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Rani Chennamma, queen of princely state Kittur

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    Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 3:30pm
Kitturu Rani Chennamma was the queen of the princely state of Kittur in Karnataka. In 1824, 33 years before the 1857 war of independence, she led an armed rebellion against the British.The resistance ended in her martyrdom and she is remembered today as one of the earliest Indian rulers to have fought for independence. Along with Abbakka Rani, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva she is much venerated in Karnataka as an icon of bravery and women's pride.

Chennamma was born in Kakati, a small village in the wealthy kingdom of Kittur, which stood around 5 km north of Belgaum in Karnataka. In her youth she received training in horse riding, sword fighting and archery. She became queen of her native kingdom and married Raja Mallasarja, of the Desai family, and had one son; after her son's death in 1824 she adopted Shivalingappa, and made him heir to the throne. The British East India Company did not accept this and ordered Shivalingappa's expulsion, using doctrine of lapse (officially codified between 1848 and 1856 by Lord Dalhousie), but Chennamma defied the order: a battle ensued, during which Chennamma fought fiercely with the aid of her lieutenant, Sangolli Rayanna, but was ultimately captured and imprisoned at Bailhongal Fort, where she died on 21 February 1829.

Chennamma, born 56 years before the 1857 rebel Rani Laxmi Bai, was the first woman to fight against British governance and the kappa tax. Her legacy and first victory are still commemorated in Kittur, during the Kittur Utsava of every 22–24 October. The festival is similar to the Mysore Dasara.
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