Razia Sultana (1205 – 1240) :
Daughter of the second ruler of the Slave Dynasty of India, Iltutmish, the doting ruler had to say about her that – “This daughter of mine is better than many sons.”
Despite having been the first woman to be appointed as a successor to the throne, the Muslim nobility had no intention of acceding to Iltutmish’s disregard of tradition in appointing a woman as heir. Thus, after the Sultan’s death on April 29, 1236, Razia’s brother, Ruknuddin Feroze Shah, was elevated to the throne instead. On November 9, 1236, both Ruknuddin and his mother Shah Turkaan were put to death after only six months in power for the former’s debauch behaviour and his mother’s inability to maintain the government.
The nobility then reluctantly agreed to put Razia on the throne as the first Sultana of Indian history. Much before she became the queen of the state, during her father’s reign, Razia was reportedly preoccupied with the affairs of state. She had little opportunity to learn and adapt the customary behaviour of Muslim women in the society she was born into.
She was destined to become a powerful ruler because she successfully kept the rising power of the nobles in check, and she won over the army and the populace with her just treatment of affairs. One of the greatest achievements that the Sultana is credited with was her skill to manipulate rebel factions against one another, thereby reducing the threat to the throne.
Hassles began when talks of Razia’s relationship with one of her Assyrian slaves, Jamal Uddin Yaqut, was regarded as a romantic one. Some accounts simply put their relationship across as that of close confidants but the nobles were under the impression that the Sultana and her slave, Yaqut, were lovers.
This led to the snowballing of a rebellion against the Sultana’s authority, led by Razia’s childhood friend, Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia. In the battle that ensued, Yaqut was killed and to escape capital punishment, Razia agreed to marry Altunia. By this time, the Sultana’s brother Muiuddin Bahram Shah, had usurped the throne. On October 14, 1240, both Razia Sultana and her husband Altunia were killed in battle. Baharam was later dethroned for incompetence.
Minhajus Seraj, who served Iltutmish, Razia, and Balban authored books on the history of the times. His works are considered to be among the most reliable sources of information about Razia Sultana. In his work, Seraj wrote about how she was “a great sovereign, sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects and of warlike talent, and was endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for kings…She was endowed with all the qualities befitting a king, but she was not born of the right sex and so in the estimation of men all these virtues were worthless.”
Rani Laxmibai (1835 – 1858) :
Born as Manikarnika in Kashi, Varanasi, she was married off at the tender age of 14 to Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi.
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