Wednesday, 24 June 2020

The queen whom the Portuguese feared





You must have read or heard about Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Chandbibi and Rani Kittur Chennamma, but most of you must not have even heard about the brave queen Rani Abbakka, who ruled Ullal, close to Mangalore in Karnataka. She was a young and daring queen who fought the Portuguese for decades. Her story is full of valor and courage to stay independent. Though the Portuguese captured Daman, Goa and other areas, but she was one of the main reasons they couldn’t get Mangalore.

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Rani Abbakka Chowta was the first Tuluva Queen of Ullal who fought the Portuguese in the latter half of the 16th century. She belonged to the Chowta dynasty who ruled over parts of coastal Karnataka in South India. Their capital was Puttige. The port town of Ullal served as their subsidiary capital. Rani Abbakka Chowta’s  reign was around 1525 – 1570s. Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese for four decades, with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims, a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

The Portuguese made several attempts to capture Ullal as it was strategically placed. But Abbakka repulsed each of their attacks for over four decades. For her bravery, she came to be known as Abhaya Rani (The fearless queen). She was also one of the earliest Indians to fight the colonial powers and is sometimes regarded as the 'first woman freedom fighter of India'.  In the state of Karnataka, she is celebrated along with Rani Kittur Chennamma, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva, as the foremost women warriors and patriots.

The Chowtas followed the system of matrilineal inheritance of Digambara Jain Bunt community by which Tirumala Raya, Abbakka's uncle, crowned her the queen of Ullal. Later he also forged a matrimonial alliance for Abbakka with Lakshmappa Arasa Bangaraja II, king of Banga principality in Mangalore. This alliance was to later prove a source of worry for the Portuguese. Tirumala Raya also trained Abbakka in the different aspects of warfare and military strategy. The marriage, however, was short-lived and Abbakka returned to Ullal. Her husband thus longed for revenge against Abbakka and was to later join the Portuguese in their fight against Abbakka.


After conquering  Goa and taking control of  the territory, the Portuguese turned their attention southwards and along the coast. They first attacked the South Kanara coast in 1525 and destroyed the Mangalore port. Across the Netravati river, Ullal was a prosperous port and a hub of the spice trade to Arabia and other countries in the west. Being the profitable trading center, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British vied with one another for control of the region as well as the trade routes. They, however, had not been able to make much headway as the resistance from the local chieftains was very strong. The local rulers even forged alliances cutting across caste and religious lines to keep the foreigners at bay.

Rani Abbakka's administration was well represented by Jains, Hindus as well as Muslims. Historical research also reveals that during her rule in the 16th century, Beary (muslims) men had served as seamen in the naval force. Rani Abbakka had personally supervised the construction of dam at Malali; she had appointed Bearys for boulder work. Her army too consisted of people of all sects and castes. She even forged alliances with the Zamorin of Calicut. Together, they kept the Portuguese at bay. The marital ties with the neighbouring Banga dynasty added further strength to the alliance of the local rulers. She also gained support from powerful king Venkatappanayaka of Bidnur and ignored the threats of Portuguese forces.

The year was 1555. Portuguese colonial power was at its peak in the 1500’s. They destroyed Zamorins of Calicut. Defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. Took away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat, Established a colony in Mylapore, Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it, pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple. Their next target was the busy port of Mangalore. Their one big problem,  just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal - ruled then by a feisty 30 year old woman – Rani Abbakka Chowta. Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her back to Goa - Those boats never came back.

The Portuguese, clearly upset by Abbakka's tactics, demanded that she pay tribute to them but Abbakka refused to yield. Shocked and enraged, in 1555, the Portuguese sent a huge fleet under the command of much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira . In the battle that followed, Rani Abbakka once again managed to hold her own and repulsed the attack successfully. The admiral soon returned, badly injured and empty handed. Thereafter, another Portuguese fleet was sent - only a few injured from the crew managed to make it back.

Then in 1557,  the Portuguese went on to capture the Mangalore port and the fort, perhaps planning to tackle Rani Abbakka Chowta from the convenient distance of the Mangalore fort. After the successful capture of Mangalore, a huge army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal by the Portuguese Viceroy António Noronha.  The brief was simple: Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta. The plan was foolproof- there was no way a 30 year old lady with a few men could withstand the might of an army of thousands with advanced weapons.

They managed to capture the city of Ullal and also entered the royal court. Abbakka Rani, however, escaped and took refuge in a mosque. The same night, she gathered around 200 of her soldiers and mounted an attack on the Portuguese. In the battle that ensued, General Peixoto was killed, seventy Portuguese soldiers were taken prisoners and many of the Portuguese retreated. She proceeded towards Mangalore and laid siege of the Mangalore fort. In the attacks that followed, Abbakka Rani and her supporters killed Admiral Mascarenhas the Chief of the Portuguese power there,  and the Portuguese were forced to vacate the Mangalore fort too. She didn’t just stop at this but went on to even capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 kms, north of Mangalore.

The Portuguese finally managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by convincing her estranged husband, to betray her for money. With the help of the queen's estranged husband, they mounted attacks on Ullal. Furious battles followed but Abbakka Rani held her own. In 1570, she formed an alliance with the Bijapur Sultan of Ahmednagar and the Zamorine of Calicut, who were also opposing the Portuguese. Kutty Pokar Markar, the Zamorine's general fought on behalf of Abbakka and destroyed the Portuguese fort at Mangalore but while returning he was killed by the Portuguese. She was arrested and put in the prison where she revolted again and was killed while trying to escape

As per local legends, she was an immensely popular queen and this is also attested by the fact that she is even today a part of folklore. The queen's story has been retold from generation to generation through folk songs and Yakshagana, a popular folk theatre in coastal Karnataka. In Daiva Kola, a local ritual dance, the persona in trance recounts the great deeds of Abbakka Mahadevi. Abbakka is portrayed as dark and good looking, always dressed in simple clothes like a commoner. She is portrayed as a caring queen who worked late into the night dispensing justice. Legends also claim that Abbakka was the last known person to have used the Agnivana (fire-arrow) in her fight against the Portuguese. Some accounts also claim that she had two equally valiant daughters who fought alongside her in her wars against the Portuguese. But there is no documentented evidence to prove all this.

Abbakka's memory is much cherished in her home town of Ullal. The "Veera Rani Abbakka Utsava" is an annual celebration held in her memory. The Veera Rani Abbakka Prashasti award is given to distinguished women on the occasion. On January 15, 2003, the Indian postal department issued a special cover on Rani Abbakka. There have been calls to name the Mangalore Bajpe airport in her memory. A bronze statue of the queen has been erected in Ullal and another in Bangalore. The Karnataka Itihasa Academy has called for renaming the Queen's road in the state capital as 'Rani Abbakka Devi road'. A special police force  is also launched in South Kanara in the name of "Rani Abbakka Pade" to deal with the issues related to women in the district.

The Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Rani Abbakka, the first of a series of five inshore patrol vessels (IPV) built at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd is named after Abbakka Mahadevi was commissioned in Vishakapatnam on January 20, 2012, and is based in Chennai, as a tribute to this brave queen.

Also read: Koti Chennaya - legendary heroes-of-tululand
                Koti Chennaya - legendary heroes of tululand



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World’s largest all-electric aircraft successfully takes its first flight

The world’s largest all-electric plane recently took its first successful flight, that lasted about 30 minutes. The eCaravan aircraft is a Cessna 208 Caravan plane, which was fitted with a750-horsepower electric motor made by US-based startup MagniX and modified by aerospace engineering firm AeroTEC. The aircraft, which is about 37 feet long, typically seats nine passengers.


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Ullal beach, Ullal, Mangalore, Karnataka, India
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Friday, 12 June 2020

The story of the famous Maharaja!






(Contributed by Salil Naik)

This is a story of a Marketing Maverick: Bobby Kooka - the creator of the Air India Maharaja.

This is the delightful story of one of India’s first marketing wizards, a maverick of the Tata Group, a close associate and friend of JRD Tata: Bobby Kooka, the man behind the creation of Air-India Maharajah, which came to be known and identified worldwide for it’s quality service and hospitality, till a few years ago it was done away with a new logo. And the downslide of Air India started. Maharaja was associated with Air India’s glorious past. But some wise men in Air India felt it was like continuing the British legacy and insisted on removing the Maharaja from the promos, flights, etc and introduced a new logo suitable to modern times and air travel. Some traditionalists believe that removing the mascot of Maharaja brought bad luck to Air India and it’s eventual downslide.

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Sorab Kaikushroo (Bobby) Kooka joined the aviation department of the Tata Group in 1938, the same year in which the fledgling Tata Airlines, India’s first commercial airline service, began to fly. 

Many years later, JRD Tata would fondly narrate the tale of how he first met the man - “I don't know how many of you there are here tonight who were in Tata Airlines in May 1938 - probably not many - when Mr. Kooka first burst upon an astonished air transport world which has never been the same since. On that fateful day in May, Mr. Kooka appeared in my office and having pointed out the deficiencies in the Tata Organisation, explained how badly needed he was in Tatas to put them right … I decided that if there was any place for him in Tatas, it could only be in Tata Airlines. Furthermore, in those days, the chances of survival of Tata Airlines were pretty dim and so it was clear that by employing him there we would be taking little risk of making any permanent commitment.”

Bobby Kooka also recalls this first encounter with JRD Tata in his own inimitable style – “I was told that I would have to see Mr. JRD Tata. I was warned that Mr. Tata was a terror. Heart in mouth, I went to his office. He asked me very searching questions, none of which could I answer. He was obviously impressed, so impressed, that within seconds, I was ushered out of the room …”


Behind this banter was a brilliant, fertile marketing brain. After spending a few years as Secretary of Tata Airlines, Bobby Kooka decided to give the brand (now re-christened Air India, with JRD as Chairman) a human face, that represented India with charm and dignity.  At the first booking office of the Company, located in Churchgate in Mumbai, he created “an oriental potentate, sitting on a magic carpet, smoking a bubble hookah.” This was the beginning of the Air India Maharajah, perhaps India’s first advertising mascot  who went on to win millions of hearts across the world.

Here is how Bobby Kooka described the Maharajah. “We call him a Maharajah for want of a better description. But his blood isn’t blue. He might look like royalty, but he isn’t royal.” Working together with Umesh Rao of J. Walter Thomson, the advertising agency, this duo created this loveable symbol of India – a round face, an outsized moustache, striped turban and long, sharp nose.

After making his first appearance in 1946, the Maharajah was soon all over the world, and in the process, he made Air India one of the most visible and engaging brands globally. Fifty years before Google even thought of its frequent Google-doodles, Bobby Kooka was constantly reinventing the Maharajah to suit topical themes - as a lover boy in Paris, a sumo wrestler in Tokyo, a Romeo in Rome, and a guru of transcendental meditation in Rishikesh. The Maharajah was funny, irreverent, up to antics, but always full of India, his proud homeland. He was a friend to every traveler on India’s national airline, reaching out with warmth and hospitality.

Bobby Kooka also took forward this “Indianness” to every office of the airline, worldwide. Indian imagery, dance, paintings and sculpture appeared in the offices of Air India in New York, Geneva, London and elsewhere, making the airline a beautiful showcase of the country’s great heritage. This, in turn, attracted many global travellers to make this the airline of their choice. The filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, who worked  in Bobby Kooka’s marketing team for many years, says – “For eleven years, I was on a flight, dreaming through the eyes of Kooka and his mentor JRD. I was not working for Air India, but for India.”

But if Kooka was a marketing genius, he was also a maverick, who created storms in many tea-cups, in his time. He used to write for the Tata House magazine of the time, editing the last page called the “Tata Patter”, under various pen names ranging from Pestonjee Pepper to Umslopogas, Chief of the Amazulus. On this page, he proceeded to, in the words of JRD Tata, “play havoc with the whole Tata organization by demolishing the ego and assassinating the character of every Tata Director and official official... (also), through Air India hoardings, he demolished and punctured innumerable egos, which placed me at the receiving end of endless complaints from MPs and Ministers, including  Morarji Desai and Krishna Menon, who were depicted in red pants running a track race with Mr. Kripalani.”

But nonetheless, JRD Tata provided Bobby Kooka with the required support throughout his career, because he recognized Kooka’s genius, and perhaps also the need for some benign humour in the midst of our daily challenges. As JRD said at Bobby Kooka’s retirement function in 1971 – “May you never cease tilting at windmills, at the pretentious, the charlatans, and the hypocrites of the world.” He also said - “I forgive him all the apologies I had to tender on his behalf. I forgive him all the scars that I have borne because of the pleasure, the laughter and the relief from frustration and boredom that he provided to thousands, and perhaps millions, of people.”  

This reminds me of one of JRD Tata’s key secrets to his success, of which he says – “If I have any merit, it is getting on with individuals according to their ways and characteristics …to be a leader, you have have to lead human beings with affection.” JRD led the maverick Bobby Kooka with that same human affection, and, in turn, Kooka led the fabulously successful marketing and publicity efforts for the nation’s flagship airline, including the creation and nurturing of the wonderful, timeless Air India Maharajah.

Also read: Las Vegas through the lens   Greece through the lens 

                                  Switzerland through the lens




                                   





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Happiness is just not a state;  it is something you can learn.

(Contributed by Mrs Rita Rao, Chief Happiness Officer & Administrative Support, AlMansoori Specialized Engineering, Abu Dhabi, UAE)

Research has confirmed that through intentional practices, we can actually change the neural pathways of our brain to become happier. 

When you have been gifted with a dream, it is up to you to make a plan to achieve it! Here are some steps to get you started: 
Step 1: Write down your dream.
Step 2: Write down how you’re going to get there. Break it down into small action steps. Something you can accomplish in a day, then a week, then a month, then a year. 
Step 3: Break down your small steps into even smaller baby steps – so ridiculous that you have no problem doing it. 
Step 4: Make sure your environment is conducive to your goal. For example, if your goal is to read 10 books by the end of the year, then clear your space and have books visible and accessible! So the next time you might choose to read vs. watch a show or movie. 
Step 5: Make it into a habit. When you operate on autopilot to achieve your goals, everything is easier.

For example, “when I get up at 6am, I will exercise.” Pair your goal with an established routine  (like getting up at 6) - then you can bypass the inertia of starting something new. Reward yourself for consistency - you deserve some love for taking action towards your dream.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” –Harriet Tubman


Stay Safe !! In Happiness. 


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The ghost mansions of Chettinad, Tamilnadu
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Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Sri Venkataramana Temple at Car street






Vekatramana temple in Car street in Managalore is a 300 years old temple, located in the centre of the city, and easily accessible. Sri Vekataramana  is the deity of this temple. The temple is run by the Gowda Saraswath Brahmin Community (GSB).  Lord Venkatramana or Venkateswara is worshipped here. Instead of a stone image, the Lord is in a metal icon with a lot of decoration with flowers and silver images. The main attraction here is the Ratha  yatra or Car festival that happens somewhere in between the month of January and February. The festival spans six days ending with Holi. Prasadam is served to all devotees who visit the temple on the first five days. It is celebrated as Lord Venkatraman's marraige during Car festival. One should watch  the festival to get the real feel of the celebrations.

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Sri Venkatramana Temple is centrally located in Mangalore city and with a history of more than 300 years. Car street in Mangalore is famous because of this temple and devotees and tourists visit the temple. This temple was renovated recently during 2012. The temple was designed and built in such a way that the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Veera Venkatesha is visible straight from Car steet. It is also famous for the festivals - Kodial Teru (Mangalore Car Festival), Sharada Mahotsav. Another attraction for the devotees is the delicious food available around the temple. It's always a happy feeling to be here. Lord Venkatraman is a popular deity of GSBs going by the number of temples dedicated to Him both in Karnataka and Kerala. In Kerala, He is known as Shri Venkatachalapati and the temples, Shri Tirumala Devaswom, the very name of Tirupati, the abode of the Lord.

The temple is efficiently managed by the GSB community members. Lord Sree Veera Venkatesha (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is the supreme deity, the temple has a glorious history of more than 300 years;  being closely associated with Sri Kashi Math Samsthan since inception. In early 17th century, a shrine of Lord Venkataramana was constructed with just a garbha gudi.  The images worshipped were bronze idols of Srinivasa ensemble.  In 1804 Lord Veera Venktesha was installed as the presiding deity.  Lord Sri Venkataramana is the predominant deity of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmin Community. The main attraction here is the Ratha yatra or  Car festival that happens somewhere in between the month of January and February. The festival spans six days ending with Holi.




The contribution of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins community is admirable. There are several temples managed and run by their efforts  with sincere devotion to Lord Vishnu. Majority of GSBs are found in west coast region of India, mainly Goa, Karnataka and parts of Kerala. They speak Konkani, though they speak Kannada and Tulu and Malyalam in Kerala.

The Sri Venkatramana temple has a rich and varied  history.  Earlier the vaishyas were the main residents of this area and when the Portuguese invaded the place, the Vaishyas had to move southwards. This is how many of them settled in Mangalore and Kerala. Sri Venkatramana was the chief deity of the Vaishyas and the temple was built by members of their community. The main deity has other deities along side like Sridevi and Bhoodevi. These deities are made of panchaloha – that is, five metals were used to make the statues. Lord Venkatramana holds the chakra in his right hand and the shankh on the left hand.

The goddess Sridevi is a symbol of prosperity and wealth and Bhoodevi is an embodiment of sanctity, prakriti and success. The temple was built during the seventeenth century and the main idol was erected at the primary sanctum of the temple. The temple also houses other deities like Veera Vittala, Garuda Vahana Shri Gopalakrishna, and Shri Mula Venkatramana. The statue of Naga Devata is present in the temple’s outer circle.

According to a legend, an ascetic called Bairagi, an outsider visited Mangalore in 1804. Normally any migrant or stranger from outside would  take shelter in Car Street. The Bairagi stayed there and used to worship a metal image of Lord Venkateswara. The people, particularly devotees of Lord Vishnu were fascinated and would gather around his place, keen to see the idol and took part in the worship. Later it became difficult to manage the crowd so he shifted his camp to the lower Car street. GSB community members being keen to worship Lord Vishnu, approached a prominent  and a wealthy businessman and a respected person from their community,  known as Sowkar Thimmappa Pai to procure the idol from Bairagi, and build a temple to house the Lord’s image. They were successful in their efforts. And a small shrine was built. The people of the locality most of whom werefrom GSB community started worshipping in this shrine. Ever since its establishment, Gowd Saraswat Brahmins community members are maintaining the temple.

The temple follows Madhwa Vaishnava tradition of Saint Madhwacharya (Srimad Ananda Thirtha). He preached that Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Brahman and Lord of the Universe. Lord Venkataramana or Venkateswara being an incarnation of Lord Vishnu has been worshipped as presiding deity in this temple.

There are other metal icons of Lord Vittala, Goddess Lakshmi, Ganesha, Moola Venkataramana, Gopalakrishna, Hayagriva and Snake gods. The latest additions seems to be Hanuman (Mukhyaprana) and Garuda. The flagpole covered with Silver Clad looks majestic and attractive.

The idol (about  2’ in height) is made of panchaloha (five metals namely Gold, silver, copper, brass and lead) as in Vijayanagara architecture. It is holding sword in right hand as such it has the prefix ‘Veera’ (warrior). This main idol, adorned with diamond crown, leaves the visitors and devotees with an unforgettable divine vibration. A sense of fulfilment of being blessed by the Lord.

Shree Veera Venkataramana Temple being in the midst of the city is easily reachable by city buses from Hampankatta or  by autorickshaws. It’s normally a crowded area with shops, food stalls and flower market nearby.


Also read:
Mangaladevi Temple, Mangalore
Dharmashtala Temple, Mangalore
Mookambika Devi Temple

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Travel & feel, smell, enjoy!

Just like the friendly home-stay, travel with the local companion who takes you through the roads, streets, tourist spots and helps you experience the authentic flavors of the city. He is your companion, friend and guide. And you are not a stranger in a new place and he helps you to feel the pulse of the city.

With a local companion, you can literally touch, feel and smell during your travel. It is also a personal connect with the enriching conversations of the place, people, food and everything you love to know on your trip.

You could also go further and dine at local people’s homes around the world and taste the food, understand the culture and tradition of the people and the place. Such local travel comprises authentic, off-the-beat experiences. It’s cost effective, time-saving and friendly too, as the local companion is familiar with the place, food, language and habits.

Local travel is big not just for the budget travelers, but also those who have travelled abroad extensively and want to explore the country or city in detail and get the true feel of the place.


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Vethoba Temple, Arawalli,
Maharastra, India
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