Kempe Gowda – The Founder of Bangalore

Kempe Gowda – The founder of Bangalore

In an earlier article, we had discussed about the origin of the name “Bangalore” and learnt that it was referenced in an inscription dating back to the 9th Century AD:

In the subsequent part, we found that Bangalore is more than 6000 years old:

Today, lets find out more about the brain behind Bangalore city and what made him build the city.

Back in the 16th century, Vijayanagar Empire was at its peak under the rule of Krishna Deva Raya, with Hampi as its capital city which had become the envy of the medieval world.


A 2013 photograph of Hampi which is in ruins and has been declared as World Heritage Site.

It was a vast empire in the Southern part of India and had several small subsections (similar to townships) which in turn were ruled by Chieftains who would report to the King (Similar to today’s “Chief Minister – Prime Minister” hierarchy)


Yelahankanadu (It is today called Yelahanka and is a part of Bangalore) was one such prosperous town ruled by a Chieftain (Nada Prabhu) named Kempe Gowda. Upon his visit to Hampi sometime during the mid 1530s, he was mesmerized by the glory of the rich city and its sophisticated layout & planning. Being a Nada Prabhu himself, he dreamt of building such a city with fort, temples, water tanks and people from all trades & professions.


It was in 1537 when his dream finally turned into reality. During one of his hunting expeditions in the forest area adjoining Yelahankanadu, he saw a rabbit chasing a dog, which was perceived as an auspicious sign. It was considered a heroic act which could happen only in a heroic land and hence decided to turn this heroic land into his dream city.

After seeking permission & blessings from Achyutharaya (King of Vijayanagar Empire), Kempe Gowda spent the next few years establishing Bangalore as a thriving city with commerce, culture, military & ¬†education. Impressed with Kempe gowda’s dedication & sincerity, the King of Vijayanagar bestowed on him 12 Hoblies (A Hobli is a cluster of villages) including Kengeri, Varthur, Begur, Halasuru (Ulsoor) & Jigani. These 12 Hoblies were earning him an annual revenue of 30,000 Gold coins which in turn were used to maintain the city. Most of the neighboring Palegars (rulers of small kingdoms) were not only jealous of Kempe Gowda due to his accomplishments, but also feared him due to his rise and proximity to the King of Vijayanagar. They had formed a brigade and were waiting for an opportunity to attack or trap Kempe Gowda.

That opportunity came knocking on the doors of these jealous Palegars when Kempe Gowda, with an intention to aggressively turn Bangalore into a business hub, issued his own currency without seeking approval from the Vijayanagar Empire. The Palegars promptly reported it to the King who was infuriated to such an extent that he imprisoned Kempe Gowda in Anegundi prison (near Hampi) for 5 years!! After his release, he went on to construct many more temples & water tanks and managed to convince more traders to relocate from other towns and settle in Bangalore, with an intention to turn it into a major business hub. Finally, in 1569, he breath his last, passing the baton to his eldest son Immadi Kempe Gowda (Kempe Gowda II).

Next time, we shall go into details (planning, layout etc) of how Kempe Gowda built Bangalore in 1537.

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