She ruled over a small state, Keladi, for twenty-five years (1671-1696) but proved herself a great and heroic queen. She protected the kingdom when her husband failed in his duty. And she faced the wrath of the mighty Aurangazeb and gave shelter to Rajaram, Shivaji’s son.
She was the Queen of an ancient State. She had no husband. Still, she fought with the many foes around and freed the kingdom from several dangers. But soon she had to face another danger.
Aurangzeb (who Chatrapati Shivaji tried to kill from when he got the concept of Swaraj) was the Moghul Emperor then.
‘Alamgir’ was his title. Alamgir means one who has conquered the whole world. Aurangzeb had conquered many kingdoms in North India and had turned his eyes towards the South. His thirst for expansion was not yet quenched and his vast, powerful army attacked this small State.
The reason given was that the Queen had given shelter to the son of Maharaja Shivaji.
But the Queen was not afraid. Nor did she feel sorry. She did not ask for pardon. She faced the attack like a heroic woman. When the enemies themselves withdrew their attack and begged for a treaty, she was quite generous.
This heroic Queen and noble lady was Queen Chennamma of Keladi.
Chennamma ruled the kingdom of Keladi for twenty-five years. She had the complexion of a pearl, with bright eyes and a broad forehead. A long nose and curly hair adorned a face of royal dignity. The beautiful Queen was full of good qualities too. And she could kill her enemies in the battles, like Durga (the goddess of power). Beauty, valor, pity, and generosity all blended in this great Queen.
An Extraordinary King
Keladi was a kingdom in the Malnad area of Karnataka. The first King of Keladi was Chowdappa Nayaka who came to the throne in 1500.
He was a great hero.
In about 1645, the able King Shivappa Nayaka came to the throne. During his reign, many reforms were effected in Keladi. This King became famous as a great ruler because of his administrative reforms. Government and collection of taxes were so systematized that he came to be called ‘Shistina Shivappa Nayaka’ (‘Shistu’ – meaning discipline and order and it is also known as a kind of Local Tax). His younger son Somashekhara Nayaka became the King in 1664.
At that time the kingdom of Keladi stretched along the entire seacoast from Goa to Malabar.
Somashekhara Nayak was a very efficient king.
With a good figure, power and wealth, he also had good qualities. He was religious-minded, too.
Somashekhara Nayaka did not marry for several years. He was young and a king; and was also handsome, virtuous and famous. Naturally many a king tried to make him his son-in-law.
The Nayaka saw many beautiful princesses.
But he never thought of marriage.
His subjects, knowing his religious mind and devotion to God, wondered whether their king would become a monk.
‘I Have Chosen My Bride’
The king once went to the Rameshwara fair.
There he saw a very pretty maid. She was Chennamma, the daughter of Siddappa Shetty of Kotepura. She was beautiful like a carefully sculptured doll. With her friends, she was going to the temple, she moved with striking dignity.
Somashekhara Nayaka saw her, he said to himself, ‘if at all I marry, I should marry this girl.’
Through his servants, he learned who she was.
The next day he sent for his Chief Minister and said to him “You have been compelling me to marry.
Yesterday when I went to the Rameshwara fair, I saw Kotepura Siddappa Shetty’s daughter. If I marry at all, I will marry her. Please send for Siddappa Shetty and speak to him.
The Chief Minister replied, “My Lord, so far all kings of Keladi have married only princesses of royal blood.”
“That may be. But I know only one way, and that is, to do as I say. I have nothing to do with any other tradition. I will marry only this girl.” A Happy, Blessed Union
“The King wants to marry your daughter Chennamma.”
At these words of the Chief Minister, Siddappa Shetty was startled, he was amazed. He could not believe his ears. Finally, he agreed gladly.
“The King wants to marry you,” he said to his daughter. And Chennamma could not contain her surprise and delight.
The wedding took place in the big palace in the capital city of Bidanur with royal splendor.
Chennamma became the Queen of Keladi State and Somashekhara Nayaka’s heart. The new couple offered worship at the temple of the family deity Lord Rameshwara at Keladi, and also at the temple of Aghoreshwara at Ikkeri and of Goddess Mookambike at Kollur. They also gave many gifts in charity to the poor and the needy.
The married life of Somashekhara Nayaka and Queen Chennamma was like milk and honey put together. They understood each other perfectly and loved each other deeply. The intelligent Queen became in a short while, well versed in politics and statecraft. She learned to use weapons, mastered music and developed an interest in literature.
Queen Chennamma looked after the subjects of her kingdom and the servants of the palace with great love as if they were her children. She was not merely a wife to Somashekhara Nayaka but also an adviser; she gave him advice on state masters, like a trusted minister. If the government did any injustice, those who suffered, being afraid to go to the King, would make their appeals to the Queen. The Queen would speak to her husband and get justice done. She was an inspiration to her husband to punish the wicked and protect the virtuous. So the people of Keladi looked up to the Queen as if she was a goddess, with great respect and devotion. The royal couple treated all religions with equal respect. They gave large gifts of lands to the Mutts and other religious institutions of Keladi.
During the days of the Vijayanagara Kings (read about Hakka Bukka here), the Dasara was observed as a national festival with great pomp. The Kings of Keladi kept up that tradition. During the days of this ‘Nadahabba’ great artists used to go to Keladi from all corners of the country. At the end of the programs of dance and music, the King rewarded the artists with valuable gifts.
Kalavathi, A Curse
Once, during the Dasara festival, the famed dancer Kalavathi of Jambukhandi performed the royal couple. Dancing like a peacock and singing like a cuckoo, this beautiful woman won the love of Somashekhara Nayaka.
The King who was pleased with her excellence in dancing gave her much wealth. Kalavathi became the dancer of the royal court. Her mother and her foster-father, Bharame Mavuta, lived with her. The latter was a master of black magic and secret medicines.
Knowing that Queen Chennamma had no children, the wicked Bharame Mavuta developed an intimate friendship with Somashekhara Nayaka. Gradually the Nayaka began to live with Kalavathi herself. He became a puppet in the hands of Bharame Mavuta. He forgot his beloved darling Chennamma and stayed away from the palace. He swallowed all that Bharame Mavuta gave him as medicine and as a result, became half-mad. Various diseases began to eat him up.
Even the ministers and respected officers had to go to the dancer’s house to discuss matters of the State.
Chennamma felt very sad that the husband who once loved her so deeply never came to the palace now. She was always in tears. Once all the subjects felt happy that it was their good fortune they had such an ideal King. But now he had no thought for the kingdom.
Because of the King’s indifference, there was chaos in the kingdom. The news of his ill-health spread all over the kingdom. The King had no children. What if he died suddenly?
In such a pass, naturally, many persons began to hatch conspiracies to usurp the throne. The Sultan of Bijapur who had often been defeated by the kings of Keladi now attacked the kingdom.
‘My Lord, Come Back’
The Queen was determined that the kingdom nursed and handed down by their elders should be saved from these dangers. If she remained passive, thinking she was only a woman, the kingdom would be lost. She put aside her pride and even stepped into the dancer’s house to meet the King.
Worn out by diseases, the King was a mere shadow of his old robust self. The face had lost luster and the eyes were dull. Chennamma was greatly grieved. But she checked her sorrow and said: “My Lord, please come back to the palace”.
The physicians of the court will treat you. The kingdom of the great Shivappa Nayaka should not be ruined. You can adopt a worthy boy as a son.” She fell at his feet and begged him to return.
Bharame Mavuta, the source of all evil for the kingdom, was right there. Deceived by his words, the King refused to listen to Chennamma. The Queen returned in misery. But she had no time even to weep because the enemies had already besieged the kingdom and there was only one way, thought Chennamma, for the kingdom to continue and the dynasty to survive, she should rule the land and also hold the sword. Trusting God, the young Queen took this crushing burden on her tender shoulders. The clever and heroic Queen also took the counsel of her father Siddappa Shetty. She enlisted the help of trustworthy commanders. Delicate hands adorned with bangles now brandished the sword.
Arrogant enemies thought that after all she was a woman and could be frightened. They began to threaten her. One day the Chief Minister, Thimmanna Nayaka of Kasaragod, went to her with Subnis Krishnappa and said to her “You must adopt Veerabhadra Nayaka as a son, the son of the Commander-in-Chief, Bhadrappa Nayaka.
It is only then that we shall support you. Or else, we will unite the people against you and crown him.” The same threat was held out by another minister, Narasappayya and a senior officer, Lakshmayya.
Queen Chennamma heard them all patiently.
On one side, Bharame Mavuta had the King under his thumb and was eager to take over the kingdom. On another side, all the ministers and other important men were ready to bring someone whom they liked to the throne and perpetuate their positions. The Queen could not approve of either of these developments. She had no child so she decided that she should adopt a boy who was virtuous and would herald the welfare of the State. She chooses a boy by name Basappa Nayaka. She decided to give him the proper type of training so that the kingdom survived and the people were made happy.
Troubles Come In Battalions
The Sultan of Bijapur was waiting to swallow up the kingdom of Keladi. Now he heard that the King was negligent and troubled by disease and that the State was in the hands of a woman.
He was tempted. The opportunity seemed to be inviting him. He sent a representative by name Jannopant to the Queen for negotiations. Close on the heels of Jannopant the Sultan also sent a big army under the command of Muzaffar Khan.
Jannopant met the Queen. Through her spies, Chennamma had already understood the trick of the Sultan. But she was not in a position to declare war on the Sultan just then. So she gave three lakh rupees to Jannopant and agreed with the Sultan. Yet, the Sultan’s army was marching towards Keladi.
So, the Queen summoned her subjects and said to them “My beloved heroes of the Kannada Land, you are great warriors. Today the fate of the kingdom is in your hands. Remember, the victory gives us this kingdom and death gives us heaven. There is no third way. If you win, all of you will be rewarded with befitting honors.” So she spoke to her people with affection. She gave them her jewels and, the gold in the royal treasury. Inspired by her heroic words, and moved by her generosity, the soldiers girded their lions to fight.
After taking leave of the Queen, Jannopant went to Bharame Mavuta. Moved by the sweet words of Jannopant, Bharame Mavuta got the King murdered.
The Queen heard the news. Her husband was dead! It was a shock, and grief flooded the heart of the young Queen. But she was not the woman to weep in passive sorrow. Yes, her husband was dead. But he had not died a natural death. He had been murdered. Chennamma was now like the Goddess of War, determined to avenge her husband’s death.
The Bijapur army besieged the fort of Bidanur.
The henchmen of Bharame Mavuta gave all help to the Sultan’s soldiers. The enemy army was very big. Siddappa Shetty and the officers of the State told the Queen that, even if they fought with all valor, victory was doubtful. They advised her to leave Bidanur for the time being.
The very thought of leaving Bidanur was like poison to her. But there was no other way. The throne of the kingdom, the wealth of the royal treasury and all other valuables were moved to Bhuvanagiri.
The enemies pulled down the gates of the fort and entered the palace. But they could not find the Queen there. The treasury was also empty.
They felt disappointed and were very angry.
The fort at Bhuvanagiri, situated amidst a thick jungle, was quite secure. The chieftains of the Keladi Court and the soldiers were in Bhuvanagiri with the Queen.
‘I Have Sinned Terribly’
The Chief Minister, Thimmanna Nayaka, who had gone away from Bidanur after his differences with the Queen in the matter of the adoption, now learned of the fall of Bidanur. He was at heart a true patriot. He was enraged that enemies had taken Bidanur.
Thimmanna Nayaka came to the Bhuvanagiri palace and met the Queen. He said “Your Highness, I am guilty of a great crime. I should not have left Bidanur after the death of Somashekhara Nayaka. I have sinned terribly. It is very painful for me to see the Bidanur, where I was born and bred, is now in alien hands.
Please accept my services again in this difficult hour.” The Queen was generous. She replied “Thimmanna Nayaka, your conduct, and your words amply bear out your deep loyalty to the kingdom. Keladi now needs the assistance of all and the blessings of the Almighty for its protection.
You are experienced in statecraft. We do need your help, you have served the State from the days of the great Shivappa Nayaka. The Chief Minister’s office is yours if you will accept it.” Chennamma bestowed honors on him.
People who had benefited from the kings of Keladi and Chennamma, in particular, arrived in thousands in Bhuvanagiri. They were ready to give up their all for Keladi and the Queen.
A Mother To The Subjects
Thimmanna Nayaka got together the chieftains and brave soldiers from all parts of Keladi and raised an army. He marched towards Bidanur.
The soldiers of Bijapur, who were proud of their seizure of Bidanur were marching towards Bhuvanagirii to capture it. Amid the thick forest and in a narrow pass, the Sultan’s soldiers fell into the hands of the heroic Kannada warriors. The men of Keladli knew the terrain quite well they destroyed the Bijapur army and went to Bidanur. The people there were overjoyed at the arrival of the Kannada soldiers. They opened the gates wide and welcomed them.
The people of Keladi, one and all, accepted Chennamma as their ruler. In 1671 Chennamma was crowned as the Queen in the fortress of Bhuvanagiri. The Queen now took over the entire administration into her hands. She honored the chiefs and soldiers, who had helped in the fight for Bidanur, suitably with money, gold, lands and high offices. The kingdom had become worn out with chaos and misrule. The Queen brought peace and happiness to it. She again enforced the system which had been formulated by Shivappa Nayaka. She arranged for special temple honors and worship with great pomp to the deities of Rameshwara, Aghoreshwara and Goddess Mookambike, whose grace, she felt, had warded off all dangers. She offered diamond-studded crowns and golden lamps to these deities.
The Queen also arrested both Bharame Mavuta and Jannopant who were responsible for the death of her husband and put them to death. Those who had conspired against her and wanted to usurp the kingdom were also punished and banished from the kingdom. Queen Chennamma now ruled over the kingdom ably.
She was like a goddess to the virtuous and like destruction itself to the wicked. She had an ‘Agrahara’ – an entire street with houses on either side formed and invited scholars to settle down there. It was named ‘Somashekharapura’. Day and night Chennamma toiled for the welfare of the state.
With the consent of her people, she adopted as her son, a good boy, Basappa Nayaka by name. She expanded the army and strengthened security at the borders. After her work for the kingdom, Chennamma spent whatever leisure she had, in meditation and acts of charity and kindness. She gave gifts of lands to Mutts and religious institutions. The Queen respected all the religions and was respected by everybody.
A Shield For The Kingdom
Years before, there had been two or three wars between the kings of Mysore and the kings of Keladi. In these wars, the rulers of Mysore had been defeated. As the kings of Keladi had a long seacoast under them, they reaped considerable profits from the foreign traders, the Dutch and the English.
At the time Chennamma was ruling in Keladi, the ruler in Mysore was Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar.
A person by name Andhaka Venkata Nayaka also belonged to the dynasty of Keladi kings.
He wrote a letter to the Mysore ruler, he said “I should have been the King of Keladi. But Chennamma came in the way. Therefore if you will fight with her and help me to get the kingdom, I shall give half of it to you and render other help also.”
Chikkadevaraya was very pleased with the letter. He thought it would be quite easy to win the kingdom which was in the hands of a woman. If he did so, all the foreign trade now under Keladi would be in his hands. So he began preparations for war.
Queen Chennamma was not at all afraid that the Mysore ruler had declared war on Keladi. She remained undaunted and sent a big army under her Commander Bhadrappa Nayaka to fight the enemy. The chieftains of Sode, Sirsi, and Banavasi also declared war on Keladi. But the Queen very cleverly managed to defeat them all.
The Mysore army was the first to be defeated.
But the next year that army defeated the Keladi force. Again when there was a war, the Queen was victorious. Several officers of the Mysore army were captured. But the Queen treated them with courtesy. She also set them free. Because of this, Chikkadevaraya developed a high regard for the Queen. The rulers of Mysore and Keladi signed a treaty of friendship.
Queen Chennamma had banished some leaders who had their eyes on the throne. Now all those men, obtaining the help of other rulers, began a war with the Queen. But the able Queen defeated them.
Chennamma had adopted Basappa Nayaka.
He was to become the King later. So she gave personal attention to his training and education. Every morning after her bath, prayers, and breakfast, she would go to the court hall. She would stay there till midday and listen patiently to any of her subjects who had any difficulties.
She would give them whatever help was necessary. She would discuss matters of statecraft and administration with Basappa Nayaka and her ministers and officers and give her decisions.
After the midday prayers and worship, she would spend an hour giving alms. At that time monks, sanyasis, priests and the poor and the needy would all receive help.
‘I Am The Son Of Chatrapati’
One afternoon, as usual, the Queen was giving alms. Four ‘Jangamars’ (monks) appeared. They looked very radiant. The four waited till all the others had received their alms. Then they went up to the Queen. Seeing their bright faces, the intelligent Queen realized that they were not ordinary monks. Their leader saluted her. Chennamma said in a friendly voice, “Holy sir, you should bless me, and not Salute me. Where do you come from, and what can I do for you?” He came a little closer and again saluting her, said: “Great Queen, I am not a monk.”
“Not a monk? Then why have you come to this garb? Who are you?”
“I am Rajaram, the son of Chatrapati Shivaji.” The Queen was startled.
“Are you the son of Chatrapati Shivaji, the great man who fought to save Hinduism in South India? Heavens, what difficult days are you passing through! Please be seated Prince, what can I do for you?”
“Mother, my brother Sambhaji has been cruelly murdered by Aurangzeb. He has sent a huge army to kill me also and destroy my kingdom. His army has already captured a few forts. Aurangzeb thinks that if I am captured then he can swallow the whole of Maharashtra. I have managed to hoodwink the enemies in various garbs and have come so far. I have approached several chiefs and kings to shelter me.”
“Did not the Hindu kings agree to protect you?”
“They all refused, afraid of Aurangzeb’s anger.”
“Really! It is unbelievable. Giving shelter to the son of Shivaji Maharaj who fought for saving Hinduism is the duty of every one of us.”
“Mother, it is no ordinary thing to face the enmity of Aurangzeb.”
“Prince Rajaram, no one who has come to the Keladi palace asking for shelter or other gifts has gone back disappointed. What does it matter if a woman is on the throne now? I am not a helpless woman but belong to the heroic Kannada Land.
It is my religion to give protection to those who need it from me. Please take rest in our Guest House.”
“Great Queen, before you shelter me, please consult your ministers. This is not a mere matter of feeding a person. It is a question of the kingdom’s survival or otherwise.”
“Prince Rajaram, the Kannada people never go back on their words. They are not such cowards that they will not help those who come to them for shelter.”
“I know that, Queen. I have made bold to come here only after hearing of your valor and generosity. If your ministers agree, please give me shelter here for a short while and then help me to reach the fort of Jinji. I will never forget your kindness. If that is not possible, I shall leave this place tomorrow morning.”
“Prince, I shall summon the royal court this evening and discuss the matter. Whatever might happen I will give shelter to those who ask me for it. To act according to the royal code, and to see that you reach Jinji safely, is my responsibility.”
“Noble Queen, the royal house of Keladi is very generous. I am astonished that when powerful kings of big realms have refused to give me shelter, a lady should muster the courage to face such a danger. I am grateful to you.”
So saying Rajaram saluted her with great devotion and went to the Guest House. That evening Queen Chennamma summoned the royal court. She narrated all that had happened and asked her advisers for their opinion.
Prime Minister Thimmanna Nayaka sounded a note of warning – “Your Highness, Aurangzeb’s army is chasing Rajaram. It has already captured Raigadh, Panhalgadh, and other forts. If Aurangzeb comes to know that Rajaram is in Keladi, it would surely mean our total ruin.” Siddappa Shetty was very clear in his words to his daughter – “What the Prime Minister says is quite true. So far we have fought with the enemies around. Just now peace and order are returning to the kingdom. Fighting with Aurangzeb now is beyond our capacity.” Commander Bhadrappa and Minister Narasappayya also agreed.
“Gentlemen, what you say is true,” said Chennamma. “I have thought about this very deeply.
Until this day the kings of Keladi have always given shelter to anyone who sought it. I must keep up that tradition. Shivaji Maharaj wore himself out to save Hinduism. When his son asks for help can it be denied? The safety of the kingdom is a matter in God’s hands.”
“I agree, mother,” said Basappa Nayaka. “What you say is true. You have always taught me it is nobler to save than to kill. What can Aurangzeb do against God’s blessings and the valor of our heroes?”
All the younger persons in the Court were for giving shelter to Rajaram. Inevitably all the ministers also agreed.
The Black Shadow Of The Moghul Army
The Queen put her trust in God and gave shelter to Rajaram. Preparations for war began in Keladi. Aurangzeb sent his son Azamath Ara with a huge army to invade the kingdom. But by then Rajaram had safely reached the Jinji fort.
The cunning Moghul Emperor, on the one hand, sent a big army to Keladi and on the other before it could reach the kingdom, he sent a messenger to Queen Chennamma with a letter and also costly presents including diamonds and other precious stones.
His letter ran thus:
“To Queen Chennamma of Keladi. Between us, there is no enmity. But I have heard that my great enemy Rajaram is under your protection.
He must at once be given up to me. When that is done, there can be a treaty of friendship between the two kingdoms. Otherwise, you will have to face the Moghul army.”
The shrewd Queen consulted her ministers and sent a reply as follows:
“To the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb, Your letter has reached us. The people of this kingdom are ever ready to extend the hand of friendship to the Moghuls. But you have asked for something in return for your friendship. But that is impossible. Rajaram is not in this kingdom. It is of course known that he went through Keladi.”
By the time the Queen’s letter reached Aurangzeb the big Moghul force was near Keladi. The Queen was fully prepared for the war. The brave soldiers of Keladi were readily waiting in the path of the Moghul army. The way lay through a thick jungle. And the rainy season had set in.
The Moghul soldiers who were accustomed to the dry climate of the North found it extremely difficult to pass through the forest in the heavy downpour of the Malnad area. But obeying Aurangzeb’s orders they were marching ahead under great strain.
The Karnataka heroes took positions in the thick jungle and began butchering the Moghul soldiers. Prince Azamath Ara was shocked. He who had defeated many chieftains and kings had now to suffer defeat from a woman and when he went back after that defeat, he would be beheaded. The very idea made him perspire.
But his soldiers did not have the grit now to advance further, fight fiercely and raze the Keladi fort. The major part of the army had been destroyed. The forces of Keladi had captured several of the Moghul captains, a large number of horses, and considerable war material. So the fight went on at a slow and uncertain pace. Prince Azamath Ara was very much troubled.
By then he received a letter from Aurangzeb which said, “Rajaram is now ruling the Jinji fort.
So leave Keladi at once and proceed to Jinji.” This was just what Azamath Ara wanted. So the Moghuls agreed with Queen Chennamma. The Queen also was glad to have this treaty. She treated the Moghul captains very generously and according to the pact released them all. Aurangzeb recognized her as an independent ruler.
The Queen rewarded the soldiers and officers of her army suitably. The great honor of a decisive victory in a war with Aurangzeb thus belongs to the brave Chennamma, a heroine of Karnataka.
Rajaram who had reached Jinji wrote. A letter of gratitude to the Queen, “When kings and rulers of bigger kingdoms refused to help me, you bravely sheltered me and helped to protect Hinduism. I can never forget this bravery and generosity of yours. May Goddess Bhavani give you all happiness! I pray God that your land may be a home of happiness.” The Queen thought that a difficulty which had come upon her like a mountain had melted like the fog.
An Excellent Administrator Chennamma tactfully negotiated trade treaties with the Arabs and the Portuguese to carry on trade along the seacoast under her rule. It was very convenient – and also profitable – to import the various commodities her kingdom needed.
She traded with the Arabs for horses so necessary for the protection of Keladi. The Arabs and the Portuguese bought the rice and the pepper grown in the Malnad areas. This enriched the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Basappa Nayaka, the adopted son, had come of age. Trained by Chennamma, he was now learned in statecraft. He was courteous, virtuous, and valiant. The Queen had the confidence that he could rule the kingdom well in the major share in the administration.
She then spent most of her time in the service of others. She also went on a pilgrimage and visited the Aghoreshwara temple at Ikkeri, the Mookambike Temple at Kollur and the Sharadamba Temple at Shringeri. She gifted lands to the temples she visited that worship could go on in these temples around the year.
Meanwhile, she also captured Hulikere near Basavapattana. The fort there was in ruins. She got it rebuilt. After Basappa Nayaka came to the throne, he renamed it. Chennagiri in honor of his mother.
Queen Chennamma got a beautiful chariot made and dedicated it to the temple of Lord Neelakanteshwara of Venipura near Bidanur. She made arrangements for the Neelakanteshwara, fair to be held every year.
She gave liberal gifts of land and gold to the temple of her family deity Rameshwara and Veerabhadreshwara of Keladi and also to the temple of Goddess Mookambike of Kollur so that the worship in those temples might go on without any difficulty. The tower of the Veerabhadreshwara Temple at Keladi was rebuilt by her and a flag-pillar was erected.
She offered gifts to the temples at Kashi, Rameshwara, Shrishaila, and Tirupati. She also built monasteries for the Veershaiva monks and Agraharas for Shaivas and Vaishnavas.
She ruled over Keladi very ably and nobly from 1671 to 1696. Her life was a life of fame and grandeur. She was always pious and god-fearing.
When she was on her death-bed, the righteous Queen called her son and said
“Basappa Nayaka, the task of protecting and developing the kingdom of Keladi founded by Chowdappa Nayaka is now yours. Conduct yourself according to the words of our saints. Let your speech be a string of pearls. Never should you sin, and you must live to uphold truth, kindness, and righteousness. Do not waste time in bad habits.
Devote your time to good deeds. Look after the people of Keladi as your children. You must share their joys and sorrows. Earn a good name, and bring fame to the royal house and to the kingdom.
Let Keladi State be the home of happiness.
Let people be satisfied and joyful. And may God bless you.”
The pious and virtuous woman, the brave and intelligent Queen, breathed her last in Shravana, a holy month of Hindus. Basappa Nayaka and the people of Keladi were in deep grief. Chennamma was laid to rest in the Koppalu monastery in Bidanur.
A Fountain Of Inspiration
When, because of the foolishness of the king Somashekhara Nayaka, Keladi was in chaos and was encircled by enemies, Chennamma acted boldly and wisely and in the interests of the State and the subjects. She crushed all the enemies.
Other kings were all afraid of Aurangzeb and denied shelter to the great Shivaji’s son. But this lady of the Kannada land helped him. As a queen, she was wise and able as she was brave. So she established a peaceful era in Keladi. She ruled the kingdom in such a way that the people could live without fear of the enemies, and without trouble from thieves or oppression from officers. She gave succor to the poor and respected all religions.
The name of Keladi’s brave Queen is written in golden letters in the history of Karnataka and the history of India. Chennamma’s life is a source of inspiration to all who love freedom and admire courage and nobility.