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Onake Obavvana kindi inside Chitradurga Fort

Onake Obavva (18th Century) (Kannada: ಓಬವ್ವ) was a woman who fought the forces of Hyder Ali single-handedly with a pestle (Onake)[1] in the kingdom of Chitradurga of Karnataka, India. Her husband was a guard of a watchtower in the rocky fort of Chitradurga.[2]

Background - 18th Century Chitradurga[edit]

Photograph of a tank in Chitradurga Fort, taken by William Henry Pigou around 1855.

The former soldier Timmanna 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 Madakari Nayaka. Madakari Nayaka's son Kasturi Rangappa succeeded him, consolidated the kingdom, and rule 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. 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 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.

Heroics of Obavva[edit]

During the reign of Madakari Nayaka, the city of Chitradurga was besieged by the troops of Hyder Ali(1720-1782). 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 (Kalanayak who was on duty near that hole) 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[2] from a pond which was near the hole in the rocks, halfway up the hill.[3] 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. Kalanayak, 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.[1] She belonged to the beda community.[4] 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.

In popular culture[edit]

She is considered to be the epitome of Kannada women pride. The hole through which Hyder Ali's soldiers sneaked is called Onake Obavvana Kindi (kindi=hole) or Onake kindi.[4] 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.[5]


  1. ^ a b Cathy Spagnoli, Paramasivam Samanna. Jasmine and Coconuts: South Indian Tales (1999 ed.). Englewood,USA: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9781563085765. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b March of Mysore Vol.3 (1966 ed.). Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  3. ^ Hayavadana Rao, Conjeevaram. History of Mysore (1399-1799 AD) 1766-1799. Vol.3. Bangalore: Govt. of Mysore. p. 260. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  4. ^ a b B.N, Sri Sathyan, ed. (1967). Mysore State Gazetteer - Chitradurga District. Vol.4. Bangalore: Govt. of Mysore. p. 393. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  5. ^ John, Jijo K. Studies in South. vol2, issue 1 (2005 ed.). Bangalore: Printnet Info Services Pvt Ltd. p. 24. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 

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