In the history of Karnataka, there have been many brave women warriors, who took on the invaders single handedly. Rani Abbaka Chowta of Ullal, who made the Portuguese navy retreat from Mangalore, Keladi Chennamma who beat back Aurangzeb and his Mughal army.
The valiant Kittur Rani Chenamma who fought the British, and to such an illustrious pantheon, belongs Onake Obavva who single handedly defended the fort of Chitradurga from the soldiers of Hyder Ali.
Chitradurga gets it’s name from Chitrakaldurga meaning picturesque fort due to its location on an umbrella top hill. The fort itself is called Kallina Kotte meaning stone fortress.
It’s believed Hidimbi, the sister of Hidimbasura, lived here along with her brother. Hidimbasura was killed by Bhima here, when the Pandavas were in hiding after the burning ot the lac house by Duryodhan.
It’s believed that Bhima used the boulders here to kill Hidimbasura, and geologically it’s one of the oldest rock formations in India. Bhima later married Hidimbi, and their son was Ghatotkacha.
Timanna Nayaka, was appointed as Governor of Chitradurga, by the Vijayanagara Emperor, as a reward for his services during the military campaigns, that saw the establishment of the Chitradurga Nayakas kingdom.
Madakari Nayaka was the last great ruler of the Nayakas from 1754-99, who was given the title of Eppatelu Palegarara Ganda/Minda (Superior ruler over 77 palegaras) by Peshwa Madhava Rao 1 after he helped him capture the Nidagallu fort.
Onakke Obavva was the wife of Kalanayaka, a security guard at one of the watch towers of the fort. During that time Hyder Ali laid siege to the fort, after Madakari Nayaka went against him.
Capturing the fort was not an easy task due to the rocky landscape and it’s strong walls. It was then that Hyder Ali chanced upon a woman entering the fort through a narrow opening called as Kindi.
However only one person at a time could crawl through that opening, and through his informers, Hyder Ali came to know that Kalanayaka who was in charge there would be going home for lunch at a particular time
Actually it was assumed that no one would try coming through that narrow opening, and it was not guarded as much. Sensing an opportunity, Hyder Ali decided to send his soldiers one by one through that opening and then they could capture the fort when they had sufficient numbers.
However at the same time, Obavva had come out to fetch water for her husband, from a well called Tanniru Doni nearby to the opening. As she was filling in the water, she heard a noise near the opening, and realized that the enemy soldiers were trying to sneak in.
However not panicking, she stood guard near the opening with only an Onake( a long pestle used for thrashing paddy) in her hand. As the first soldier emerged out of the opening, she hit him on head with one single blow, killing him on the spot.
She dragged away the body hiding it out of sight, and began to to kill every soldier who emerged out of the opening, as they were approaching in a stealth mode, one by one, the other soldiers were unaware of what was happening.
When Kalanayaka returned back to his duty from lunch, he was shocked to see Obavva standing over the dead soldiers, with a blood soaked pestle(Onake) in her hand.
He blew the bugle alerting other guards, and killed the other enemy soldiers saving the fort. Chitradurga was saved due to one brave woman, who had the presence of mind to act under circumstances, Onake Obavva.
However Obavva died the same day, probably due to the stress she had been through, or was killed by an enemy soldier, this is not known yet. And in 1799, Hyder Ali managed to capture Chitradurga, as Madakari Nayka was imprisoned and died in captivity at Srirangapatna.
The opening over which she stood guard is now called Onake Obavva Kindi, while the stadium in Chitradurga is named after her. A song sequence in the movie Nagarahavu directed by Puttana Kanagal has actress Jayanti playing Onake Obavva.
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