Queens of India Rani Chennamma who defeated Aurangazeb

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Anupama Nair



Rani Chennamma was the brave Queen of an ancient State called Keladi. Like many brave Indian queens, she too fought against Islamic terror of the Mughals. Though she had no husband she fought with her enemies and, freed her kingdom from several

invaders. She had to face another foe Aurangzeb who, was the Moghul Emperor called 'Alamgir' or one who has conquered the whole world. Aurangzeb had conquered many kingdoms in North India and then turned his eyes towards the South. His thirst for expansion was not yet quenched and his vast, powerful army attacked this small state — the reason Queen had given shelter to the son of one of the greatest sons of Bharat Ma, Shivaji Maharaj, who was called Rajaram.

Rani Chennamma was the eleventh ruler of Keladi, and succeeded her husband Somashekhar Nayaka to the throne. The tenth king Somashekhara saw his future wife at the Rameshwar Fair and was struck by her beauty and decided he would marry only her, daughter of Sidappa Shetty of Kotepura, though she did not come from a royal background. Despite the passionate beginning to their relationship, the king turned out to be undependable and he became victim to a conspiracy laid by a court dancer Kalavathi and her wicked father. The King’s indifference resulted in chaos and anarchy in the kingdom. The news of his ill-health spread all over the kingdom and naturally, many people began to hatch conspiracies to usurp the throne. The Sultan of Bijapur who had been defeated by the kings of Keladi, many times, now attacked the kingdom.

Chennamma, soon became the ruler and with belief in God, the young Queen became a great ruler.

The Sultan of Bijapur sent his agent Jannopant to Chennamma to negotiate for Keladi, even while, his general Muzzaffar Khan marched upon Keladi with a strong Bijapur army! She sent back to the Sultan of Bijapur with a gift of money i,e., three lakhs! Not waiting for things to get completely out of control, Chennamma took her father’s advice and with the help of a few supporters raced out of Bidanur to occupy the Fort of Bhuvanagiri located deep in the hills and jungles, that was difficult to approach and therefore easy to defend. The Keladi warriors won that battle and sent the Bijapur army home. The people of Keladi, accepted Chennamma as their ruler. In 1671 Chennamma was crowned as the Queen in the fortress of Bhuvanagiri.

Queen Chennamma was like a Goddess to the virtuous and a vessel of destruction to the wicked. She had an 'Agrahara' or an entire street with houses on either side formed, and she invited many scholars to settle down there. It was named 'Somashekharapura’. With the consent of her people she adopted, Basappa Nayaka as her son. She expanded the army and strengthened security at the borders. Rani Chennamma spent her leisure time in meditation and in acts of charity and kindness. She gave gifts of lands to many Mutts and religious institutions.

One afternoon as usual when the Queen was giving alms to the poor, four 'Jangamars'  or monks appeared and waited till all the others had received their alms. Seeing their bright faces, the intelligent Queen realized that they were not ordinary monks. To her surprise, she realized one of the monk was Rajaram, the son of Shivaji Maharaj. They told her that their lives were in danger and the brave queen gave refuge to them. When the butcher of humans Aurangazeb heard of this, he decided to attack Keladi.

Preparations for a war began in Keladi and Aurangzeb sent his son Azamath Ara with a huge army to invade the kingdom. However, by then Rajaram had safely reached the Jinji Fort. The cunning Moghul Emperor on one hand sent a big army to Keladi; and, on the other, before it could reach the kingdom, he sent a messenger to the Queen Chennamma with a letter and also costly presents including diamonds and other precious stones. The Queen meanwhile, was fully prepared for the war. The brave soldiers of Keladi were eagerly waiting for the Moghul army in a thick jungle. The Moghul soldiers who were accustomed to the dry climate of the North, found it extremely difficult to pass through the forest in the heavy downpour of the MaInad area in the monsoon season. Obeying Aurangzeb’s orders they were marching ahead under great stress. The brave soldiers of Keladi, took positions in the thick jungle and began butchering the Moghul soldiers.

Aurangazeb had to sign a treaty with the Queen who was also was glad to have this treaty. Believing in ‘aditi devo bhava’ she treated the Moghul officers very generously and according to the pact released them all. Aurangzeb recognized her as an independent ruler. The Queen rewarded the soldiers and officers of her army suitably. The great honor of a decisive victory in a war with Aurangzeb thus belongs to the brave Chennamma, a heroine of Karnataka.




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