Birth of Kittur Chennamma - [October 23, 1778] This Day in History

On 23 October 1778, Chennamma, Queen of Kittur, a princely state in present Karnataka was born. She was one of the first Indians to lead an armed rebellion against the British. She is revered as one of the foremost women warriors and freedom fighters of India. Hence, it is important to read about her life and contribution for the UPSC exam history segment.

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Biography of Kittur Chennamma

  • Chennamma was born in a small village called Kakati in Belagavi (Belgaum) District, Karnataka.
  • At the age of 15, she became the queen of Kittur (a taluk in present Belgaum) when she married the king of Kittur, Raja Mallasarja.
  • Her husband died in 1816 leaving her with one son and heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the boy died in 1824. Chennamma adopted another boy Shivalingappa and made him the heir to the throne. The East India Company, however, did not recognise the adopted heir and proceeded to annex the kingdom. The Doctrine of Lapse, although codified later by Lord Dalhousie, was practised by the Company earlier also.
  • Rani Chennamma rejected this illegitimate doctrine and refused to accept British sovereignty.
  • She took up arms (she was trained in sword fighting, archery and horse riding from her childhood) and instigated a war with the company in 1824.
  • Thus, her rebellion predated the Indian Revolt of 1857 by three decades.

War against the British

  • The British attacked Kittur with more than 20000 men and about 400 guns. They attempted to raid Kittur and take its jewels and treasures (valued at Rs.15 lakh) but failed.
  • The first battle between Kittur and the East India Company started in October 1824 and it resulted in a heavy loss for the company.
  • The English Collector and political agent St. John Thackeray was killed in the battle by Amatur Balappa, the Rani’s lieutenant. Two British hostages were also taken by the Kittur forces. Rani Chennamma released them after the British gave her word that they would cease fighting. However, they went back on their word and restarted the war after getting the hostages back.
  • The Rani was supported in her valiant war by Sangolli Rayanna and Gurusiddappa. Despite her heroic attempt, Chennamma was captured and Kittur fell to the British forces. She was imprisoned in Bailhongal Fort where she breathed her last on 21 February 1829. She was fifty years old.
  • Despite leading one of the first rebellions in India against the British, Rani Chennamma of Kittur remains relatively unknown.

Legacy of Rani Kittur Chennamma

  • A statue of Kittur Chennamma was unveiled in September 2007 at the Indian Parliament Complex by Pratibha Patil. There are other statues in Bangalore and Kittur as well. Rani Chennamma’s samadhi is maintained by the government in a park in Kittur.
  • Ballads and songs describing her valour are sung in Kittur even today. The Kitturu Utsava is held in Kittur from 22 October to 24 October every year to commemorate Chennamma’s first victory over the English.
Also on this day 

1940: Birth of football legend, Pele in Brazil. 1943: Subhash Chandra Bose inaugurated the all-woman Rani Jhansi Brigade of the Indian National Army. 1974: Birth of Aravind Adiga, the author who won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. 1992: UPSC introduced the essay paper in the civil services mains exam.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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