Rani Kittur Chenaamma

Tribute to An Unsung Hindu Women Ruler, who resisted British Christian forces. Remembering the fierce warrior on her 243rd Janmotsav. Let’s know her life, struggles and legacy.

Book Referred- Rani Chennamma By Sadashiva Shivadeva Wodeyar

Rani Chenaamma; born in a small village on October 23, 1778. To a Shaiv Lingayat Family. Trained in archery, sword fighting and horse riding and quickly became known for her bravery and skills. At the age of 15 years, she was married to Mallasarja Desai, the ruler of Kittur. She was the second wife of King Mallasarja Desai. Though being a second wife she took care of her family with utmost respect and compassion. Losing her son Shivabasvaraj very early. She raised Shivalingarudra Sarja, her Step-Son as her own to succeed the town after Mallasarja.

Chennamma spent most of her time studying scriptures and Satsangs. With her keen sense of Justice and Judgement, regularly assisted her Husband in public Affairs. Gained Popularity as the administrator among the Praja as she held the second Political power after the king. Took care of the Kingdom even after Malasarja’s Death, Shivalingarudra Sarja as the nominal head. As the Tug Of War of power was going on between Marathas and the British. As British waited for an opportunity to interfere in the affairs of Kittur and finally annex it.

Shivalingarudra Sarja died due to deteriorating health. After which the throne was laid empty again. Inviting many vultures and a political struggle. Mostly revolving around a Political Agent; St John Thackeray, who was working for the British East India Company. Thackeray Started taking much control over the Empire of Kittur. The Treasury, the Number of army men, their code of conduct and many important decisions slowly started falling to British Empire. The Praja of Kittu now waited for someone to start a liberation movement.

Legends say it was a dream when Kittu Chennama saw her Late Husband Mallasarja. It was him who requested her to Wear armour and lead the army of Kittu to fight against the Invading Christian Forces of British. The very next morning Chennamma prepared for war. She as per her experience already knew she is outmatched in front of the mighty British Force. She wrote Letters seeking help from Kolhapur and neighbouring kingdoms and deployed a few thousand of her soldiers on the borders.

Thackeray marched to the Kittur borders with a small Unit of British Soldiers. As he thought he would manage to scare the Chennamma and suppress the revolt. But his soldiers and team members were captured. Chenamma imprisoned the Men Soldiers and did not touch Children and women.

As the battle went ahead, Thackeray was Killed. Three Traitors were captured- Diwan Kannur Mallappa, Kannur Veerappa and Sardar Mallappa. Chennamma made sure their end was cruel.

She was a Devi to the innocent and Kali to the criminal. Portrayed her exemplary warfare skills.

With her exemplary decision-making skills and valour, the First Battle was finally won. There were celebrations of victory all over the Kittur. This not only marked a glorious episode in the South Indian region but in the entire Indian-Freedom Struggle. British, ready to avenge a humiliating defeat at the hands of a woman. While Chenamma knew something big is coming at Kittur. As she took to diplomacy, to settle the war. Even promised to release prisoners. The British saw an opening and attacked when talks were still going on.

As Chennamma got alert the battle was already at its peak. With the British having a Huge Army of 25,000 Soldiers. Highly out-numbering Kittur. After a few days of Battle, Kittur Fell to Union Jack. Over the pile of Dead-Bodies, they marched into the Kingdom like Barbarians. British looted 16 lakhs and jewellery worth about `4 lakhs. They also took into possession 3K horses, 2K camels and about 100 elephants. The entire stock of gun powder, 36 Cannons, 56 Guns, and a large number of arms like swords, bows, arrows, spears, etc.

After the defeat and many Deaths in Kittur. Rani Chennamma was Captured and sent to the fortress of Bailhongala and kept as a political prisoner. British Control of Kittur and operated accordingly. They destroyed the Main Building and Fortress, which even reminded Chennamma.

Chennamma dreamt of the day when she would again
fight against the British to Free Kittur. After nearly five years of confinement in the Bailhongala fort, she died on 2 February 1829. She was buried at Bailhongala with full military honours.

Rani Chennamma, One of the very first to Stand Up against British Forces. Remains unsung and lost in our history books. The Pseudo-Feminist movement never recall this Feminist figure who put great powers to shame. Let’s make an effort to spread her legacy for people to know.

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.