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CHENNAMMAJI (1661-1697 )

Chennammaji was queen to King Somashekhara, of the Nayaka dynasty, who jointly ruled the kingdom of Keladi (in what is now Karnataka) with his brother around 1661. Chennamma formed part of the triumvirate, and epigraphic evidence shows that the two kings and the queen ruled together. When Somashekhara became sole king, Chennammaji had an equal share with him. When he finally died in 1677, she took over sole charge. Some of the nobles and the head of her army plotted to take power for themselves, involving the ruler of Mysore, but she defeated him in battle and forced him to make terms. In the meanwhile several local rulers of the principalities of Sodi, Sirsi and Vanavasi declared war but were also routed and forced to flee. She also defeated another local king, Dalavay Timmappa, and took his son prisoner.

Rajaram, son of Shivaji took refuge in Keladi while fleeing Aurangazeb. The Mughal empire declared war on Chennammaji but she won through superior strategy and captured some of Aurganzeb’s generals. Ultimately a treaty was signed. �Aurangzeb was so impressed with her generalship that he sent her gifts and left her kingdom in peace. An account of her rule is to be found in a Kannada work called Keladinripa-vijaya, and a Sanskrit work, the Shivatattva-ratnakara, written by her adoptive son Asavappa Nayakka who succeeded her. She built a town named Somashekharapura after her husband, and dedicating it for the use of Brahmins and scholars. She built monasteries for wandering monks and established charitable trusts under her own name in several temple towns.
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