Warrior Queens Of India Every Kid Should Know
They were no ordinary women. Ahead of their times, these warrior queens made a significant impact on society with their bravery and never-say-die spirit. A look at the ones every kid should know.
By Ashwin Dewan
“We need women who are so strong they can be gentle, so educated they can be humble, so fierce they can be compassionate, so passionate they can be rational, and so disciplined they can be free.” – Kavita Ramdas, globally recognised advocate for gender equity and justice.
As a child growing up in India, it is impossible not to have read about the Rani of Jhansi in history books. Her skill with the sword, her patriotism, her fierce battles with the British and her eventual fall in the Battle of Gwalior have cemented her place in the annals of history as one of the great warrior queens of India.
But, as we go through the pages of India’s history, we see there were other spirited warrior queens as well. Perhaps our children are not quite as familiar with some of them as they are with the Rani of Jhansi. But these women are as worthy of praise and respect for their contributions to society and for taking the lead in battles in a male-dominated era. So, it is important that our children get to know about these brave women and their heroic exploits.
Let us take a look then at some of these queens who served as a beacon of hope and courage in the face of adversity. From the trailblazing Rani of Jhansi to the fierce Rani of Kittur, from the unrelenting Razia Sultana to the brave Velu Nachiyar, a salute to the brave warrior women who created their own destiny through their strong wills and their stronger desire to bring about a change in society.
Warrior Queens of India Every Kid Should Know
1. The Rani of Jhansi
Born: 19 November 1828
Died: 18 June 1858
One of the most famous warrior queens of India, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi was born as Manikarnika. From an early age, she was trained in the art of horse riding, in shooting and in fencing. Later, she was given in marriage to the Maharaja of Jhansi. She bore him a son who, unfortunately, did not live long. Soon after, the Maharaja too fell ill and died.
In those days, the British rulers had passed an order that kingdoms with no heir should be merged with the Empire. The British annexed Jhansi. This is when the warrior spirit in Rani Lakshmibai came to the fore. She decided to take on the mighty British and became one of the leading warriors of India’s first struggle for independence in 1857.
Although, Rani Lakshmibai gave a stiff fight to the British, the superior military resources and manpower of the British proved too much for this intrepid warrior queen. She went down fighting in the Battle of Gwalior.
- In 1957, India Post issued a stamp featuring Rani Lakshmibai to commemorate the anniversary of the 1857 uprising.
- Institutions that bear her name include Lakshmibai National University of Physical Education in Gwalior, Maharani Laxmi Bai Medical College in Jhansi and the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- The Indian National Army has a women’s unit called the ’Rani of Jhansi Regiment’
2. Rani Velu Nachiyar
Born: 3 January 1730
Died: 25 December 1796
Popularly known as Veeramangai (brave woman), Velu Nachiyar was the Queen of Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu. This warrior queen is considered to be the first female Indian ruler to have fought and triumphed against the British Empire.
Velu Nachiyar was not only well-read but also skilled in weaponry, martial arts and archery. She is credited with inventing the concept of the human bomb in India and with forming an all-women’s army as early as in 1780 after her daughter was martyred in a battle. Her bravery and gallantry are remembered even today. The Veeramangai Velu Nachiyar Memorial was inaugurated in Sivagangai on 18 July 2014.
- Velu Nachiar, together with her commander-in-chief Kuyili, is reported to have planned the first recorded suicide bombing in India’s history
- Tamil-American hip-hop artist Professor A.L.I. dedicated a song titled ‘Our Queen’ to Velu Nachiyar. It appeared as part of his album ‘Tamilmatic’
3. Rani Chennamma
Born: 23 October 1778
Died: 2 February 1829
Born in Kakati in Belgaum, Karnataka, Chennamma received training in sword fighting, archery and horse riding from an early age. After her marriage to King Mallasarja of Kittur, she became known as the Queen of Kittur. In fact, three decades before the famous 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, she took on the British. She is a great example of how one woman, with her steadfast dedication and indomitable will, was able to stand up to the might of the British Empire. However, the brave queen was later captured and imprisoned. Rani Chennamma died in solitary confinement. Her days in prison were spent performing pooja and reading the holy texts.
- Since 1824, ‘Kittur Utsava’ has been celebrated every year in the month of October in Karnataka
- On 11 September 2007, Rani Chennamma’s statue was unveiled at the Indian Parliament complex in New Delhi
4. Razia Sultana
Died: 14 October 1240
Raziya al-Din, popularly known as Razia Sultana, is among the well-known warrior queens of India. History will remember her as the first female Muslim ruler of the Delhi Sultanate.
From childhood, Razia was trained in military warfare and administration. After her crowning as the Sultan of Delhi, she brought about many positive changes in society and adopted gender-neutral attire. However, her ascent to the throne was not without struggle. After her father died, her brother took over the throne. Razia had to wait for a long while to become queen. Later, one of her other brothers usurped the throne. In the ensuing conflict, Razia was killed.
- Razia cut her hair short. She did not wear a veil and she rode like a man, armed with weapons
- During her reign, she had coins minted which bore inscriptions such as Pillar of Women and Queen of the Eras
5. Rani Avanti Bai
Born: 16 August 1831
Died: 20 March 1858
Rani Avanti Bai is the epitome of female empowerment and bravery. After the death of her husband, King Vikramaditya Lodhi, the Maharaja of Ramgarh state in Central India, the British Empire forced her to surrender her kingdom since the king had died without a legal heir. Infuriated, the brave Rani started to assemble an army to take on the might of the British. In fact, during the revolt of 1857, she was able to attack and successfully regain control over several of her territories. However, her depleting resources and diminishing army could not withstand the British onslaught for long. Rather than be captured, the young queen stabbed herself to death.
- In Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, you will find the Rani Avanti Bai Lodhi Sagar dam (a multi-purpose hydro-electric project), which has been named after the feisty queen
- India Post has also issued stamps to honour her
6. Rani Durgavati
Born: 5 October 1524
Died: 24 June 1564
Rani Durgavati was a true warrior queen. In fact, she was known as the Warrior Queen of the Gonds. In the thick forests of the Satpura ranges, she bravely defended her kingdom against the Mughals. Her family were descendants of the Chandela rulers, who built the Khajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh.
Growing up, Rani Durgavati learnt horse riding, sword fighting and archery and excelled in them. She even found a mention in Akbarnama where Abu’l Fazl wrote this about her – ‘She was a good shot with gun and arrow and continually went hunting.’ Her death came at her own hands when in a battle with the Mughal army, she found herself staring at defeat. The valorous queen stabbed herself with a dagger rather than submit to the Mughals.
- Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyala University in Jabalpur is named after her
- India Post issued a stamp in her honour
- There is a train named after her – the Durgavati Express, which runs from Jabalpur to Jammu Tawi
7. Rani Padmini
Born: Not known
Rani Padmini, also known as Padmavati, was a multi-faceted queen. Hers was a legendary name during the 13th-14th century. She was famous for her beauty and, according to some accounts, Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate unleashed an attack on her fort to capture her. However, she was not just a pretty face; she was brave too. She was a well-trained fighter and educated in war strategies as well. When it became clear that her husband, King Rawal Ratan Singh, was set to lose the battle, she chose to perish on her own terms rather than concede defeat. Rani Padmini will forever be considered a shining symbol of bravery.
- Rani Padmavati was a princess from Sri Lanka
- She is said to have had a talking parrot named Hira Mani, to whom she confided all her secrets
A warrior queen is not just one who engages in battle; she brings about a change for the betterment of society and the country. The women you read about were warriors whose names every child should know, for they were women who shaped India’s destiny.
About the author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 11 May 2020.
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