Freedom fighters have been the poignant centre of reverence for us patriots since the beginning of our time of oppression. Few ever were recognised for their work, and most were lost to the dusty pages of history. One such forgotten hero happened to be one of the first female freedom fighters our nation has seen and she gave the Portuguese colonialists hell for their attempts to take over.

This is the story of Rani Abbakka Chowta, the fearless queen of Tulunadu.

Spread over the coastal region of Karnataka, Abbakka Devi’s princely capital of Ullal – present day 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.

The first attack on Ullal was completely pushed back by Abbakka Devi and the local chieftains.

Skilled in warfare and leading an army that included soldiers from all religions and castes, Abbakka Devi was a not a force to be messed around with. And her alliances with the neighbouring Banga dynasty and other local rulers made the local defences too much to handle.

When the Portuguese were enraged by her antics and demanded her to pay tribute, she would have none of it.

By 1555, the Portuguese sent Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira and his platoon to take Ullal by storm, and Rani Abbakka led her army that laid waste to the invaders. Over the next two decades the Portuguese continually sent forces toward Ullal who had to return with their tails between their legs.

A total of six attacks that the Portuguese planned between 1525 and 1570 were trampled on by Rani Abbakka.

With each attack she held back, the Portuguese’s fear of the warrior queen grew. In 1557, the Portuguese plundered Mangalore and then again in 1558, but both attacks were stopped right in their tracks. Although in the attack of 1568, João Peixoto, the Portuguese general and his fleet of soldiers managed to take over Ullal and enter the queen’s royal grounds. But she escaped being captured and took refuge in a mosque.

That very night, the queen gathered 200 of her best soldiers and attacked the invaders, killing General Peixoto.

In a series of retaliatory attacks that she led, Rani Abbakka managed to take back her city from the Portuguese’s clutches. And, move on to take back the Mangalore fort, killing Admiral Mascarenhas. She was unstoppable.

In the very last attack, the Portuguese managed to imprison Rani Abbakka, but she revolted inside the prison and died fighting.

In 1569, the Portuguese came back for the Managalore fort and happened to conquer Kundapur – present day Basrur. In 1570, she formed an alliance with the Bijapur Sultan of Ahmed Nagar and the Zamorine of Calicut, but the queen’s husband betrayed her and helped the Portuguese conquer Ullal. Rani Abbakka was imprisoned, but not her spirit. During the revolt inside the prison that she launched single-handed, the queen was killed.   

Today the queen is a figure of legend and mass reverence. To have led the defences and attacks against the Portuguese for over four decades, Rani Abbakka Chowta etched her name into stone as one lady that was definitely not to be trifled with.

She was absolutely unbelievable! Talk about girl power!