Rani Durgavati, a real Durga, the brave Gond queen, a great warrior, a caring mother,a true example of Nari Shakti and what not,there are so many perspectives attached to the same name. Her martyrdom day (24 June 1564) is even today known as “Balidan Diwas”.
Rani Durgavati (October 5, 1524 — June 24, 1564) was born into the family of Chandela king Keerat Rai, who was famed for his bravery and courage. Unfortunately her mother passed away early and she was brought up by Shalivahan, and was trained like a Rajput. She was trained by her father at a young age in various skills like hunting, horse riding, usage of weapons. She was a skilled hunter, marks woman, who took pleasure in going on expeditions, also a skilled archer.Hearing about the audacity of the Gond ruler Dalpat Shah Maravi, the eldest son of Sangram Shah of Gondwana Kingdom, and his stories about the manoeuvre against the Mughals, Durgavati was impressed by him. Dalpat Shah was one warrior, whom the Mughals feared because he controlled the territory that gave them passage to the South and because of that Mughals were unable to reach south.When her guru suggested that Dalpat Shah was a Gond, Durgavati replied “He might be a Gond by birth, but his deeds make him a Kshatriya”. When Dalpat Shah bought up the alliance with Durgavati, many other Rajput rulers protested saying that he was a Gond. But Rajput rulers knew very well that if Mughals were unable to advance to South, it was due to Dalpat Shah himself. Shalivahan himself was not keen on Durgavati marrying Dalpat Shah, as he was not a Rajput. However considering the vow he gave to Durgavati’s mother, that he would allow her to choose her husband, he agreed to Dalpat Shah. Finally in 1542, Durgavati was married to Dalpat Shah, and this also bought the Gonds and Chandel dynasties in an alliance.The marriage between Durgavati and Dalpat Shah, in a way was strategically important too, bringing two strong dynasties the Chandelas, Gonds together, forming a new alliance against the Mughal rulers that could keep them in check. Sadly Dalpat Shah died soon, in 1550 and it was left to Durgavati to handle the kingdom. With her son, Vir Narayan, still a minor, Durgavati ruled as a regent, after her husband passed away.
Assisted by her ministers, Adhar Simha and Man Thakur, Durgavati reigned over the Gond kingdom with wisdom and success. As a ruler, she has taken many important decisions including shifting her capital to Chauragarh, a strategically important fort on the Satpura hill range. Like her husband, Durgavati proved to be a great ruler, expanding the kingdom, looking after her people very well. She had a large army with 20,000 cavalry, 1000 war elephants, large number of soldiers, which was well maintained. Durgavati dug many reservoirs and tanks for the welfare of her people, one of the more well known one is near Jabalpur called Ranital. 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 Bahadur attacked Rani Durgavati, she fought back and forced him to retreat. So heavy was the loss faced by Baz Bahadur at hands of Durgavati, that he dared not to attack her kingdom again. In 1562, Akbar defeated Baz Bahadur, and took over Malwa, which now meant that Mughal empire was touching her kingdom. Lured by the prosperity of Gondwana, Akbar’s subedar Abdul Majid Khan, wanted to invade and occupy it along with Malwa, which had already fallen to Mughals, Rewa too was captured by Abdul Majid Khan, now only Gondwana was left. Though her Diwan Adhar Simha warned her against taking on the mighty Mughal Army, but Rani Durgavati said she would prefer death instead of surrender. She initially fought the Mughal Army at 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 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. Her fierce counter assault on the Mughal Army chased them out of the valley and she was successful in the beginning.
Buoyed by success, Durgavati wanted to attack the Mughal Army at night, but that suggestion was not accepted by her lieutenants. And this meant she had to face the Mughal Army in open combat, which proved to be fatal. Durgavati however refused to surrender, and with her son Vir Narayan, counter attacked the Mughal forces strongly. Riding on her elephant Sarman, she bravely counter attacked the much larger and superior Mughal army. Durgavati’s son Vir Narayan, himself led a fierce attack on the Mughals, making them retreat thrice, before he was wounded badly. Hit by arrows, bleeding, she realized that defeat was imminent against the Mughals. Disregarding her mahout’s advice to flee from battle, Rani Durgavati, stabbed herself with a dagger, preferring death to surrender to marauders like Mughals which could have brought upon her something unimaginable. Truly a remarkable lady, someone who preferred not to surrender.
Durgavati was also a patron of learning, she respected scholars, encouraged building of temples, truly a great ruler. She was not just a brave warrior, but an able administrator too.
Rani Durgavati passed away physically, but her name lives on. In the year 1983, the Government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpur as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidhyalaya 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.
In a sense she symbolized the true Shakti, a benevolent ruler, a caring mother, and a great warrior, who refused to surrender. True to her name, Rani Durgavati was a fighter, the very embodiment of Nari Shakti. A woman who was independent, be it in choosing her husband, or refusing to surrender to the Mughals. On her Punya Thithi Naman to the great daughter of Bharat.