Raja Somanadri – Gadwal’s Heroic warrior against Nizam

(based on Sri Suravaram Pratap Reddy’s `Haindava Dharma Veerulu’)



Gadwal Maharaja Pedda Somabhupala or Sri Somasekhara Ananda Bhoopal Reddy was also called Somanadri (1662-1713CE). Somanadri is an important chieftain who ruled from Puduru initially, and later established the capital city of Gadwal in present day Telangana. Gadwal continued to be one of the important and larger Samsthanas during the Nizam period, along with Wanaparthi and Jatprole among others.

Somanadri’s ancestors ruled from Rajavolu and Boravelli near Gadwal. Once he went hunting to the nearby forests running along the Krishna riverbed and decided that he would establish the capital in that area, he then established the Gadwal samsthana there; however the then Hyderabad Nizam Nasiruddaulah’s close aide and the chief of `Uppedukota’ Syed Dawood Miyan opposed the establishment of Gadwal saying that the land belongs to him, however Somanadri convinced Syed Dawood to allow him to build the town and in exchange promised to pay a tribute.  He then went on to build a formidable fort, acquired army and prepared for war with Syed Dawood. The battle took place in `Aaragidda’ near Raichur. Raichur’s nawab Basar Jung, Progatur (near Alampur) province’s chief Iduru Saab came with their armies in support of Syed Dawood. A fierce battle took place; Raja Somanadri’s armies countered the three-pronged attack effectively,  the armies of all three were forced to retreat, ultimately Syed Dawood had to give up his insignia as he bowed down to Raja Somanadri.

However Syed Dawood couldn’t take the humiliation lying down and went to the Nizam of Hyderaba and compelling him to fight with Raja Somanadri. This time the nawab of Raichur Basar Jung, Progatur chief Iduru Saab joined the Nizam’s army, additionally Gooty Sultan and Kurnool Nawab Dawood Khan joined the Nizam army. The ferocious battle took place on the banks of Tungabhadra in Kurnool, the Nizam’s army was stationed at Nidudoor village, and Raja Somanadri’s army was stationed at Kalugotla village, the symbols and ruins are all present even today.

Raja Somanadri was a tall, well-built muscular warrior; he was described as `Pralaya Bhairava’ to his enemies. He had a special white stallion on which he would ride in all his battles. Somanadri crossed the Tungabhadra, fought ferociously and attacked the enemies’ armies, many were killed by nightfall and he returned to his Kalugotla camp. A very disturbed Nizam called for a meeting on how to win the battle against Raja Somanadri. One of the commanders said Somanadri’s strength lies in his horse and it should be abducted to win the battle, the Nizam announced that whoever brings Raja Somanadri’s  horse by the morning will be gifted a jagir. None of the soldiers rose to the bait, finally one soldier ventured to steal Raja Somanadri’s horse.  His luck favored him, as the guards were tired and asleep, the Nizam’s soldier managed to steal and escape with the horse, he placed it before the Nizam who immediately rewarded him with a gold bracelet.

Discovering the theft of the horse, the Raja’s army were terribly upset, Raja Somanadri felt that he lost his own right arm.  That evening after the day’s battle, Raja Somanadri announced, `whoever brings back my horse would be rewarded with the entire land that the horse can roam about in a single day’.  Immediately  a soldier `Hanumappa Naidu’ from `Bochchenganna palle’ near Gadwal stepped forward to venture out and return with the stolen horse.  He immediately packed a pile of fodder on his head and went towards the Nizam’s army camp pretending to sell fodder to horses, while in reality searching for the horse. At a distance he spotted Raja Somanadri’s horse, the horse too recognized him and neighed; the Nizam’s soldiers felt that horse is hungry for fodder and bargained to buy it from Hanumappa for 1 rupee.  The soldiers sent a man who paid him the money, but Hanumappa waited there pretending that he was still to be paid. As soon as the Nizam soldiers were some distance away, he immediately lied down underneath a heap of grass; when the rod to which the horse was tied fell away, a soldier came in the middle of night and dug it back into the ground; unfortunately the staff pierced into the hand of Hanumappa who was lying hidden underneath the grass. He bore the excruciating pain even as his hand was bleeding profusely. After a while, when there was no one in sight, he tried to get up, but couldn’t as his right hand was stuck with the rod.  He took the sword with his left hand and cut-off the right hand to free himself, however he fainted with profuse bleeding. After a while he became conscious again, picked up his severed right hand and packed it in a cloth on his head and left the place with the horse. Some soldiers who were sleeping looked up, but they thought that the horse was being taken to the water for drinking, because of incessant fighting, it was routine practice to take the horses to the river for drinking round the clock. Within half-hour he showed up at Raja Somanadri’s camp with the horse. A stunned Raja Somanadri embraced Hanumappa and immediately as per his promise, has given him a written note making the grant of the entire land that the horse can roam about in a day. ( Even today Hanumappa Naidu’s descendants have full rights over the land, even after past generations of their  family have given away large parts of the granted lands as donations to others).

In the ferocious battlefield on the following day, Raja Somanadri was back with his horse as the epic  Bhairava. The Nawabs of Pragatur, Bellary and Adoni who came in support of Nizam were killed and their armies thoroughly vanquished. Raja Somanadri’s Gadwal army forced the Nizam’s army to retreat till Kurnool fort. Raja Somanadri and a few of his soldiers entered the fort fighting the Nizam, when the fort gates were closed upon them trapping them inside. Gadwal soldiers who remained outside did their best to break the fort walls but couldn’t succeed. They sent message to the queen Rani Lingamma that they would return to Gadwal. The brave queen sent them sarees, bangles and kumkum as a reply. Properly chastened, the Gadwal soldiers fought with fierce strength and managed to break open the Kurnool fort gates. Inside the fort, Raja Somanadri has been fighting valiantly for over 36 hours, he lost several soldiers and he himself was severely injured. As the gates were broken open by his soldiers, the severely wounded Raja Somanadri  was taken to his camp.

Nizam’s army was greatly disturbed, Raja Somanadri with the help of only a few soldiers killed a majority of their armies and caused heavy destruction. What will happen the following day when he would return to the battle with full force? The two remaining Nawabs of Gooty and Raichur preferred to discontinue with the battle. The Nizam’s advisors suggested that it is better to enter into peace negotiations with Gadwal’s Raja Somanadri.  Uppedukota’s Syed Dawood Miyan who is the primary cause of this huge battle remained neutral and quiet unable to say anything.

Next morning, the Nizam sent an emissary to Raja Somanadri for ceasefire and peace settlement, which Raja Somanadri accepted.  The famous `Yellamma Firangi’ of Kurnool’s `Kondareddy burz/tower’, two cannons known as `Rama and Lakshmana’ which were reputed to have been commissioned by Gona Buddhareddy, belonging to Raichur nawabs were given as `peace settlement’ gifts to Gadwal’s Raja Somanadri. Some part of Kurnool’s lands too were given  to Raja Somanadri. Having successfully won the battle against Nizam and having made peace treaties, Raja Soma Bhoopala/ Raja Somanadri returned triumphantly to Gadwal.

In time, Gadwal became a major powerful Samsthana and a thriving city.   He improved the infrastructure of the town, and built great many temples including the Chennakesava Swamy temple inside the Gadwal Fort in the 17th century. Lingamma Bavi and Chokkamma Bavi are two wells constructed by Somanadri based on the names of his wives Lingamma and Chokkamma. Large gatherings of scholars would be held twice a year at Gadwal, which acted as a thriving centre for arts, and attracted pundits and poets from different corners of the state and even from other parts of the country. Gadwal was known as `Vidwat Gadwal’.

Somanadri’s grandson China Somanadri or China Somabhupala was himself a poet of great repute and greatly encouraged literary activities. Mushtipalli Ramabhupala I of the Gadwal dynasty was also a Sanskrit scholar and patronized literature, music and other arts. During his reign as well, scholars and poets from distant places like Varanasi, Mysore and Krishna and Guntur districts would convene. His son Sitarama Bhupala was also a great patron of the arts.

Gadwal’s handloom weaving industry is renowned for its exquisite silk sarees and zari work.

Source:  `Haindava dharma veerulu’ book by Sri Suravaram Pratap Reddy