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Abbakka Rani

The Queen of Spices


·         Asia Centre Bangalore

·         Abbakka Rani – The Queen of Spices



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In the sixteenth century, entering Goa as traders, the Portuguese quickly overpowered the trusting king of the ancient Alupa dynasty. Soon, they coveted the strategically located Ullal. Due to the large spices trade with Arabia, Ullal was a prosperous port. The Dutch, Portuguese, and the British later coveted the trade. The Portuguese considered Ullal a natural extension to their base in Goa.

During that time, a queen called Abbakka ruled from Moodabidri and used the Ullal as her financial capital. Born in the matrilineal line of Chowtas, Abbakka was brilliant queen who excelled in governance, administration, warfare, and above all patriotism. Tutored by her uncle Tirumala Raya, Abbakka became a fearless wielder of the sword, spear, and bow. She also mastered diplomacy and war strategy and tactics.  She developed a strong land and naval force and kept the colonizing Portuguese at bay for over four decades.

When she attained a marriageable age, her uncle wanted her to choose a spouse who could share her dreams and kingdom. The young queen listed several requirements that she seeks in her husband; wide-ranging education, courage under duress, valor in battle, and patriotism. Her uncle proposed the king of the neighboring city of Mangalore as a suitable groom. By creating this alliance through marriage, Tirumala Raya sought to create a formidable boundary to dissuade the Portuguese from trying to conquer the entire Tulu belt. Moreover, Lakshmanappa was a dashing young king showing a lot of promise.

The marriage alliance between Ullal and Mangalore alarmed the Portuguese because a united front would definitely stall their southern progress. The Portuguese Viceroy in Goa, António Noronha used guile and subversion to co-opt Lakshmanappa. By tempting him with an alliance, he wooed the young king with ideas of conquering the rest of Bharatha Desam. He promised to make Lakshmanappa the emperor of this new kingdom. Taken in by the promise of conquest, splendor, fame, and prosperity, Lakshmanappa succumbed to the evil designs of the Portuguese.

Other Resources


Abbakka Invitation

Queen of Spices Cast

Photos from the Abbakka Rani Bangalore show

Abbakka show reviews

 Bangalore Show: November 13, 2010 at 0645pm

Bangalore Venue: Ravindra Kalakshetra

By sheer chance, Abbakka stumbled on this plot and confronts her husband. She demanded his patriotism. Drunk with the support of a foreign ally, Lakshmanappa ill-treated his queen and rebuked her.  As an educated woman, Abbakka found her husband’s behavior reprehensible. Taking her twin daughters with her, she left her husband and returned to rule from Moodabidri and Ullal. As soon as she returned to her ancestral home, Abbakka started building a navy and an army.

In the meanwhile, taking advantage of the marital chaos, the Portuguese Viceroy sent Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira to plunder Mangalore. Lakshmanappa’s supposed-friend, General João Peixoto, justified the action of his country. He demanded that Lakshmanappa assist them take over Ullal. Angered by his wife’s abandonment of their marriage, Lakshmanappa schemes to overrun Moodabidri and Ullal.

Bolstered by the alliance with an insider, da Silveria threatened to attack Ullal with a large armada. They demanded a tribute from the queen to spare the port town. Abbakka refused and attacked the armada with her incipient navy. Although she had far fewer and smaller ships, her leadership inspired her sailors to fight bravely and destroy the Portuguese armada.

While she was fighting da Silveria at sea, claiming the right of a husband, Lakshmanappa gained entry into Moodabidri. At night, believing his wife to be still at sea, he killed the fort guardian and opens the gates for Peixoto and his men to enter the city walls and took over the kingdom. Meanwhile, a fleet of riverboats lead by Admiral Mascarenhas also arrived at Ullal.

After finding out the treachery of her estranged husband, Abbakka sought refuge in a mosque. While Abbakka was a follower of the Jain faith, she ran a secular government with good relations with Hindus and Muslims. She collected a small band of two hundred faithful soldiers and attacked the palace. They killed Peixoto and Mascarenhas and took several Portuguese soldiers prisoners. Alarmed at the sudden turn of events, the Portuguese soldiers fled with Lakshmanappa at their head. Impressed by the bravery of the queen, the soldiers loyal to Lakshmanappa defected and pledged loyalty to the queen.

Not stopping with her initial success, the queen chased the Portuguese soldiers and took back the Mangalore fort. She also recaptured the strategic town of Basrur also called Kundapur. She forged alliances with the Sultan of Bijapur and the Zamoarin of Kozhikode to present a unified opposition to the Portuguese. The general of the Zamoarin, Kutty Pokar Markar, led several campaigns into the Portuguese-held territory boxing them into a tiny corner in Goa.

Disappointed with the turn of events, Lakshmanappa blamed his wife for his plight. Plotting to over throw her reign in the region, he appeared before Markar as Abbakka’s husband and feigned a change of heart. Later at night, he assassinated Markar and sets fire to the barracks killing several soldiers. As per a former agreement, the Portuguese see the burning barrack and attacked the soldiers of the confederacy. After overrunning the main army, they also captured Moodabidri and Ullal. They imprisoned the queen and her daughters and promised to heap suffering on them.

At night, Lakshmanappa visited the captives in the prison and taunted his wife. He demanded her obedience. Abbakka feigned confusion and requested him time to think things over. Later that night, the queen and her daughters rouse up the feelings of freedom in the souls of other prisoners. They organized an attack to either gain freedom or die with honor. Armed with whatever they could find, the inmates led by the queen attacked the guards. Alarmed at this uprising, the guards shot all of them dead.







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