Did you know Portuguese ruled India much longer and much earlier than the British did? Portuguese rule in India started around 1505 and lasted until 1961. Yes, in 1961. Many years after we started calling our-selves independent. The Indian government had to send an army to defeat the Portuguese and free Goa. So a not so related but an important question to ponder upon is how did we call ourselves Independent when there was still a colonial power ruling in the country. Anyway!
It is evident Indians have little or no knowledge about their past. This statement might come as a bit judgmental, might pinch you or even offend you but is it not proof enough that for the majority of Indians, history is something that is taught in school for just a few years and has remained one of those boring subjects that have to be cleared for promotion to the next standard.
Moreover, the textbooks are boring, highly biased with inputs from those who have done almost zero original work in the subject but studied history written by the colonials and based on that started calling themselves historians. Naming them is not the purpose of this write-up but a commentary on the current state was required to ponder upon another question, a rhetorical one, but again an important one: How many female warriors do we know beyond Rani Jhansi?
Yes. Think. Think more. And now you may go back and agree with what I said earlier.
Also yes. You may now read further to find out about one such brave female we Indians can be proud of.
There has been a plentiful of female brave hearts, those astonishingly ferocious women who made the invaders think twice about their decision to enter India. One such tremendous force was Rani Abbakka Chowta of Ullal (present-day Karnataka) who was later known as ABHAYA RANI. Her story is worth knowing and is worthy enough to feel inspired and be proud of our history. History is not an event but it is the people who created those events. It is about their learning and their failures. It is about their glory and their gift to the future. It is about the current crop of humans to not repeat the mistakes their ancestors made but to learn what was and venture into what can be with the great foundation the ancestors laid down. Time to know about ABHAYA RANI.
A strong Portuguese army of thousands under an experienced commander General Joao Peixoto entered Ullal – a small settlement around 14 km south of Mangalore. The purpose was clear, capture its ruler, Rani Abbakka Chowta – a 30-year-old queen. To the general’s surprise, Ullal was deserted. Abbakka was nowhere to be found. The army roamed around looking for any clue of the queen but to no avail. The general was delightfully surprised. He was relieved. Not because no war took place and none of his men died but because he did not have to face the ferocity of the female who created terror among his army.
He was aware of the earlier invasions his army made to Ullal. The first attack had a few boats and soldiers sent to take over the city. What a young female ruler of a small town would do against our might, they thought. Those boats never came back!
The second attack had a huge fleet of ships sent under the strong command of Admiral Dom Alvaro Da Silveria. He was enraged with the earlier shame. He was determined to avenge the defeat. He was confident that this time the queen cannot be saved. The admiral returned - Injured, defeated and empty-handed! He must have thanked his stars that he was alive. The third attack had even bigger fleet sent which returned with a handful of soldiers with broken zeal to make a comeback.
Such was the terror caused by Rani Abbakka Chowta, a queen who got the throne from her uncle Thirumala Raya III. Being from the matrilineal dynasty she had to be the queen and thus was trained from childhood in all the affairs related to statecraft. She was also trained in sword fighting, archery, cavalry, military strategy and diplomacy. She was an ace archer.
It was night and General Peixoto was now relaxed as much time had gone by with no sign of any enemy soldier. He decided to camp there and proceed in the morning. In the dead of the night, the General heard the hue and cry of his men. Shaken, he got out of his camp. What he saw gave him chill down his spine, his legs shivered with terror, he could not believe what he saw – Rani Abbakka Chowta. The Rani had returned. She returned with 200 of her loyal soldiers. She attacked like a tigress. Killed whoever came her way. There was chaos all over. Many Portuguese died. 70 were captured. The remaining fled to their ships. And General Joao Pixoto, the celebrated general, he lay dead. The story doesn’t end here. The legend of Rani Abbakka Chowta starts from here.
Any army chief who got such a great victory would usually take a pause. Would plan the next step, would take account of what would be the enemy’s next move. But Rani Abbakka did something unimaginable, unfathomable for at least the Portuguese as the Europeans of that time had very twisted imagery of women and their stance in the society. Rani Abbakka Chowta, the Queen of Ullal, with her handful of brave and loyal soldiers that very night marched towards Mangalore – a city already under Portuguese captivity thanks to the compromise by Lakshmappa Bangaraja, the ruler of Mangalore and Rani Abbakka’s husband.
Rani broke inside the Mangalore fort, thrashed the Portuguese out, killed as many as she could. She assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas, the chief of Portuguese power, the remaining Portuguese soldiers ran helter-skelter. Mangalore fort was now under her rule.
Did she stop there now? No. She went 100 km north of Mangalore to Kundapura – a strong Portuguese settlement and captured that as well.
Such was the anger Rani Abbka Chowta had against the invaders. Such was her zeal to free her motherland from the captivity of the barbaric foreigners. Rani Abbakka Chowta (1525 -1570) along with her two daughters and a group of loyal chiefs successfully contained the Portuguese expansion for more than 40 years. And thus earned the name – Abhaya ( fearless) Rani.
She should have been celebrated all across. She should have been made a national hero, a national pride. Movies should have been made on her, songs and ballads should have been written about her bravery and love for the motherland. She should have been in the curriculum not as a chapter but as a subject, as an inspiration for the young women who are otherwise being objectified by some spineless uncultured boys through their locker room.
However, Rani Abbakka Chowta got space in an unknown museum down south. And yes she even got a postage stamp, a couple of statues and a ship (patrol vessel) named after her. Slow claps for her descendants. In case you are wondering, that is us.
All images are from Google