Though Rani Laxmi Bai and Razia Sultana are some of the most famous Indian queens, and rightfully so, they’re certainly not the only female Indian queens to have left an impact. Here’s a look at some of the most badass Indian Maharanis, whose stories deserve to be celebrated on the silver screen:
1. Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur
A formidable leader, a fashion icon, a suave politician, and an avid equestrienne – Maharani Gayatri Devi is not just one of the most popular queens on the list but was also an icon for many women growing up. A shining example of what leading with grace looks like, Maharani Gayatri Devi even served time in jail during India’s infamous Emergency imposed under Indira Gandhi’s leadership.
2. Rani Durgavati of Gondwana
The ruling queen of Garha Mandla in Gondwana, Rani Durgavati (daughter-in-law of Sangram Shah) took over the reins of the kingdom after her husband’s death and ruled from 1550 until 1564, until her death on the battlefield. An expert administrator, she is best known for the valiant battle she fought against the Mughal forces. Though the Mughal army had better resources, Rani Durgavati fought against the attack led by Mughal General Asaf Khan, leading her troops right until the end, when she fell unconscious due to arrow attacks. When she regained consciousness, her advisers advised her to leave the battlefield, but she instead chose to die at the hands of her own dagger.
धर्म की रक्षा और स्वतंत्रता के लिए युद्ध भूमि को चुनने वाली रानी दुर्गावती जी की पुण्यतिथि पर उन्हें शत शत नमन । pic.twitter.com/PDXPklldX4— Abhishek Mishra (@Abhishek_Mshra) June 24, 2018
3. Maharani Chimnabai of Baroda
From advocating for women’s education to working towards ending child marriage and abolishing the purdah system, Maharani Chimnabai of Baroda was one hell of an inspiring woman. Elected the first president of All India’s Women Conference in 1927, Chimnabai also co-wrote The Position of Women in Indian Life with S.M. Mitra where she talked about the need for women to have greater control over their lives.
4. Rani Abbakka of Ullal
The first Tuluva Queen of Ullal, Rani Abbakka Chowta fought the Portuguese not just once, but multiple times, defending Ullal against their attacks for 4 decades. Her valiant leadership earned her the title of ‘abhaya rani‘ (fearless queen), and Veera Rani Abbakka Utsava is an annual celebration that takes place in Ullal, Mangalore, to celebrate her memory.
5. Bibi Sahib Kaur
Bibi Sahib Kaur was the elder sister of Raja Sahib Singh Sidhu of Patiala and a Sikh princess. Appointed Prime Minister by her brother in 1793, Bibi Sahib successfully fought attacks by the Marathas, including the battle against Maratha general Anta Rao. She also battled the forces of Irish adventure George Thomas, forcing him to retreat from Jind, and rescued her husband, after he was captured by a rival chief.
6. Rani Velu Nachiyar
The first Indian queen to fight against the East India Company in India, Rani Velu Nachiyar was formally trained in various combat methods and a scholar in multiple languages. After her husband’s death at the hands of EIC, Rani Nachiyar escaped with her daughter, formed an army, and through an alliance with Hyder Ali, launched an attack on EIC. From blowing up the ammunition of EIC to re-inheriting her husband’s kingdom, Rani Nachiyar proved she was a real braveheart. In 2008, a commemorative postage stamp was released in her memory.
7. Maharani Tarabai
The Queen regent of the Maratha Empire from 1700 until 1708, Tarabai Mohite was the daughter-in-law of Maratha founder Shivaji. Skilled in the cavalry, she led the resistance against Mughals, after the death of her husband. During the battle, she was even captured by the Mughal forces but she escaped after 4 days and continued to lead the Empire.
#FemaleWarrior #India Tarabai Bhonsle (1675-1761) kept alive the resistance against Mughals on Maratha territories pic.twitter.com/k5I81ofuh3— Ira Vanan (@irationalme) January 3, 2016
8. Maharani Jind Kaur
The youngest wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharani Jind Kaur was renowned for both, her beauty and her strength. Queen Regent of the Sikh Empire from 1843 until 1846, she became a symbol of sovereignty. Even after the Sikh empire lost the First Anglo-Sikh War, she continued to be revered by the people, and her son, 7-year-old Duleep Singh, refused to cower to British demands. Consequently, she was separated from her son and imprisoned. 2 years later, she escaped to Nepal but remainded separated from her son for 11 more years.
9. Rani Mangammal
Queen regent of the Madurai Nayak kingdom, Rani Mangammal went down in history as one of the most able administrators that India has seen. From repairing irrigation channels to constructing new roads and buildings, Rani Mangammal consistently worked towards raising the quality of life in her constituency. In fact, the “Spring Palace” that today houses the Gandhi Memorial Museum, was originally constructed during her reign.
10. Rani Begum Samru
From a Nautch (dancing) girl to the ruler of Sardhana, Meerut, Begum Samru’s story is an inspiring tale of grit and determination. At 14, Samru married 45-year-old mercenary soldier Walter Reinhardt Sombre. After his death, she became the head of a professionally trained mercenary army of 4,000 troops and went on to rule Sardhana, with tales of her political and diplomatic astuteness traveling far and wide.
11. Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi
Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the monarch of the Kingdom of Travancore from 1924 to 1931, is known for leading the Travancore Dynasty through progressive administration. Under her rule, reforms like the abolition of Devadasi system, the prohibition of animal sacrifice, and the opening of public roads to people of all castes were introduced.
“Social Distancing”— Manu S Pillai (@UnamPillai) March 18, 2020
Rani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore, c. 1905.
Be like the Rani. Stay healthy 🌻 pic.twitter.com/NYwuzz84y1
All hail these queens!