Cyanide is a film I cherish for more reasons than just as a great acting experience. The politics of the LTTE led Freedom movement in Srilanka that I had an in-depth knowledge of, gave me greater insights into the lives of militants that killed our former premier Rajiv Gandhi during filming. The film was based on real life incidents & experiences and hence Ranganath, the man who had originally housed Sivarasan & the killers was often on the sets. One such incident he narrated that became a pivotal point in the film was Subha(the suicide bomber I played in the film)watching a Kannada song on tv. It was the Chitramanjari of those days playing, “Kannada Nadina Veeraramaniya”, from Puttanna Kanagal’s blockbuster Nagara Haavu. Subha had become hysterical on watching Obavva take on Hyder Ali’s men. Such is the emotion that Onake Obavva’s legend evokes among women that it transcends language and tugs at your heart.
Obavva was Mudduhanuma, a trumpeter’s Home-maker. No trained soldier or queen or royalty but just an ordinary woman of the Chalavadi community who became the pride of Kannada through her extra-ordinary feat. Had little or no knowledge of arms or ammunition or war-fare. Since 1754 Hyder Ali, had made untiring efforts but in vain to acquire the Chitradurga fortress held by its chieftain Madakari Nayaka. His party then made a chance discovery of a small debouch that would lead into the fortress.
Obavva who steps out to fetch drinking water for her husband at lunch notices the enemy soldiers trickling in. One is awed by her presence of mind in making the decision to take them on, herself. She could have alerted her men or even her husband but she chooses not to waste time. Picks up her Onake, pestle & converts it into a weapon to kill. “Durgiyannu manadalli nenedalu, veeragachcheya haaki nindalu”, read Udayshankar’s memorable lyrics. She invoked the fierce Durga in her heart and tied her saree firmly to take on the enemy. She knocked them on their head one by one as they sneaked in through the hole and soon there were 70-80 bloodied bodies of the enemy strewn around her. Her husband who came looking for her noticed the avatar of Kali that his wife had turned into and alerted his army & the rest is history.
Here was Obavva displaying unmatched valour in a guerrilla style attack against Hyder Ali’s men who eventually killed her. Her sense of Nationalism and her loyalty to Madakari Nayaka who was her ruler is rare and to this day revered by all Kannadigas as their greatest pride by aligning her to the likes of warrior queens, Rani Abbakka, Rani Chennamma and Keladi Chennamma, all of whom fought against foreign invaders.
Why not “Obavva” Jayanthi at State-cost instead of Tipu Jayanti. Why not a Rani Abbakka Jayanti? Perhaps because women are no vote-bank according to Siddaramaiah and folks?
Tipu whose Jayanti this Govt seeks to celebrate, was no Tiger of Mysore but the Tyrant of Mysore who unleashed terror on all those who refused to convert their faith to Islam. As for his respect for women, here is an account of his own…
A total of 333 women including servants and 268 of Hyder’s, as well as some eunuchs in the Zenana according to Captain Thomas Marriott who was placed in charge of the Zanana or ‘Women’s Quarters’ after Srirangapatam fell. The women came from near and far. There were daughters of local families, as well as Turks, Georgians, Persians and women from places as Arcot, Tanjore, Hyderabad and Delhi. Among the high caste Hindu women of the Zanana listed by Marriott were 2 sisters of the Raja of Coorg, a niece of Purnaiya and 3 ladies related to the Wodeyars Rajas of Mysore. George V. Valentia in “Voyages and Travels’, actually visited the Srirangapatam palace following Tipu’s death and noted that each lady furnished her apartment ‘according to the fashion of her country’. Guarded by eunuchs they had entered the Zanana at a young age, all being muslim by birth or after being converted to Islam.Thomas Marriott also writes ‘In the Sultan’s own dominions his confidential servant, Raja Khan, had free access to the private apartment of any of his subjects, and could carry away any of the women, without them daring to make any opposition’.
Such was Tipu’s lust and hatred for women. The Baku Manuscript details the brute force he used against the Kanara Christians. 60-80000 men, women and children captured and taken by foot all way from Mangalore to Srirangapatna, notwithstanding the trek of the 4000metre high western ghats. Thousands lost their lives on the way. ‘Nettara Kere’ meaning Pool of blood got its name from the gut-wrenching incident where, Tipu’s soldiers were unleashed upon the captive women. The youth protested and about 5000men were killed in the clash that ensued. Gadayi Kallu near Bantwal is the spot where hundreds of men & women were thrown off into the valley of death. Tipu didn’t spare pregnant women who delivered during that arduous journey, many new-borns who succumbed to hunger & fatigue. When the party finally reached Srirangapatna, it had shrunk to 20000 in number.
Mandyam Iyengars belonging to the Bharadwaj Gothra to this day refuse to celebrate Narakachaturdashi, that marks the first day of Deepavali festivities. On that very day, Tipu’s men had attacked Melkote and massacred about 800 men, women & children of the community residing there. Innocent women & children were hung to trees because the community owed its allegiance to the Wodeyars of Mysore.
While in his earlier conquests of Coorg, thousands were killed, villages burnt & razed to the ground for the rebellion against Sultanate forces, the actual number of Kodavas of Coorg that were captured in Tipu’s operation from Devati Parmabu in 1785 is unclear. The British administrator Mark Wilks gives it as 70,000, Historian Lewis Rice arrives at the figure of 85,000, while Mir Kirmani’s score for the Coorg campaign is 80,000 Hindu men, women and child prisoners who were taken to Srirangapatna. They were also subjected to forcible conversions to Islam, death and torture. Tipu Sultan’s return from Coorg to Srirangapatna his capital took place in January. When Tipu arrived in Srirangapatam, all the prisoners taken in Coorg were made Muslims and styled Ahmadees (Ahmadis). According to Wilks, in one day on an auspicious moment Tipu had the great mass of Kodavas circumcised.
Tipu was no hero but hateful and heinously hateful…He was the historical version of a modern-day Jihadi who murders in the name of religion…”My victorious sabre is lightning for the destruction of the unbelievers. Haidar, the Lord of the Faith, is victorious for my advantage. And moreover, he destroyed the wicked race who were unbelievers”, read the inscription on his sword.
Siddaramaiah seems to be as blinded by vote-bank communal politics as was his false-god Tipu, by his spite for Kafirs. Why else would his Govt choose to celebrate the genocide, exodus, communal hate-crimes against men, women, children of Kannadigas, not to mention Tipu’s devious intent to replace Kannada with Urdu and Persian(hence several jargon have crept into administrative language in use to this day)? Worth mentioning would be the fact that No other Congress Govt has chosen to celebrate Tipu in the past. Time for the Madakari Nayakas, Obavvas, Kodavas, Kanara Christians and Mandyam Iyengars, all else whose predecessors and history were bloodied by Hyder Ali & is Tipu Sultan to shake up Siddaramaiah!