Rani Durgavati was born in Banda, Uttar Pradesh to Shalivahan, the Chandela Rajput ruler of Mahoba, famed for his bravery and courage.
Trained by Father Shalivahan
With her mother passing away early, Durgavati was bought up with great care by Raja Shalivahan, and was trained like a Rajput. Durgavati was trained by her father at a young age in horse riding, hunting and usage of weapons.
Becoming a skilled archer
She soon became a skilled hunter, markswoman, who took pleasure in going on expeditions, also a skilled archer.
Hearing about the valor of the Gond ruler Dalpat Shah, and his exploits against the Mughals, Durgavati was impressed by him.
When her guru pointed out that Dalpat Shah was a Gond, Durgavati replied “He might be a Gond by tribe, but his deeds make him a Kshatriya”
Dalpat Shah was one warrior, whom the Mughals feared, he controlled the territory that gave them passage to the South.
Marriage with Dalpat Shah
When Dalpat Shah bought up the alliance with Durgavati, many other Rajput rulers protested saying that he was a Gond.
The Rajput rulers knew very well that if Mughals were unable to advance to South, it was due to Dalpat Shah himself.
Shalivahan himself was not keen on Durgawati marrying Dalpat Shah, as he was not a Rajput. However considering the vow he gave to Durgavati’s mother, that he would allow her to choose her life partner, he agreed to Dalpat Shah.
Finally in 1524, Durgavati was married to Dalpat Shah, and this also bought the Gonds and Chandel dynasties in an alliance.
A new alliance against Mughals
The marriage between Durgavati and Dalpat Shah, in a way was strategically important too, bringing two dynasties together. With the Chandelas, Gonds coming together, a new alliance was formed against the Mughal rulers that could keep them in check.
Dalpat Shah dies
Sadly Dalpat Shah died soon, in 1550 and it was left to Durgavati to handle the kingdom. With her son, Bir Narayan, still a minor, Durgavati ruled as a regent.
Rule as a regent
Assisted by 2 ministers, Adhar Kayastha and Man Thakur, Durgavati reigned over the Gond kingdom with wisdom and success.
As a ruler, Rani Durgavati shifted her capital to Chauragarh, a strategically important fort on the Satpuras. Like her husband Dalpat Shah, Durgavati proved to be an able ruler, expanding the kingdom, looking after her subjects well.
Durgavati had a large army with 20,000 cavalry, 1000 war elephants, and large number of soldiers, which was well maintained.
Building reservoirs and tanks
Durgavati dug many reservoirs and tanks for the welfare of her people, one of the better known one is near Jabalpur called Ranital.
Defeating Baz Bahadur
When the Sultan of Malwa, Baz Bahadur, tried to attack Durgavati’s kingdom, she fought back and forced him to retreat. So heavy was the loss faced by Baz Bahadur at hands of Durgavati, that he dared not attack her kingdom again.
In 1562, Akbar defeated Baz Bahadur, and took over Malwa, which now meant that Mughal Empire was touching Durgavati’s kingdom.
Lured by the prosperity of Gondwana, Akbar’s subedar Abdul Majid Khan, wanted to invade and occupy it along with Malwa.
Malwa had already fallen to Mughals, Rewa too was captured by Abdul Majid Khan, now only Gondwana was left.
Fighting the Mughal Army
Though her Diwan warned her against taking on the mighty Mughal Army, Rani Durgavati said she would prefer death to surrender.
Rani Durgavati initially fought the Mughal Army at Narrai, flanked by the Narmada and Gaur rivers, and hilly ranges. Though the Mughal Army was superior to Durgavati’s, she led the defense, and fought back fiercely. Durgavati’s fierce counter assault on the Mughal Army chased them out of the valley and she was successful initially.
Facing Mughal Army in open combat
Buoyed by success, Durgavati wanted to attack the Mughal Army in night, but the suggestion was not accepted by her lieutenants. And this meant Durgavati had to face the Mughal Army in open combat, which would prove to be fatal to her.
Durgavati however refused to surrender, and with her son Vir Narayan, counter attacked the Mughal forces strongly. Riding on her elephant Sarman, Rani Durgavati, bravely counter attacked the larger and more superior Mughal army.
Durgavati’s son Vir Narayan, himself led a fierce attack on the Mughals, making them retreat thrice, before he was wounded badly. Hit by arrows and bleeding, Durgavati realized that defeat was imminent against the Mughals.
Disregarding her mahout’s advice to flee from battle, Rani Durgavati, stabbed herself with a dagger, preferring death to surrender. Rani Durgavati, truly a remarkable lady, fiercely independent, wise ruler, some one who preferred not to surrender.
A Patron of Learning, An able administrator
Durgavati was also a patron of learning, respected scholars, encouraged building of temples, truly a great ruler. Apart from being just a brave warrior, she was able administrator, who built lakes, reservoirs for benefit of her subjects.
Her name lives on
Rani Durgavati passed away physically, but her name lives on, especially in Jabalpur, where the university is named after her.