An inheritor of the Chandela kingdom of Central India, and married to Dalpat Shah of the Gond dynasty of Madhya Pradesh, Rani Durgavati was a fierce warrior, and she proved her bravery in the 1560s when she defeated the vastly resourceful Muslim army that aimed to invade her kingdom.
She grew up a family where she regularly listened to stories of the valour of the kings, past and contemporary. She was also trained in horse riding and archery from a very young age.
The Gond queen gave birth to a boy in 1545, Vir Narayan. Within five years, Dalpat Shah died. Since Vir Narayan was too young to be king, Durgavati was crowned as the Queen. She ably led her kingdom to prosperity, with guidance from ministers like Adhar Simha and Man Thakur.
As a queen, Durgavati shifted her capital from Singorgarh fort to Chauragarh in the east. This fort was located in the Satpura range and was of great strategic importance.
This incensed Baz Bahadur, son of Shujat Khan, who had captured Sher Shah Suri’s kingdom. The last Sultan of Malwa, Baz Bahadur, attacked Durgavati’s kingdom only to return with heavy losses. The valiant queen defeated the powerful Muslim leader.
Six years later, in 1562, Mughal Emperor Akbar seized Baz Bahadur’s kingdom establishing his rule in neighbouring Durgavati’s Garh Mandal. While on one side was Akbar’s territory, the other side was ruled by Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan—the contemporary of Durgavati.
Diwan Adhar Simha advised Durgavati to accept Asaf Khan’s dominance, which had now combined with Akbar’s army to seize Garh Mandal, and surrender the kingdom.
To this, the Queen retorted, “Better to die with dignity than live without self-respect. I have served my motherland for a long time, and at a time like this, I won’t let it be stained. There is no option but to fight.”
Durgavati seized the first day of the battle and tasted victory.
The next day, she mounted her war elephant, Sarman, and her son, Vir Narayan joined her in the battle.
Unfortunately, Akbar’s army had come better prepared with more resources. Fighting valiantly, Durgavati was mortally injured as two arrows pierced her in the ear and on her neck.
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