Abbakka Rani or Abbakka Mahadevi was the queen of Tulunadu who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16thcentury. She fought various battles (6 battles) against Portuguese successfully defending her fort in Ullal. However she lost the last battle due to treachery of her estranged husband. She was captured and jailed where she died during a revolt.
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Abbakka Rani or Abbakka Mahadevi was the queen of Tulunadu who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16thcentury. She belonged to the Chowta dynasty who ruled over the area from the temple town of Moodabidri. The port town of Ullal served as their subsidiary capital.
The Chowtas followed a matrilineal system by which Tirumala Raya, Abbakka’s uncle, crowned her the queen of Ullal. He also forged a matrimonial alliance for Abbakka with Lakshmappa Arasa, the powerful king of neighbouring Mangalore. This alliance was to later prove a source of worry for the Portuguese. Tirumala Raya also trained Abbakka in the different aspects of warfare and military strategy. The marriage, however was short lived and Abbakka returned to Ullal. Her husband thus longed for revenge against Abbakka and was to later join the Portuguese in their fight against Abbakka.
Though Abbakka was a Jain by faith, her administration was well represented by Hindus and Muslims. Her army too consisted of people of all sects and castes including the Mogaveeras, a fisher folk community. She even forged alliances with the Zamorin of Calicut and other Muslim rulers south of Tulunadu towards this end. Together, they kept the Portuguese at bay.
Ullal fort, the capital of Abbakka’s kingdom, is located just a few kilometers away from the city of Mangalore, on the shores of the Arabian Sea. It is a historical as well as a pilgrim spot because of the beautiful Shiva Temple built by the Queen and a unique natural rock, called the Rudra Rock. The rock appears to change colours every second, as the sweater splashes on it.
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, the super profitable port of Mangalore.
War with Portuguese
The Portuguese first attacked the South Kanara coast and destroyed the Mangalore port, before advancing towards Ullal which was meant to be a strategically important port. Rani Abbakka was alerted by the incident and started preparing herself to protect her kingdom.
The Portuguese demanded that she pay them tribute but Abbakka refused to yield. In 1555, the Portuguese sent Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira to fight her after she refused to pay them tribute. In the battle that followed, Rani Abbakka repulsed the attack successfully.
Two years later, the Portuguese attacked with a larger force and were able to ransack the settlement at Ullal to some extent. However, Rani Abbakka’s masterful battle tactics and diplomatic strategy pushed them back once again.
During the next battle in 1568, the Portuguese army under General Joao Peixoto attacked Ullal and managed to capture the royal palace. However, Rani Abbakka escaped before they could capture her.
The same night, she gathered around 200 of her soldiers and mounted an attack on the Portuguese. In the battle that ensued, General Peixoto was killed,seventy Portuguese soldiers were taken prisoners and many of the Portuguese retreated. In further attacks, Abbakka Rani and her supporters killed Admiral Mascarenhas and the Portuguese were also forced to vacate the Mangalore fort.
In the very last attack, the Portuguese managed to imprison Rani Abbakka, but she revolted inside the prison and died fighting.
In 1569 however, the Portuguese not only regained the Mangalore fort but also captured Kundapur (Basrur). Despite these gains, Abbakka Rani continued to remain a source of threat. With the help of the queen’s estranged husband, they mounted attacks on Ullal. Furious battles followed but Abbakka Rani held her own. In 1570, she formed an alliance with the Bijapur Sultan of Ahmed Nagar and the Zamorine of Calicut, who where also opposing the Portuguese. Kutty Pokar Markar, the Zamorine’s general fought on behalf of Abbakka and destroyed the Portuguese fort at Mangalore but while returning he was killed by the Portuguese. Following these losses and her husband’s treachery, Abbakka lost the war, was arrested and jailed. However, even in prison she revolted and died fighting.
According to traditional accounts, she was an immensely popular queen and this is also attested by the fact that she is even today a part of folklore. The queen’s story has been retold from generation to generation through folk songs and Yakshagana, a popular folk theatre in Tulu Nadu.
The legendary queen of Ullal continues to live on in the folk culture of the Dakshin Kannada region (through Bhuta Kola and Yakshagana). In the recent years, her story has been gradually coming to public attention.
Dakshin Kannada has been holding an annual celebration in her memory (Veera Rani Abbakka Utsava) for the last few years.
In 2003, Indian Post issued a special stamp dedicated to Rani Abbakka while in 2015, the Indian Navy acknowledged her naval heroics by naming a patrol vessel after her.
Legends also claim that Abbakka was the last known person to have used the Agnivana (fire-arrow) in her fight against the Portuguese. Some accounts also claim that she had two equally valiant daughters who fought alongside her in her wars against the Portuguese. Tradition however treats all three - mother and two daughters as the same person.
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