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Kittur Rani Chennamma: The Beacon of Resistance Against British Rule

Rani Chennamma was the first woman independence objector in India. She stood alone with a lively, burning eye beside the British Empire. She did not succeed in driving them away, but Rani Chennamma did incite many women to rise against British rule. She was the Queen of Chennamma, the princely state of Kittur in Karnataka. Today she is well known as Kittur Rani Chennamma.

Kitturu Rani was born on 23 October 1778 in Kittur, Karnataka. It was a small village of 5 KM distance from Belgaum in Karnataka in 1778. She got guidance in her early days for sword fighting, horse riding and archery. She became the queen of her native kingdom and married Raja Mallasarja of the Desai family. She had a son, also. After her son died in 1824, she adopted Shivalingappa, making him heir to the throne. Her strong conflict against the British gave them enough indication that their policies won’t be taken by the Indians hands down.

The Creation of One of India’s First Warrior Queens

In 1824, 33 years before the 1857 War of Independence, the British took control of Kittur under the lapsed policy as no male successor existed. The battle ended with her martyrdom, and she is remarkable today as one of the earliest Indian rulers who fought for independence. She is much respected in Karnataka as an icon of courage, bravery, and women’s superiority.

Rani Chennamma and the local people strongly opposed British high-handedness. In the ensuing battle, hundreds of British soldiers were killed along with Thackeray. The degradation of defeat at the hands of a small ruler was too much for the British to ingest. They brought in bigger armies from Mysore and Sholapur and bounded Kittur.

Rani Chennamma tried her best to avoid the war. She also negotiated with Chaplin and Governor of the Bombay Presidency, under whose command Kittur fell. But she was failed, and for that reason, she compelled to declare war. For 12 days, the valiant Queen and her soldiers defended their fort. But as is the common peculiarity, traitors sneaked in and mixed mud and manure in the fine particles in the canons.

Rani Chennamma sent a letter to the Governor of Bombay to implore the cause of Kittur. However, Lord Elphinstone turned down the request leading to an all-out war. The British tried to take away the treasure and jewels of Kittur and attacked them with a force of 200 men and four guns. In the first round of war, during October 1824, British forces lost heavily, with St John Thackeray, Investor and Opinionated, killed by Rani’s forces.

On 11 September 2007, a statue of Rani Chennamma was unveiled at the Indian Parliament Complex by Pratibha Patil, the first woman President of India. On occasion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Lok Sabha Speaker Somanath Chatarjee, BJP leader L.K.Advani, Karnataka Chief Minister H.D.Kumaraswamy and others were present, marking the importance of the function. The statue was donated by Kittur Rani Chennamma Memorial Committee and sculpted by Vijay Gaur. Her statues are installed at Bangalore and Kittur also.

She released the hostages with an understanding with Chaplin that the war would be ended. But Chaplin deceitfully continued the war with even more soldiers. Chennamma fought fiercely with the aid of her lieutenant, Sangolli Rayanna, but was ultimately captured and imprisoned at Bailhongal Fort, where she died on 21 February 1829. Sangolli Rayanna continued the guerrilla war until 1829 until his capture, but it was ineffective, and he was caught due to deceit and hanged.

Rani Chennamma’s strong resistance against the British gave them enough indication that their policies won’t be taken by the Indians hands down. Her victory in the first phase of the battle against the British is still remembered fondly in Kittur and surrounding areas. The tales of her bravery have inspired many folk dance and music performances in Karnataka that continue to be a part of the popular tradition. The Kittur Utsava (22-24 October every year) commemorates her memorable victory that dented the British pride severely and showed everyone that the British forces were far from invincible.

Rani Chennamma has become a legend. During the freedom movement, her brave confrontation with the British created the theme of plays, songs, and song stories. Folk songs, or lavanis, were legion, and the freedom fight improved greatly through singing bards who moved all over the region.

After ending up in captivity, Kittur Rani Chennamma devoted herself to reading holy texts and praying for her freedom. But as time passed by, she ultimately lost hope. The fighter in her could not stand the disgrace and helplessness, owing to which her health started weakening. Kittur Rani Chennamma breathed her last breath on 21 February 1829 in the Bailhonghal Fort.Rani Chennamma’s samadhi or interment place is in Bailhongal taluk.Although it is in a neglected state with poor maintenance, the place is surrounded by a small park maintained by Government agencies. During the Kittur Utsava of every 22nd to 24th of October, these memories are renewed, and the people sincerely salute them.

Her violent passion for saving the state greatly inspired Sangolli Rayanna, another well-known freedom fighter of Karnataka who continued to fight on her behalf. He was arrested and afterward hanged by the British a few years later. Her adopted son Shivalingappa was also taken into custody. However, the brave queen’s life was cut short; her chaos against the British had given the people of Kittur the bravery to take on them.

📎 Related Articles

1. Britannica: Doctrine of Lapse
2. New World Encyclopedia: First War of Indian Independence
3. Wikipedia: Sangolli Rayanna
4. An Exemplary IPS Officer: Shivdeep Waman Lande’s Journey
5. Corporal Gursewak Singh: A Heroic Tale of Selfless Bravery