Today is the sixth day of Navratri, considered to be the most auspicious of the nine days. On this day, Goddess Durga assumes the form of the dauntless Katyayani. The myth goes that the goddess was born as a daughter to sage Katyayana, hence the name. Goddess Katyayani went on to slay Mahishasur and his army, which threatened to overthrow all the gods. This was after Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh requested her to help them kill the demon. The history of India has many such badass warrior queens in female form, both divine and human.
Let’s go beyond the all-too-familiar Rani Laxmibai, and honour the Indian women who were badass warrior queens of kingdoms that time forgot.
Did you know that six different queens ruled over Odisha for a whole century? They came from the Bhaumakara dynasty, and hence the title Bhaumakara Queens that is bestowed on them. Strangely, these unique warriors have been forgotten by historians and writers. The most fierce warrior among them was Tribhuvana Mahadevi. She commanded an army of 3 lakh men. Not only did she defend her kingdom from feudal kings, she also ensured that all female subjects got an education and bestowed on them special privileges and various rights like issuing land grants and charters.
Begums of Bhopal, inclusive rulers
Here is something Bhopal has in common with Odisha. Like Odisha, Bhopal was also ruled by four queens in succession for a century again! These powerful and progressive queens came to be known as the Begums of Bhopal. First among them was Qudsia Begum who reigned supreme while her neighbouring kingdoms perished. Not only were they able in warfare, they were inclusive in their rule. Their rule made Bhopal the earliest example in India of what a welfare state looks like.
Rudrama Devi, the Indian Mulan
Disney’s new movie Mulan is a fictional Chinese folk tale of a fearless heroine who pretends to be a man so she can fight in the army. India has a real life Mulan in Rudrama Devi who ruled all the way back in the 13th century. She was so brave and skilled in battle, her father Ganapata Deva made her the heir rather than the other men in his family. She became Rudradeva Maharaja, and went on to rule Warangal for 40 years. Marco Polo came across this independent ruler on his journey and mentions her in his writings.
These badass warrior queens of India display the strength and resilience #womencan be capable of.