The legend of forgotten empress: Razia Sultan (1205-1240)

If any woman could equal Queen Elizabeth; it could be India’s young empress Razia Sultan who ruled Delhi for four years (10 November 1236 – 14 October 1240). Razia was the only woman in India’s history to rule Delhi. She broke the norms of stereotypical thinking of male dominated society by administering the Delhi Sultanate with leadership. It is very sad to know that today’s western thinking youngsters hardly know about Razia Sultana. The current teen generation is fascinated by Roman history, Greek warriors and fictional characters from fantasy TV series like Game of thrones.

The courageous feats of brave female monarchs like Rani Durgavati, Rani Abbakka and Razia Sultan are lost in pages of history. Should we blame it on history textbooks or the growing influence of American pop culture that we are forgetting our Indian heritage and backstories of forgotten bravehearts. The tomb of Razia Sultana lies neglected, abandoned and forgotten in old city of Delhi. No one knows about the exact landmark of Razia Sultana’s tomb. While researching on the topic of Razia on Google, I came across an article published in Tripoto website where a travel blogger had mentioned about the neglected state of Razia Sultana’s tomb where Razia lies buried beside her sister Shazia. After reading the article, I was deeply touched about the poor state of historical tombs. I am really keen to visit not only Razia Sultana’s tomb, but also pay respect to the forgotten queen who dared to change the society’s orthodox thinking with her forward minded approach.

Razia Sultan was the daughter of Shams-Ud-din Illtumish, a slave who rose to become the Sultan of Delhi after the death of Qutb-Ud-din-Aibak. This Sultan dynasty came to be known as slave dynasty. After the death of his son Nasir Ud Din Mahmud, there was no heir capable to rule Delhi except his daughter Razia. Razia had all the qualities required in a king to rule the kingdom bravely. Her only fault was that she was a female and this aroused a spark of jealousy, hatred among her half-brothers. In her four years rule, Razia took care of her subjects with efficiency. Despite being an able ruler, she was severely criticized by her opponents. In her short reign, Razia had become a favorite empress of her subjects. She not only conquered various territories with her dare-devilry, but also brought reformation by starting schools, academic centers and libraries.

‘She was a great monarch, wise, just, generous, benefactor to her realm, dispenser of justice, protector of her people and leader of her armies; and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a king’ – A praise written by Persian historian Miraj-I-Siraj

The legend says that Razia was a victim of conspiracy and betrayal. Razia and her husband Altunia were robbed and killed by Jats on October 14th 1240. It is been said that it was the mastermind of her half-brother Muizuddin Bahram Shah. Razia was been wrongly accused of being in a romantic relationship with one of her slaves – Yaqut.

Razia Sultan’s life was made into a Bollywood biopic in 80’s featuring actress Hema Malini in the titular role. Unfortunately the movie wasn’t up to the mark and couldn’t capture the history of Razia Sultan with epic scale. Recently a TV series was made on life of Razia Sultan and was telecasted on ‘&’ channel featuring actress Pankhury Awasthy in role of Razia. An epic biopic needs to be made in Bollywood soon with a powerful contemporary actress in role of Razia Sultan.

In a short life span, she left her mark on the pages of history. She was no less than Queen Elizabeth or Victoria. The sad irony is that we know about the history of foreign monarchs but are clueless about the legend of Razia Sultan.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. sujaman says:

    Wonderful write up…!! I think you might be listening to this one line many times. However, for me, reading history is always saddening. So many able , unsung rulers and see how only few get recognition. It is sad. Why history is full of betrayals, jealousies, ruthlessness? You are bang on when u said that many of the youngsters do not know anything about these unsung heroes. ( I consider Razia as hero). Coming to movies, it is bcoz of the obsession of few actors who want them to be shown in a particular way, it is bcoz of their stupidity to not to let a role is shown in a downward manner (I don’t want to say negative manner), pictures were not made with authenticity. Roles have to be larger than life, satisfying the actors egos. Now, it has changed quite a bit. Let us see if anyone finds new Razia Sultana….!! I felt bad any her tomb too….

    1. Prashant says:

      It was the article of her neglected tomb that compelled me to tell the story of Razia. She was equal as Elizabeth but couldn’t get the same respect as other queens like Victoria. Somewhere historians are responsible for suppressing the accomplishments of Razia Sultan.

  2. ZOEB says:

    History has many a regrettable occurence in which a woman deserving of pride and honour has been thwarted or betrayed only because of her gender. It is high time since I read something that validates this terrible truth. Your article on Razia Sultan is eye opening and relevatory in every sense. Well done Prashant…

    1. prashantb says:

      Razia Sultan was severely opposed by her brothers and the courtiers around her. No one wanted to see a change in society because there was corruption all over it. Razia couldn’t live a longer life but she was equal to Elizabeth.

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