The ‘Robin Hood from Shivamogga’ who became a nightmare for the rich and British

01:52 PM Aug 08, 2021 | Harsha Rao |
The most well-known story from ages in India of a brigand turning over his life into good is that of Sage Valmiki who wrote the Ramayana. This story of a forgotten hero of the poor and a freedom fighter is very similar to that of Valmiki.
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Kanneshwar Rama life and travails bears an uncanny similarity to that of Maharshi Valmiki, who reforms himself from a brigand into a sage. However very little is known about this forgotten hero.


In fact, there is no article available on Wikipedia on Kanneshwar Rama. A Google search will show results of ‘Kanneshwar Rama’ the movie, directed by MS Sathyu in 1977, based on the life of the historical character.

Kanneshwar Rama, as a young man rebelled against the unjust decision of his village chief but later succumbs to the outrage of the villagers. As a result, he is imprisoned but escapes from jail to seek revenge against the police.

After his escape, he joins a gang of forest brigands and after the death of the chief of the gang, Kaneshwar becomes its chief.

It was a time when the struggle against the British was intensifying and Mahatma Gandhi had launched the Satyagraha movement.


In this time, Kanneshwar Rama, becomes infamous in Shivamogga, as a plunderer and a gangster.

However, he soon comes in contact with a few Satyagrahis leading to a change in his nature.

He then starts protecting freedom fighters and Satyagrahis from police arrest and torture.

Moreover, he starts to loot only the rich and distributes the spoils among the poor – becoming a local Robin Hood.

Kanneshwar Rama, standing up against the exploitation and arrogance of the rich, makes him popular and a hero in the eyes of the masses.

He settles his headquarters inside the old fort of the Shivappa Nayaka, the vassal king of pre-British times, and from there plots all his operations.

Kanneshwar Rama was married but later takes a mistress named Malli.

By plundering government treasuries and the rich, Kanneshwar Rama had become a nightmare for the police and British authorities.

Finally, in a plot concocted by the police and his mistress Malli, Kanneshwar is cornered.

He surrenders after giving over his gun to the police.

After his surrender, Kanneshwar Rama appeared in public for the first time and many eagerly saw a glimpse of their saviour.

He was arrested and paraded in Shivamogga district with chains around his legs and hands.

After being sentenced to death in court he was hanged in Bengaluru.

His story, as a gangster and a rebel, is still prevalent in many folksongs in and around Shivamogga.

The movie ‘Kanneshwar Rama,’ based on the novel by SK Nadiga, was directed by MS Sathyu in 1977.

The film starred Anant Nag, Shabana Azmi, Amol Palekar, Tom Alter and BV Karanth.


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