The Portuguese landed in Goa with big dreams. Dreams of conquering the entire Indian subcontinent. Little did they know that they would fail. Not because of a powerful man, as most would assume, but a 30-year-old, recently divorced young woman who singlehandedly led an army against thousands.
After their conquest of Goa, the Portuguese went on to the South Kanara coast. They captured the Mangalore port and then turned to Ullal. Ullal was a prosperous port at the time and the hub of spice trade with the west. Not expecting the ruler, Rani Abbakka Chowta, to put up a fight, the Portuguese sent a few men to capture and bring her back. To their surprise, those men never came back.
Furious, Portugal sent a huge army under an experienced general, João Peixoto, to handle the issue. On reaching Ullal, they found it deserted and assumed that Abbakka Chowta had fled. Relieved, they were about to return when Rani Chowta attacked with 200 men. The odds of 200 defeating thousands with advanced weaponry seemed completely out of the question. But they had the element of surprise and years of training, which, combined with their patriotism and allegiance to the crown, made it a piece of cake for them to assassinate General João Peixoto, capture 70 soldiers, and send more than half the army running.
Charged by the victory, they went on to attack the Mangalore fort, one of the Portuguese’s main bases in India. After successfully breaking inside, Rani Abbakka Chowta subsequently assassinated Admiral Mascarenhas, the Chief, and forced the other Portuguese to evacuate the fort. She even captured the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, 100 km away from Mangalore.
Well, she was sure to turn some heads with that. She was later arrested by the Portuguese, betrayed by her estranged husband for money, but she still didn’t give up. She was killed in an attempt to escape from a Portuguese prison. If not for Rani Abbakka Chowta, then India would probably now be under Portuguese rule.
Rani Chowta certainly proved that she was not one to be taken lightly. It’s disheartening to see that despite her immense bravery and determination, she’s now nothing but yet another national hero, forgotten by the masses.