Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

200 Years of Kittur Uprising: Commemorating Rani Chennamma


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kittur Uprising, Rani Chennamma

Mains level: Women led armed freedom struggles



  • In 1824, a fleet of 20,000 British soldiers attempted to invade the former princely state of Karnataka, positioning themselves at the foothills of the Kittur fort.
  • However, Rani Chennamma, the Queen of Kittur, led a valiant resistance, marking one of the earliest woman-led anti-colonial struggles in India.

Kittur Uprising: Historical Context

  • Background: Rani Chennamma’s rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824 is celebrated as a significant event in Karnataka’s political history.
  • Revolt Catalyst: The Company’s refusal to recognize Shivalingappa, adopted as the successor of Kittur under the ‘doctrine of lapse’, triggered the conflict.
  • Military Confrontation: Rani Chennamma led the Kittur army in a fierce battle against the British forces, resulting in the death of British official John Thackery.

Doctrine of Lapse

  • Introduced by Lord Dalhousie in 1848, the Doctrine of Lapse aimed at expanding British territories in India.
  • The policy was based on the principle that a princely state without a suitable heir should become part of the British Empire.
  • Applied to princely states where the ruler died without a natural or legally adopted male heir, enabling the British to annex those states.
  • The policy was seen as illegitimate by many Indian rulers and played a role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
  • Several states annexed due to this Doctrine, include Satara (1848), Jaitpur (1849), Sambalpur (1849), Udaipur (1850), Jhansi (1853), and Nagpur (1854).
  • Prior to the Doctrine of Lapse, princely states had a traditional practice of selecting an heir from a group of candidates known as bhajans.
  • The policy was abandoned in 1859, two years after the end of the Company Rule in India.

Legacy of Rani Chennamma

  • Political Leadership: Rani Chennamma’s role as an astute administrator and seasoned stateswoman is highlighted in historical records.
  • Popular Perception: Despite her contributions, Rani Chennamma’s significance in national consciousness emerged later, as Karnataka became a state much later than other regions.
  • Historical Interpretation: Folklore and local traditions fondly remember Rani Chennamma’s bravery and resilience, portraying her as a protector and guardian in Kannada lavanis or folk songs.

Post-Rebellion Period

  • Imprisonment and Death: Following the British capture of Kittur Fort in 1824, Rani Chennamma and her family were imprisoned. She passed away in captivity in 1829.
  • Historical Records: Historians emphasize Rani Chennamma’s commitment to serving her people, even during her imprisonment, as evidenced by her efforts to support her family and people.

Commemoration and Contemporary Relevance

  • Naanoo Rani Chennamma Campaign: Social groups across India are organizing a national campaign on February 21, commemorating Rani Chennamma’s rebellion.
  • Campaign Objectives: The campaign aims to mobilize women against patriarchal, anti-democratic, and casteist forces, invoking Rani Chennamma’s memory as a symbol of resistance and empowerment.
  • Political Significance: The campaign underscores the need for gender equality, representation, and social justice, drawing inspiration from Rani Chennamma’s legacy of courage and leadership.

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