Rani Abbakka Chowta
This is the story of
Rani Abbakka Chowta,
the fearless queen of Ullal, Mangalore.
Spread over the coastal region of Karnataka, Abbakka Devi’s princely capital of Ullal – present day 14 km from Mangalore – caught the attention of Portuguese invaders after their takeover of Goa, back in 1525.
The invaders first attacked the South Kanara coast and destroyed the Mangalore port, before advancing towards Ullal which was meant to be a strategically important port.
Portuguese colonial power was at its peak in the 1500’s. They destroyed Zamorins of Calicut. Defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. Took away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat, established a colony in Mylapore, captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters.
And while they were at it, pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church over it.
Their next target was the super profitable port of Mangalore.
Their only bad luck, just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled then by a feisty 30 year old woman – Abbakka Chowta.
Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her back to Goa – Those boats never came back.
Shocked and enraged, they sent a huge fleet of ships this time, under the command of much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira – The admiral soon returned, badly injured and empty handed.
With each attack she held back, the Portuguese’s fear of the warrior queen grew.
Thereafter, another Portuguese fleet was sent – only a few injured from the crew managed to make it back.
Then the Portuguese went on to capture the Mangalore port and the fort anyways, perhaps planning to tackle Rani Abbakka from the convenient distance of the Mangalore Fort.
After the successful capture of Mangalore, a huge army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal.
The brief was simple: Subjugate Ullal and capture Rani Abbakka Chowta.
The plan was foolproof- there was no way a 30 year old with a few men could withstand the might of an army of thousands with advanced weapons.
The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it deserted. Abbakka was nowhere in sight. They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars – Just when they were about to call it a victory – Abbaka attacked with 200 of her chosen men – there was chaos all around and many Portuguese lost their lives even without a fight – General João Peixoto was killed, 70 Portuguese were captured and the rest just ran away.
So if you’re Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large army of aggressors, killed a general, captured fighters and defended her city – What will you do? – Rest and enjoy the moment right? – Right? – No!
Rani Abbakka Chowta, rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night, and laid a siege of the Mangalore fort – She not just broke inside the fort successfully – but killed Admiral Mascarenhas the Chief of the Portuguese power there and forced the remaining Portuguese to vacate the fort.
She didn’t just stop at this but went on to even capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 kms, north of Mangalore – Just to make a point.
The Portuguese finally managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by convincing her estranged husband, to betray for money. She was arrested and put in the prison where she revolted again and was killed while trying to escape.
Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims, a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.
The Indian Government released a Postal Stamp in her name, and two built statues. A Indian Coast Guard ship was named after her. ICGS Rani Abbakka is the first of a series of five inshore patrol vessels (IPV) built at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd was commissioned in Visakhapatnam on January 20, 2012, and is based in Chennai.