11 Dec 2014

Chand Sultana, the Warrior Queen of Ahmednagar

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Chand Bibi (The Lady Moon) was the daughter of Sultan Hussein Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar (in Maharashtra, India) and his wife Sultana Khanzada Humayun. Chand was married to Sultan Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur, when the four Deccan Sultans (Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur, Hussein Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar, Ibrahim Qutub Shah of Golconda and Ali Barid Shah of Bidar) had united against Rama Raya of Vijayanagara, during the Battle of Talikotta in 1565. In 1580, Sultan Ali Adil Shah was murdered by an eunuch; and since he had no sons, he was succeeded by his nephew Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1626), a child of nine years. Chand Bibi became the regent during his minority from 1580 to 1584. When Khudija Sultana, sister of Ibrahim Adil Shah, was married to Miran Hussein, son of Murtaza Nizam Shah (the then ruler of Ahmednagar and brother of Chand Bibi), Chand Bibi also accompanied the bride to Ahmednagar, and remained there.

Events in Ahmednagar: By 1591, Mughal emperor Akbar had asked all the four Deccan sultanates to acknowledge his supremacy. After the death of Ibrahim Nizam Shah in 1594, Mian Manju Deccani, his minister, imprisoned Ibrahim's infant son Bahadur, and placed Ahmad Shah, a descendant of Nizam Shah, on the throne. When the Abyssinian nobles discovered that Ahmad was not a lineal descendant of Nizam Shahi dynasty, they refused to acknowledge the new king and rebelled. Unable to oppose this, Mian Manju invited Prince Murad (son of Akbar), who was in Gujarat at that time, to assist him and also promised him to surrender the fort. Akbar had already given orders to Prince Murad and Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan to march to Deccan. But what happened was that, while Murad was on his way to Ahmednagar, Mian Manju had successfully suppressed the rebellion. He now regretted for having invited the Mughals to invade Ahmednagar. Mian Manju requested Chand Bibi to take command of the fort and himself marched towards Bijapur with Ahmad Shah. 

Chand Sultana and the Mughals:

Chand Bibi, Queen of Ali Adil ShahCession of Berar: Prince Murad and the Khan-i-Khanan reached Ahmednagar and laid siege to the fort by Dec 1595. Chand requested help from Ibrahim Adil Shah and Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah of Golconda against Mughals. When Murad learned this, he ordered the capture of the fort as soon as possible; and within few days, five mines were constructed around the fort. It is said that Khwaja Muhammad Khan Shirazi, a Mughal noble, informed Chand about Murad's plan. Chand herself with the assistance of some nobles, dig out and destroyed two of the mines. Others were still in the process of digging out rest of the mines. At this time, the Prince ordered to blow up the mines, without informing the Khan-i-Khanan. Murad was in fact jealous of the Khan-i-Khanan; he wanted the sole credit of capturing Ahmednagar. Three of the mines were exploded. Many of the counter-miners were killed and a part of the fort was broken up. People began to flight. The Queen, on the contrary, put an armour, and with a veil on her face and a sword in her hand, flew to defend the breach. Seeing the braveness of their Queen, the people who fled, came back and joined her. According to Ferishta, Chand Bibi caused guns to be brought to bear on the assailants, and stones to be hurled on them, so that they were repulsed in several repeated attacks. During the whole night, she supervised the repairs of the breach and it was built up to the height of eight feet before daylight. On the next day, she dispatched letters to Adil Shah and Qutub Shah to hasten the arrival of their forces, and some of them fell into the hands of Murad. The Mughal army was already suffering due to lack of provisions. Seeing these letters, they became more distressed. At this situation, Prince Murad decided to negotiate with her. As per the treaty, she surrendered Berar to the Mughals (Feb 1596).

Chand Sultana, Regent of Nizam Shahi Sultanate (1595-1599): After the retreat of Mughals, Mian Manju again came up with Ahmad Shah. Chand Sultana, with the help of her nephew Ibrahim Adil Shah, quelled Mian Manju's revolt. At Bijapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah gave an estate to Ahmad and also enrolled Mian Manju as noble of Bijapur. Chand now proclaimed Bahadur Nizam Shah (1595-1599) as the new Sultan and became his regent. She appointed her adviser Muhammad Khan as the Viceroy. Gradually the Khan usurped the authority of the whole Kingdom and promoted his relatives to chief offices. Hearing this, Ibrahim sent his general Sohail Khan for her assistance. After the capture of Muhammad Khan, she appointed Abhang Khan, an Abyssinian, as the new Viceroy.

Chand Bibi

Defeat of the Deccan Confederates: On his return to Bijapur, Sohail Khan learned that the Mughals had captured territories that were beyond the limits of Berar. Chand appealed to Adil Shah and Qutub Shah, asking them to unite against the Mughals; and the forces arrived accordingly. The Mughal forces under Mirza Shahrukh and Khan-i-Khanan met with the combined forces of Nizam Shahis, Adil Shahis and Qutub Shahis under Sohail Khan near Sonpet on the banks of River Godavari in Feb 1597. The battle lasted for two days, and in this fierce battle, Sohail Khan was defeated.

Meanwhile, the new Viceroy Abhang Khan, who had now obtained unlimited power in the Kingdom, was making plans to remove the Queen and took the regency in his own hands. Suspicious of his acts, Chand removed him from the position of Viceroy. Offended by this, he turned a rebel. Ibrahim Adil Shah tried to effect a reconciliation between the two, however, didn't succeed. By this time Prince Murad died (1599). Abul Fazl was sent to Deccan to take charge of Berar. Taking advantage of Murad's death, Abhang Khan sent an army to retook Bir from Mughals. By this time Akbar dispatched Prince Danyal (youngest son of Akbar) and Khan-i-Khanan to Ahmednagar. Hearing this, Abhang Khan marched towards Jaipur Kotly Ghat, to oppose Prince Danyal, but, the Prince reached Ahmednagar by another route. Akbar himself camped at Burhanpur and laid siege to Asir. Unable to withstand the Mughals, Abhang Khan retreated to Ahmednagar and tried to compromise with Chand. Since she was not willing, he fled to Junair.

Death of the Sultana (1599):

According to Abul Fazl, Chand had sent letters to him inviting friendship and promised to surrender the fort after punishing Abhang Khan. As per the treaty she will accept Junair as her fief and would accompany Bahadur to the court. Meanwhile Prince Danyal and his army entered Ahmednagar and laid siege to the fort. She requested Hamid Khan, an eunuch, for advice. She declared that after seeing the misconduct of several officers within the past years, she could place no trust on them. Also told him that she is going to surrender the fort to Mughals on a condition of no injury should be caused to the inhabitants of the fort. After that she will retire to Junair with the young King. Hearing this Hamid Khan went to the streets and exaggeratedly spread her words that she was in treaty with the Mughals. The Deccanis headed by Hamid Khan entered her apartment and put her to death. Thus ended the life of the brave Queen of Ahmednagar. The Queen was very fond of hunting. The painting of "Chand Bibi Hawking" is very famous.

Akbar Finally Captures the Fort: After the death of Chand Sultana, Ahmednagar fell into the hands of Mughals by Aug 1600. Sultan Bahadur Nizam Shah was taken as prisoner and sent to Akbar at Burhanpur. By this time Akbar had captured the fort of Asir. After appointing Prince Danyal as Viceroy of Deccan, he returned to Agra.

Further Reading:

Events in Agra after Akbar's return from the Deccan:

The Deccan Sultanates: