December 29, 2009

Razia Sultana: First female monarch of the Delhi Sultanate

Though her reign was just for three years, her bravery, her struggle and her undaunted spirit has been preserved in the treasures of history. Razia Sultan’s Tomb in Delhi is one of those places, which relives the unthwarted spirit of the brave woman who ruled Delhi once and for all.

The Sultans (a king is called Sultan in Turky language), who ruled over India from Delhi have were reputed for a their colourful lifestyle. They ruled with passion, and perhaps it was their passion (for debauchery) that spell their doom. However, there was one remarkable women ruler among the Sultans of Delhi. She was Razia Sultana. She succeeded her father Iltutmish to the Sultanate of Delhi in 1236. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor. He designated his daughter Razia as his heir. (Iltumish's eldest son had initially been groomed as his successor, but had died prematurely.) But the Muslim nobility had no intention of acceding to Iltutmish's disregard for tradition in appointing a woman as heir, and after death of sultan in 1236, Razia's brother, Ruknuddin Feroze Shah, was elevated to the throne. Ruknuddin's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkaan for all practical purposes running the government, Ruknuddin abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the considerable outrage of the citizenry. On November 9, 1236, both Ruknuddin and his mother Shah Turkaan were put to death--after only six months in power. With reluctance, the nobility next agreed to allow Razia to reign as sultana of Delhi. As a child and adolescent, Razia had had little contact with the women of the harem, so she had little opportunity to learn the customary behavior of women in the Muslim society in which she was born. Even before she became queen--during her father's reign--she was preoccupied with the affairs of the state. As sultana, Razia adopted men's dress; and contrary to custom, she would later show her face when she later rode an elephant into battle at the head of her army. A shrewd politician, Razia managed to keep the nobles in check, while enlisting the support of the army and the populace. Her greatest accomplishment on the political front was to manipulate rebel factions into opposing each other. At that point, Razia seemed destined to become one of the most powerful rulers of the Delhi sultanate.

But the sultana miscounted the consequences that a special relationship with one of her Assyrian slaves, Jalal-ud-din Yaqut, would have for her reign. According to some accounts, Razia and Yaqut were lovers; other sources simply identify them as close confidants. In any case, before long she had aroused the jealousy of the Muslim nobility by the favoritism she displayed toward Yaqut. Eventually, the governor of Bhatinda, a childhood friend named Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, rebelled, refusing any longer to accept Razia's authority.


Razia's grave lies among the narrow lanes of Old Delhi, in a courtyard in Bulbul-i-khana, Shahjahanabad, near the Turkman Gate entrance. Crumbling and covered by dust and grime, the grave has clearly suffered the ravages of time. The grave is surrounded on all sides by unattractive residential buildings.

In the 13th century, the site of the tomb was a jungle, and no one knows how Razia's body ended up where it lies today. A second grave, believed to be that of her sister, Shazia, accompanies Razia's. Some of the Muslim residents of the neighborhood have turned a part of the tomb into a mosque, where prayers are conducted five times each day.

However, there's also a claim that the tomb of Razia is situated in Kaithal city, Haryana state[6]. The tomb lies in the north-western suburbs of the city where, a few years back, a jail was erected by the present administration

Razia's Legacy

Billon Jital of RaziaAs sultan, Razia reportedly sought to abolish the tax on non-Muslims but met opposition from the nobility. By way of response, Razia is said to have pointed out that the spirit of religion was more important than its parts, and that even the Islamic prophet Muhammad spoke against overburdening the non-Muslims. On another occasion, Razia reportedly tried to appoint an Indian Muslim convert from Hinduism to an official position but again ran into opposition from the nobles.

Razia was reportedly devoted to the cause of her empire and to her subjects. There is no record that she made any attempt to remain aloof from her subjects, rather it appears she preferred to mingle among them. Her tolerance of Hinduism would later bring her criticism from Muslim historians.

Razia established schools, academies, centers for research, and public libraries that included the works of ancient philosophers along with the Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad. Hindu works in the sciences, philosophy, astronomy, and literature were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.

Razia refused to be addressed as Sultana because it meant "wife or mistress of a sultan". She would answer only to the title "Sultan".

Grave of Razia Sultana in Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkoman Gate, Delhi
A battle between Razia and Altunia ensued, with the result that Yaqut was killed, and Razia taken prisoner. To escape death, Razia agreed to marry Altunia. Meanwhile, Razia's brother, Muiuddin Bahram Shah, had usurped the throne. After Altunia and Razia undertook to take back the sultanate from Bahram through battle, both Razia and her husband--neither more than 30 years of age--were killed on October 14, 1240. Bahram, for his part, would later be dethroned for incompetence.


Being the first female monarch of the Delhi Sultanate, Razia Sultan has been the subject of many legends. More recently, she was the subject of Razia Sultan, a 1983 Hindi film, written and directed by Kamal Amrohi, starring Hema Malini as Razia and Dharmendra as Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut.

Aayi Zanjeer Ki Jhankaar Khuda Khair Kare
Dil Hua Kiska Giraftaar Khuda Khair Kare

Jaane Yeh Kaun Meri Rooh Ko Chhukar Guzara
Ek Qayaamat Hui Bedaar Khuda Khair Kare

Lamha Meri Aankhon Mein Kheencha Jaati Hai
Ek Chamakti Hui Talwaar Khuda Khair Kare

Khoon Dil Ka Na Chhalak Jaaye Kahi Aankhon Se
Ho Na Jaaye Kahi Izahaar Khuda Na Kare

Movie: Razia Sultan
Actress: Hema Malini
Music: Khaiyyam
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Nida Fazli (more)
aye dila-ye-naadaan aye dila-ye-naadaan aarajoo kyaa hain, justajoo k...

Aye Dila-ye-naadaan Aye Dila-ye-naadaan
Aarajoo Kyaa Hain, Justajoo Kyaa Hain

Hum Bhatakate Hain, Kyon Bhatakate Hain Dashta-o-seharaa Mein
Ayesaa Lagataa Hain, Mauj Pyaasee Hain Apane Dareeyaa Mein
Kaisee Ulazan Hain, Kyon Ye Ulazan Hain
Yek Saayaa Saa, Rubaru Kyaa Hain

Kyaa Kayaamat Hain, Kyaa Musibat Hain
Kah Naheen Sakate, Kis Kaa Aramaan Hain
Jindagee Jaise Khoyee Khoyee Hain, Hairaan Hairaan Hain
Ye Jameen Choooop Hain, Aasamaan Choop Hain
Fir Ye Dhadakan See Chaar Soo Kyaa Hain

Aye Dila-ye-naadaan Ayesee Raahon Mein Kitane Kaante Hain
Aarajooon Ne Har Kisee Dil Ko Dard Baante Hain
Kitane Ghaayal Hain, Kitane Bismil Hain
Is Khudaee Mein Yek Too Kyaa Hain


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Anonymous said...

Cool story. Who played Mirza (Altunia) in the film Razia Sultan? I have watched the film from beginning to end. It is a really good film and is sooo enjoyable.