A Brave Queen: Rani Durgawati (Jabalpur, M.P.)

कुअँरु कुअँरि कल भावँरि देहीं। नयन लाभु सब सादर लेहीं॥
जाइ न बरनि मनोहर जोरी। जो उपमा कछु कहौं सो थोरी॥1॥
राम सीय सुंदर प्रतिछाहीं। जगमगात मनि खंभन माहीं
मनहुँ मदन रति धरि बहु रूपा। देखत राम बिआहु अनूपा॥2॥

The atmosphere at the Kalinjar Fort was full of happiness and joviality on the occasion of marriage of one of the most beautiful princess of Chandel dynasty. The Rajmata was busy with the guests at the residential halls. The 20-year old bride, Princess Durgawati, was surrounded by her friends and sisters. Occasionally, the younger brothers also peed in to see what was happening there. Raja Kirat Rai, the father of the bride, was giving instructions to various ministers, priests and others for making the perfect arrangements. The bride groom party had arrived after a long and tedious journey of about 300 kilometres after crossing through various rivulets and rivers, forests and hills.

The bridegroom’s father, King Sangram Shah of the Gond dynasty, a proud and contented man had arrived with all the usual retinue of people and the royal relatives. He was busy with last minutes arrangements that were required for the marriage. In one corner, the bridegroom, Prince Dalpat Shah, sat happily considering himself to have found the most beautiful bride for himself. His friends and brothers were all preparing themselves for the merrymaking and the joys of a traditional marriage.

Finally, at the most auspicious time, both the bride and the bridegroom arrived at the marriage venue. Amidst the gaiety and elegance, suited for the occasion, their marriage took place. After completion of post-marriage rituals and ceremonies, Prince Dalpat brought his young wife to his Gond kingdom. Amidst joy and with a hope of a bright new future with her loving husband, the Chandel Princess Durgawati, having left her paternal home of Kalanjar, came to reside with her new family.

Almost 475 years later, engulfed by the thoughts of the marriage of Princess Durgawati, I was going towards her fort, called as “Madan Mahal Fort”. The thoughts of my having some kind of divine connection with those monuments or its people, who are now in history, always grips me, whenever I visit any historical monument or read about any of them.

World famous balancing rock of Jabalpur

World famous balancing rock of Jabalpur


Enroute, I saw the world famous “Balancing rock of Jabalpur”, situated just on the base of the hill. It is said that the rock had sustained the impact of the earthquake of the magnitude of 6.5 at Richter scale. It was similar to the “Krishna’s butter ball” at Mahabalipuram. Since, these are mainly volcanic rocks, it can only be anticipated that the rock would have been present, when Princess Durgawati came to Gond kingdom after her marriage in 1542 AD.

The first three years of the marriage were quite eventful. King Sangram Shah had expired in the first year itself. The kingdom had been devolved on her husband Prince Dalpat, who now got the title of the king. The little Princess of 20 years suddenly became the Queen and had to conduct royal business to which she was totally dedicated to. She was attributed with lots of good qualities and soon she was being considered as the patron of art and culture. Belonging to the Chandel dynasty, which is considered as the builders of great Khajuraho temples, she took keen interest in the fortifications of the city and the kingdom. But, it was also the time for the young married couple for starting their family as well. With the blessings of the almighty, a son was born to them after three years of their marriage. And, the queen built a fort for her son, where presently I was heading to.

The signage for her fort

The signage for her fort

The fort was situated on the top of the rocky hill full of volcanic rocks. At many places, the rocks hung over the cliffs. In my opinion, there would be many balancing rocks in different formation. In modern times, cemented steps have been constructed to climb up the hill through narrow openings in the well-forested hill. Visitors are advised to take utmost precaution there and desist from going there in the lonely hours. It was broad daylight when I travelled there with three of my colleagues, marvelling on the way about the tenacity of the young queen and the expertise of her engineers. Soon I found myself standing in front of a conch-shell shaped tower within the fort ruins, which was built on a massive basalt rock. Admiring its beauty I wanted to climb up the tower and reach upto the top ceiling.

The Madan Mohan Fort

The Madan Mohan Fort

There I met with an interesting guard-cum-cleaner, named Ramesh Yadav. He agreed to open the grilled-gate and accompany us to the top floor, where I saw the two storied room exactly reflecting the complexity of its construction. Though going to the second storey was not permissible due to its fragility, its rock-cut roof was remarkable even from outside. Our guide also showed a tubular tunnel that is said to connect the fort to some distant safer place. Enjoying the glory of the fort, it was time to resume the story of the brave queen, who, after the birth of her son, was living a contented life. She was much busy with her new born child and contented in a safe kingdom under the royal patronage of her husband. It was the time for the kingdom to grow in strength and remain prosperous.

The two-storied chamber on the top

The two-storied chamber on the top

The ruins of the fort from the tower give an indication about some of the activities that would have continued in those times. The chambers with arched gates would have been used by the soldiers and horses. But the rectangular platform in the compound was remarkable. It must be enclosed in the roofed hall where public meeting would have been held. There the young queen and the king would have sat on the specially designed chairs and heard their vassals and subjects.

The ruins of the fort

The ruins of the fort

But, the destiny had some other designs for our queen. She was not destined to live wasting her life in the mundane activities. So, the destiny played its negative role in her life in 1650 AD, when King Dalpat Shah passed away leaving the 28-year old widow and a five-year old son at the mercy of the world. Durgawati would have wept and mourned for her beloved king day in and day out. Her entire life would have shattered by the untimely incident. At that tender age, her life had sunk so low that it was difficult for her to gain confidence. Still, as her son was only five years old, the young queen took the responsibility to run the kingdom all upon herself. Ohh! How the fate turns! The young little princess, who was a darling of her friends at Kalanjhar only eight years ago, now had the entire burden of kingdom upon herself.

Sharda Temple near Fort

Sharda Temple near Fort

As it happens, when God takes away something, it gives something to bank upon. The queen also had some of the most trustworthy lieutenants to manage the affairs of the kingdom. I also found an old temple of Mata Sharda near the fort. In fact, it was situated just at the base of the hill. Somehow, I thought that Goddess Sharda gave immense strength to our queen to take up the responsibility while re-building her own life with the growth of her son, who was known as “Veer Narayan”. Due to safety reasons, the queen had also shifted her base to Chauragarh.

Five more years passed under the rule of queen bringing a sense of normalcy in the kingdom. Then, the destiny struck again in 1556 AD, the independent sultan of Malwa (Present day Mandu) crossed the distance of 650 kilometres and attacked the Queen thinking that he would not be met with any resistance. But, he was proved wrong. Even though, our queen was fighting her first battle, she came out victorious. Baz Bahadur had to run away for his life.

Statue of Rani Durgawati

Statue of Rani Durgawati

That victory gave her a pretty good name and she was being considered as a warrior queen. Confident as the victory would have made her, she started ruling her kingdom with better administrative practices. Five more years passed, when the news of riches and prosperity of her kingdom reached to the ears of Mughal Emperor Akbar, who had already defeated Baz Bahadur and had annexed Malwa. The greatest emperor, Akbar sent a massive army under the command of his trusted general Abdul Majid Asaf Khan. The news of the arrival of Mughal army, at its peak, created a sense of fear in the kingdom. Even, her trusted lieutenants advised her to surrender to the Mughal Emperor. But surrendering never happens to be an option to the class of great warriors of which our queen was one. She immediately refuted the offer and the battle lines were drawn. The war began at the venue called Narai Nala.

Battle field at Narai Nala

Battle field at Narai Nala

The war with Mughal continued for almost two years in different phases. The queen had won the first few waves. She was only 30 years old then and her son Veer Narayan had hardly entered the teens. But the stories of their valour and bravery are worth remembering to this day. The son fought with all his might and repulsed the waves of Mughal Army. His horse was making deep inroads into the Mughal army and with each flash of his sword, he was killing numerous opponents. Then, suddenly, he was struck with an arrow. Wounded on the battle, he was sent to the strongest of their fort at Chauragarh. But, the Mughal Forces captured the Chauragarh fort and killed the teen-aged son of our brave queen and looted the fort.

Statue of Veer Narayan

Statue of Veer Narayan

The queen after the death of her husband had lived only for her son. The queen, who had taken the responsibility of running a kingdom, only for the sake of her son, was completely devastated. With nothing much left in life, she entered into the battle on her trusted elephant, named Sharman. All along the battlefield, her battle cry was heard. With her gallantry and extreme courage, she repulsed the opponents to the side of the battlefield. By that time, the night had fallen and both the army retreated to their positions. The queen knew that the Mughal Army had suffered some great loss and been weak at that night. So, she wanted to attack at night. But her lieutenants persuaded her to wait for the next morning. In the meanwhile, Asaf Khan got the reinforcement.

Statue of the elephant of Durgawati

Statue of the elephant of Durgawati

Next morning, the battle started again. The queen also went into the battle again and was making her moves with the expertise of an experienced general. With each of her attacks, she was bringing more losses to the Mughal Army. Suddenly, one arrow hit her neck and she had fallen unconscious and could not fight for some time. In her absence, the Mughal Army became stronger. After gaining the consciousness, she realised that her army was facing defeat. It was time for our brave queen to choose between surrender and her death. Showing exemplary grit and courage, she chose the latter and put the dagger into herself.

The Samadhi of Rani Durgwati

The Samadhi of Rani Durgwati

I sat down silently near her Samadhi for a longer time remembering her bravery, valour and gallantry. My heart did say that … “On my queen! Please open your eyes and get up. We still need you.”

15 Comments

  • MUNESH MISHRA says:

    Nice post Uday ji. Biographical sketch of Brave Rani Durgawati quite informative. Information of her Fort is so informative. Information about balancing rock is interesting.

  • Arun says:

    Nice post sir…balancing rock really rocks.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • So Jabalpur has quite a good things to see! Very nice post and good pics!

  • Kamal Mathur says:

    A very informative post. The pics are awesome. I had been to Jabalpur a few years ago & had also visited all the places which you have mentioned but there was no body to explain the significance & importance of these places in such detail. Thank you very much for enlightening us with all the historical facts.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I have visited Mandu and they never tell you this episode of great Baz Bahadur :-) so it was a new information. But before we go further, let me do the tagging ceremony of calling this story as a FOG (First on Ghumakkar). The tale of bravery makes me wonder that that if we had such strong leaders, why as a country we have not progressed. I know probably British took everything away but what about leadership. I have been away for about a month in USA and the developed world has really really moved so much ahead that I dont know, how long it would take us to even provide a minimum quality of life (Drinking Water for example) to all.

    Thank you Uday for sharing this inspirational story and this new fort to us.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Thanks a lot Sir.

      Individual brilliance of our countrymen often comes to a blank when such brilliance fails in the team games and in the game of clear strategies implementation. That may be the root cause besides the recently identified concept/cause of policy paralysis, when even the good thinkers do not take decisions for saving themselves against an unknown future problems.

      Thanks for a nice and thoughtful comment.

      Regards

  • Uday ji,
    Though I am from Jabalpur, but very pleased to see these photos,
    Can you tell me those places, where you clicked these photos.
    Historical, motivational writeup, keep it up,

  • Uday ji
    Though I am from Jabalpur, Will you please let me know, from where you have clicked these photos.
    Your writeup is motivational, Historical & looks to be reserched.
    Please keep it up.

    • Uday Baxi says:

      Dear Sir
      These pictures were taken at two different locations..The first location was near Madam Mahal (Fort of Rani Durgawati) and the second location was near Narai Nala (the alleged battlefield where the battle took place).
      Thanks for your comments.
      Regards

  • Muskan says:

    Dear sir,
    Since i love reading about the history behind the certain things, so i really enjoyed reading about the place.. and the pictures taken are really good.. thanks for sharing!

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