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Kempegowda Ji: The Visionary Founder of Bengaluru

Rachna Kumari
Kempegowda Ji The Visionary Founder of Bengaluru
Kempegowda Ji The Visionary Founder of Bengaluru

Kempegowda Ji, the founder of Bengaluru, envisioned and established the city in the 16th century. His contributions to urban planning, reforms, and culture continue to inspire.

A towering leader in our history, Kempegowda Ji envisioned and founded the city of Bengaluru as early as the 16th century. The legendary figure also paved the way for the overall advancement of our society by patronizing reforms, art, learning, agriculture, and economic growth.

Kempegowda Ji’s life and vision will continue to guide us on the path of nation-building. Born in 1513 CE, Nadaprabhu Kempegowda was a 16th-century chieftain of the Vijayanagara Empire, widely recognized as the founder of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the capital city of Karnataka, India. Hailing from the Morasu Wokkaligas community in Yelahanka, Kempegowda's family had a history of serving as administrators under the Vijayanagara Empire.

In 1537, Kempegowda was appointed as the chief of Yelahanka Nad. This position allowed him to pursue his vision of building a new, well-planned city. With the blessings of Vijayanagara king Achyuta Deva Raya, Kempegowda began the construction of Bengaluru, carefully selecting the site for its strategic location, water resources, and favorable climate.

Kempegowda’s urban planning was remarkably advanced for his time. He designed the city in a grid pattern, dividing it into petes (markets) specializing in specific goods or trades. Many of these historic markets, such as Chickpete and Doddapete, still exist today. He also constructed a mud fort in 1537, which formed the city's nucleus and laid the groundwork for the later stone fort built during Hyder Ali's reign.

Infrastructure development was a key focus for Kempegowda. He built numerous temples, lakes, and tanks to meet the religious and water needs of the population. Notable among these were the Dharma Budi Tank and Kempambudhi Tank, showcasing his understanding of urban water management.

As a ruler, Kempegowda implemented administrative reforms that contributed to Bengaluru's growth and prosperity. He established a decentralized system of local governance and introduced a fair taxation system that encouraged trade and commerce. His policies attracted skilled craftsmen and traders from various parts of South India, contributing to the city's cultural and economic diversity.

Kempegowda was also known for his religious tolerance and cultural inclusivity. He built several temples, including the famous Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple, known for its unique architectural features and astronomical significance. His patronage of various art forms helped establish Bengaluru's cosmopolitan character.

After ruling for nearly three decades, Kempegowda handed over the administration to his son, Kempegowda II, in 1569. He passed away in 1570, leaving behind a lasting legacy that would shape Bengaluru's future for centuries.

Today, Kempegowda's impact on Bengaluru remains significant. The city has grown from a small fortified settlement to a global technology hub, often called the “Silicon Valley of India.” Many landmarks and institutions in modern Bengaluru bear his name, including the Kempegowda International Airport and the Kempegowda Bus Station.

The state government of Karnataka celebrates Kempegowda Jayanti annually on June 27 to honor his legacy. In 2022, a 108-foot-tall bronze statue of Kempegowda, known as the “Statue of Prosperity,” was unveiled at the Kempegowda International Airport.

While some historians note that settlements existed in the area before Kempegowda’s time, he is widely credited with transforming the region into a planned urban center and laying the foundation for its future growth. His vision, administrative skills, and cultural contributions continue to inspire Bengaluru's development and its people to this day.