Monday, 6 August 2018

Inspiring Dewan of Mysore - Dewan Punaiah and his valid contribution to Mysore State

Dewan Purnaiah of Mysore /alchetron.com/

 Often described as  a “phenomenal prodigy''  by the historians    Dewan Purnaiah  (Purniya; 1746 - 27 March 1812) alias  Krishnacharya Purniya  had the rare distinction of having served as the Dewan under three great rulers - Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the British  and also Maharajah  Mummudi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. A great administrator as he was, he served all these three rulers with dedication and integrity and gained their respect and regards. Besides being popular among people, he paid particular attention to Mysore state and  and made solid contribution for its early development. His proficiency in many languages, in maths, proper planning and above all sharp memory came handy for him during the hey day. He was wartime   military commander while serving under Tipu Sultan. Upon Tipu's death, when the Mysore kingdom was restored to the Wodeyar Royal family, it was Purnaiah who became a mentor  to  ruler Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. When the Mysore prince came of age from 1799 till 1810 Purnaiah took the responsibility of governing the state in coordination with the   English resident of the East India Company.

Emblem of Mysore princely state. Rajput Provinces of India

Born in 1746 CE and raised in an  orthodox Madhwa Brahmin family of Mysore, Purnaiah  lost his father when he was young - 12 years old and came up in life on his own efforts.  Being good at numbers  and accounting, his job with a grocery merchant who had contact with Hyder Ali, soon  got him better prospects.  He earned the trust of Hyder Ali and later  headed the accounts department He slowly  became the confidant of Hyder Ali. His knowledge of Kannada, Sanskrit and Persian. beside fair knowledge of English  was quite helpful to him to run his administration and now Hyder Ali had full confidence in him.

Mysore princely state. www.zum.de
Mysore coat of arms. Wadiyar dynasty. Wikipedia

Purnaiah 's sagacity and administrative strategy came to light in full bloom when Hyder Ali died in Chitoor while Tipu was camping in Malabar. Purnaiah kept the king's death a top secret, and informed Tipu at the earliest. Till the arrival of Tipu, he kept the body of Hyder Ali  embalmed. Out side the place no body knew that Hyder Ali had been dead and the routine life was going on as usual. Since Hyder Ali had many enemies around him to avoid their attack on the kingdom in the absence of Tipu, Purnaiah  intelligently kept the demise of Hyde Ali confidential.   He never gave room to  his  adversaries  to suspect something and take advantage of the absence of leadership in the kingdom. Credit goes to Purnaiah  to save and clear the way for Tipu's succession to the throne. He was the only Hindu member of his Tipu's inner  cabinet.

Not many people aware that Purnaiah  took part in every military campaign led by Tipu and in the Third Anglo-Mysore War of 1792, he commanded a rocket units with roughly  131 men. Tipu had so much faith in him in the last battle  with the British, he  had entrusted his eldest son and heir-apparent to Purnaiah's care.  In the same war Tipu died  in 1799. When the English took over the Mysore kingdom, the administration was in a bad shape. Very much impressed with political and administrative skill and  the  track record of Purnaiah, Gen. Harris appointed him as the first Dewan of Mysore.  Queen Regent Lakshammanni of the Wodeyar Royal family  agreed to the arrangement. The minor- king, later Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, had his training under  Purnaiah.  

 Purnaiah worked hard to improve the quality of life in Mysore state.  He gave due importance to  public works  and many of them  even to day, stand as a great testimony to his vision and foresight.  Several tanks were dug, including  a 9 - mile canal  to supply drinking water to Mysore and to meet the agricultural needs.  A stone bridge, was built  during his time  across river Kaveri connecting Srirangapattana with Kirangur and was dedicated to  Marquess of Wellesley, the Governor General. The bridge has survived so far  for more than  two hundred years. It was during his period  countless  choultries  (free food and lodge ) were built in the name of Maharajah of Mysore to take care of the needs of travelers in those days. But, they are known as"Dewan Purniah's Chatras". Yet another contribution of this great Dewan was improving the efficiency of the revenue department and management of lands. He introduced  methodical surreys of  government land  and for better administration and  created posts like  Shekdars, Amaldars and Tehsildars who are vested with certain powers. Border patrolling and watch became a necessity as there were skirmishes near the state borders, a legacy of early regime. 
Lord Harris Residence, later residence of Puraniah, Seringapatam wikipedia.
For his selfless  and valuable services to the state, 
Purnaiah was  granted the jagir of Yelandur, which had an annual revenue of 10000 star pagodas, by the Maharajah of Mysore. It was done  at a special Durbar on 27 December 1807 and he British Resident Sir John Malcolm and the East India Company honoured him on his retirement by presenting him a horse, an elephant and a rich killat.

When Krishnaraja Wodeyar attained the age of 16 in early 1810, upon discussion with the then British Resident, A. H. Cole, the administration of the state was legally transferred from Dewan Purnaiah to the king and following year he retired from service in 1811.  After his retirement from service in 1811, Purnaiah  chose to spend his retirement life  in the house known as Lord Harris's House or The Doctor's Bungalow or Puraniah's Bungalow in Seringapatam, near the Scott’s Bungalow and Garrison Cemetery. He died there on 28 March 1812. 



Tit bits:01.  "The Diwan seems to pursue the wisest and the most benevolent course for the promotion of industry and opulence" (Gen. Wellesley in Kamath 2001, p. 249).

 02. Purnaiah gave much importance to law and order situation for smooth administration. If uncontrolled, it will affect the administration. 

03.  He had no sympathy for Palegars - the local chieftains because of their despotic nature. 

04. Soon after Tipu's death in 1799, the British never dispersed funds to the Mutts, durgahs and temples for their up-keep. When Purnaiah took the reigns, he released the funds to the places of worship. 

05. He had a close rapport and friendship with Gen. Arthur Wellesley (Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington) when he was in Mysore. 

06. His grandson Sir P. N. Krishnamurti, was also Dewan of Mysore during the first decade of the 1900s.

https://history.wisc.edu/people/frykenberg-robert-eric
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purnaiah