Chokkanatha Nayak - Conquest and Loss of Tanjore

Conquest and Loss of Tanjore

Chokkantha’s next war was with Tanjore, and it resulted in the capture of that ancient city and the extinction of its Nayakka dynasty, the Vijaya Raghava NayakTanjore Nayaks.

The reason for war was the refusal of the Tanjore Nayak to give his beautiful and gifted daughter in marriage to Chokkanatha. The latter determined to fetch the maiden by force back into their capital, and successfully stormed that place. But they did not get the princess; her eualyye determined father Vijaya Raghava Nayak placed her and all the other ladies of the palace in one room, blew this up with gunpowder and then, with his son and his body-guard, charged furiously into the thickest of the enemy, was captured after a desperate resistance, and was beheaded.

Chokkanatha suffered emotionally from the death of his lovely maiden princess, who was his perfect match in brains and beauty. He established a secret love affair with her until the king discovered it through a maidservant who betrayed her trust. Then the tragedy ensued. He could not concentrate on the administration duties and was frequenting the Meenakshi Temple of Madurai to feel the presence of his soul maiden whose ash was strewn in the waters of the holy temple after her death.

Chokkanatha placed his foster-brother Alagiri in charge of the government of Tanjore, but within a year the latter threw off his allegiance, and Chokkanatha was now so given up to self-indulgence and so ill-served by his disloyal officers that, after an outburst of indignation which ended in nothing, he was forced to recognise the independence of Tanjore. Chokkanatha ignored his kingdom as he drowned in thoughts of his deceased lover.

Alagiri, however, was not long permitted to enjoy his ill-gotten kingdom. Chengamala Dasu,a son of the last Tanjore Nayak had escaped to the Muslim court of Bijapur and had induced that power to help to place him on the throne of his fathers. In 1674 the sultan of Bijapur sent a force commanded by the Maratha general Venkaji (alias Ekohji) to turn out the Madura usurper and reinstate the scion of the old line. Venkaji ventured little until the occurrence of the rupture between Chokkanatha and Alagiri; but he then defeated the latter with ease, and occupied Tanjore. He did not, however, place his protégé on the throne, thought he treated him kindly enough, but seized the kingdom for himself. So the outcome of Chokkanatha’s feebleness was that a Maratha, instead of Nayakkan, sat upon the throne of Tanjore.

Venkaji shortly afterwards became embroiled with his famous half-brother Sivaji, and Chokkanatha attempted to take advantage of the circumstance to regain his hold on Tanjore. But he was dilatory in the field and in his negotiations, and Venkaji succeeded in buying off the hostility of Santoji (the son of Sivaji, whom the latter had despatched against him) before Chokkanatha could effect anything. This was in 1677–1678.

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