A woman in earlier times was known mostly for her sophistication, but this woman changed the course of history for women and opened new doors for them to raise their voice. She is one of the most underrated yet significant women who gave an emperor a tough fight and won. After being ill treated for a very long time she became a well known rebel against foreign aggressors.
Rani Chennamma was one among the valiant royals who rebelled against the British.
Rani Chennamma ruled the small kingdom of Keladi on the coast of Karnataka for 25 years, from 1671 to 1696. She was the daughter of Siddappa Setti, a native merchant. She was married to King Somashekara Nayaka in 1667 and, after his death, she handled the kingdom and its administration. This is the reign for which she is best known. She did not surrender under any force, rather she fought and trained the army with success.
She stood against the powerful Mughal kingdom, then ruled by Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb initiated a fight with her after acknowledging that Rajaram Chhatrapati, son of Shivaji, was fleeing from the Mughals and Rani Chennamma gave him shelter in her kingdom. This fact couldn’t be tolerated by him and he proposed an immediate war.
Not only this but Rani turned many fights towards her kingdom in due course of time. She saw the advent of the British and the Dutch. She fought with these powers and managed to maintain a prosperous kingdom. She made the empire rich by foreign trade and regular management.
She survived by maintaining a policy of neutrality with her neighbors, and grew rich on the Portuguese trade. The Portuguese being happy with her bond exported spices and rice from the Keladi ports like Mirjan. She in turn allowed them to settle and build their churches.
The Portuguese called her the Reina de Pimenta, the Pepper Queen. The kingdom survived till 1763, when it was finally run over by Haider Ali of Mysore.
In her personal life, she had a punishing schedule. She was the mercies lady when it came to seeking help but the cruelest queen when it came to giving justice, she would spare no one.
Chennamma is remembered for her great acts of courage and principle. For her wrath against Aurangzeb and teaching him a lesson and for not giving up even in the toughest times.
If Rani Chennamma would not have helped Rajaram Chhatrapati escape from the clutches of Mughals then there would have not been any fight and the Mughal empire would have not been defeated.
Chennamma was known to be a virtuous and pious woman, and a pragmatic administrator of her times. In the state of Karnataka, she is celebrated along with Abbakka Rani, Kittur Chennamma and Onake Obavva, as the foremost women warriors and patriots.