Jyothsna Sainath
Jyothsna Sainath
Nitya Nritya Dance Company

Kitturu Rani Chennamma - A Narrative in Bharatanatyam

Chennamma (1778 - 1829) was born in Belagavi district of the present day Indian state of Karnataka.  She was trained as a child in archery, sword-fighting and cavalry arts, unusual for a girl in that era, and was married to Mallasarja Desai, the ruler of Kitturu, as his second wife.  Kitturu was a small, prosperous kingdom in the present day border district of Belgaum.  Following the untimely death of Mallasarja in the wake of his capture by the powerful Peshwa of the Maratha kingdom, Rani Chennamma takes over the reins of Kitturu and installs Mallasarja’s Senior Queen’s son, Shiva Linga Rudra Sarja, as the ruler.  Soon thereafter, Rani Chennamma’s own son dies in the 3rd Anglo-Maratha War of 1818.  The childless Shiva Linga Rudra Sarja succumbs to tuberculosis after discretely adopting a son in 1824.  The British contest the validity of the adoption, and lock the treasury of Kitturu in a move to eventually take over control of Kitturu. Chennamma defiantly breaks open the treasury, paving the way for the first battle of Kitturu against the British in October 1824. The British forces suffer a humiliating defeat, and Chennamma negotiates a treaty in return for release of two captured British officers.  In a second battle in December, a combination of a much larger British army and treachery by some of Kitturu’s lieutenants results in the Kitturu fort being breached. Rani Chennamma is captured and held captive in the nearby Bailahongala fort until her death in 1829. The story of Rani Chennamma is that of an early assertion of pride and independence by a ruler in the Indian sub-continent against the spread of British hegemony in the region in the face of great personal tragedies. 


Rani: Queen 

Marathas: A powerful kingdom in the north of Belgaum district. At its peak, it covered most of present day state of Maharashtra. 

Peshwa: A clan of hereditary Prime Ministers of the Maratha kingdom, they were de facto rulers of the Maratha kingdom from the mid-1700s.

A solo multi-media production, Kitturu Rani Chennamma - A Narrative in Bharatanatyam is constructed as an intimate, first person account of the turbulence and tragedy that marked Rani Chennamma's life. This production was premiered in Salt Lake City, UT in September 2019. 

Creative Credits: 

Concept, Script, Choreography and Performance:  Jyothsna Sainath
Music Composition and Arrangement:  Gampalahally Gurumurthy
Voice:  Varijashree Venugopal, Nandakumar Unnikrishnan
Mridangam and Nattuvangam:  Gampalahally Gurumurthy
Rhythm Pad:  Karthik Vydhatri
Flute:  Niteesh Ammannayya
Violin:  Praadesh Acharya
Sitar:  Sumarani

Selected Lyrics are derived from Kajanada Gudinda (authored by Smt. G. N. T. Harini)

Media Design:  Nimmy Jammulapati
Lighting Design:  Rachel Harned

Bhayanaka - A Walk Through the Woods 

A screen dance project undertaken as part of Arpana - a series of short films produced by Nitya Nritya Foundation. This was a collaboration with film-maker Ty Turley. 

Vande Vishnum

A traditional repertoire composed entirely of pieces on Lord Vishnu, each visualizing him from a different perspective.

Concept and Choreography: Jyothsna Sainath