Friday 26 January 2018

The only Empress of India was a Muslim

Though historian Satish Chandra called her ‘a romantic figure in medieval Indian history’, another historian Prateeti Bhatacharya from Calcutta University describes her as ‘People’s queen’, who built roads to link villages and cities, and was also the first to abolish Jazia tax charged from Hindus. She was coroneted in November 1236 and given the title of Jalalat-al-din Razyia Sultan.

She would wear male army attire and did away with the veil or Burkha to have direct contact with her people. Razia established schools, academies, centres for research and public libraries that included works of ancient philosophers along with the Qur’an. Hindu works in literature, philosophy, the sciences, and astronomy were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.

Jamal Yakut, an African, was her favourite officer, fully loyal to her. By some accounts she even wanted to marry him. But she was also a childhood friend of the Governor of Tabarhind-Altunia as well. A few of the Governors of states under the Delhi Sultanate were unhappy with the coronation of Razia, so they conspired to remove her. They gathered their armies to attack on Razia, who was not unnerved and successfully created division among the rebels and even got several of them killed.
She proved her mettle as Sultan, but was too independent to the liking of a group of 40 chiefs of her durbar, who wanted the Empress to be pliable and kept under their thumbs. They were also offended at the appointment of Yakut, a black, called Habshi derogatively, as a senior official.

The group of forty chiefs encouraged Razia’s confidant and Tabarhind Governor Malik Altunia to rebel against her and she was imprisoned at Tabarhind by Altunia following a conspiracy. Yakut was killed. Tabar-e-Hind or Gateway to India was the name of present day Bathinda, the fort there is called now Qila Mubark, where Razia was kept imprisoned.

Later Razia married Altunia in order to regain her kingdom from her brother Bahram Shah who had been installed as Sultan. With no major office given to Altunia, he felt betrayed by the chiefs. Altunia and Razia set out for Delhi from Tabarhind, but they were betrayed and killed near Kaithal in Haryana on October 14, 1240, thus ending the tragic story of the first and the last woman Sultan of India.

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