Warrior Queens Rani Durgawati and Naikidevi

  • In 1178 A.D. Naiki Devi defeated Muhammad Ghuri (Ghori). In 1556 Rani Durgawati defeated Malik Bayazaid (Baz Bahadur). This article tells you about these brave queens.  


During a recent visit to Mandu (Mandav) near Indore I visited Baz Bahadur Mahal. There I got to know about Rani Durgawati who had defeated Baz Bahadur (Malik Bayazaid). And so badly defeated was he that he almost forswore fighting. He gave himself up to music in which the beautiful Rupamati proved to be his favourite consort.


To see pictures of Baz Bahadur Palace  


Early this year visited the Rani Durgawati Mahal in Jabalpur fort. Impressive to say the least.

In the battles for freedom, history has the names of many brave soldiers and kings who fought for the cause. However, the names of these two queens are rarely remembered. This article tells you about their lives in brief.


Rani Durgawati

Durgawati was born on 5th October 1524 A.D. She hailed from the family of the rulers of Kalinjar fort. They were descendants of Chandella rulers.  It was the Chandellas who had prevented the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni and are better known as builders of the world famous Khajuraho temples. Being a descendant of such family, Rani Durgawati learned horse riding, archery, sword fighting and even went for hunting sessions. At a very young age she was trained to be a fighter.


At the age of eighteen she was married to Dalpat Shah, the prince of Gond dynasty. The Gond dynasty came to power in the 16-18th century and ruled over Kherla, Chanda, Garha-Mandla, and Deogarh.


Since the Chandellas were always at war with the Delhi Sultanate it exhausted their treasury and weakened their State. The marriage with Dalpat Shah was an alliance to win the support of the powerful and wealthy kingdom of Garha Mandala.


After Dalpat Shah's demise, Durgawati became the queen of the Gondwana kingdom. She shifted her capital from Singaurgarh fort to Chauragarh near Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. “It was a fort of strategic importance situated on the Satpura hill range”. Thereafter, she defeated the Sultan of Malwa, Baz Bahadur, who is referred to at the start of the article. 


Attracted by the prosperity of Durgawati’s kingdom, a Mughal General Asaf Khan moved towards it with a huge army in the year 1564. 


According to volume 7 of The History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan pg 116, “Asaf Khan was entrusted subduing the kingdom of Gondwana. It was then ruled by Rani Durgawati, a princes of the famous Chandel dynasty of Mahaboa, as regent for her son Bir Narayan. She was a capable and benevolent ruler, courageous leader who possessed an army of 20,000 cavalry and 1,000 elephants and had defeated in battle Baz Bahadur and the Miyana Afghans. 


“The advance of the Mughal army alarmed Durgavati’s soldiers, many of whom deserted. The rani, however, made a gallant stands at Narhi to the east of Garha against the Mughals inspite of their overwhelming superiority in number.”


Slowly the Gond dynasty’s kingdoms realized the impending Mughal threat.  The brave queen fought back when the Mughals marched for Garha Mandala in the year 1564. Her chief was killed but she stood fearlessly and fought to drive away the Mughals.


The very next day the Mughals launched a second attack with reinforced artillery. This time Rani Durgawati, with the help of her son, led the troops mounted on her elephant Sarman and fought bravely. She was shot by two arrows. One struck her ear and another got into her neck. Instead of getting captured she stabbed herself to death.


Two months later Asif Khan marched on the capital Chauragarh and defeated Bir Narayan, who was slain during battle. Durgawati’s sister Kamalavati was sent to Akbar’s harem.


“Rani Durgawati, who fell fighting to Akbar’s forces in 1564 engaged Padmanabha Mishra to write out a digest in seven volumes, named after her as Durgavati-prakasa, but only the first volume could be written before her death and the project had to be given up.” 


Rani Durgwati died at the age of 40. Is it not ironical that Bajirao Peshwa too passed away at the age of 40?


Rani Durgawati Palace in Jabalpur fort Madhya Pradesh


Naikidevi - Queen of Goa

We know that Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192. What few know that fourteen years before this battle Ghori was defeated by Naikidevi, a Goa born queen of Gujarat. This victory is chronicled by Hindu and Muslim chroniclers.


Being the daughter of the Kadamba king of Goa, Naikidevi was well-trained in military strategy, war tactics, cavalry and others elements of statecraft.


According to volume 5 of The History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan pg 78, “After the death of Kumarapala in A.D. 1171-72 Ajayapala, nephew of Kumarapala became kind. Ajayapala lost his life in A.D. 1176 and was succeeded by his young son Mularaja II, whose mother queen Naikidevi, the daughter of the Kadamba Paramardin, the king of Goa acted as agent”.


“In A.D 1178 Muhammad Ghuri (Ghori) attacked the kingdom of Gujarat. Naikidevi, taking her son in her lap, led the Chalukyan army against the Muslims and defeated them at Gadaraghatta near Mount Abu.”


From the works of Merutunga, a Jain scholar of the 14th century comes the most appropriate description of Naikidevi defeat of Muhammad Ghori. One of Merutunga’s chief work, Prabandha Chintamani, is where one can find details of how the queen fought the armies of Ghori at Kyara or Gadararaghatta near the foot of Mount Abu.


Naikidevi’s capital is the present day Patan in Gujarat. Patan is known today for Rani-ki-Vav a wow step-well.

Integrity, self- respect and bravery define these two Indian women. Rani Durgawati and Naikidevi are a source of inspiration. They took the battle into the enemy camp to defeat Muslim invaders.


Also read

1 Life story of Rani of Jhansi

2 The Incredible Women of Bharat

3 Rani-ki Vav Patan

4 Why Ahilyabai Holkar was a great woman

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