Back in Lisbon, King John III of Portugal was impatient and angry. The king ordered the minister to bring Paixioto, the army chief who had gone to conquer India, before him as soon as possible.
KING JOHN : Are you not ashamed to say that Mr. Paixiotto is the army chief of Portugal?
Who is Rani Abbaka Chauta? Who is the pepper queen?
Who is that black woman? What military power do they have that we don’t?
You fought that Indian black woman many times and lost; in Europe England, France, Germany, Italy are all laughing at us. The Portuguese could not defeat a small uncivilized Indian princely state!!. Aren’t you ashamed to come and stand in front of me after losing to an Indian woman more than once? Why did you come here? Couldn’t Mr. have jumped into the sea on the way?
King John III of Portugal is questioning and criticizing Paixioto, the army chief.
This journey is in search of that Indian woman who was called the Pepper Queen by foreigners and who made even the King of Portugal tremble. Ullal is a coastal town near Mangalore. A very small inland town compared to Mangalore. Ullal has a railway station. Ullal is the southernmost railway station in Karnataka. After Ullal station, which has no stop for any major trains, the next station is Manjeshwaram in Kerala. Manjeswaram is also a small station with no stops for major trains. When you drive down Ullal, you will see a lot of shady trees. With the wind caressing their leaves, there are centuries of stories and history. Those who like to wait for it can come with me.
We have to go to Rani Abbaka Chowta Circle in the heart of Ullal town. A statue of Rani Abbaka is installed there. Until we get there, let me tell you some myths that I know. Don’t come with Nayana expecting any beautiful views. History lovers will surely feel that they came along at the end of this journey in vain. I am sure of it.
Ullal was one of the Tulunadan principalities that emerged from the disintegrating Alupa kingdom around the twelfth-thirteenth centuries. A princely state that shared a border with the Kumbala Seema in present-day Kerala. The northern border of today’s Kerala and Karnataka is roughly the same as that of Kumbala Seema and Ullal. The kingdom was ruled by the Chauta dynasty, a Tulunadan Jain Band family. They were local rulers under the Alupa dynasty. The entire Tulunad was included under the rule of the Alupas. This kingdom was known as Alwaketa. All the thirteen Tulunadan kingdoms that arose with the fall of Alvaketa came to serve as minor kingdoms, acknowledging the supremacy of Vijayanagara. Ullal was one of them but later Ullal got confused with Vijayanagaram.
They took such a strong decision during the reign of Abbakka Chowta Maharani, who is known as the iron woman of this great kingdom, not just Ullal. Even today that brave woman is a great symbol of bravery and womanhood not only in Ulla but in the entire country. When we know more about Abbaka, we understand that our history has rejected Rani Abbaka, who was the first Indian woman ruler who fought relentlessly against foreign invaders. Rani Abbaka Mahadevi Chouta was described as the pepper queen by the King of Portugal.
Rani Abbaka Mahadevi Chautta is steeped in both history and mythology. While history records that there were originally four Queen Abbakas, in the Nativ tradition there is only one Abbaka. The reason for this is that all Abbakas are equally at war with the Portuguese invaders who came to eat their own land. The most famous of them was Abbaka Mahadevi Chauta who lived between 1525-1570 CE. It is believed that their mother’s name and a sister’s name were Abbacca.
Chauta dynasty were Digambara Jains. They were tolerant of other religions. That is why we can see many Hindu temples and mosques along with Jain bastions in these princely areas. Their early capital was the port town of Ullal, but later it was shifted to Putige and Moodbidri. We will talk about that in another chapter. This chapter is devoted to Queen Abbaka rather than the Chauta dynasty.
Before Abbaka, Ullal was ruled by their uncle Tirumala Raya Chowta. During his time, Abbaka was declared the next crown prince. Abbaka was trained in martial arts and war tactics from an early age. Father and uncle were teachers. Abbaka studied warfare under them and became very proficient in the tactics of warfare. The Chauta dynasty maintained the son-in-law system. Realizing his daughter-in-law’s ability in war and kingship, Tirumala Raya raised her daughter-in-law to the rank of a king during her lifetime and stood by her with all the necessary instructions and support.
Tirumala Raya Abbaka was married off to Lakshmappa Bangara Arasa, the king of Banga kingdom, to strengthen his fight against foreign powers. But this ended in failure. Like Ullal, Bangavadi was one of the thirteen principalities of Tulunad. The capital of this kingdom was located in the valley of the Western Ghats called Bangati. Bangavadi was a kingdom that was loyal to Vijayanagara like other Tulunadan kingdoms. Vijayanagara was the main ally of the Portuguese in India. Thus Lakshmapa had to make friends with the Portuguese. Lakshmapa advised Abbaka to obey the Portuguese. It caused a rift between them. Due to various reasons, the married life of Abbaka and Lakshmapa did not continue for long.
After returning all the gold given by Lakshmapa during the marriage, Abbaka renounced his relationship with Lakshmapa and returned to Ullal along with his children. During this period the Portuguese launched several attacks to conquer Ulla. Abbaka put aside the sorrows of his personal life and engaged in activities to wage war against the Portuguese. Although commonly referred to as the Battles of Abbakka, it actually begins with Abbakka I and ends with Abbakka II. Of these, Abbaka II divorced the Bangara king Lakshmappa and clashed with the Portuguese.
It was the lifelong dream of the Portuguese to establish a trade monopoly on the coasts of Tulunadan, which were a paradise for spices, just like the Malabar coast. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, Ullal was a country that had good trade relations with the Arabs and other foreign countries. Although a small kingdom of only two hundred villages, the income earned through the spice trade made Ullal a wealthy kingdom. Even the king of Arabia was very impressed with Abbaqa. They imported spices from Ullal paying higher prices.
Meanwhile, the Parangas who came from Europe for trade did not buy goods and go back, instead, they came to Aramana and ordered Abbaka to pay tribute in recognition of their suzerainty. Their insolent proposals were that all trade should be conducted only through Portuguese intermediaries and that prices would be decided by the Portuguese. Queen Abbaka didn’t have to think about anything else. Rani’s glance was enough for the army to beat the Parangis from Aramana to Kadapuram and send them back on board the ship they came from. Ullal was a kingdom that was small in area but had a strong army. There was a separate section for Muslims in the army. Rani received support from Muslims, Hindus and Jains alike.
The retreating army then attacked Ullal again in 1555 CE under the command of Admiral Dom Alvaro. Abbaka defeated the Portuguese in that battle on the shores of Tulunadan. In 1557 CE, Mangalore was conquered by the Portuguese under the command of General Paixioto, a Portuguese military commander. Mangalore is just 13 km from Ullal. The Portuguese army marched from Mangalore to Ullal. Abbaka did not expect this sudden attack. On hearing the news of the conquest of Mangalore, Abbaka shifted to a nearby dargah. When the Portuguese came, Ullal was completely deserted. They searched for Rani but could not find her. The Portuguese soldiers, thinking that the queen and the army might have fled, started a triumphant celebration. They drank and became intoxicated and amused themselves by looting and plundering all the houses, shrines, and palaces of Ullal. At the same time, Abbaka was organizing his troops hiding in the dargah. Abbaka attacked the Portuguese camp that night with about two hundred Muslim soldiers, which he managed to organize in that short time. The Portuguese defense crumbled.
General Paixiot was killed. Around 70 Portuguese soldiers were captured and imprisoned. In the ensuing battle, the Portuguese general Mascaras was killed and the Portuguese were forced to leave Mangalore.
It was captured in 1565 CE and a fort was built there. This annoyed Abbaka. The Portuguese presence in Mangalore was a threat to Ullal’s security. Realizing that they could dominate Ullal only by eliminating Rani Abbaka, the Portuguese approached Abbaka’s ex-husband, Lakshmapa Arasa of Bangavadi. Bangavadi, which was loyal to Vijayanagara, was also loyal to the Portuguese. When the Portuguese approached Lakshmapa for help in capturing Abbaka, the Bangavadi king, who harbored a previous enmity with Abbaka, betrayed his beloved for the Portuguese. Lakshmappa, who was well aware of Abbaka’s war tactics and the strength of his army, leaked military secrets to the Portuguese.
How many of us can make the great decision not to divulge to another the secrets that one confided in us when we were once good friends, even if we become enemies in the future!
On learning of this move by the Portuguese, Abbaka sent a message to the Zamoutiri Raja of Kozhikode and Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur requesting their help. In 1570 CE, Portuguese forces attacked Ullal with the help of Bangavadi king. The Ullal army led by the Rani attacked the Portuguese from land and the Kozhikode naval force led by Kunjali Maraikkar II alias Kutti Poker Ali Maraikkar attacked the Portuguese from the sea. The unexpected presence of the Kozhikode army on the coast literally shocked the Portuguese and Lakshmappa. The Kunjali Marayaks wreaked havoc on the Portuguese camp. Abbacca’s army was skilled in the war strategy of sending fiery arrows into the enemy camp. This is called ‘Sutedare’. Abbaka’s name also goes down in history as the last queen to use fiery arrows in battle.
Tens of thousands of volleys of fire in response to the Portuguese artillery rained fire on the enemy camps. Abbaka and his army destroyed the Portuguese fort in Mangalore and planted the flag of victory. After completing the defeat of the Portuguese, on the way back to Kannur, another troop of Kunjali Marakakr who was lurking in the sea was caught and killed by the Portuguese army, which caused a great emotional shock to Queen Abbaka. Also, Lakshmapa’s act of betraying her to the Portuguese made Rani mentally weak. Within a few days, the Portuguese attacked Ullal again. In this battle, Abbacca was mortally wounded and captured. Abbaka was imprisoned by the Portuguese. It is said that they brutally executed Abbaka, who was not ready to accept the Portuguese suzerainty despite being in prison.
There are various opinions about Abbacca’s death. There is a legend that he was captured by the Portuguese while traveling through the Netravati river at night. It is also said that Abbaka’s head was cut off and displayed at the crossroads. Such atrocities were commonly committed by the Portuguese. The intention of such acts was to instill fear among the people that this would be the case with those who opposed the Portuguese. The Portuguese were the cruelest and vile of the invaders who came to India.
The news of Abbaka’s death came as a shock to the Samuthiri. The year immediately after Abbaka’s death, ie 1571 CE, Pattu Ali Maraykar alias Kunhali Maraykar III became the naval commander of Samuthiri and defeated the Portuguese in the Battle of Chalium. Again the Portuguese launched attacks against the Samodhiri but they could not succeed in any of them. During the reign of Kunjali Maraikar IV, the Portuguese once again established a foothold on the western coasts, taking advantage of the differences with the then Samuthiri and forming an alliance with the Samutiri against the Kunjali Maraikars. But with the death of Kunjali Maraikar IV, the Samodhiri again turned against the Portuguese.
The Portuguese never gained a monopoly of trade or administrative control in Malabar, except through repeated skirmishes with the Zamorin and failed peace. In fact, history marks the foundation of the Portuguese presence on the Kerala coast with the Battle of Chalium in 1571 CE. The Battles of Abbaca are said to have been the forerunners of the Battle of Challium.
Abbaka is probably a title. There are queens who ruled over Ullal at various times under the name Abbaka. Many of them fought against the Portuguese. Of these, Rani Abbaka Mahadevi Chauta, who lived between CE1525 – 1570, became a brave martyr.
Abhay Rani is also known as the fearless one. Foreign travelers have recorded that Queen Abbaka looked like an ordinary woman, who was dressed very simply, unlike other kings and queens. The Portuguese often failed to recognize the Abbaca, who dressed like men during the war.
In the heart of Ullal town, a full-length statue of Abbaka on horseback and fighting with a sword is installed at a place called Rani Abbaka Circle. This is where we started our journey. Apart from Ullal, there are statues of Abbaka Rani in Moodbidri and Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. A ship of the Indian Coast Guard is named Rani Abbakka. The Tulu Bataku Museum named after Rani Abbaka in Mangalore houses a lot of historical information.
Rani Abbaka, who defeated the Portuguese several times over 300 years earlier than the Jhansi Rani who fought against the British, is considered the first woman fighter in the history of the Indian freedom struggle. Abbaka Rani is a role model not only in the wars against the Portuguese but also in the development activities of the country. Many dams and port developments were implemented during his reign. History highlights Queen Abbaka not only as a symbol of bravery but also as a symbol of leadership skills and a symbol of women’s freedom. About that freedom struggle martyr who was a multifaceted genius that needs to be told in so much detail; Do we write at least one line about that brave woman in the Malayali history textbooks?