Razia Sultana: The Only Woman to Sit on the Throne of Dehli
Women have had a very little role to play when it comes to our history. The notable one’s have been Jehangir’s wife Nur Jahan and Shah Jehan’s wife Mumtaz Mehal both being wives of Kings. But Iltutmush’s daughter Razia Sultana was the only woman ever to sit on the throne of Delhi, although for a short period of four years (1236-1240).
Iltutmish’s most capable son was already dead, and all the others were not competent enough to govern a state. So Iltutmush, the first ever king to appoint a woman, nominated his daughter, Razia Sultana, as his heir to the throne of Delhi. Whenever Iltutmush had to leave his capital, he would leave her in charge of all the affairs of the country.
Razia Sultana: Gets the Support of the People
Yet deep in their hearts people did not like his decision therefore after Iltutmish’s death his eldest son Rukn-ud-din Feroze Shah was raised to the throne. But very soon it became evident why Iltutmish had chosen his daughter instead of his sons. Rukn-ud-din left all the hard work of governing to his scheming mother Shah Turkaan while he spent his time in leisure. When not smoking opium, he could be found riding an elephant on the streets, distributing gold coins to everyone. Very soon Razia Sultana, with the support of people of Delhi, regained power of the throne after defeating her brother in 1236, because rebellion occurred from all sides and the result was that Shah Turkaan and Rukn-ud-din were put to death. He ruled for exactly six months and seven days.
Razia Sultana: An Excellent Ruler
Iltutmish’s foresight was indeed correct as Razia proved time and time again why she had been his ultimate choice. She was a gifted, just and benevolent woman. Having full knowledge of all governmental affairs made her an excellent administrator. She was intelligent and wise, and did not use the power she had wrongly. She abandoned her femininity and dressed in masculine attire whenever appearing in public, wearing the tunic and headdress of a man. She was not only a good leader in the battlefield but was also an excellent fighter as well.
During her reign complete law and order was established in the country, which brought peace. She encouraged trade, built roads, planted trees, dug wells, supported poets, painters, and musicians, constructed schools and libraries. State meetings were often open for everyone. But, she made enemies when she tried to eliminate some of the prejudice against her Hindu subjects and also when she made Jalal-ud-din Yaqut (who was an Ethiopian slave) her personal attendant and vested her trust in him. This tested the domination of power claimed by the Turkish nobles.
Rebel of Governors Against Razia Sultana
Though the army and the people favored her, yet there were many powerful governors who rebelled against her. But her strong character and judiciousness allowed her to handle them with tact. She maneuvered them in such a way that soon the rebels were fighting against each other. On the military front, she defeated one of their chief leaders Wazir Muhammad Junaidi so compellingly that he retired from active politics. Very soon she emerged triumphantly, as she now had all the remaining nobles on her side.
Razia had everything; intelligence, character, beauty, power, the support of her people and nothing could have stopped her from being one of the most victorious rulers of the subcontinent, the only woman ruler ever. But unfortunately her relationship with Yakut became the biggest obstacle in her road to success.
Even though she had faced every challenge bravely and had overcome every hurdle with presence of mind, the Turkish nobles still resented having a queen to rule over them, so her victory was short lived. They began conspiring against her. In 1239, the Turkish governor of Lahore rebelled against her. However, when she marched against him, he fled at first and then apologized. Then Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda rebelled because as the story goes Altunia and Razia had been childhood friends. As they grew up together, he fell in love with Razia, but since Razia did not return his feelings, this was the only way to get back at her.
One thing happened after the other. Yaqut was murdered and Altunia locked Razia in prison. To save her self from doom she decided to marry Altunia. While back in Delhi Razia’s brother Bahram had been named Sultan. Alongside her husband she marched towards Delhi but it was useless now. On October 13, 1240, Bahram defeated her and the ill-fated couple was put to death the next day.