Onake Obavva: A Folklore Heroine Who Used a Pestle to Kill Mysore Soldiers

In 1779, Hyder Ali captured the fort of Chitradurga after defeating Madakari Nayaka V.

The Chitradurga Nayakas hold a special place in Karnataka's folklore, with stories like that of Onake Obavva. Legend has it that Obavva, the wife of a guard, played a crucial role in the defense of the fort.

The story goes that as Hyder's soldiers struggled to breach the fort's defenses, some of them began searching for secret passages. At this time, one soldier noticed a woman carrying curds into the fortress through a small crevice in the wall, revealing one of the secret entrances. The crevice was so narrow that only a person in a kneeling position could pass through it.


Hyder's army decided to march in single file through the crevice into the fort, taking advantage of the absence of watchmen. The only watchman at that entrance, Obavva's husband, had left for lunch.

Meanwhile, Obavva was serving her husband his afternoon meal. When he requested water, she went to fetch some from a nearby well, which was close to the crevice.

While collecting water from the well, Obavva heard suspicious noises and realized the enemy was attempting to enter the fort through the crevice. She hurried back to her house but decided not to disturb her husband who was engrossed in his meal. Instead, she grabbed a wooden pestle (onake) used for pounding rice and came near the spot. 

With the pestle raised, Obavva stood guard next to the hole. When the enemy's head appeared through the hole, she struck it with the heavy pestle, dispatching him with a single blow. In this manner, Obavva killed a large number of Hyder's soldiers. 

When Obavva's husband returned, he was astonished to see what his wife had accomplished. He immediately blew his horn, alerting the garrison of Madakari Nayaka, who then chased off the remaining enemy forces.

After hearing the whole story, Madakari Nayaka offered Obavva rich presents, which the lady humbly refused, saying, "My Lord, these implacable enemies are depriving us of our country and our homes and I, through God's grace and through the strength of the salt we have eaten of Your Highness, was able to prevent them from entering the fort clandestinely. For this slight service I do not deserve presents more than what Your Highness has already conferred on us."

In some modern interpretations, it is believed that Obavva was killed by Hyder's soldiers during her pestle-fight. However, other versions suggest that she succumbed to exhaustion.

Some Facts:

None of the British historians have mentioned this fact.

It is hard to believe that Obavva's husband was the only one to guard the secret spot, with no one else in the vicinity, especially while the siege of the fort was in progress. Had he been a dedicated sentinel, he would have never gone to eat without placing another guard as his substitute in such a perilous situation.

It is reasonable to assume that if a soldier was struck on the head with a pestle, they would scream, alerting others. A fascinating detail in this account is that each soldier was dispatched with a single blow to the head with the pestle. Remarkably, not one of them attempted to resist. 

According to Srikantaya, this incident took place at night. The 'Mysore State Gazetteers: Chitradurga District' states that Obavva even dragged their dead bodies through the hole and pushed them aside. The strength she displayed was truly astonishing!

Nowadays, the hole through which Hyder's soldiers were said to have 'sneaked' is known as Onake Obavvana Kindi.