~ Bhavana Vashisht
A hero was born in the southern part of India on 23 October, 1778 ; many decades before the Rani Lakshmi Bai’s led the 1857 revolt. No one knew at that point of time that this child would be so courageous and daring that it could create a revolution and inspire millions. From childhood, the child was skilled in sword fightings , horse riding, archery etc. At a young age, the child showed signs of fearlessness, heroic skills and patriotism. This child was named Chennamma, later called Rani Chennamma.
When she reached the age of 15, her marriage was arranged with Raja Mallasarja Desai, the ruler of Kittur, a place in Karnataka. Unfortunately, in 1816 that is after completion of 23 years of the marriage, her husband died. She was left with a young son. But fate had more tests in store for her, after a few years, her only son and future ruler of Kittur also died. This led her to adopt a child called Shivalingappa who was then placed as the heir to the throne.
During those times, British East India Company was making its own policies and one such policy was the Doctrine of Lapse. Which clearly stated that a state should have a natural heir at the time of death of the ruler and if this is not the case then the state would be annexed. According to this, Rani Chennamma’s adopted son could not be considered as the
A letter was written by Rani to Mountstuart Elphinstone, Lieutenant-Governor of the Bombay Presidency to get a solution to this issue. Rather than showing pity, Britishers attached Kittur with their men and arms to loot the Kittur’s treasure. But, Rani Chennamma made the Britishers to kneel by winning over them. In this battle, two British officers were imprisoned and only after a peace agreement between both parties, those officers were released by the queen. With this agreement, it was agreed that Kittur won’t be disturbed again but Britishers showed their true nature by
backbiting and breaking their own promise. Along with her trusted army general Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna, she fought in such a heroic manner that even though she was captured after this battle, her stature in front of the world increased further. Though she was imprisoned at Bailuhongala Fort, her thoughts, attitude and personality kept her free which made the Britishers to admire and respect her immensely.
Even till this date, her first victory against Britishers is celebrated in Karnataka on every 22–24 October during Kittur Utsava. Her heroic deeds are still remembered in the form of folklore. A movie was released based on her in Kannada language. Also, a train and university were renamed to Rani Chennamma Express and Rani Chennamma University respectively. To pay tribute to this great women, a statue was unveiled at the Indian Parliament complex by the first India female President in 2007.
But still, the awareness about this lionheart is missing from the lips and minds of people. There is a need to spread words about her to every nook and corner so that people can know about their real hero who fought like a superhero for them. Rani Chennamma is one of the best examples to show that women can do anything, they can plan, rule and fight for the protection of their country. The greatest tribute to one of the first Indian female freedom fighter’s blood, sweat and life would be to make her eternal in our memories and strive to serve the nation that she fought for.