The Great Queens of India A Tale of Bravery and Valor

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Anupama Nair

Our great Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the Amrit Mahotsav or celebration of India’s 75th year of independence. I am writing feature stories on all those great men and women who fought foreign invasion not just the British.

Today I am going to write about the mother – daughter duo, who defeated Ghori and Aibak. Have you heard this story before? Our history in text books were written mostly by people who weren’t patriots. There are many dynasties who ruled for centuries but few invaders who ruled for lesser years got more coverage in our curriculum. Many warriors, especially brave queens were neglected and never included in history. One such brave queen is Naiki Devi, the queen of Gujarat who defeated Muhammad of Ghori, 14 years before he faced Prithvi Raj Chauhan and her daughter Kurma Devi, who defeated Aibak.

The legendary queens in India, Egypt, Greek and Roman mythology were warrior women who have fascinated the world from time immemorial. India, too, has its own share of indomitable women who proved that they were fierce fighters and skilled leaders. Making military strategies to storming the battlefields, these courageous queens were truly a force to be reckoned with and second to none. Rani Lakshmi Bai, Rani Abbaka Chowta and Kittur Chenamma were three of the more well-known examples. However, there are many more whose stories have been forgotten in the annals of history. Among these unsung warrior women is Naiki Devi, the Goan princess who went on to become the Chalukya queen of Gujarat and defeat the mighty Muhammad Ghori in the battlefield. Later her daughter Kurma Devi almost killed Aibak. Not much is known about these great queens of India.

Naiki Devi was a Great Indian warrior queen, born to Paramardin, who was the Chief of Kadamba ( Goa), and was married King Ajayapala of Gujarat who ascended the throne of Gujarat in 1171 AD. Unfortunately, King Ajayapala could only rule for four years. After his death his elder son Mularaja II  became his successor. As the new king was a minor, his mother Naiki Devi ascended the throne and effectively ruled on his behalf as a regent. Naiki Devi was well-trained in sword fighting, cavalry, military strategy, and all other subjects a queen needed.

In the year 1173, the young Ghurid prince, Muhammad Shahabuddin Gori had just managed to conquer the Ghaznavids in Afghanistan, and he did something which no other king could do, which even the troops of Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Arabs and even Mahmud of Ghazni could not — conduct successful invasion deep into the heart of the Indian subcontinent.

Muhammad Ghori first invaded Multan and the fortress of Uch. After achieving victories in Multan and Uch, he eyed the Rajputana and Gujarat. Can you guess his target? — the prosperous and well-fortified town of Anhilwara Patan (Gujarat). It was established by Vanraj of the Chapotkata dynasty in the 8th century, and Anhilwara Patan was the capital of the Chalukya (also known as the Solankis) who ousted the Chapotkatas. 

Ghori was confident he would defeat the kingdom as he assumed a mere woman and her child would not provide much resistance. But unfortunately for him, he learnt a lesson– never to underestimate the great valor of a young Indian queen. Unconcerned about the prospect of Ghori’s impending attack, she took command of the Chalukyan army and threw herself into organizing a well-planned opposition to the invading army. Naiki Devi now was thinking of a strategy to defeat the enemy. She even cleverly chose the site of the battle — the hilly passes of Gadaraghatta at the foot of Mount Abu near the village of Kasahrada, (Kyara in Sirohi district which is 65 km away from Anahilavada). The narrow passes gained were a huge advantage and surprisingly, the invading army was at great disadvantage. The Chaulukyan army was headed by Naiki Devi with the boy-king sitting on her lap. Her army and the troop of elephants crushed the massive army, which were famous for defeating the mighty Sultans of Multan. Naiki Devi killed several enemy soldiers, and Ghori fled with a handful of bodyguards. The battle was known as Battle of Kasahrada.

Now I am going to write about her daughter Kurma Devi, who defeated Aibak. Kurma Devi was the brave daughter of a brave mother. She was a witness to her mother defeating the cruel invader Ghori. She was married to Samar Singh, the Rawal of Chittorgarh, who had two wives. His first wife was Prithabai who was the sister of one of India’s greatest sons – Prithvi Raj Chauhan and the other wife was Kurma Devi. Prithvi Raj Chauhan fought Muhammad Ghori, and was martyred but killed Ghori too according to various accounts.

Unfortunately, Samar Singh and his eldest son were killed in the Second Battle of Tarain (1191-92 AD) that was fought between Prithvi Raj Chauhan and Muhammad Ghori. After the war Ghori returned to Multan and left Qutub-ud-din Aibak in charge of Delhi. Now let us talk about Quṭub-ud-Dīn Aibak who was the founder of the Mamluk dynasty and the first sultan of the Delhi Sultanate. He was born in Turkistan and was a slave. When his master died, he was sold by his master’s son to Muhammad of Ghor, who made him the Amir-i-Akhur (Master of Slaves). Over the years, he joined Ghori’s military and rose to become the general of Muhammad of Ghor.

Kurma Devi had to look after her young son Karan Singh. After a couple of years, Kurma Devi led her army with nine other kings and eleven Rawats, in her march towards Delhi to seek revenge against the man who had killed her husband, and kill him — Qutub-ud-Din Aibak. Kurma Devi and her army encountered Qutub-ud-Din Aibak and his army near the old Amber Fort. She herself confronted Aibak and challenged him in a duel. What a brave woman to challenge a sultan! In the duel, this brave queen managed to bury her sword deep into Qutub-ud-Din’s flesh, and he was so severely wounded that he tumbled from his horse. Aibak’s army believed he was dead and ran away from the battlefield. Kurma Devi thought that she had avenged the death of her dead husband and returned to Chittorgarh.

But unfortunately, Aibak was not dead. He recovered and decided to take vengeance. He declared himself the Sultan of India. He destroyed the temple of Vishnu, which also had Vishnu Dhwaj (later named as Qutub Minar in Delhi). He attacked Mewar and captured Karan Singh. He looted all the wealth of Mewar and also took Karan Singh as captive and his loyal horse Shubhrak. When they reached Lahore, Karan Singh tried to escape but unfortunately he was caught. In anger, Qutub-ud-din ordered to behead Karan Singh. He declared that he would play a polo match with the dead king’s head. The next day, Qutub-ud-din arrived at the venue, riding on Shubhrak. But as they say you pay for your evil deeds and now that is what happened.

Animals of India are very intelligent and loyal to their masters, whether it is our horses, elephants or cows. Shubhrak, immediately recognized his master Karan Singh and started crying. When he saw that his master was released from his chains so that he could be beheaded, Shubhrak suddenly became uncontrollable and threw Qutub-ud-din on the ground. Next, Shubhrak stomped on Aibak’s chest and head with his mighty hooves continuously. Hit by such powerful hooves, Qutub-ud-din died on the spot. But this was not it. Before the army could capture it, Shubhrak ran towards his master Karan Singh and saved his life. Karan Singh mounted the horse and escaped and Shubhrak ran for several days and nights till it reached the palace of Udaipur. There, Karan Singh got down, and patted his beloved horse … but after acknowledging the pat from its master, Shubhrak fell to the ground and died.

In the next part I am going to write about more such brave queens of Bharat.


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