Kempe Gowda was one of the well educated and successful rulers of his time. Being a successor of Kempananje Gowda, descendants of Gowda lineage started as Yelahankanadu Prabhus (ruler of Yelhankanadu). The Yelahankanadu Prabhus were Gowdas or tillers of the land. Fourth in succession from Rana Bhairave Gowda, founder of the dynasty of Avati Nadu Prabhus and great grandson of Jaya Gowda, who established separate dynasty, is the famous Yelahanka Nadu Prabhus, Kempe Gowda I who ruled for 46 years commencing his reign from 1513. Jaya Gowda accepted the sovereignty of the Vijayanagar emperor. He later left Yelankanadu and was successful in planning and building Bengaluru Fort and Bengaluru Pete, the origins of the current city of Bengaluru. He is also noted for his societal reforms and contribution to building temples and water reservoirs in Bengaluru.
Kempegowda's birth anniversary is being celebrated every year across Karnataka state by the Government of Karnataka from 27 June 2017.
Hiriya Kempe Gowda was born in Yelahanka and was the son of Kempananje Gowda, who had ruled Yelhankanadu for more than 70 years. Kempe Gowda, who is reputed to have shown leadership skills during his childhood, was educated at Gurukula in Aivarukandapura (Aigondapura), a village near Hesaraghatta, for nine years.
It is said that Kempe Gowda got the vision of building a big futuristic city during a hunting expedition when he went towards Shivanasamudra (near Hesaraghatta) from Yelahanka with his Minister Veeranna and Advisor Gidde Gowda. He envisioned the city to have a fort, a cantonment, tanks (water reservoirs), temples and people of all trades and professions to live in it. He conquered Sivaganga principality, 48 kilometres (30 mi) from Bangalore on Bangalore-Pune highway. Next he annexed Domlur, which is on the road from Bangalore to the old Bangalore airport. Within this vast forest area, with the necessary Imperial permission of the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achyutharaya (Dasarahalli record dated 1532) he built Bangalore Fort and the town in 1537 A D., and moved his capital from Yelahanka to the new Bengaluru Pete.
Kempe Gowda built a red fort with eight gates and a moat surrounding it. Inside the fort two wide roads ran from North to South and East to West. The other roads were made parallel or perpendicular to them. On a supposedly auspicious moment fixed by an astrologer, Kempe Gowda harnessed the bullocks to the ploughs at the central Doddapete square, at the junction of Doddapete (Avenue Road) and Chikka pete, got the ground ploughed and worked the four main streets running in four directions. One ran from Halasoor (Ulsoor) Gate to Sondekoppa Road from East to West, and another from Yelahanka Gate to the Fort running from North to South. These roads are the present Nagarthapete and Chikka pete; and Doddapete respectively. The streets and the Blocks were demarcated for the purpose they were meant, like for business or residences etc. Streets of Doddapete, Chikkapete, Nagartha-pete were for marketing of general merchandise; Aralepete (Cotton pet), Tharagupete, Akki pete, Ragipete, Balepete etc. were for marketing of commodities like cotton, grain, rice, ragi, and bangles respectively: kurubarapete, Kumbara-pete, Ganigarapete, Upparapete etc. were for trades and crafts, and residences of Kuruba, Kumbara, Ganiga, Uppara castes respectively and similar petes' (Blocks). Halasoorpete, Manava-rthepete, Mutyalapete (Ballapurapete) etc. were meant for other groups of the society. The Agraharas were for the priests and learned classes. He got skilled artisans and craftsmen from the neighboring as well as far off places and got them settled so that they could pursue their vocations.
Temples of Vinayaka and Anjaneya were built at the Northern Yelahanka Gate of the fort (near the present head office of State Bank of Mysore). Dodda Basavannanagudi (The Bull Temple) and in its neighbourhood, Dodda Vinayaka and Dodda Anjaneya and Veerabhadhra temples were also built outside the fort on the southern side. Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple was also built by Kempe Gowda.
Tanks were built for the water supply to the town, to the moat around the fort and for the irrigation of crops. Inside the fort, a big pond enclosed by masonry of dressed granite stones was dug and built (on the South-Western corner of the present Sri Krishnarajendra Market). Dhar-mambudhi tank, which supplied water to the town (present Subhash Nagar, BMTC bus stand and KSRTC bus stands, in front of the city Railway Station), Kempambudhi tank (named after Ranabhaire Gowda's family Goddess, Doddamma or Kempamma), in Gavi-pura Guttahalli and Samp-igambudhi tank (named after one of the daughters-in-law: present Sree Kanteerava Stadium), which were meant for irrigation, were also built. Irrigational facilities gave much impetus to agriculture and horticulture and also encouraged laying of gardens and raising groves of fruit crops.
The Emperor of Vijayanagar pleased with his activities bestowed him with near-by villages of Halasooru (Ulsoor), Begur, Varthur, Jigani, Thalagattapura, Kumbalgodu, Kengeri and Banavara.
Baanavara=Social reforms and interest in art==
One of his social reforms was to prohibit the custom of amputating the last two fingers of the left hand of the married women during "Bandi Devaru", an important custom of Morasu Vokkaligas. He was a patron of art and learning.
In the mid 16th century due to a complaint from neighbouring Palegar, Jagadevaraya of Channapattanathe, Emperor Sadashivaraya of Vijayanagar Empire under the supervision of Aliya Ramaraya, imprisoned Kempe Gowda for minting his own coins without the Emperor's prior approval and for fear of rise in power at Penukonda. His territories were also confiscated. He was later released after being imprisoned for five years. After being released, he was awarded back his territories.
He died in 1569, having ruled for about 56 years. A metal statue of Kempe Gowda was posthumously installed in 1609 at Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivagange. In 1964, another statue was erected in front of the Corporation Office, Bangalore. According to some literary sources, Bengaluru Kempe Gowda's elder son Gidde Gowda, took over control after his death.
On 14 December 2013, the Bangalore international airport was named as Kempegowda International Airport.
Bengaluru's prominent Kempegowda Bus Station has been named so to honour Kempegowda. The Bangalore Development Authority developed the Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Layout. The prominent Majestic metro station on the Purple Line (Namma Metro) of Bengaluru's Namma Metro has been renamed in Kempegowda's honour.
Edducational institutions such as the Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences, Kempegowda Institute of Physiotherapy, Kempegowda College of Nursing, and the Kempegowda Residential PU College have been named after Kempegowda. A locality and a park in Bengaluru are named in Kempegowda's honour. A busy thoroughfare in Bengaluru has been named as the Kempegowda Road. The Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Convention Center is located in Bengaluru.
The lineage of Kempe Gowda lasted for a century in Magadi, where they built many temples, forts and tanks. Nelapattana, a subterranean town was built on the foot of the Savandurga, to protect themselves from Muslim invasions. However, in 1728, the Dalawayis of Mysore Kingdom defeated Kempe Gowda and annexed the principality. The last ruler was imprisoned in Srirangapatana till his death. The family members were moved to Hulikal village in Magadi, where the lineage continues to survive. Some other family members were pensioned off by Dewan Purnaiah by granting jagirs in Hosur, present day Tamil Nadu, where the lineage continues to exist as farmers.
The inscription of 16th century in Kannada on the tomb proclaims that Hiriya Kempegowda had died at the spot while returning from Kunigal. Reportedly after settling a dispute, Kempagowda was returning to Bengaluru from Kunigal. On 7 March 2015 the tomb was accidentally found by Prashanth Marur, a college official turned historian while he was driving by Kempapura village in Magadi. It was also authenticated by group of historians who visited the tomb. It is believed that Immadi Kempegowda, son of Kempegowda I, built the tomb when his father died. After the confirmation Prashanth Marur wrote an article and published in Vijayavani newspaper on September 3, 2015.