India’s First Female Freedom Fighter

A movie on Chennamma's life has won awards. (Kittur Chennamma, 1961)

“The historian of India,” said Vincent Arthur Smith, a celebrated academic on ancient India, “is bound by the nature of things to direct his attention primarily to the North, and is able to give only a secondary place to the story of the Deccan plateau and the far South.” 

Most stories on India’s freedom struggle often involve North Indian figures, such as Queen Laxmibai (Jhansi Ki Rani), Bhagat Singh, and Mangal Pandey —  two movies on Laxmibai are coming out in just 2019 alone, and seven Indian movies have been produced on Bhagat Singh. English and Hindi textbooks aren’t better. 

Yet, the first Indian woman, maybe even the first person, to rebel against British colonialism actually hails from the South — Kittur Rani Chennamma, from the erstwhile princely state of Kittur in Karnataka.

Chennamma was