Medieval India: Keladi Queen Chennamma

A short biography of the brave queen Keladi Chennamma from medieval Karnataka, India, who fought against the mighty Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. She is still remembered for her valor and courage.

Keladi Town Location
Keladi Town Location | Source

There were two brave queens having same name, Chennamma. First was ruler of Keladi, a small kingdom in coastal Karanatka of India. She is known as Keladi Chennamma. Second was ruler of Kittur Kingdom of Northern Karnataka, hence known as Kittur Chennamma.

Both the queens are known for their fearless valor and war against mighty invaders.

In this short article, I am going to write about Keladi Chennamma. She was born in Kundapur, a town of Keladi Kindom. She was married to Keladi King Somashekhar Nayak in 1667 C.E.. After 10 years of her married life, in 1677 C.E. the King was murdered by rebels. Now she became ruler of this small Kingdom, which was founded in 1499 C.E. She was 11th ruler of this Dynasty. Soon after taking charge, she suppressed the rebel Generals. Then she defeated smaller chieftains in her Kingdom, who wanted to become independent.

The Queen did not have a son, so she adopted Basavappa Nayaka who was her close relative.

Keladi Chennamaa’s War against Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb was a mighty Mughal Emperor. In his cruel crusade against Maratha Empire, he killed King Sambhaji, the famous Maratha King. Now Rajaram, younger brother of Sambhaji became Chief of Marathas. Emperor Aurangzeb wanted to capture Rajaram, but the latter escaped and went to South India. He wanted to be active from Gingee, a fort in present Tamil Nadu.

In between, he met Keladi Queen Chennamma and her Cabinet. The Queen and her Cabinet welcomed and treated him with respect. He stayed there for some days.

Emperor Aurangazeb was chasing King Rajaram and attacked Keladi Kingdom to capture him. The queen resisted Aurangzeb’s mighty army by fighting the war. For Aurangzeb’s surprise, he could not defeat the queen. The war ended in a treaty between Aurangzeb and Chennamma, and the mighty emperor had to leave the Kingdom. However, according to Portuguese sources, she had to pay a huge amount and three forts to Mughals, she did this because not want to involve more in war against the Emperor.

According to Kannada sources and folklore, she defeated the Emperor.

Meanwhile, King Rajaram safely reached to Fort Gingee.

The Queen ruled Keladi for 25 years.

Trade in Queen Chennamma's Kingdom

In her rule, she made treaties with Portuguese and Arab countries for trade of rice and spices.

Religious Views of Keladi Chennamma

As the medieval Queens in India were religious, it will be interesting to know the religious views of Keladi Queen Chennamma. She, like other rulers of this Dynasty, belonged to Veershaiv Lingayat sect, a sect of Shaivism. But she was tolerant to all other faiths, including Jainism, Christianity and Islam.

The Queen had permitted Portuguese to construct Churches at various places in her Kingdom.

After her adopted son came of age, she handovered the Kingdom to him and started to spend her time in religious and social activities, and helping others. She gifted lands to many temples.

Karnataka State in India
Karnataka State in India | Source

© 2013 Mahaveer Sanglikar

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ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

It is an interesting hub about Keladi queen--Chennamma, an interesting recall to Medieval Indian history chapters, studied in our school days.

Thanks for sharing this interesting hub!

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