renowned Queen Abbakka Devi who ruled over the Ullal region of Dakshina
Kannada during the medieval period has over the ages acquired undying fame
for her brave defiance of Western invaders.
She belonged to the Jain Dynasty of the Chowtas, who ruled over a
wide domain with the temple town of Moodabidri as their headquarters. Their subsidiary capital was the port town
of Ullal on the Arabian Sea Coast.
in the Chowta dynasty was through the maternal line. The heir-apparent ruled over the Ullal. It
was a prosperous port of export of merchandise like pepper, cardamom and
other spices grown in the littoral south of the Portuguese colony of Goa. The Poruguese, the Dutch and the British
vied with one another for control of the region. Their aim was colonization
through naval supremacy. But the local Chieftains were powerful enough to
resist their incursions. They also forged alliances to prevent the foreigners
from gaining control over the coastal stretch. The fertile coastal belt thus
remained the last bastion of Independence on the West coast during the middle
ages. Resistance to alien domination cut across the caste and community lines.
Chowta head of the dynasty Thirumala Raya had ensured Abbakka’s
proficiency in martial arts and combat strategies through her training before
sending her to Ullal, he also taught her the nuances of diplomacy and
the visitor proceeds to the beach-resort of Ullal to the south of Mangalore, he
is attracted to the statue of Abbakka Devi on horseback. The inspiring
statue of the Queen with a scimitar in her hand is indeed a reminder of the
fearless Queen beckoning her army to fight the hoards of invaders attempting to
invade the territory. Her courage in rallying her soldiers to battle against
the alien forces had earned her the name of ABHAYA (fearless) Abbakka
Queen’s uncle, Thirumala Raya had forged matrimonial alliance with the
powerful head of the Banga dynasty of Mangalore. Abbakka was
married to Lakshmappa Arasa, the Mangalore monarch. Mangalore was
strategically situated to the north of Ullal across the harbour. The Bangas
ruled over a vast area that included Bangawadi at the foot of the
Western Ghats and Nandavara on the Netravathi river. The Banga – Chowta
alliance was designed as a ploy to deter any aggressors.
Abbakka Devi also had the foresight to arrive at mutual defence
friendship agreement with the Zamorin of Calicut. The Zamorin was a marked enemy of the Portuguese
colonial government in Goa. The Portuguese administration was clearly upset by
the Queen’s tactics. They wanted her to
pay them tribute for her alliance with the Zamorin. But paying them tribute
would have implied knuckling down to their blandishments. The Queen therefore
did not yield to their preposterous threat. That also would have meant
conceding their authority over the Arabian Sea-coast. The Queen decided to
withstand the threat posed by the foreign depredators. The Portugese
administration of Goa sent a formidable naval force down the Arabian Sea to
take over Ullal by storming the port. The Queen took up the challenge
and met force by force. The battle against the Portuguese invaders took place
in 1456 A.D. There was no clear decision in the battle. It ended with an uneasy
by Abbakka Devi’s dominance, the Portuguese colonialists sent a much
more formidable naval contingent to the Ullal area two years later. The
next confrontation with the Queen’s forces followed in 1958. But when the
Prouguese fleet led by Louis DE’ mellow
attempted to take over Ullal they were confronted by a strong counter
attack by the Queen’s army. The
Portuguese were surprised by the Zamorin’s men who came to the aid of
Queen Abbakka. The Arab Moors and the Muslim battallions of Malabar and
southern Karnataka were also there to help the Queen’s forces.
Portuguese invaders who were rattled then proceeded to go on a spree of sacking
and pillaging the Ullal settlement. A number of houses were burnt down in this
nefarious venture of indiscriminate plunder. The depredators were, however,
stunned with the courageous defiance by the Queen’s soldiers. The Italian
chronicler Pietro De’ valle said that the Queen’s astounding feat was on par
with that of the British Queen Elizabeth I who defeated the Spanish armada.
Portuguese freebooters who were thus beaten back then hit upon the ploy of
concluding a trade pact with the Queen. Under the pretext of this arrangement
they persisted with their bullying
tactics. The Queen was asked not to strengthen her trade ties with the Zamorin.
They also denounced the Queen’s trade agreement with Persia as a hostile act.
The Portuguese imperialists sent a demarche to Queen Abbakka asking her
to route all trade transactions with other countries through their
intermediaries. Portuguese agents should be permitted to set up trade depots at
Ullal, they demanded. But the
Queen turned down their plea for any concessions.
and treachery were the other weapons deployed by the Portuguese colonialists.
They began resorting to upset Queen Abbakka by plotting discord between
her and her husband’s court at Mangalore.
They also bribed Kama Raya, the
ambitious heir-apparent to the throne of Abbakka Devi’s husband, King Lakshmappa
Arasa. The senior counsellors of
the Mangalore king’s court were also similarly bought over. The King was served
with a stern warning that the Mangalore settlement would be burnt down if he
were to help out the Ullal Queen.
The King was thus prevented from sending reinforcements to help his wife
Abbakka Devi in the next round of hostilities against the Portuguese
between Queen Abbakka and the Portuguese continued unabated with the
colonial power determined to make inroads into the Indian mainland. They
attempted to seize and annex the Ullal territory by overthrowing the
Queen. In the year 1481 A.D. the Goa Viceroy Anthony D’ Noronha led the attack
against Ullal by an overwhelmingly superior armada. He came to the Ullal
sea-front with a large number of battleships and a contingent of 3000
troops. Launching a pre-dawn surprise
attack, the Portuguese mercenaries sneaked into the Ullal settlement.
They set upon a rampage of indiscriminate killing, large-scale looting and
Queen who had gone to the Somanatheshwara temple was alerted about the
treacherous invasion. She rushed to
the battle-front rallying her forces to fight the enemy in a never-say-die defiance.
She sounded the battle-cry of “Save the motherland, fight the invaders on land
and the sea and push them back to the waters”.
Abbakka led her men a desperate counter attack in her firm
resolve to safeguard the freedom of the motherland to the last breath of her
indomitable Queen came under a barrage of gunfire and was grievously hurt. Her
loyal soldiers carried the Queen away so that the trecherous aliens do not lay
their perfidious hands on her. Abbakka Devi was whisked away to the
palace. Even as she breathed her last the Queen was heard sighing, “Push them
back, throw them into the sea”.
That was the brave Queen’s swan
song. (PIB Features)
**Senior Freelance Writer