¤ Razia Sultan - The First Woman Who Ruled India
Il-Tutmish was the first king to appoint a woman as his official
successor. However, the Turk nobility was not going to have any of
this liberal stuff and after Il-Tutmishs death his eldest son
Rukn-ud-din Feroze Shah was raised to the throne. Soon it became
apparent why Il-Tutmish had chosen his daughter above his many sons.
Rukn-ud-din left all the hard work of governing to his scheming mother
Shah Turkaan and whiled away his time with nautch girls. When not
smoking opium, he could be found riding an elephant on the streets of
Delhi, scattering gold coins to all and sundry. Unfortunately for him
Shah Turkaan used her position to avenge all real and supposed insults
handed to her in the days when she was a handmaid (before Il-Tutmish
married her). Very soon rebellion occurred from all sides and the
upshot of it all was that Shah Turkaan and Rukn-ud-din were put to
death. He had lasted precisely six months and seven days.
¤ History Of Raziya Sultana
Now the nobility turned to Sultana Raziya, the successor Il-Tutmish had
selected. Raziya Sultan is a much-romanticized figure in Delhi's history
. As late as three centuries later, the legal aspect of her
accession was still a matter of heated theological debate. of course,
what makes her more interesting was that she had an affair with her
Assyrian slave, Yakut.
¤ About Raziya Sultana - The Ruler
By all accounts Raziya vindicated her fathers faith in her. She
was a very shrewd ruler, and for all her feminine beauty an autocrat
who kept the nobility in their place. The army and the people of Delhi
were solidly behind the queen. She needed all the support she could
get for many of her most powerful governors were in revolt against
her. It was in tackling them that Raziya gave evidence of her immense
sagacity. She played such a skilful game of political intrigue that
very soon the rebels were fighting each other. On the military front,
she defeated one of their principal leaders Wazir Muhammad Junaidi so
convincingly that he retired from active politics. Soon she was
successful in winning over most of the remaining nobles to her side.
¤ Raziya Sultana's Unacceptable Love
In hindsight it seems that nothing could have stopped Raziya Sultan from
becoming one of the most accomplished rulers of the Delhi Sultanate.
Except love. What undid her was her relationship with Yakut. Though it
happened behind many veils and doors, their relationship was no secret
in the Delhi court. The thought of a woman of pure Turkish descent
consorting with an Assyrian slave must have been poison for the
insular Turkish Maliks.
The governor of Lahore was the first to react but Raziya sharply put
him in his place. Hot on his heels came a more serious threat in the
shape of Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, who
refused to accept Raziyas suzerainty. The story goes that
Altunia and Raziya were childhood friends. As they grew up together,
he fell in love with Raziya and the rebellion was simply a way of
getting back at Raziya for preferring a slave.
¤ The Love Tragedy
Tragedy followed swiftly. Yaqut was murdered and Altunia imprisoned
Raziya. To save her own head, Raziya sensibly decided to marry him.
While all of this was happening, Raziyas brother Bahram had been
named Sultan in Delhi. Raziya marched with her husband towards Delhi
but to no avail. On October 13, 1240, she was defeated by Bahram and
the unfortunate couple was put to death the very next day.
Raziyas reign was followed by Bahram Shah (1240-42), Ala-ud-din
Masud Shah (1242-1246) and Nasir-ud-din Mahmud (1246-66). However
skipping these virtual unknowns lets come to the next Sultan who
mattered in the scheme of things.
Accounts by court flatterers would have us believe that Nasir-ud-din
Mahmud was a very pious, simple and modest man. Dont believe a
word of this just a cover up for his vacillating, indecisive
and unassertive ways. Court politics and intrigue continued unabated.
Clearly the need of the hour was a king of blood and iron. By a happy
coincidence Delhi got one rather quickly.