Onake Obavva – Hindu Warriors


Onake Obavva of Chitradurga is an enduring legend of Karnataka’s history and culture. Before getting to meet Onake Obavva, a small detour about long weekends and getaway places.

Onake Obavva was a woman who fought the forces of Hyder Ali single-handedly with a pestle in the kingdom of Chitradurga of Karnataka, India. Her husband was a guard of a watchtower in the rocky fort of Chitradurga.

Chitradurga is known for the story of Onake Obavva, the brave wife of a sentry who gave up her life guarding the fort and denying the enemies an entry through a vulnerable part of the fort. Obavva lived in kingdom of Chitradurga during the 18th century.

Chitradurga Fort is renowned for its Kallina Kote/Ukinna kote/ Yelu Suttina kote which were built in parts by the Palegar Veer Madakari Nayaka. It comprises a series of seven enclosure walls in Kannada. Eighteen ancient temples can be found inside the fort. The Fort of Chitradurga with seven circumambulations surrounds the seven hills of Chinmuladri range. Actually the construction of this fort started during 10th Century AD and completed in 18th Century AD during the rule of Palegars. According to an estimate the total length of the fort is about 8 Kms. This fort as 19 gateways, 28 postern gates, 35 secret entrances, 4 invisible entrances, 50 warehouses, apart from other monuments.

Madakari Nayaka ruled Chitradurga. Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore wanted to besiege the fort of Chitradurga. But many trails went in vain and he was unable to occupy this fort. A chance sighting of a woman entering the Chitradurga fort through an opening in the rocks led to a clever plan by Hyder Ali to send his soldiers through the hole.

Heroics of Obavva
During the reign of Madakari Nayaka, the city of Chitradurga was besieged by the troops of Hyder Ali. A chance sighting of a man entering the Chitradurga fort through a hole in the rocks led to a plan by Hyder Ali to send his soldiers through that hole. The Guard had gone home to have his lunch. During his meal he needed some water to drink, so his wife Obavva went to collect water in a pot from a pond which was near the hole in the rocks, halfway up the hill.She noticed the army trying to enter the fort through the hole. She used the Onake or pestle (a wooden long club meant for pounding paddy grains) to kill the soldiers one by one by hitting them on the head and then quietly moving the dead without raising the suspicions of the rest of the troops. Mudda Hanuma, Obavva’s husband, returned from lunch, was shocked to see Obavva standing with a blood stained Onake and several of the enemies’ dead bodies around her. Later, the same day, she was found dead either due to shock or having been killed by the enemy soldiers.She belonged to the Holayas (Chalavadi) community.Though her brave attempt saved the fort this time, Madakari could not resist the attack by Hyder Ali during 1779, when the fort of Chitradurga was lost to Hyder Ali.

She is considered to be the epitome of Kannada female pride. The hole through which Hyder Ali’s soldiers sneaked is called Onake Obavvana Kindi or Onake kindi. Her heroic effort is depicted in a famous song-sequence in Nagarahavu picture directed by Puttanna Kanagal. The sports stadium in Chitradurga – Veera Vanithe Onake Obavva Stadium, is named after her.

Legend of Onake Obavva
Wife of a soldier called Kalanayak was guarding a fort tower, substituting for her husband during a lunch break. Her name was Obavva. She was guarding the Chitradurga Fort at a crack opening, a secret opening (where only one person could barely squeeze through). While fetching water, she heard the muted sounds of enemy soldiers attempting to enter the fort through the crevice. With great presence of mind she immediately hid behind the crevice in the fort and hit at each soldier trying to squeeze through the crevice with Onake, the name given in Kannada to a masse or pestle, a wooden rod used for pounding paddy. In this process, she bravely killed several enemy soldiers. By the time her husband appeared on the scene, she had already dragged several bodies of dead soldiers into the fort wall and was standing around the dead bodies with the blood stained Onake in her hand. Kalanayak blew the bugle when other soldiers also joined him and killed all the enemy soldiers. This brave act saved the fort on that day from further attacks by Hyder Ali’s soldiers. Her heroic act has been commemorated with her impressive statue erected in front of the District Commissioner’s office in Chitradurga town. The stadium in the town has also been named after her. This act also earned her the epithet Onake Obavva and the crevice in the fort where she showed her bravery is called Obavvana Kindi. However, in the battle for the fort, Madakari Nayaka V lost and Chitradurga fort eventually fell to Hyder Ali, in 1779.

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