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The Mahales of  Honavar

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 Epigraphy Helps to Trace Genealogy of Mahales of Honavar
by  Jyotsna Kamat

There are only three Mahale families residing at Honavar One is from Ankola, the second is from the village of Idagunji, and no one knows where the third one came form. However, this third family is held in high esteem socially and the elder member of the family has to attend all important functions of the temples of the town, namely Sri Rama Mandir, Gopalakrishna and Venkataramana temple. He is invited with all traditional pomp and show, and taken in a procession accompanied by Rajadanda, chauri bearer and pancha--mangala--vadya (five auspicious musical instruments.) Nobody in the town knows why the Mahales are important, but have continued a tradition for hundreds of years. When a youngster of the family was closely questioned, he revealed that he is in possession of four copper plates which may speak of their ancestry. He was generous enough to allow us to photograph them, which helped to trace their genealogy, the subject of this paper. 

First Written: January 1988
Presented at the 1991 Conference of  the Indian Epigraphy Society.
Page Last Updated: November 20, 2017

Ganesh Mallya the Entrepreneur 

The copper plates and other historical evidence leads us to conclude that the Mahales of Car Street in Honavar are direct descendents of Ganesh or Gnapati Mallya of Kumta (Uttara Kannada). 

Sometime in the sixteenth century, tired of poverty and misery, Ganesh Mallya thought of trying his luck in the capital city of Keladi. As he had no hard cash, he carried a bag full of coconuts grown in his compound. He had to enter the capital through eight toll gates for each of which an entry tax was collected. There were no fixed rates for different commodities and therefore the officials collected the toll as per their sweet will. As the migrant had no cash, one coconut was collected as duty and another as gift by the officials at each of the eight toll gates. In addition, two more coconuts were collected at the city entrance. Realizing that some of these collections were unauthorized, he boldly set up a ninth toll gate himself! He stopped persons who passed that way, entered their names, caste, and occupation in a newly opened register and collected toll. In return, he gave them a receipt which read, "New custom station for eighteen coconuts, signature that of Ganeshayya Raja of Kumta". No one questioned his right to make collections for about eighteen months. One of his passes came to the notice of the ruler Shivappa Nayaka (1645-60 A.D.) who then sent for him. Ganesh Mallya told the king what had happened and admitted that he had taken to illegal toll collecting for his livelihood. The king was impressed by the honesty and entrepreneurship of Mallya and employed him. By sheer hard work he rose in service and became a high ranking official.

© K. L. Kamat
Copper Plates of the Mahale Family
A Copper Plate of the Mahale Family
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According to the 1661 A.D. copper plate, Ganapati Mallya's grandson, Vitthala Mallya got constructed Virakta-Matha near Shirali ferry and Venkatappa Nayaka II (1660-62 A.D.) made a land grant in Hosur-grama for its maintenance. Later, Bhadrappa Nayaka (1662-64 A.D.) started an agrahara and a vocational center at this place and named it as Venkatapur in honor of his paternal uncle Venkatappa Nayaka II. Vitthala Mallya (Vitala Maloe in Portuguese records), was a very influential person of Keladi and was in the good books of the Portuguese and hence was sent as ambassador to Goa (1652 A.D.)

Ganapati Mallya's another grandson, Ramachandra Mallya was a minister and close friend of the king, Bhadrappa Nayaka. (1662-64 A.D.). Because of his dedication to duty and devotion to the state, the king offered to grant him whatever boon he desired. Ramachandra asked for the royal seal and authority to use it for one and half hours (3.5 ghatikas.) When the royal seal was returned the king was anxious to know who had all benefited by the seal. The minister promptly produced a number of copper plates declaring grants for construction and endowment of temples and annakshetras (food shelters). It is this grant which helped Ramachandra Mallya to get the Venkataramana temple constructed at Honavar (1663 A.D.) and make a grant of land which yielded thirty mudas of rice annually.

As per copper plate of 1667 A.D., two sons of Vitthala Mallya, Malappa and Narayana got a land grant form the king for the construction of houses and digging of wells. Bhadrappa Nayaka (1662-64) deputed Malappa Mallya to Goa to negotiate an important treaty which dragged on for five nmonths. In the meanwhile, Bhadrappa was murdered at keladi. Malappa Mallya has been referred as "Mallappa Maloe" in Dutch and "Mollick Molla" in English records. As early as in 1653 A.D. Shivappa Nayaka had sent him to Hovanar (U.K.) to negotiate a treaty with the Portuguese Fort Officer. later he was in charge of procurement of rice in Kundapura and and Honavar area and Chennamaji (1671-97 A.D.) ordered him to deliver 1500 bags of rice to Portuguese as per the earlier treaty. He sent the rice through one Krishna Nayaka.

The Rise of  Narayana Mallya

One more copper plate of 1669 A.D. was issued by the Bilgi (Sidhapur Taluka in Uttara Kannada) branch of Keladi kingdom to Narayana Mallya Land grand was to run an annakshetra (choultry) at Mahabaleshvara temple in Gokarn. After Bhadrappa Nayaka's murder, it was Narayana Mallya who helped the young king, Somasekhara Nayaka (1664-71 A.D.) to control the anarchy that prevailed. Hence he became very influential with the king and the Portuguese looked upon him to extract special concessions from the king. Narayana Mallya was in charge of the Mangalore fort and had business interests at Bhatkal. Somashekhara Nayaka was murdered in 1671 A.D. and his sixteen years old widow Chennamaji (1671-97 A.D.) became queen-regent of Keladi kingdom.

The meteoric rise in Narayana Mallya's influence in Keladi kingdom infuriated the pro-Dutch lobby which included prominent Saraswats like Babu Pai and Iswar Kamat. They were quick to spread the rumors that Narayana placed a vital role in Somashekhara Nayakas murder, in which Chennamaji believed. This made Narayana to concentrate on his trade interest leaving the capital. As a consequence, the spice trade with the Portuguese suffered. In the meanwhile the Queen Chennamma learnt from the British sources that Adil Shah of Bijapur with the help of local chieftains was responsible for her husband's murder. Hence she recalled Narayana Mallya from the coast and deputed him to negotiate trade treaty with the Portuguese.

No reference is found to the Mallya family after the seventeenth century. In all probability they might have been disgusted with palace intrigues and decided to call it a day. After the fall of the Keladi kingdom in 1757 A.D., the Mallyas returned to Uttara Kannada where they had already secured a number of inaams (grants) from the rulers and settled down at Honavar in the vicinity of the Venkataramana temple built by Ramachandra Mallya. Thus the Mallyas of Keladi became Mahales of Honavar as it was a fashion in those days to imitate Marathi sounding family names. 

The Mahales of Today (1988)

The distinguished Mahale family might be having more documents and information regarding their forefathers but they are not willing to part with them. A few years ago Atmaram Mahale, a senior member of the family, breathed his last without leaving any progeny. His younger brother, Laxman Mahale died very recently, leaving behind three sons and two daughters. They lost all their family holdings under the Indian Tenancy Acts and are struck with poverty and ill-luck. Both the daughters could not get married as they could not meet the wedding expenses. The second son, incidentally named Vithal Mahale, bearing his forefather's name died very young because of a brain tumor. The elder son is doing a petty job for his living and the youngest son, Prashant Mahale is a commerce student in the local college. He is the only hope of the family. Despite all these miseries, the family did not ask for any assistance either from the government or any other agency. What a contrast with the prosperity and prestige the family enjoyed in earlier times!

With available information the genealogy of Mahales of the Honavar could be traced as follows:

The Family Tree of the Mahales

With special thanks to K.L. Kamat, Prashant Mahale, and Devarakonda Reddy.


See Also:


Dr. Jyotsna Kamat illustrates the use of a family copperplate to trace their genealogy back to 17th Century!
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