rani durgavati (1524 – 1564)


India is a land steeped in history and mysticism and many a great men and women have lived and died here. They are much revered for their courage and integrity and one such legendary person was Rani Durgavati. She was a Rajput princess born on 5th October, 1524 to Keerat Pal Singh of Bundelkhand at Kalinjar Fort (Banda district, Uttar Pradesh). Her father was the ruler of Chandela Dynasty whose greatest king, Vidyadhar, was famous for primarily a few things – he was one of the few Indian rulers to have successfully repulsed the Mahmud of Ghazni and was the builder of the world-famous temples at Khajuraho (Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh) which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

kandariya mahadeo temple, khajuraho

Durgavati was married to the Gondi King Dalpati Shah in 1542 who was the eldest son of Sangram Shah, the ruler of Garha Mandla (as of today it would comprise the districts of Jabalpur, Damoh, Narsinghpur, Mandla, Hoshangabad). After the marriage of Dalpati Shah and Durgavati, the Gonds got into an alliance with the Chandelas of Bundelkhand and gave stiff resistance to Sher Shah Suri when he had attacked Kalinjar in 1545. Sher Shah was much successful in his effort despite the coalition of the kingdoms from central India but he died of an accidental gunpowder explosion. The same year Rani Durgavati gave birth to Vir Narayan, her only son. Dalpati Shah died in 1550 and since Vir was too young, Rani Durgavati had to take the reigns of the kingdom.

garha mandla (approx area)

Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha (his successor Beohar Rajendra Simha is famous for being the person who had immersed the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi in river Narmada at Tilwara Ghat, Jabalpur) and a minister Man Thakur helped the Rani in looking after the administration successfully and effectively. The Rani shifted her capital from Singaurgarh fort (present day Damoh district near the town of Singrampur) to Chauragarh fort (present day Narsinghpur district near the town of Gadarwara) and got many small forts built all across her estate nestled strategically amidst the lofty and heavily forested Satpuras.

malwa

After the death of Sher Shah, Sujat Khan captured Malwa and was succeeded by his son Baz Bahadur in 1556. Baz Bahadur was a great patron of art and paid little attention to his territory. The kingdom of Rani Durgavati laid to his immediate east and considering it was ruled by a woman he attacked her but was driven out. After this win Rani Durgavati was greatly revered by her countrymen and her popularity increased.

singaurgarh fort, damoh - rani durgavati shifted her capital from here to chauragarh

singaurgarh fort, damoh – rani durgavati shifted her capital from here to chauragarh! source – damoh.nic.in

Baz Bahadur had fallen in love with a Hindu shepherdess, Roopmati, and married her. They lived at the historic city of Mandu but theirs was a short love story. Adham Khan, a Mughal general (younger son of Akbar’s foster-mother Maham Anga) under Akbar, attacked Malwa and captured it. Baz Bahadur fled to Khandesh (modern north-west Maharashtra) and Rani Roopmati killed herself sensing danger. The tragic story of the rise and fall of Mandu isn’t the point of concern here and would be dealt separately.

Asaf Khan, another Mughal general under Akbar, fresh from his conquest of Rewa in 1562 now laid his eyes on Rani Durgavati’s Kingdom.

Rani Durgavati’s kingdom now touched the boundaries of both Rewa and Malwa and both were now under the suzerainty of the Mughals – Rewa under Asaf Khan and Malwa under Adham Khan. An attack from either of them was imminent.

rani durgavati on her elephant sarman

Asaf Khan decided to capture Manlda in 1562 but when the Rani heard about his plans she decided to defend her kingdom with all her might. The diwan pointed out that the strength of Mughal forces was no match to theirs but the rani maintained that it was better to die respectfully than to live a disgraceful life.

rani durgavati stamp

To fight a defensive battle, she went to Narai Nala (Jabalpur district) situated between a hilly range on one side and two rivers – Gaur and Narmada, on the other. It was an unequal battle with trained soldiers and modern weapons in multitude on one side and a few untrained soldiers with old weapons on the other side. Her faujdar, Arjun Das, was killed in the battle and Rani decided to lead the defense herself. As the enemy entered the valley, soldiers of Rani attacked them. Both sides lost some men but Rani was victorious in this battle. She chased the Mughal army and came out of the valley.

an artist's rendition of the battle of narrai

an artist’s rendition of the battle of narrai

Two years hence, in 1564, Asaf Khan decided to attack Rani Durgavati’s kingdom yet again at Narai Nala. Rani reviewed her strategy with her counselors. She wanted to attack the enemy in the night to enfeeble them but her lieutenants did not accept her suggestion. By morning Asaf Khan had summoned big guns. Rani rode on her elephant Sarman and came for the battle. Her son Vir Narayan also took part in this battle. He forced the Mughal army to move back three times but at last he got wounded and had to retire to a safe place (possibly sent back to Chauragarh, Narsinghpur district where he was later executed in cold blood). In the course of the battle Rani also got injured near her ear with an arrow. Another arrow pierced her neck and she lost consciousness. On regaining awareness she perceived that defeat was imminent. Her mahout advised her to leave the battlefield but she refused and took out her dagger and killed herself on June 24, 1564. Thus was the end of a valiant queen who not once thought of submitting to the might of the Mughals and fought against them to her last breath.

Some sources say that this last battle of 1564 took place at Singrampur in present day Damoh district of MP (much near Rani Durgavati’s former capital).

a screenshot taken from the history tab of damoh.nic.in

a screenshot taken from the history tab of damoh.nic.in

After Rani Durgavati’s death, the fortune of the Gondi Kingdom fell into oblivion but she is always remembered for her courage and her abilities as a general who upheld her dignity till her last breath. Her death is celebrated in India as a “martyrdom day” on June 24. In the year 1983, the Government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpur as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya in her memory. The Government of India paid a fitting tribute to her by issuing a postal stamp commemorating her death, on 24 June 1988.

There might still be various inconsistencies in this blog but I have taken great pain in collecting pictures and information from various sources and tried linking them together to form a somewhat seamless and comprehensive outline of Rani Durgavati’s life! If you find mistakes kindly point them out and I would be happy to research more and make corrections! Thanks!

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18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anumita on 09/12/2010 at 3:53 pm

    badhiya hai aur behtar bhi 🙂
    Good to see that u are on the track now 😛 very best wishes for u 🙂
    From the exam’s point of view i would suggest you to start writing on the papaer as well, it would increase ur writing speed.
    well!! ist up to you how do you manage? i can only give suggetion.
    m very dumbo in history, but shayad tumhare blogs padh kar sudhar jaye :p

    Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on 11/12/2010 at 2:53 pm

    Wow – some serious research has gone into this! Thanks for bringing to light a forgotten heroine of our nation. We need more people like her.

    Reply

  3. Its also amazing that the world has changed so much over the years – today we would not imagine stuff like this ever happening! (Sorry, my previous comment got posted as anonymous!)

    Reply

  4. anumita: yeah, definitely.. writing on paper improves ur speed n once in a while i do that.. thanks for reading n liking the post..

    arpit: yeah, i did research for quite some time, mostly with the location of the places they are as of now.. the problem with indian history is.. they arent digitized much plus various sources tell diff stores with a zillion spelling variants of names of ppl n places.. i tried to come with a well researched post on the great lady with maps to consolidate my research n here it is.. thanks for the word “wow” it really made all the effort worthwhile.. lots more in the same tune to come from me.. yeah.. its almost unimaginable to see something of this sort happening today..

    Reply

  5. Very well written. Do you know any historical document which gives us the date of Rani Durgavati’s death as 24June?

    Reply

    • at the cost of sounding stupid, i picked the date of her death from wikipedia! this article was posted a long time ago and i did my fair share of research but don’t remember the sources i referred to corroborate the same!

      Reply

  6. Very nice information. I was searching for details about the story of Rani Durgavati. Your correlation of past Garha and Chauragarh with present places of MP was quite helpful. Thank you!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Neha Sis on 02/09/2013 at 3:12 pm

    some serious research has gone into this.. keep it up bhai.. u inspire me every time.. 🙂

    Reply

  8. Posted by hina saif on 04/07/2014 at 11:32 pm

    hai man bohot acha hai bhai

    LOVE
    Hina

    Reply

  9. Posted by hina saif on 04/07/2014 at 11:34 pm

    love u nd dis website

    Reply

  10. Posted by hina saif on 04/07/2014 at 11:35 pm

    i mean i love vivek and dis website

    Reply

  11. Posted by hina saif on 04/07/2014 at 11:36 pm

    3 words 4 u vivek “I LOVE U “

    Reply

  12. Posted by hina saif on 04/07/2014 at 11:41 pm

    U LOOK SO HANDSOME. I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PICTURE

    Reply

  13. Posted by Nikita Gupta on 23/10/2014 at 11:24 am

    thanks; this is verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry helpful 4 me

    Reply

  14. Actual brave Queen of India is Rani Durgawati, she deserved for great salute from Indian citizen, but Historian ignore her bravery and not recognized as she deserved

    Reply

  15. thanks everyone for dropping by!

    Reply

  16. Posted by Dr K Prabhakar rao on 18/11/2015 at 8:46 pm

    kindly read my article on durgavati that. Was posted on my blog kuntamukkalaprabhakar.blogspot.com. in your. Article you have not dwelt on the. MARRAIGE of Dalpat shah and Durgavati that has interesting back ground. it stayed in Jabalpur for 3 years while in govt service. I am conversvant with. MP. after the death of Durgavati kamalavati a close relation of the queen was taken prisoner and sent to Delhi.It is stated that veernarayan died in battle. Durgawati received an Artie shot on her temple and she committed suicide to avoid capture and dishonor.Muslim armies were wretched and they invariably raped the vanquished women.

    Reply

    • thanks for dropping by! i tried searching your blog for the entry on rani durgavati but couldn’t find it! can you please provide the exact link of the article!

      Reply

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