|Sultanah of Delhi|
Billon Jital of Razia
|5th Sultana of the Delhi Sultanate|
|Reign||10 October 1236 − 14 October 1240|
|Coronation||10 October 1236|
|Predecessor||Rukn ud din Firuz|
|Successor||Muiz ud din Bahram|
Budaun, Uttar Pradesh, India
|Died||14 October 1240 (aged 35)|
Kaithal, Delhi Sultanate
Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkmen Gate, Delhi
Radhiyah bint Iltutmish or popularly known as Razia Sultana (Persian: رَضِيَه سُلْطَان), known in Arabic: رَضِيَة بِنْت إِلْتُتْمِش; c. 1205 – 14 October 1240) was the empress regnant of the Delhi Sultanate from 10 October 1236 to 14 October 1240. A member of the Mamluk dynasty, she is known for being one of the few women in history to have ruled a large empire and the first sovereign female ruler in both Islamic and Indian history, being succeeded by Queen Victoria and Indira Gandhi.
An efficient ruler, according to Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, she was sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent, and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a monarch. She is also famous for her romantic involvement and legends with her lover and later husband, Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, a ruler of Bengal and Bhatinda.
Early life and Career
Razia Sultana was the daughter of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, who had begun life as a Turk slave. Iltutmish had been a great favourite of his master, Qutb ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and had been married to his only daughter Qutb Begum (or also known as Turkan Khatun), who gave birth to Razia.
Razia had a brother named Nasiruddin Mahmud. Being a member of the ruling family, Razia grew up in privileged circumstances and was close to the levers of power both within the harem (where her mother was dominant) and in the court, where she was a favorite of both her maternal grandfather and her father. This was in contrast with her half-brothers Rukn ud-din Firuz, and Muiz ud-din Bahram who were the sons of former slave-girls, and thus grew up quite distant from the centers of power.
When Razia was five years old, Qutubuddin Aibak died and was succeeded by Iltutmish. Razia was a favorite of her father, and as a child was allowed to be present around him while he dealt with affairs of state. Later, like some other princesses of the time, she was trained to administer a kingdom if required, in the absence of her father or her husband. Her abilities and diligence, no less than her mother's royal lineage, commended Razia to Iltutmish and made her a confirmed favorite with him. Nevertheless, Iltutmish's eldest son Nasiruddin Mahmud, Razia's brother, was groomed by Iltutmish to succeed him.
However, Nasiruddin Mahmud died suddenly in 1229 CE, and Iltutmish was at a loss as to a successor because he felt that none of his several surviving sons, born of his other wives, were worthy of the throne. In 1230, he had to leave the capital in order to lead an invasion against Gwalior. During his absence, Razia acted as a competent regent, with the assistance of the Sultan's trusted minister. Iltutmish returned to Delhi in 1231 after having captured Gwalior, and the issue of succession was foremost on his mind. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor when he designated Razia as his heir apparent. However, after Iltutmish died on 30 April 1236, Razia's half-brother Rukn ud-din Firuz was elevated to the throne instead.
Rukn ud-din Firuz's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkan for all practical purposes running the government, Rukn ud-din abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the outrage of the citizenry. On 9 November 1236, both Rukn ud din and his mother Shah Turkaan were assassinated after only six months in power. With reluctance, the nobility agreed to allow Razia to reign as Sultana of Delhi.
Razia and Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, the governor of Bathinda, were childhood friends. Some recognize them as childhood sweethearts who were strongly in love with each other. However, when Altunia was in Bathinda, the Turkic aristocracy spread rumors about Razia's romantic involvement with Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian Siddi (Habshi) slave. This triggered Altunia's jealousy and he led a rebellion against Razia, simply with the intention of getting her back. As Iltutmish wanted Razia to rule over India, to keep her father's promise Razia did marry Altunia.
“Together they (Sultana Raziya and Malik Altunia after their marriage) marched an army towards Delhi, aiming to dethrone Bahrām Shah. But the new sultan led out a force to rout his sister and Altunia and succeeded. The troops accompanying the couple abandoned them, and both Raziya and her husband were killed in Kaithal Haryana, on 25 Rabiʿ aI-Awwal 638 AH/ 14 October 1240.″
Another Persian historian Ferishta (1560-1620) writes in Tarikh-e Ferishta that Sultan Raziya fled to Bathinda after her defeat by her brother’s forces. Here she again recouped and made another advance against Delhi with an army.
Razia was reportedly devoted to the cause of her empire and to her subjects. There is no record that she made any attempt to remain aloof from her subjects, rather it appears she preferred to mingle among them. She especially protected and preserved the indigenous cultures of her Hindu subjects during her reign. Her reign was characterised as spirited and dynamic by many.
In popular culture
In 2015, & TV started airing Razia Sultan, a TV series on the life of Razia, starring Pankhuri Awasthy. It highlighted her tough journey towards becoming a Sultana and her much spoken about passionate love life with Altunia.
According to Historian Rana Safvi's book, 'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi', Sultana Raziya's grave lies near Turkman Gate in Bulbul-i-khana near Bhojali Pahari. It is known locally as "Rajji Shajji Ki Qabr". The other grave is said to be of her sister Shazia. She was a devotee of Shah Turkman Bayabani, a thirteenth-century saint and the place where she is buried is said to be his khanqah, his hospice.
'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi' quotes Sir Syed and states that Sultan Raziya's grave was built by her brother and successor Muizuddin Bahram Shah.
In her book, Rana Safvi writes, "The lanes leading to her tomb are very confusing and one has to ask for directions at Bhojala Pahari. There is an ASI board which leads into Bulbulikhana. At the end of some narrow, dingy lanes is another stone sign by ASI, which announces the last resting place of South Asia's first female monarch."
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Rukn ud din Firuz
| Mamluk Dynasty
Muiz ud din Bahram
Rukn ud din Firuz
| Sultan of Delhi
Muiz ud din Bahram
- Asif, Salman, and Kate Montgomery. Razia: Warrior Queen of India. London: Hood Hood Books, 1998. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/43208215
- Goel, Devendra, Chandrakant Chadda, Nirupa Roy, Jairaj, Kamran, M. Kumar, N.A. Ansari, and Lachhiram. Razia sultan Raziyā Sultāna. Mumbai: Shemaroo Entertainemtn, 2012. DVD; NTSC all regions; 5.1 surround sound. Hindi with English subtitles. Abstract: A tale of stormy love and passion for each other and unflinching loyalty between Razia, the Queen Empress of India and an Abyssinian slave Yaqub. She became immortalised as a symbol of the highest, the noblest and the most sacred in love. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/905056178
- Dasgupta, Shahana. Razia: The People's Queen. New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2001. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/422540172
- Maqbul Arshad. Razia Sultana. Lahore: Maqbul Academy, 1900. Fiction: Juvenile audience: Urdu. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/651942430
- Project Continua: Biography of Sultan Raziyya bint Iltutmish
- An Impartial History of the Only Empress of India: Vishal Goel (r. 1236/7-40 C.E.) : http://ishq-e-dilli.blogspot.in/2016/06/an-impartial-history-of-only-empress-of.html
- Exploring Razia Sultan's Tomb at Mohalla Bulbuli Khana, Delhi: http://ishq-e-dilli.blogspot.in/2016/07/exploring-razia-sultans-tomb-at-mohalla.html