A descendant of Morasu Gowda lineage, Kempegowda is considered one of the most educated and successful rulers of his time.
As per the available records, Kempegowda displayed leadership skills since his childhood while at a gurukula in Aivarukandapura (Aigondapura), a village near Hesaraghatta.
Kempegowda assumed the chieftaincy from his father in 1513.
The idea of Bengaluru
It is said that Kempegowda got the idea of building a city during a hunting expedition towards Shivanasamudra (near Hesaraghatta) with his minister Veeranna and advisor Gidde Gowda.
As per the initial plans by Kempegowda, the city should 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 from Bangalore on Bangalore-Pune highway.
After taking permission from the Vijayanagar emperor Achyutharaya, he built Bangalore Fort and the town in AD 1537, and shifted his capital from Yelahanka to the new Bengaluru Pete.
Kempegowda is credited for prohibiting the custom of amputating the last two fingers of the left hand of the unmarried women during “Bandi Devaru”, an important custom of Morasu Vokkaligas. Despite hailing from a Kannada speaking community, he was multilingual and authored Gangagaurivilasa, a yakshagana play in Telugu.
In the mid 16th century, after a complaint from neighbouring Palegar, Kempegowda was jailed and his territories were confiscated by the emperor. He was later released after being imprisoned for five years.
After having ruled for about 56 years, he died in 1569.
A metal statue of Kempegowda was posthumously installed in 1609 at Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivagange.