Queen Abbakka of Tulunadu and Her Wars against Portuguese Invaders

Italian Traveler Pietro Della Valle meets Queen Abbakka
Italian Traveler Pietro Della Valle meets Queen Abbakka

-Mahavir Sanglikar

A brief biography of the great Queen Abbakka, who fought against Portuguese invaders in 16th century in Tulunadu, South India.

Queen Abbakka was as brave queen of 16th century India. She fought against the Portuguese invaders tactfully and defeated them again and again. Many local folk songs, Portuguese records and the accounts of 16 century travelers to southern parts of India reveal queen Abbakka's life and her braveness. This article is a short introduction to the life and time of the queen.

Portuguese Entered India

India was a major exporter of spices from ancient time. The spices were exported to Middle East countries by sea route, and then to Europe by land route. King John II of Portugal ordered his Captains to find a Sea Route to India by sailing around Africa. After several attempts by many Captains, a Sea Route was discovered by Vasco Da Gama, a Portuguese explorer.

On 20th May of 1498, Vasco Da Gama's fleet arrived at Calicut, a port on West Coast of South India. He met Zamorin, the local King. Vasco Da Gama received a warm welcome from the King, but failed to establish trade relations with him. However he was successful in carrying a huge amount of mercantile with him when he returned to Portugal. The value of the mercantile was sixty times of the expedition cost.

Inspired by this success, Vasco Da Gama once again visited India with 15 ships and 800 men in 1502 C.E.

More Portuguese fleets started to visit West Cost of India. Eventually, Portuguese captured lands and built four forts on the West Coast. This was foundation of Portuguese rule in India.

Chowta Tirumal Raya III and his Niece Abbakka

Between 1510 C.E. to 1544 C.E., Tirumal Raya (III) was the King of Chowta Dynasty. Abbakka was his niece. Tirumal Raya trained her in horse riding, martial arts, sword fighting, archery, warfare, politics, diplomacy, military strategy and other subjects that were essential for every princess of the dynasty. When she became a young women, the King asked her about her preferences in choosing a price to marry with him. She replied, "He should be brave, ambitious, independent and suitable for me".

She married to Laxmappa, a young King of Banga dynasty, ruling from its Capital Mangalore, which was just a few Kilometers away from Ullal. Abbakka stayed at Ullal palace, while Laxmappa stayed at Mangalore.

Abbakaa Becomes a Ruler of Chowta Dynasty

Tirumal Raya III died in 1544 C.E. After him, Abbakka became successor of Chowta Dynasty. But in fact, she was administrating the kingdom from 1525 C.E. Her husband Laxmappa died in 1556 C.E. He had a son-in-law Kamraya, who came successor of Banga Dynasty at Mangalore.

Queen Abbakka's Conflicts with Portuguese Invaders

Until now, the Portuguese had established their rule at many places on Western Coast of India, as well as on the sea routes in Arabian sea. They captured Goa, a region in North side of west coast, away from Calicut, the capital of Zamorin and then started to attack its southern parts. In 1525 C.E. they attacked Mangalore port of Tulunadu, and destroyed it. Queen Abbakka, ruling from Ullal Port just a few Kilo Meters away from Mangalore was alerted by this attack and prepared for defense of Ullal.

Battle with Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira

At that time Ullal port was a major center of Spice trade, from where spices were exported to Middle East countries. Portuguese wanted that the queen pay them tribute, but she always refused to do so. They also wanted that the spices and other mercantile should be sold to them only, instead of directly exporting to other countries.Ignoring their demands, Abbakka sent four ships loaded with spices to Middle East.

Angered by her actions, the Portuguese decided to attack Ullal and sent Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira to take an action. Alvaro's ships anchored near Ullal Port. For his surprise, at that night his ships were surrounded by boats of Abbaka's navy. The boatmen threw fireballs on the ships, and forced the Portuguese fleet to surrender. Four Ships of Portuguese invaders were seized by Abbakka's navy. Naval ships of King Zamorin of Calicut as well as King Venkatappa Nayak of Keladi helped Abbakaa in this battle.

This was a major setback for Portuguese invaders and they did not dare to attack Ullal for next 12 years. However they attacked Mangalore for two times after the first attack on Ullal, in 1557 and 1558, killed many of the people including young and old, men and women and then set the city on fire.

Second Portuguese Attack on Ullal Port: 1567

In 1567, Portuguese invaded Ullal Port once again. But they failed in their mission because of the successful resistance from Queen Abbakka.

Third Portuguese Attack on Ullal Port: 1568

In 1568, Portuguese Viceroy António Noronha sent a big force with Admiral Mascarenhas and General Joe Pixeto to attack Ullal Port and town. The Portuguese forces were very careful and well prepared this time. They captured the port and entered the city setting the houses on fire and killing the people. General Joe Pixeto himself entered the Royal Court with his soldiers.

Meanwhile the queen escaped from the town and took a shelter in a Mosque in a village. Then before dawn, she entered the town again with her 200 brave soldiers by a secret way and attacked Portuguese soldiers at the Royal Court. In this unexpected and terrific attack, General Joe Pixeto and his 70 soldiers were killed, many others were seriously wounded and many ran away to save their lives.

While General Joe Pixeto and his soldiers were suffering from the attack, Admiral Mascarenhas and his navy men were enjoying their victory on the town at other places. But now it was their turn. Another 500 brave soldiers of Abbakka entered the town and attacked them. Admiral Mascarenhas and most of his navy men were killed.

This is a rare case in the history of battles where both the General and Admiral were killed in one battle.

Abbakka Attacks Mangalore Fort: 1568

Confident Queen Abbakka attacked Mangalore Fort with her 6000 soldiers in 1568 C.E., which was captured by Portuguese invaders. Again it was the Queen's victory over Portuguese invaders as they could not stand against her in this battle.

Queen Abbakka in Memories

Queen Abbakka died in 1575, and her daughter became the next successor of Chowta Dynasty. She was equally brave to her mother. There are many stories about her braveness, but they are mixed with Queen Abbakka's stories. I have excluded the daughter's stories from Abbakka's stories.

In folklore of Tulunadu, memories of Queen Abbakaa are well preserved. Many of the facts in the folklore are supported by Portuguese records.

Queen Abbakka is a very popular historical person in Tulunadu, as well as in Karnataka state of India. But she was ignored by historians until recent years. But now more and more scholars and historians are working on this great queen's contribution to India's struggle against Western colonial rule.

To commemorate this great queen, the first inshore vessel of Coast Guards of India was named after her. A research institute and a museum is established at Mangalore. A scholarly book containing historical findings about her has been published.

A full length movie in Kannada language is being produced by a renowned actress Jayamala of Karnataka.

A famous comics books publisher of India has published the illustrated story of Queen Abbakka.

The queen was portrayed on a First Day Cover of a postage stamp issued by India post.

I myself am writing a book on the queen in Marathi language, which is my first language. The book will be later translated in Hindi and English. That will be my tribute to the great queen.

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Comments 6 comments

prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 3 years ago from Tumkur

A very beautiful hub.Narration is clear and factual. Queen Abbakka's capital Ullal is near Mangalore and presently, a part of Mangalore city corporation.

A bronze statue of Queen Abbakka is set up in Bangalore, some years ago, At Yashavathapur circle in Bangalore,near Vivekananda College.

Dr.Hampana,eminent scholar, has penned a book in English, titled 'Coastal queens of Karnataka'-wherein he has sketched the life and works of Abbakka and Chennabhairadevi.


shefali 4 years ago

can u tell me about henphy caves


jainismus profile image

jainismus 4 years ago from Pune, India Author

Man from Modesto,

It is a new information for me. Thank you for sharing it.


Just History profile image

Just History 5 years ago from England

A period of history that i had only ever read from the european perspective- thank you so much for this interesting hub


MazioCreate profile image

MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

Interesting point in history for all concerned. Thanks for writing this hub as I hadn't heard or read about Queen Abbakka before. A very feisty ruler who thoroughly understood trade and wanted to maintain a healthy economy for her region.


Man from Modesto profile image

Man from Modesto 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine (formerly Modesto, California)

The Portuguese were also pagans: Catholics. The Catholics have more recently begun to call themselves "Christians", calling themselves after Christ, whom Christians follow and by which name they call themselves. Catholics, contrarily, follow the pope. They should be called "popians" or "Romans", for that is who they follow. The Roman pope (Rome is now a country, and the pope is king of Rome, so it is appropriate to call him "Roman").

In fact, both Islam and catholicism are planning to merge. This is why "prayer beads" are now made popular in Islam. This is why many Muslims have received letters telling them it is okay to pray to Mary. This is why the catholic "catechism" now teaches that muslims will enter Heaven, but Protestants still will not.

The truth is, what men say is not important at all. It is only important what God says. God say about Jesus, "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased." He said this several times to many people: Mary, John the Baptist, and Peter, James & John on the mount. God also said that whoever receives Jesus is redeemed. He said that whoever rejects Jesus as the Son of God and Redeemer, "has never known God."

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