ONAKE OBAVVA , THE BRAVE WOMAN FROM CHITRADURGA OF
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
City of Chitradurga is located at the junction of NH-4 (Bangalore-Pune National Highway) and NH-13 (Sollapur-Mangalore National Highway). Chitradurga is also accessible by train. There is a daily service to Bangalore and weekly services to Mumbai. The fortress lies on the outskirts of what is Chitradurga today. The city is well connected to all parts of the state. Obavva was a native soldier’s wife and she belonged to Chitradurga.
The town has connections to Ramayana and Mahabharatha epics. It is said that Pandavas after escaping from their burning house ( owing to the conspiracy of Duryodhna and his coterie) spent some time in this area and at Chitradurga hills, a man eating, powerful and ferocious Rakshasa named Hidimba stayed along with his sister Hidimbi. Bheema was standing guard while his brothers and mother Kunti were sleeping in the forest. Hidimba sensing human presence sent her sister to kill them for a meal. However, Hidimbi fell in love after seeing Bheema and changed herself intoa beautiful maid and requested him to marry her. As there was great delay, Hidimba arrived at the place and in anger attacked Bheema. However Bheema killed Hidimba in a duel and all the boulders around are believed to be the arsenal used during the battle. Bheema married his sister Hidimbi with blessings of his mother and they soon got a son named Ghatotkacha who had many magical powers. Rakshasas in yore had the magical powers of assuming the forms they liked.
The fort and surrounding areas rest on rock formations that are oldest in the land. The old walled Town houses the impressive fort, built on the north eastern base of a cluster of rocky hills, qualifying it to be a Giridurga, or hill fortress. Though the construction of this fort commenced during 10th Century A.D it was completed only in 18th Century A.D during the rule of Palegars, with the latest additions being in the years leading to the 19th century, during the reign of Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan.
The fort is fortified by seven circular walls, three of which are on the ground and four on the hill. Chitradurga fort is said to have had 19 majestic doors, 38 smaller doors, 35 special entry points and four secret entrances. The fort is entered through four gateways of the outermost wall. The foothills of the fort constitute the main residential area of the town. The Mel Durgas, forts on the hill are embellished with extensive fortifications, ramparts, bastions, batteries, watchtowers and entrances located at strategic points and house fourteen temples. Some of the fort’s important landmarks are Thuppada Kola Betta, Hidimbagiri, Zadaa Battery (Flag battery), Kahale Battery (Trumpet battery), Lal Battery (Red battery) and Nellikai Battery (Gooseberry battery). The main entrance to the fort, Kamanbhavi, has carvings of the seven – hooded cobra the legendary twin headed bird, Gandaberunda, the royal swan, Rajhamsa and lotus flowers.
Chitradurga was ruled by Naika rulers who were vassals to Vijayanagar empire.The former soldier Timmana Nayaka rose to the rank of Governor of Chitradurga as a reward for his excellence in military achievements, from the Vijayanagara ruler. His son Obana is known by the name Madhakari Nayaka. Madakari Nayaka's son Kasturi Rangappa succeeded him, consolidated the kingdom, and ruled peacefully . As he had no heirs to succeed him, his adopted son — the apparent heir — was enthroned, but was killed a few months later by the Dalavayis ( military commanders). Chikkanna Nayaka, the brother of Madakari Nayaka II sat on the throne in 1676, and his other brother succeeded him with the title Madakari Nayaka III. The unwillingness of Dalawayis (commanders) to accept Madakari Nayaka III's rule gave an opportunity to a distant relative, Bharamappa Nayaka, to ascend the throne in 1689. The quick succession of rulers led to the people of Chitradurga not experiencing the benefits of longer ruling periods. Hiri Madakari Nayaka (1721–1748), Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka II and Madakari Nayaka IV were the next successors.
Hyder Ali who usurped throne from Hindu Mysore king Wadiyar attacked Chitradurga fort in 18 century during the rule of Madakari Nayaka IV and found it extremely difficult to conquer it. He laid seize to the fort. Once by chance, he saw a woman entering the fort through a very small hole in between the huge rocks and soon he made up his mind to make use of it. The small hole was guarded from inside by a guard and his wife assisted him whenever he went for having lunch or for other purpose. His wife was Obavva and she was a daring woman. One day the woman was guarding the passage when her husband was away and she saw a soldier sneaking through the hole into the fort. Hyder Ali sent his soldiers to enter the fort through the small hole. Obavva was holding a long pestle and in Kannada language it is called Onake. It is a long and strong wooden solid strong cylindrical bar with iron band at one end and is used to pound paddy. She killed the soldier with Onake by hitting on the head of the enemy soldier and she pulled the dead body away from the hole. She thus killed hundreds of soldiers one after the other when they tried to sneak in . The poor soldiers did not know about the fate of the earlier man who went in. Her husband returned after some time and found heaps of dead bodies lying around and was dumb stuck. The fort was saved thus. However the fort was finally subdued by Hydera Ali who had superior military strength and Chitradurga was annexed to his kingdom. Naika rule and dynasty was thus terminated. Obavva displayed great courage at the hour of need and single handedly killed several enemy soldiers with a primitive Onake and prevented enemy soldiers from occupying the fort. She was extremely brave and had presence of mind. She is regarded as an icon of bravery for women from Karnataka. Her memory is much revered in the state even today.
The small hole under huge rock that Obavva guarded
One of the Chitradurga Fort entrance
Sculpture on fort wall
Fort walls and a bastion