Historical Figures

Rani Abbakka Chowta, the fearless queen

Queen of Ullal, one of the oldest cities in India, Rani Abbakka Chowta Fights Portuguese settlers in the 16th century. For four decades, she manages to repel their assaults on the city; she is sometimes referred to as "India's first female freedom fighter".

Queen of Ullal

Little is known of the childhood of Abbaka Chowta, born at the beginning of the 16th century in an India undergoing the Portuguese conquest. A member of the Chowta dynasty, which reigns in Karnataka in southern India, she is crowned queen of the port city of Ullal by her uncle Tirumala Raya under the matrilineal system of inheritance followed by the Chowtas.

Tirumala Raya teaches Abbakka military strategy and the art of war, and contracts for her a matrimonial alliance with the king of the principality of Banga in Mangalore, Lakhmappa Arasa. But the marriage does not last, and Abbakka soon returns to Ullal. Lakhmappa canned with resentment towards the queen.

Ullal's Resistance

Ullal is a prosperous port and a trade crossroads on the spice route, therefore a strategic point coveted by European nations in full colonization, in particular Portugal, the Netherlands and England. The resistance of the local rulers is such, however, that none of these nations has been able to conquer it.

When the Portuguese attempted to conquer Ullal as early as 1525, Rani Abbakka (Rani means sovereign) forged alliances and raised an army transcending castes and religions. Jain herself, she surrounds herself indiscriminately with Hindus and Muslims and relies on her marital bond with the king of Mangalore to consolidate her alliances. Thanks to these unions, Abbakka manages to repel the assaults of the Portuguese troops on Ullal.

Defeats and victories

Furious at Abbakka's resistance, the Portuguese demanded that she pay tribute, but the queen refused to give in. In retaliation, Portugal sends Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira to bend it but Rani Abbakka Chowta once again manages to repel the assault.

In 1557, the Portuguese attacked Mangalore and destroyed the city. In 1568, they attacked the city of Ullal again, but Abbakka resisted them. The Portuguese Viceroy, António Noronha, then sent General João Peixoto and his fleet to Ullal. They manage to take the city and enter the palace, but Abbakka flees and takes refuge in a mosque. The same night, the queen gathers 200 of her soldiers and launches a victorious attack against the Portuguese; João Peixoto is killed and many Portuguese retreat or are taken prisoner. Abbakka continues his assaults and manages to obtain until the liberation of the fort of Mangalore.

Alliances and betrayals

The following year, the Portuguese retook the fort of Mangalore and a nearby city, but their troops still broke teeth on the city of Ullal. To attack Rani Abbakka Chowta, they form an alliance with Lakhmappa Arasa, her former husband who has not forgiven her for leaving. With his help, the Portuguese launch new assaults against Ullal. Violent fighting begins but Abbakka manages to hold the city.

To fight against the invader, the queen forged alliances with local rulers, but many died in violent battles. The loss of several allies and the betrayal of her former husband, who revealed his military strategies to the Portuguese, overcame Abbakka's tireless resistance. After more than forty years repelling the Portuguese assaults, she was finally defeated and imprisoned.

The Fearless Queen

A tireless and indomitable fighter, Rani Abbakka Chowta raises a revolt in prison. And it is by fighting, during this last attempt at resistance, that she finally finds death.

Also known as Abhaya Rani, the Fearless Queen, Rani Abbakka was one of the first Indians to fight against the colonial powers and is sometimes considered "the first female freedom fighter in India”.