Namaste. Here is the second story in the series of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. The country is in the midst of celebrating the Shaaradiya Navaratri where the Mother Goddess is venerated for nine days. On the tenth day the Goddess gains victory over the terrible demon Mahishasura single-handedly.
Hence I am bringing you the story of an indomitable woman, one of the lesser known queens of India who fearlessly fought an invader. The invader ran away and came back again through another route some years later. It is a pity that we only know the story of the invader who won over another Indian king at a later date, but not the story of his initial defeat.
The invader was none other than Mohammed Ghori and the queen who chased him away was Rani Naiki Devi, the Chalukyan queen of Gujarat.
Naiki Devi was the daughter of the Kadamba king of Goa Mahamandaleshwar Parmadi.
Naiki Devi was trained by her father in all the ‘manly’ skills of horse-riding, archery, combat and weapon-wielding which she mastered in no time and excelled in.
When she came of marriageable age, she married the Solanki ruler of Gujarat, Raja Ajaypal. The Solankis were also known by the name Chalukyas of Gujarat. The kingdom of the Solankis comprised of parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan and their capital was Anahilwada Patan.
Unfortunately, within four years of his ascension to the throne, Raja Ajaypal, died in 1175 AD. Their son Mularaja was a child at that time. As per the tradition of their kingdom, Mularaja was instated as the king and Rani Naiki Devi, the Regent who ruled the kingdom on her son’s behalf. The Rani was ruling from Anihilwada Patan which was one of the largest fortified cities of the world back then. The famed Rani Ki Vav is situated there and was also built by the Chalukyas.
Now, about Mohamed Ghori. In 1173 AD, the young Ghurid prince Mohammed Shahabuddin Ghori captured the city of Ghazni in Afghanistan from the Turks who had earlier captured it from the Ghaznavids. The Ghurids were initially vassals of the Ghaznavids and later on toppled them. Ghori, along with his elder brother used the city of Ghazni as a base for his conquests and campaigns.
Gradually their attention turned to Bharat which had already been famed for her riches and prosperity. The Ghaznavid king Mahmud of Ghazni had already plundered the country and looted the riches to the highest possible extent.
Mohamed Ghori decided to enter Bharat through the Gomal pass in 1176 AD. This pass is situated between present day Afghanistan and Pakistan. After entering with his huge army, he attacked the forts at Multan and Uch, both of which are present day Pakistan.
After a period of about two years, in 1178 AD, he decided to attack the kingdoms of South Rajputana (present day Rajasthan with some areas of Madhya Pradesh) and Gujarat and he started eyeing Anihilwada Patan since he came to know that it was being actually ruled by a lady with an infant son. Ghori was sure that the battle against a woman would be a cakewalk for him not knowing that the result would be disastrous for him!
Rani Naiki Devi got information from her spies that Mohamed Ghori was advancing towards Anihilwada with the intention to capture her kingdom.
The Rani was undaunted on hearing this news and set about taking steps to counter Ghori and his army. She came to know that Mohamed Ghori had a very large army to which hers was no match at all.
Naiki Devi then sent word seeking support to the nearby kingdoms like the Chandelas, the Bhatis, the Parmars and the Chouhans (whose leader was King Prithviraj Chouhan) and a few other kingdoms as well.
Sadly, she did not receive any response from them except from few of the Chalukyan feudatories. Naiki Devi realized that even if all of their forces were put together, they would be of no match to the forces of Ghori. So she had to think of some other way to defeat the invader.
Being trained in all matters of politics, warfare and statecraft, Naiki Devi decided on a solid plan. And that was to fight the war in a terrain which was totally unfamiliar to the invaders and which would help to annihilate them totally.
She consulted the kings of the Chalukya feudatories who had offered help, namely Kelhanadeva, Kirtipala and Dharavarsha and decided the war strategy. Rani Naiki Devi chose a place near village Kasaradha on the foothills of Mount Abu for the battle. This was a rugged terrain familiar for the locals but totally alien for the Ghori army.
Mohamed Ghori’s army had to come via the narrow hill passes of Gadharghatta near Mount Abu. The news was that his army had already started moving towards Kasaradha. Ghori’s army had well-built horses with excellent stamina and hordes of soldiers.
Meanwhile Mohamed Ghori sent a messenger informing Naiki Devi that he would not touch Gujarat if Naiki Devi would surrender with her son and also deposit all the gold of her kingdom along with all the womenfolk.
Naiki Devi pretended to agree to the request. Upon hearing this from his messenger, Ghori was overjoyed. He never thought that he would never have to even lift a finger to conquer this kingdom which had abundant riches.
As Ghori’s army came out of the pass to the open ground at Kasaradha, Ghori waited for the queen to come and surrender. He heard the sound of a galloping horse and saw that a lady was riding a horse from afar and approaching him. She had her son tied to her lap.
Ghori was overjoyed but within few minutes the galloping sound became like that of pounding rain. And there were armed soldiers all over the place surrounding his army, to his right, left and centre. Rani Naiki Devi was leading them.
When he turned around he also found soldiers behind his army from inside the pass. Ghori’s army was totally trapped and caught unaware. Then there suddenly appeared what were like mounds of steel, huge and mighty armoured elephants with soldiers armed riding them. The Rani was fighting fiercely and her sword was swiftly tasting the blood of the Ghurid soldiers. Ghori’s men were falling like a pack of cards, either slain by Rani Naiki and the forces of her allies, or trampled by the huge elephants which were moving about like mighty mountains.
Ghori’s men who tried running back through the pass were attacked by Rani Naiki’s soldiers who were hiding in the pass and the army was terribly routed. The extent of damage has been mentioned by Firishta, a Persian historian as well as Minhaj-I-Siraj in their chronicles. This is also written by Badauni, a sixteenth century historian who traces the Islamic rule in India right from the invasions of Ghori till the reign of Akbar.
Ghori, with the remnant soldiers literally ran away from the scene. They retreated to Ghazni escaping from Rani Naiki Devi’s soldiers with great difficulty.
The attack of Rani Naiki Devi was so fierce that Mohamed Ghori did not dare to attack Bharat for the next decade. The next time in 1191 also, Ghori chose to avoid the earlier route and instead to come in through the vulnerable Punjab route via the Khyber Pass. He was once again defeated by Prithiviraj Chouhan and only in 1192, could he defeat King Prithviraj Chouhan.
Rani Naiki Devi’s bravery has been recorded by the court poets of Gujarat and also by a 14th century Jain scholar Merutunga in his works. This battle was called Battle of Kasaradha.
Rani Naiki Devi was yet another jewel on the crown of Bharat!