Abhaya Rani5 mins 313 5 mins 313
This story is of Rani Abbakka Chowta, who was the first Tuluva Queen of Ullal . She fought against the Portuguese in the 16th century. She belonged to the Chowta dynasty who ruled over parts of coastal Karnataka, India. Their capital city was Puttige while the port town of Ullal served as their second capital.
The Portuguese were desperately trying to capture Ullal as it was strategically placed. But Rani Abbakka successfully defended their attacks for over four decades. Owing to her extreme courage and patriotism,she was called Abhaya Rani or the queen who has no fear.
She was also one of the earliest Indians to fight colonialism and also regarded as the 'first woman freedom fighter of the country'.
In the state of Karnataka, she is revered and respected.
In 1526, the Portuguese captured the Mangalore port. Their next target was Ullal, a flourishing port town that lay nestled between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea.
Ullal was the capital of the Chowta king Thirumala Raya III.
As the Chowtas were a matrilineal dynasty, the king’s heir was his young niece, Abbakka and the defiant and independent princess was trained in sword fighting, archery, cavalry, military strategy, diplomacy and all other subjects of statecraft from the beginning. When Abbakka was crowned the Queen of Ullal, she was fully aware of the Portuguese threat and was determined to resist it with all the means that she had.
Before his death, Thirumala Raya III married Abbakka with Lakshmappa Bangaraja, the ruler of Mangalore. As Rani Abbakka was the ruler of Ullal, she continued to live there even after marriage and the couple’s three children stayed with her. The marriage though broke down when Bangaraja compromised with the Portuguese.
With an eye on Ullal’s trade (that had flourished under the Queen’s able leadership), the Portuguese were trying to exact tributes and taxes from Rani Abbakka. Incensed and exasperated at their unfair demands, she refused to accede to the Portuguese demands.
Her ships continued to trade with the Arabs despite attacks by the Portuguese. The Mogaveeras and Billava archers, Mappilah oarsmen, and people of all castes and religions found a place in her army and navy.
The Portuguese began attacking Ullal repeatedly. The first battle took place in the year 1556, with the Portuguese fleet commanded by Admiral Don Alvaro de Silveira, and ended in an uneasy truce.
Two years later, the Portuguese attacked with a bigger force and were able to ransack the city of Ullal to some extent. However, Rani Abbakka’s better battle tactics and diplomatic strategy (she collaborated with Arab Moors and Zamorin of Kozhikode) repulsed them back once again.
During the next battle, the Portuguese army under General Joao Peixoto attacked Ullal and managed to capture the royal palace. However, Rani Abbakka escaped before they could capture her.
Along with 200 loyal soldiers, she raided the Portuguese in the middle of the night and killed the general along with 70 of his soldiers. Panicked by the ferocity of the attack, the remaining Portuguese troops fled to their ships.
By this time, the Portuguese had become alarmed about Rani Abbakka’s growing reputation which also inspired other rulers. When they could not defeat the Rani in direct warfare, they took to treachery. A series of edicts were passed to make any alliance with the brace queen illegal and would face dire consequences. Her husband, Bangaraja of Mangalore, was also warned against sending any aid to Ullal under the threat of attacking his capital.
Yet, Rani Abbakka did not deter. The Portuguese now decided to send Anthony D’ Noronha (the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa) to attack Ullal and in 1581, 3000 Portuguese troops supported by an fleet of battleships attacked Ullal in a surprise pre-dawn attack.
Rani Abbakka was returning from a visit to her family temple when she was attacked suddenly, but she immediately mounted her horse and rode into the battle, leading her troops in a fierce counter-offensive.
Her piercing battle cry – “Save the motherland. Fight them on land and the sea. Fight them on the streets and the beaches. Push them back to the waters”, echoed through winds as she and her soldiers fired burning arrows at the Portuguese ships.
While many of the ships in the Portuguese armada burnt that night, Rani Abbakka was wounded in the crossfire and was captured by the enemy with the help of a few of her bribed chieftains. She did not stay calm in captivity and was executed while trying to escape. However, her legacy was lived on through her equally fierce and courageous daughters who continued to defend Tulu Nadu from the Portuguese.
The warrior queen gave her life in defense of her freedom and motherland. Rani Abbakka was a major thorn for the Portuguese throughout her rule despite their superior military power. This itself speaks volumes about her bravery and ingenuity. Though her splendid story remains largely forgotten by history books.
The tales of the legendary queen of Ullal are being told through the folk culture of the Dakshin Kannada region (through Bhuta Kola and Yakshagana). In recent years, her story has been gradually coming to public attention.
Dakshin Kannada holds an annual celebration in her memory (Veera Rani Abbakka Utsava) for the last few years.
The Queen had confronted, fought, and repeatedly defeated the Portuguese attacks before being captured by deceit. Rani Abbakka’s unflagging courage and exemplary bravery are at par with the legendary Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, Rani Rudramma Devi of Warangal, and Rani Chennamma of Kittur.
She has proved that the daughters of the motherland can fight and protect the unity, sovereignty and freedom of the country when there arises a need for it!