The battle between Maharana Pratap and Akbar in 1576 CE in Haldighati, Aravalis is well-known to the world. Contrary to that, a battle which was fought a decade before this Haldighati battle in the thick forest of Satpura ranges between a warrior queen of Gondwana and the Mughal army is lesser-known to fellow countrymen. This warrior queen was Rani (Queen) Durgavati, and she valiantly defended her kingdom against the Mughal army.
Rani Durgavati was born in 1524, at fort of Kalinjar, Banda, Uttar Pradesh, in a family of last Chandel King, Keerti Singh Chandel. She was named as Durgavati because she was born on Durgashtmi. She was beautiful, brave, and courageous. She was well-versed with horse-riding, sword fighting, and archery at a very young age. In 1542, she got married to Dalpat Singh, son of Sangram Singh of Gondwana Kingdom at the age of 18.
The Gondwana kingdom includes the eastern part of Vidarbha, parts of Madhya Pradesh, parts of the west of Chhattisgarh, parts of northern Telangana, western Odisha, and southern Uttar Pradesh.
Garha-Mandla was the region of Gondwana ruled by Dalpat Shah. This wedding was a political alliance. This dynastic alliance helped Keerti Singh Chandel to resist the attack of Sher Shah Suri in 1545. In the same year, Rani Durgavati gave birth to a son who was named Vir Narayan. King Dalpat Shah was passed away in 1550 CE, leaving behind a 5-year-old heir.
Rani Durgavati took control over the Gondwana Kingdom after the death of King Dalpat Shah. As a queen, she fought 51 gallant wars against many invaders including Mughals. Rani Durgavati showed enormous courage, self-belief, and heroism in her battles and treated her people fairly.
She shifted her capital from Singuargarh fort to Chauragarh fort near Pachmarhi Madhya Pradesh. This Chauragarh fort was the fort of strategic importance and situated 250 miles away from Singaurgarh fort in the Satpura hill range. She expanded her Kingdom and looks after people well. She managed a large army of 20,000 cavalry, 1000 war elephants, and numerous soldiers.
Baz Bahadur, Sultan of Malwa attacked the Kingdom of Rani Durgawati in 1556 but the attack was successfully repulsed by her. In 1562, Baz Bahadur was defeated by Akbar, and the Malwa region became part of Mughal dominion. On the other side, Rewa was also conquered by a Mughal general Asaf Khan. This made Mughals the adjacent neighbors of Gondwana.
In 1564, Asaf Khan attacked the prosperous state of Rani Durgawati. To fight a defensive battle, she moved to Narrai Nala (a village in Jabalpur district). Narrai Nala is situated between a hilly range and two rivers Gaur and Narmada. Her forces attacked Mughal army when they entered the valley. Rani Durgavati’s faujdar or chief wad killed by Mughal army during the war. Then Rani Durgavati herself took the charge and sends away the Mughal army out of the valley.
Again the Mughal army returned with heavy weaponry, this time her son Vir Narayan supported her and repulsed the Mughal army thrice but injured seriously. Injured Vir Narayan sent to a safe place and Durgavati continued the battle. In the battle she was shot by two arrows, one pierced her ear, and another pierced her neck. Injured and outnumbered warrior Rani Durgavati killed herself to avoid getting captured on 24th June 1564, at the age of 40. This day is celebrated as ‘Balidan Divas”.
After the death of Rani Durgavati, Vir Narayan fought with Mughal army, defended the Kingdom but soon he also died. Her Kingdom Garha-Mandla was incorporated as a Subah of Malwa in Mughal dominion.
Currently, her Kingdom is known as Mandla district and the part of Jabalpur district of Madhya Pradesh. That part of the Jabalpur district still known as Garha. In Jabalpur, a fort named Madan Mahal fort is also associated with Rani Durgavati and Vir Narayan.
Rani Durgavati also built numerous temples and ponds in and around Jabalpur. A well-known pond is also known as Ranital. The University of Jabalpur is renamed in 1983 as Rani Durgavati University. And Rani Durgavati Museum in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, is also dedicated to the memory of Rani Durgavati.
The Chauragarh fort being served as sunrise viewing point in a famous hill-station Pachmarhi. Ironically, the tourists visiting the place are not aware of brave warrior Rani Durgawati and her ultimate sacrifice for the Kingdom.