The Women Who Ruled India is a small endeavor by the writer Archana Garodia Gupta to bring together the mini biographies of 20 women rulers who ruled their kingdom in India at different point of time and conditions.
Few things were common among all these rulers. Their path of accession was never smooth or unchallenged. And even after establishing their claim, most of their reign was spent suppressing the sporadic rebellion. Royal male claimants and nobles in the court always found this idea difficult to digest.
These 20 women rulers are as follows
1 The Bhaumakara Queens – Odisha witnessed 100 years of able and just rule by six Mahadevi queens of the Bhaumakara dynasty.
2 Didda of Kashmir – Didda known for her beauty and charm was ruthless when it comes to uprising, which were frequent and fierce throughout her reign- first as a regent and then directly.
3 Raziya Sultan – She was more capable as a ruler than any of her male counterparts, but Raziya Sultan was never allowed to rule in peace just because of her gender.
4 Rudrama Devi of Warangal – 40 years of her rule brought prosperity and welfare to Warangal. Rudrama Devi proved her father Ganapati right when he chose her as his successor.
5 The Heroines of Chittor – Chittor had not only produced veer yoddhas, but veeranganas as well in the form Tarabai, Rani Karmavati, Panna Dhai and Meera Bai.
6 Rani Durgavati– She is remembered for her valiant fight against the Mughal ruler Akbar.
7 Abbakka of Ullal – Her valor as a queen, who single handedly destroyed the entire fleet of the Portuguese at their prime, has been recognised by our Indian Navy as well.
8 Chand Bibi – Chand Bibi’s reign as a ruler was constantly plagued by upheavals and she died suppressing them.
9 Nur Jahan – Nur Jahan didn’t descend the throne, but was the real power behind the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. And she efficiently managed everything from administration to the development of art and culture in the country.
10 Rani Karnavati of Garhwal – Karnavati proved to be a tigress which Shah Jahan never managed to tame in his lifetime.
11 Rani Mangammal of Madurai – She was a shrewd negotiator who believed in peace and prosperity more than waging in unnecessary war and depleting precious resources.
12 Chennamma of Keladi – She is best remembered as the queen who smartly handled the then Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and saved her kingdom from his wrath.
13 The Attingal Ranis – Attingal was the only place in India where motherhood was given more importance and the mothers ruled the small kingdom of Attingal independently. Her son ruled the kingdom of Travancore.
14 Tarabai – Without the prowess of Tarabai, Maratha sovereignty would have long ended with the death of Rajaram. She kept the Maratha flag high in the Mughal territory.
15 Ahilya Bai Holkar – She was an extraordinary woman ruler witnessed by Indian history. A master strategist and administrator with great presence of mind and was an equally great philanthropist. Indore achieved immense prosperity under her able rule.
16 Veeramangai Velu Nachiyar – Velu is considered to be the first woman ruler to challenge British rule.
17 Begum Samru – Begum Samru was an astute manipulator and deal maker who knows her way with words. She ruled the prosperous kingdom of Sardhana, Meerut, for 55 years.
18 Kittur Chennamma – Chennamma’s robust fighting spirit against the British is still remembered with a lot of pride and has been captured in the movie.
19 Lakshmibai of Jhansi – Who doesn’t know the bravery, cleverness and perseverance of Lakshmi bai of Jhansi.
20 The Begums of Bhopal – Lakshmi bai, Chennamma, Velu Nachiyar died fighting against the British instead of surrendering their kingdom. The Begums of Bhopal, in complete contrast, used the Britishers to bring prosperity in their kingdom.
There were in brief about 20 queens who contributed to the growth of their kingdom in their own way with whatever support, resources and time available.
But the information about these queens were scant and sparse. Often it happened that the author has to heavily depend upon the backstory, political scenario before and during the time of the queens to compensate the lack of information about the queen.
The short biography of The Begums of Bhopal, Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Kittur Chennamma, Begum Samru, Velu Nachiyar and Ahilya Bai Holkar were interesting to read as the author has enough material to build their stories which was not the case with most of the other queens.
The book doesn’t offer any insights or analysis. The author mainly concentrated on their war exploits, resistance faced and how they overcome it, administrative and welfare work carried out when they were witnessing less turbulence and resistance.
I missed pictures of these women rulers of India in the book. Also I thought the author would also include Indira Gandhi as the only woman president to rule the country.
The Women Who Ruled India could be revelatory, but doesn’t exactly fills gap in the knowledge about these queens. Nevertheless the author’s effort was commendable. Overall, I would say the book could catch the fancy of history non fiction book lovers.