Choral Ghats are duly crossed we traverse through Belgaum town, unfortunately we did not really stop to see around Belgaum, and shot out to Kittur that is 30kms away on the new high way. For me this is a dream come true.
Enroute we did cross the summer Vidhana Soudha an abridged version of the Vidhana soudha in Bangalore, well let us talk about it sometime later. When I have actually explored it. This was the day I finally got to pay homage to a woman I looked up to. Who fired my pre-teen imagination with valour and strength.
ಕನ್ನಡ ನಾಡಿನ ವೀರ ರಮಣಿಯ, ಗಂಡು ಭೂಮಿಯ ವೀರ ನಾರಿಯ … probably something that most Kannada kids of my generation sang in their bathrooms. Maybe some of us even picked up an Amar Chitra Katha that had the story of Kittur Rani Chennamma, the High school text books even granted her an acknowledgement in the History textbook when talking about Thackeray, they don’t mention the other queens like Keladi Chennamma, or Abakka Devi, a watchman’s wife Obavva has become a folk legend and her existence is overlooked by the historians as the “academic historians don’t acknowledge her” anyway that is not what I am writing about.
As we entered the town we asked someone the way to the fort, the way he directed us was really funny, turned as if to running parallel to the car, and told us” ಇನ್ನುಯಾರ್ಗೂಕೇಳೇಬೆಡ್ರಿ, ಸೀಧಾಹೋಗ್ರಿ, ಪೊಲಿಸ್ಚೌಕಿಬರ್ತೈತೆ, ಓಳಕ್ಕೆಹೋದ್ರೆಕೀಲ್ಐತ್ರಿ.” That roughly translates to now don’t bother asking anyone for direction just go straight ahead and you will enter the fort. This was exactly what it was.
The legend of Chennamma, she was born in kakati of Belgaum district in the year 1778, Oct.23rd died on feb.21st 1829 that was the well before the 1857 rebellion. To the Kannadiga, she is the beacon of the resistance to British. Chennamma was born to Desai Kakati family she received training in horse riding, sword fighting and archery.
She was married off to Raja Mallasarja of the Desai family and had a son. In 1824 she adopted Shivalingappa, after her son died and declared him the heir to the throne. The British did not accept this and decided to annex Kittur. The Queen Chennamma and her lieutenant Sangolli Rayanna tried to repel the British leading to the destruction of the fort, capturing the queen and she died in imprisonment.
Lord Elphinstone who was in charge of the Bombay presidency under which Kittur came had turned down the plea of Rani Chennamma, the British were out to confiscate the treasure and jewels of Kittur, then valued at 15 lakhs. The British attacked with a force of 200 men and four guns mainly from the Madras Artillery. Amatur Balappa a lieutenant of Chennamma did manage to kill the collector and political agent St.John Thackeray. Sir Walter Elliot and Mr.Steveson were taken hostages; the negotiation was their release against cessation of war.
Chaplin did not honour his word; the war continued with reinforcement coming from Sholapur this time round the sub collector of Sholapur who was the nephew of Thomas Munro got killed. Rani Chennamma was ultimately captured and imprisoned in Bailhongal where she died on feb.21st 1829. Sangolli Rayanna her lieutenant continued the war, but he was captured and hung as was her lieutenant Gurusidappa.
This was the promise Gurusiddappa made to Chennamma, today the town of Kittur honours her Queen by dedicating the festival of Kittur to her. The festival of Kittur or Kittur-Utsava happens annually in the month of Oct. From 22nd– 24th.
Lieutenant Sangolli Rayanna. (15th aug.1798-26th January 1831)
The warrior from the Kuruba community was born on 15th august 1798. He was the chief of army of Kittur during the rebellion of 1824. He mobilized the people to form a guerrilla type of war. As the British found it impossible to capture him in an open combat they used treachery to do so. He was captured in 1830 he was executed by hanging him to a banyan tree 4 kms of Nandagad in Belgaum on 26th January 1831.
Gurusiddappa and the Siddi warrior Gajaveera were the leaders of the war along with Sangolli Rayanna from 1829-1831
The village of Sangolli honours its son, by dedicating a community hall to his name, and a temple in which stands the statue of Sangolli Rayanna flanked by two wooden weights believed to have been used by him.
The fort at kittur is a little off the national highway between Pune and Bangalore. This fort shot into prominence in the first decade of the 19th century when it was ruled by Desai’s. It is believed that the fort had multiple levels and had a hall where 1000 people could dine at a time. What remains in the ruins, are the observatory, the well organized waterways, a well planned bathing area. Cannons from the armoury. The structure of moat is still visible. The temple of the village goddess is intact and so are the watch towers.
The fort also houses a museum maintained by the archaeological survey of India this museum was inaugurated on Jan.10th 1967 by Smt.Indira Gandhi. The museum houses local artefacts and the remnants of the house of Desai’s. The person effects of the Desai’s like the shields, swords, maces, laces are housed in this museum. The shield was carved from the shell of a dead turtle.
The museum also has relics from the Chalukya and Vijayanagar period. These sculptures are depiction of daily life of the period in addition to the spiritual ones. The excavated sites also show sculptures of Buddhist and Jain pantheon. Inscription stones of ancient Kannada lipi and pre-modi lipi are also seen. Some major artifices are
The anandatandava sculpture.
The 8th century Mahishasura mardhini who looks so alive and as if caught in movement. The idol of the 23rd Thirtankara, the tombstone of Warriors called Veeragallu, and the Mahasati kallu. Medieval metal inscriptions and coins. Contemporary paintings are all part of this museum.
The authorities of the museum very diligently maintain the museum premises, photography is not allowed as it could damage the artefact.
The silent bards, of long forgotten heroes, it is as Kittur sings… ಕನ್ನಡ ನಾಡಿನ ವೀರ ರಮಣಿಯ, ಗಂಡು ಭೂಮಿಯ ವೀರ ನಾರಿಯ … ಚರಿತೆಯ ನಾನು ಹಾಡುವೆ.
More Traveler Tales at http://www.carconnect.in.
Photographs courtesy Jahnavi Koushik.