Keladi Chennamma (16??- 1696)

Discussion in 'Indian History' started by garry420, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. garry420

    garry420 Well-Known Member

    The Kingdom of Keladi was an small kingdom in Northern Karnataka. Since its founding in 1500, Keladi was blessed with many good kings, such as Chaudappa Nayaka, or Shivappa Nayaka. By the time Shivappa Nayaka’s son, Somashekhara Nayak ascended the throne, the kingdom of Keladi Stretch all the way from Goa in the north to Kerala in the south. The King Somashekara Nayak was extremely religious. He did not marry for many years, and his subjects were extremely concerned.
    One day as the king was going to the Ram temple for the Rameshwara fair, he caught site of an extremely beautiful maiden. The king immediately decided to marry her. The next day, against the advice of his minister, he approached the father of his bride-to-be. The father was shocked, but immediately agreed to offer his daughter in marriage. The wedding took place in Bidanur in the royal palace. To celebrate the wedding, the royal family distributed charity to the needy throughout the kingdom and offered worship at the two largest temples in the nation.
    Chennamma proved to be an excellent queen. She quickly learnt all about statecraft, politics, weapon usage, music, and literature. She learnt politics so well that she became a de facto advisor for the king. She treated her subjects and her servants with the upmost respect. When oppressed people were to scared to make pleas to their king, they pleaded with the queen, who was guaranteed to establish justice where it was taken by speaking to the king.
    During the Dussera festival, many great artisans and dancers would perform or display their work for the king. During this festival a famous dancer, Kalavathi of Jambukhandi, performed for the king. The king was so astounded by the performance of the dancer that he rewarded her a grand some of wealth and appointed her as the chief dancer for his royal court. Eventually the king became seduced by her and started living in the house of the dancer, forgetting his beloved Chennamma. The king became a puppet of Kalavati’s foster father, Bharame Mavuta who was a great master in the dark arts. Bharame Mavuta eventually poisoned the king who consequently fell terribly ill. Matters of state were held in the house of the dancer rather than in the splendour of the palace. The king had no heir, so there was great uncertainty as to who would be the king’s successor.
    Taking advantage of the political situation in Keladi, the Sultan of Bijapur invaded. Chennamma, in an attempt to prevent the annihilation of her kingdom, went to the house of Kalvati and begged the sickly king to take up arms and defend the nation. Somashekara Nayak whose mind was poisoned by Bharame Mavuta, and bedridden by diseases refused to.
    Realising that only she could prevent the fall of her kingdom, she picked up the sword to defend the kingdom. As the enemy began besieging the capital, many important people in the kingdom were all quarelling amongst each other as to who would assume the throne of Keladi. Chennamma attempted to quell the resistance by adopting a son, Basappa Nayaka to whom she gave training in statecraft, politics, and weaponry. This move greatly reduced any discord in the kingdom about seccession.
    The sultan of Bijapur sent a massive army led by Muzaffar Khan to annex Keladi. Not wavered by the might of the Bijapuri army, she told her subjects thus: "My beloved heroes of the Kannada Land, you are great warriors. Today the fate of the kingdom is in your hands. Remember, victory gives us this kingdom and death gives us heaven. There is no third way. If you win, all of you will be rewarded with befitting honors." Bharame Mavuta unconvinced by the queen, killed the king, having been persuaded by the Bijapuri Sultan’s henchmen.
    As the Bijapuri army besieged, Bidanur, Chennamma’s advisors advised her and the army to leave Bidanur and hide in Bhuvangiri for the time being, since victory didn’t seem to be in sight. As the enemy breached the walls of Bidanur, they found neither the mighty queen nor the wealth of Keladi both of which were safe in the fortress of Bhuvanagiri.
    Seeing the loss of their capital thousands came to Bhuvanagiri and offered their services to Chennamma. She with the help of her minister Thimmanna Nayaka, regrouped the Keladi military, expanded it with new volunteers, and invaded Bidanur. The Keladi soldiers knew their land better than the Bijapuri invaders, and utilize the jungle terrain and narrow passes to massacre the Bijapuri army. Bidanur was liberated from Bijapuri occupation. To rejoice the victory, the people of Keladi crowned Chennamma queen of Keladi. She rewarded the many who aided in her war efforts handsomely.
    Andhaka Venkata Nayaka, a member of the Keladi royal family, still upset at being deprived of the throne wrote to the Maharaja of Mysore. He offered the Maharaja half the kingdom if the maharaja helped him overthrow Keladi. The kingdom of Mysore and a few other chieftans in the region invaded Keladi. Chennamma decisively defeated Mysore, and signed a treaty of friendship with them.
    One day as the queen was offering alms to the destitute, four men dressed as monks approached the queen. As she asked them what they wanted, one of the men replied, "I am Rajaram, the son of Chatrapati Shivaji." He explained that Aurangzeb the tyrant king of the Moghal Empire thought that if he captured Rajaram, the whole Maharasthtra would fall to Moghal rule. The Queen happily decided to give protection to Rajaram, saying that it was a responsibility of Hindus to help the son of the protector of Hinduism regardless of the wrath of the mighty and evil Aurangzeb.
    Aurangzeb eventually realized that Rajaram was taking refuge in Keladi. He wrote a letter to Rani Chennamma saying that if she surrendered Rajaram, he would offer her a treaty of friendship with the Moghal Empire. The cunning Aurangzeb sent an army to invade Keladi whether or not she accepted. Rani Chennamma refused to surrender Rajaram. The massive Moghal army invaded Keladi. The army was not accustomed to the thick jungles of Keladi, and loss massive numbers to the Kannada army of Keladi. The captain of the army, Azamath Ara not willing to admit defeat to a women, decided to instead turn on Jinji, the fortress which Rajaram had fled to, and the stronghold of the Marathas. The Moghals who had defeated countless foes throughout India, were defeated by a women ruling a tiny kingdom.
    Keladi flourished in the remaining years. Rani Chennamma made pacts with the Arabs to obtain horses and in exchange the Arabs received spices and rice from Keladi. She profited from trade with the Portuguese and the Dutch, who had a colonial presence in South India at the time. By this time her son was now of age to rule. Rani Chennamma gave most of the power to her son.
    In the year 1696 Rani Chennamma died. As she was on her death bed she told her adopted son, Basappa Nayaka to not sin, uphold dharma, earn a good name, tolerate subjects of different religions, and to be a good ruler. Rani Chennamma was laid to rest in the Koppalu monastery in Bidanur. The Kingdom of Keladi remained powerful and sovereign for another one hundred and fifty years when the British annexed it after fighting an exhaustive war with Keladi.

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