India clearly remembers its great male warriors like Asoka, Akbar, Maharana Pratap, Sivaji and Prithviraj Chauhan. But we rarely get to hear about her female warriors. Except for Rani Laxmibai and Sultana Razia, do we know any other female warriors?
The fact is that women, through the ages, have been very capable, and have played a crucial role in history. But more often than not, we don’t get to read about them. Let’s change that, shall we?
#1 Belawadi Mallamma
Belawadi Mallamma was the first woman to form a women’s army. She was born to Sode king Madhulinga Nayaka and was the wife of Prince Isaprabhu. When her husband was killed during a war between the kingdom and the Maratha empire, she fought with her army to save her kingdom, but was captured. Later, Chatrapati Sivaji released her after seeing her bravery.
#2 Rudrama Devi
Rani Rudrama Devi was born to King Ganpathi Deva of Kakatiya Dynasty in present day Warangal. The king had no sons and designated Rudrama as his son via the putrika ceremony. As per her father’s wishes, Rani Rudrama took over the reigns of the dynasty and ruled the kingdom. In fact, during her rule, she fiercely battled the Pandyas, Cholas and the Yadavas.
#3 Rani Velu Nachiyar
Rani Velu Nachiyar was the first woman of Tamil origin to challenge the British empire, before even Rani Laxmibai. After her husband was killed by the Britishers, she lived under the protection of Hyder Ali, all the while forming alliances.
In 1780, Rani Velu built the first human bomb and formed a women’s army. She defeated the British and regained her kingdom, and ruled after for more than 10 years.
#4 Abbakka Rani
Rani Abbakka from Chowta dynasty ruled a small coastal town called Ullal, 8 km away from Mangalore. During her reign, the Portuguese wanted to conquer the coastal town and use it as a port. They made their first attempt in 1525. But Rani Abbakka resisted and fought fiercely against the Portugese, gaining the name Rani Abhaya (fearless queen).
An annual celebration is held each year in Ullal in memory of the queen.
#5 Onake Obavva
Obavva was not a princess, but the wife of a guard at Chitradurga Fort.
Down south, Haider Ali was trying to conquer Chitradurga, but was repeatedly unsuccessful. One day, he noticed a woman trying to enter the fort through a hole. See this, he ordered his men to enter the same way. Obavva’s husband was away for lunch, and she decided to take matters into her own hands. She guarded the crevice, making sure she killed the men entering the fort. By the end of it all, Obavva had killed almost 100 men.
#6 Keladi Chennamma
Chennamma was not of royal lineage, but became queen of Keladi after her marriage to Somashekhara Nayak. She is most well-known for giving shelter to Rajaram, Sivaji’s second son, who was on the run from the Mughals. The Mughal dynasty was extremely powerful and neighbouring kingdoms were not ready to give Rajaram shelter.
When Aurangzeb found out Chennamma was providing shelter to Rajaram, he sent his troops. The queen fought bravely and defeated the army. The war ended with a treaty between Keladi and the Mughals, with Aurangzeb recognising Keladi as a separate kingdom.
#7 Kittur Chennamma
Half a century before the time of Rani Laxmibai was the rule of Kittur’s Rani Chennamma. With the introduction of Doctrine of Lapse, Kittur came under the British empire. Chennamma revolted against the Doctrine of Lapse by adopting Shivalingappa and making him the heir to the throne.
Furious with her actions, the British attacked Kittur but Chennamma fought fiercely and killed St John Thackeray, after which she was captured and imprisoned.
History proves to us, time and again, how women were treated equally in society. They were given the same status and training as the men they served with. When did we start discriminating?