We all heard about the Queen of Jhansi Rani Laxmibai who was known for her bravery and her fight with the British East India Company during the revolt of 1857 but we must not forget the Gallantry acts of Queen of Kittur known as the Rani Chennamma-India’s earliest queen to rebel against the Britishers 33 years way before the uprising of 1857.
Rani Chennamma was born on 23 October 1778 in a small village called Kakati in the Belgaum district in Lingayat community. Since her childhood, she was trained in archery, horse-riding, sword fighting and was known for her fighting skills.
She married to Raja Mallasarja Desai the king of Kittur.
Rani Chennamma rebel against the British
After a few years of her marriage, her husband died in 1816 which was followed by another setback the death of her son in 1824.
Rani Chennamma adopted a son named Shivalingappa and named him the heir of Kittur, but this wasn’t like by the Britishers. Britishers didn’t accept Shivalingappa as the heir to the Kittur on the context of Doctrine of Lapse as he was adopted child.
According to the Doctrine of Lapse introduced by Lord Dalhousie, if a ruler of the Independent Princely state dies without a natural male successor the administration of the state would be passed on the British or known as the Sovereign automatically. The rulers of the state were not allowed to adopt any child if they don’t have their own children.
Thus as per the Britishers, the state of Kittur would have come under the administration of Dharwad collectorate St. John Thackeray and the commissioner Chaplin, both of them refused that Shivalingappa wouldn’t be next successor of Kittur and ordered to accept the British Rule.
Rani Chennamma again requested the Mountstuart Elphinstone who was the Lieutenant-general of Bombay during that time, but it was again turned down by him.
But the queen Chennamma refused to giveaway Kittur to British. War broke out and the Britishers attacked Kittur with 20,000 men and 430 guns from the Madras Native Horse Artillery and tried to loot the wealth and jewels of Kittur which was to be worth of nearly 1.5 million rupees.
Rani Chennamma with the help of local support won the first war Thackeray and one more political agent got killed in the war, and 2 other British officials Sir Walter Elliot and Mr.Stevenson were made hostages, according to the British Amatur Balappa who as the lieutenant in the Chennamma’s Army was responsible for the British defeat.
The queen wanted to avoid the war and tried to negotiate with Mr Chaplin for releasing the hostages. However, the defeat in the first war was not swallowed by the Britishers and they brought more forces from Mysore and Solapur.
The second war brought out and the sub-collector of Solapur Mr Thomas Munro and his niece was killed, Rani Chennamma along with his lieutenant Sangolli Rayanna gave a tough fight to the Britishers till 12 days but got defeated because of the traitors from their side(One of them was Rayanna’s own uncle). They mixed Cow dung and mud in the gun powder in the canon due to which it got jammed during the battle and the queen was captured in 1824.
But Sangolli Rayanna kept on the battle with the Britishers, he wanted Shivalingappa to be the ruler of the Kittur. He kept on fighting with the Britishers with his Guerilla Warfare technique and the British were no match to his bravery at last Rayanna own uncle helped the Britishers to capture him and he was hanged to death.
For the remembrance of his bravery, the railway station name of Bengaluru has been changed to Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna.
Rani Chennamma was taken to Bailhongal fort in Belgaum where she was kept as a prisoner and where she died on 21 February 1829.
Once upon a time a the fort of Kittur which was flourishing with jewels worth of 1.5 million lies abandoned now.
A daily train between Bangalore and Kolhapur has been named as Rani Chennamma express by the Indian Railways.
Chennamma’s legacy and her victory over the British in the first war are celebrated in Kittur which is known as the Kittur Utsav held between 22nd -24th October every year which include, cultural programme, historians, sports.
On 11th September 2007, a statue of Rani Chennamma was inaugurated by the former president Pratibha Patil in the parliament house, Delhi.
The story of Rani Chennamma is always be remembered for her bravery however her story has been overshadowed by the acts Rani Laxmibai, but our society has somewhat forgotten the legacy of the bravery which was done 3 decades before the uprising of 157.
The story of both Chennamma and Laxmibai should be given equal importance!!
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