On the very occasion of Women’s Day, let us remember some brave women who took the courage to tear the curtains of patriarchy in Indian society with swords and marked their names in history with glory.
As we already began with Razia Sultana in my very 1st blog “When She Ruled”, let me first introduce to you Rudrama Devi today. Rudrama Devi was one of the earliest women rulers that history has in record. She ruled as early as in 1263 A.D. She was the only child of King Ganapatideva, who performed Putrika yajna and made Rudrama Devi wear male attire to hide her true gender identity. Initially, she ruled as Rudradev jointly with her father as his coregent. But as her original gender identity came into light, there was a huge protest from her subjects as well as her cousins who denied to accept a woman ruler. But her ability as a ruler had to be admitted and she gained full sovereignty in 1263. She protected her kingdom Eastern Ganga Dynasty and Yadavas. She married Virashardra, a member of the Chalukya dynasty and the couple had two daughters. She ruled till 1289 to 1295 and then died passing on the throne to her grandson Prataparudra.
A Telugu film named “Rudrama Devi” has been made giving tribute to her life with Anushka Shetty in the lead role of the Ruler Rudrama Devi. Venetian merchant and traveller Marco Polo who visited India during her reign had written extensively about her ruling.
A painting showing Rudrama Devi...
And then we have Rani Durgavati who ruled Gondwana from 1550 to 1564. Married to Da1lpat Shah, the eldest son of King Sangram Shah of Gondwana, she gave birth to her son Vir Narayan, in 1545 A.D. Dalpat Shah died in 1550 and so Durgavati had to take the reign of the kingdom on behalf of her young son. Under her rule, she successfully repulsed the attack of Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Malwa. Later, a Mughal general Khwaja Abdul Majd Asaj Khan invaded Rani’s state with the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s permission. The Mughal Army was much larger with better weapons. But instead of surrendering to such a huge army Rani decided to defend her Kingdom with all her might because she believed that it was better to die respectfully than to live a disgraceful life. The battle went on and Rani along with her son was able to force the Mughal army back three times. In the course of the battle, both Rani and her son were injured and she lost consciousness. On gaining consciousness, she learnt that defeat was imminent. She was advised to flee, rather she took her dagger and killed herself, her idea of honourable death. In the year 1983, the government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpal as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya in her memory.
A painting depicting Rani Durgavati....
Next comes the only woman ruler in History to confront fight and repeatedly defeat the Portuguese, Rani Abbakka Chowta, the warrior queen of Tulu Nadu. Very less is known and written about her. Professor Thukaram Poojary researched her life and thus we come to know about the brave queen. He also erected a museum, called the Tulu Baduku Museum, in Dakshina Kannada’s Bantwal taluk in memory of the Queen.
As Maritime trade flourished in India, along with other traders Portuguese too arrived for trading, but soon they started taking administration in their hands. In 1526, the Portuguese captured the Mangalore port and their next target was Ullal. Ullal was the capital of the Chowta King Thirumala Raya-III. The Chowtas were a matrilineal dynasty and so the king’s heir was his young niece, Abbakka.
Abbakka was fiercely independent and trained in sword fighting, archery, cavalry, military strategy, diplomacy and all other subjects of statecraft from a very young age. When crowned, she was aware of the threat passed by the presence of the Portuguese on the coast but she was determined to resist it.
She married the ruler of Mangalore, Lakihmappa Bangaraja. After marriage, they lived in their individual kingdom and the children stayed with Abbakka.
The Portuguese tried to extract taxes from her but she refused and continued to trade with Arab despite attacks from Portuguese. Infuriated by this, the Portuguese attacked Ullal in 1556, which the queen was able to resist and the war ended in an uneasy truce. Two years later, the Portuguese attacked again with a larger force but was again defeated. The Portuguese attacked yet another time and took over the royal palace. However, the Queen escaped with her soldier. Later she raided Portuguese along with 200 loyal soldiers and won back her palace. When the Portuguese found that frontal attack won’t work, they took to treachery. A series of edicts were passed to make an alliance with the queen illegally. But all these too couldn’t resist her. At last, the Portuguese attacked with 3000 troops at dawn in 1581. The Queen resisted with all her strength. The surprise attack was wounded and captivated with the help of a few bribed chieftains. The Queen Abbakka breathed her last in captivity.
A statue of Rani Abbakka In Yeshwantpur
History is enriched with more brave women rulers such as Dev Ahilya Bai Holkar of Ahmednagar who ruled Ahmednagar from 1766 to 1795, Chand Bibi or Chand Sultana who was the Regent of Bijapur from 1580-90 and Ahmednagar from 1596 to 1599.