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14 Jul 2014

Jalalat al-Din Radiyya (Raziyya): The Slave Empress of India

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Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236) was the greatest ruler of Slave dynasty. Iltutmish's eldest and most capable son, Nasir al-Din Mahmud, had died prematurely (1229); rest of his sons were incompetent. Iltutmish nominated his capable daughter Raziyya to be his successor. He discerned in her countenance the signs of power and bravery, "My sons are devoted to the pleasures of youth, and no one of them is qualified to be king. They are unfit to rule the country, and after my death you will find that there is no one more competent to guide the State than my daughter", the Sultan said. However, the nobles of the court did not like the idea of being ruled by a woman, and upon the death of Iltutmish in 1236, his eldest surviving son Rukn al-Din Firuz was placed on the throne. Rukn al-Din was a pleasure-loving King who left the affairs of the government to his mother, Shah Turkan. Shah Turkan used her authority to ill treat the ladies of Iltutmish’s harem; She murdered Qutb al-Din, the infant son of Iltutmish. Soon rebellion occurred in many parts of the country and the wazir Nizam-ul-Mulk Junaidi also joined the rebels. Rukn al-Din marched from Delhi to suppress the rebellions. When Shah Turkan made an attempt to assassinate Raziyya, the people of Delhi rose in her defense. Shah Turkan was imprisoned, and Raziyya was raised to the throne (Nov 1236). Hearing this, Rukn al-Din hastened to Delhi, but he was captured by Raziyya's army. He died in confinement, after a reign of seven months.

The Slave Kings of Delhi: Raziyya, Fifth Ruler of the Slave Dynasty (1236-1240):

Raziyya begum, first woman ruler of India

Raziyya, the eldest daughter of Sultan Shams al-Din Iltutmish, was the first woman ruler of India and the only woman who ever sat upon the throne of Delhi. She possessed all the qualities necessary for a monarch. Even in her father’s lifetime, she was active in the affairs of the state. During his Gwalior campaign, Iltumush had left Raziyya in charge of Delhi and on his return, he was very much impressed by her abilities in managing the administration of the Sultanate. However, the wazir of the Sultanate, Nizam-ul-Mulk Junaidi and four other Maliks: Malik Janí, Malik Kuji, Malik Izz al-Din Salari and Malik Izz al-Din Kabir Khan Ayaz, refused to acknowledge her and they besieged Raziyya in her capital. Hearing this, Malik Nasir al-Din Tabashi Muizzi, the governor of Awadh, hurried to Delhi to assist Raziyya, but before he could cross the Ganges he was defeated and imprisoned by the rebels. She left Delhi along with the army and encamped on the banks of river Yamuna to confront the rebels. Several conflicts took place between the Turk Amirs, who were on the side of the Sultan, and the hostile Maliks. Izz al-Din Salari and Kabir Khan Ayaz, two Maliks of the rebel group, secretly went over to the Sultan's side on a condition that, Malik Janí, Malik Kuji and Junaidi, should be imprisoned. When this news spread in the rebel camp, they fled. Followed by this, Malik Kuji, his brother Fakhr al-Din and Malik Janí were captured and slain. Junaidi fled into the Sirmur hills, where he died. After this victory, all the Maliks and Amirs from Lakhnauti to Dewal submitted to Sultan Raziyya's authority. She made Khwaja Muhazzab al-Din her wazir and gave him the title of Nizam-ul-Mulk.

Raziyya sent an army under Qutb al-Din Hasan Ghauri against the Rajputs of Ranthambore, where they had laid siege to the Muslim garrisons. Qutb al-Din drew the Muslim forces out of the fort and destroyed it.

Malik Jamal al-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian, who was Lord of the Stables (Amir-i-Akhur), acquired *favour in attendance upon the Sultan. This created jealousy among the Turkish nobles. Sultan Raziyya now discarded her female attire by putting on the head dress of a man; sat on the throne without a veil and appeared in public riding on an elephant. In 1239, Kabir Khan Ayaz, governor of Lahore, broke out in revolt, but when she marched against him, he made his submission. He was removed from Lahore and Multan was placed in his charge.

Raziyya Sultan's Tomb-at Delhi, Tonk and KaithalWhen Raziyya returned victorious to the capital, Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda, revolted with the secret support of some of the Amirs of the Court. Raziyya again marched against the rebels, but lost to Altunia. In this rebellion, Yaqut was killed and Raziyya was taken as a prisoner to Bhatinda (Apr 1240). The Turk rebels returned to Delhi, where they elevated her half-brother Muizz al-Din Bahram (1240-1242) as the new Sultan on the condition that Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Aitegin should be made his deputy. The Turkish nobles now occupied important positions in the court, but Altunia, who had been left out unrewarded after being made a tool of, released Raziyya from the prison and married her.

Death of Raziyya: Raziyya and her husband Altunia collected a large army and marched towards Delhi to regain possession of the Sultanate; Malik Izz al-Din Salari and Malik Qaraqush Khan also joined them. However, they were defeated by Bahram's army and compelled to retreat. When they reached Kaithal, their troops abandoned them; and Sultan Raziyya and Altunia were captured and murdered by the Hindus of Kaithal (in Haryana) on 14 Oct 1240. (There are three claims regarding the location of Sultan Raziyya's tomb: Delhi, Kaithal and Tonk) Raziyya Sultan's reign lasted three years and six months.


Tabaqat-i Nasiri written by Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, during the reign of Sultan Nasir al-Din Mahmud (1246-1266), gives a detailed information about the history of Delhi Sultanate. Nasir al-Din Mahmud was born after the death of his eldest brother (1229), with the same name.

Razziya's Lord Chamberlain, Malik Ikhtiyar al-Din Aitegin had taken an oath of allegiance to Bahram, while she was campaigning in Punjab against the rebellious governor of Lahore. Aitegin married Bahram's divorced sister and took the affairs of the Sultanate into his own hands, and in conjunction with the wazir Muhazzab al-Din. This annoyed Bahram, who secretly hired two Turks to stab both Aitegin and the wazir in his presence. Aitegin was assassinated but the wazir managed to escape.

*the same term, Minhaj al-Siraj uses to describe Sultan Muhammad Ghori's favour towards his slave, Kutb al-Din Aibak, for which the Turk Maliks and Amirs were envious.

1 comment:

  1. Jodha Bai may refer to:

    Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani, Rajput wife of Jahangir.
    Mariam-uz-Zamani, Rajput wife of Akbar.
    This is given in Wikipedia. It seems like both Akbar's wife and Jahangir's wife was referred to as jodha. This explains lot of things