyar to a bout. “Fight with all three of us, if you are so sure about your strength”, they told the King.
Narasaraja Wodeyar accepted their challenge and defeated all of them simultaneously. In another instance, he cleverly outwitted a woman disguised as a wrestler. The woman wanted to get the better of the King and she challenged him to a bout. The King accepted and came to know that she was a woman.
Before the fight could commence in right earnest, the King quickly untied her robe and turban, exposing her to be a woman. Ranadheera Kanteerava was not merely a wrestler but he was also an expert in Vajra Musti.
Vajra Musti is a specalised kind of fighting with fists. The Musti is supposed to hit his opponent’s forehead with his fist. The fingers are enclosed in a steel casing. The first Musti to draw blood is declared the winner.
Apart from Malla Yuddha and Gadha Yuddha, the art of Vajra Musti too was a popular sport during the Wodeyar period. Today, Vajra Musti is played out only during the Dassara and that too during the private durbar of the Wodeyar King.
Coming back to Narasaraja Wodeyar, historians say he held the Adil Shahis, Marathas, Madurai Nayaks and others at bay and succeeded in pushing further the frontiers of the
. He also comprehensively defeated Kempe Gowda of Wodeyar Kingdom . Bangalore
Yet, all these conquests did not go to his head. History tells us that he still accepted-though only nominally, the Vijayanagar Emperor as the overlord. However, this is irrelevant as Vijayanagar Empire had all but disappeared from South India and it was surviving only n pockets of Andhra like Penugonda, Tirupathi, Ananthapur (till Adoni after which was the Adilshahi Kingdom of Bijapur), Hampi, Kolar, Bellary and parts of Tumkur of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu like Vellore and Ginje.
The Wodeyar King is also credited with having constructed an aqua duct at Srirangapatna to ford the Cauvery and provide people easy access during rainy season. The aqua duct ferried Bangalore-Mysore traffic till recently when a new bridge was constructed (This is still in existence and it is also the world’s oldest aqua duct).
He also streamlined the Dasara festivities and organised wrestling
Matches at the mantapa near the
in Srirangapatna. This mantapa was also the place where Vajra Musti took place. It is in a dilapidated state today. Ranganathaswamy Temple
There is historical evidence to suggest that there was a palace at the precise place where the Amba Vilas or main palace stands at
. This palace was struck by lightning during the tenure of Ranadheera Kantirava. Subsequently, the palace got burnt and the Amba Vilas took its place. Mysore
Ranadheera Kantirava also curbed the power of the Dalvoys who had usurped power dung the earlier Kings. The Dalvoys had been playing King makers.
He issued coins in his name and he is also credited with having created symbols of royalty.
The coins he issued came to be known as Kantiraya. They continued to remain as currency of
for over a century. They had become the national money before they were replaced by the British Rupee. Mysore Kingdom
Kanthirava Narasaraja married ten times or rather had ten wives. When he died on July 31, 1659, he was just 44 years of age. At his funeral, all his surviving wives committed Sati.
Ranadheera Kantirava’s full name read out during official functions and in court was Maha Mandalaswara Birudantembara Ganda Karnataka Charawara Andhra bala sangha karikula Aryandhra nripa garva parvata kulisayudha Tirumala Nayaka chaturangabala vallari lavitra Parabala meghanila Ripuraya nikara sarabha bherunda Samastorvisa makuta manigana ranjitapada padma Sanagara vijaya vadhutisa Kote kolahala Raja Shri Ranahira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar I, Raja of Mysore.
He was the second son of Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar by his fifth wife Guruvamba also known as Guruvaja Ammani of Hura. He was adopted by the widow of Raja Wodeyar I and ascended the
throne on November 22, 1638. Mysore
He first married Ayammani, daughter of Hucha Timmarajaiah of Biluguli. His other nine wives were Lakshmiammani, daughter of Dasarajaiah of Kalale near Nanjangud, Chennajaammani, also known as Timmajammani of Norgolli, Doddananja Ammani of Arikotara, Muddaja Ammani of Ari Kotara, Nanja Ammani of Yelandur, Gauraja Ammani of Bagali, Viraja Ammani of Katti, Sommaja Ammani of Tippur and Viraja Ammani of Mulgud.
When Narasaraja Wodeyar died on July 31, 1659, all his wives committed sati.
This was perhaps the first instance of the wives of Wodeyar Kings performing Sati. Though not the first incident of Sati in Karnataka, it was the first time that ten wives had jumped into the funeral prye of their husband.