Rani Durgavati

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Rani Durgavati
Rani Durgavati.jpg
Portrait of Durgavati Madavi
Queen of Gondwana, India
Born5 October 1524
Kalinjar Fort (Banda, Uttar Pradesh)
Died24 June 1564(1564-06-24) (aged 39)
Narai Nala, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
SpouseDalpat Shah
IssueVir Narayan
FatherKeerat Rai

Rani Durgavati Madavi (October 5, 1524 – June 24, 1564) was a ruling Queen of Gondwana from 1550 until 1564. She was born in the family of Chandel king Keerat Rai. She was born at the fort of Kalinjar (Banda, Uttar Pradesh). Rani Durgavati's achievements further enhanced the glory of her ancestral tradition of courage and patronage.

Life[edit]

In 1542, she was married to Dalpat Shah Maravi, the eldest son of king Sangram Shah of Gondwana kingdom. The Chandel and Rajgond dynasties were allied because of this marriage. This resulted in Keerat Rai gaining the help of the Gonds at the time of Muslim invasion of Sher Shah Suri.

She gave birth to a son in 1545 A.D. who was named Vir Narayan. Dalpat Shah died in 1550 and due to the young age of Vir Narayan, Durgavati took the reins of the Gond kingdom. Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha and Minister Man Thakur helped the Rani in looking after the administration successfully and effectively. Rani moved her capital to Chauragarh in place of Singorgarh fort. It was a fort of strategic importance situated on the Satpura hill range.

After the death of Sher Shah, Sujat Khan captured Malwa and was succeeded by his son Baz Bahadur in 1556. After ascending to the throne, Baz attacked Rani Durgavati but the attack was repulsed.

In the year 1562, Akbar the Great vanquished the Malwa ruler Baz Bahadur and conquered Malwa, made it a Mughal dominion. Consequently, the state boundary of Rani touched the Mughal Sultanate.

Rani's contemporary was a Mughal General, Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan, an ambitious man who vanquished Ramchandra, the ruler of Rewa. The prosperity of Rani Durgavati's state lured him and he invaded Rani's state after taking permission from Mughal emperor Akbar. This plan of Mughal invasion was the result of expansionism and imperialism of Akbar.

When Rani heard about the attack by Asaf Khan she decided to defend her kingdom with all her might although her Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha (Adhar Kayastha) [1] pointed out the strength of Mughal forces. Rani maintained that it was better to die respectfully than to live a disgraceful life.

To fight a defensive battle, she went to Narrai, situated between a hilly range on one side and two rivers Gaur and Narmada on the other side. It was an unequal battle with trained soldiers and modern weapons in multitude on the Mughal side and a few untrained soldiers with old weapons on the side of Rani Durgavati. Her Faujdar Arjun Das was killed in the battle and Rani decided to lead the defence herself. As the enemy entered the valley, soldiers of Rani attacked them. Both sides lost some men but Rani lost more.

At this stage, 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 next 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 Mughal army to move back three times but at last, he got wounded and had to retire to a safe place. In the course of battle, Rani also got injured badly near her ear with an arrow. Another arrow pierced her neck and she lost her consciousness. On regaining consciousness 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. Her martyrdom day (24 June 1564) is even today commemorated as "Balidan Diwas".

Painting of a soldier preparing for battle
Rani Durgavati preparing for the battle of Narrai; fresco by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha in Jabalpur's Shaheed-Smarak

Legacy[edit]

In the year 1983, the Government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpur as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya in her memory. Government of India issued a postal-stamp commemorating her death, on 24 June 1988. The train between Jabalpur Junction and Jammutawi is known as Durgavati Express (11449/11450) after the name of the Queen.

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