How Razia became the first and only woman to ascend the throne of the Delhi Sultanate
How Razia became the first and only woman to ascend the throne of the Delhi Sultanate
A still from an advertisement for an Indian television series about Razia Sultan

When Sultan Iltutmish, lying on his deathbed, appointed his daughter, not one of his three sons, as his heiress, he knew what he was doing. Yes, for Muslims, a woman in politics was nothing - but after all, Iltutmish himself was once a nobody, a boy-slave. The main thing is that his sons grew up fools, cowards and idlers, and Razia from childhood was so smart and courageous that her father took her with him on military campaigns and taught her to shoot a bow. No, no one was better than Razia for the throne in Delhi.

It is a pity that few people in the Sultanate agreed with this. A riot immediately broke out against the new queen. Supporters of male power put Razia's brother, Rukn ud-Din Firuz, on the table. The fact that his mother, Shah-Terken, actually ruled for him, did not bother them. Riots broke out throughout the Sultanate. One of the neighbors immediately brought in troops, hoping to reconquer the Punjab on the sly. Razia didn't seem to have the slightest chance.

In India, the sultans of Delhi were strangers. The first of them, the owner of Iltutmish, was a Turkmen. He not only bought a boy from his native land, but also gave him an upbringing suitable for Iltutmish by birth - after all, he was a noble family. It's just that, as usual, the boy's relatives were unlucky in battle.

Iltutmish killed the second sultan, the son-in-law of the first, and after that ruled for a long time, wisely and generously. He generously paid his commanders and scholars, administered a fair trial, and raised a suitable heir, Nasir ad-Din. Alas, the son of the Sultan died in the prime of his maturity. Then Iltutmish looked at the three remaining sons and made a choice - in favor of his daughter. He would not have gone down in history as a great sultan if he did not know how to evaluate people according to their deeds and talents. Razia, who had reached the heyday of wisdom in her thirty years, would have continued his work and succeeded, there was no doubt about that.

Razia was brought up on a par with the eldest son of the Sultan of Delhi

As a little girl, Razia delighted her father with intelligence and agility. The Sultan spoiled the little clever girl and raised her as he would raise a son of the same talents. The girl studied literacy and military affairs, sat next to her father when he was engaged in state affairs. When Razia grew up, her father often left her as his deputy in Delhi. Why not? There was also in history the queen Tomyris, who defeated Cyrus himself, the king of Persia. Did Iltutmish count on Razia to become the new Tomiris? Who knows. Maybe he saw her as a co-ruler of a friendly sultan - this is how women of the Muslim world more often found themselves in power.

The Sultan died. In Delhi, one brother of Razia, Firuz, was raised to the throne, he rebelled against the brother and sister of the second, Muhammad, the third brother was killed. The governors rebelled in four cities, and the ruler of Bengal, who had just sat down in his place - in the place of the previous heir of Iltutmish - announced that he would not recognize the power of either Razia or the new Sultan of Delhi.

Razia entered legends, plots of street plays, books and films

Razia gathered the faithful under her banner. The main argument in attracting supporters was her political program - she promised to firmly continue every business started by her father, fortunately, she was involved in all his affairs. Many people liked the policy of the late Sultan, under which the region flourished for a quarter of a century. Many also respected his will. Added sympathy for Razia and the story of the treachery of Shah-Terken, who tried to set up an accident for her power. She ordered to dig a hole on the road along which Razia liked to gallop her horse.

Weakness and inability to cope with the rebellions of Shah-Terken's son made the Delhi army lose heart. At this moment, the army of Razia approached the capital. In the morning before the battle, Razia went out to her soldiers in red - according to local customs, this is how a person dressed demanding the restoration of justice or revenge for the death of loved ones.

Indian cinema star Hema Malini on the set of the film about Razia Sultan

In front of both armies and the inhabitants of Delhi, she called for respecting the memory and will of the great sultan Iltutmish, recalled that she was named the heir to her throne and her cause, and stated that Firuz was a fratricide, that only the people of the Delhi Sultanate could accept or depose her, because the king serves his people. At this point, she won the battle for the throne. Firuz and his mother were captured by the mob and killed.

The governors of the four rebellious cities with the vizier of the late Firuz besieged Delhi. Their troops were much larger than Razia's loyal army. But the queen, skillful in diplomacy, managed to sow enmity between the rebels. Their union fell apart. Two of the four governors went over to the side of Razia. The troops of the remaining rebels were defeated. The vizier managed to escape, and the remaining two governors were killed. After this turn of events, the ruler of Bengal again recognized the authority of Delhi. Following her father's example, Razia generously awarded her supporters with honorary positions. Peace in the sultanate was restored, Razia returned to normal state affairs.

Historians describe her reign as just and supporting the prosperity of the region. Razia Sultan herself - as shrewd and courageous. She continued to invest in science and encourage trade and crafts, as her father had done. She was the only ruler of her time who personally led the troops in battle. The common people adored her. And, nevertheless, she was able to hold the throne only for three and a half years. Razia did not suit the Turkic nobility.

Advertising of the TV series about Razia

One of the complaints against her was the same as against Zhanna d'Arc - Razia dressed in men's clothes. The most orthodox Muslims resented the fact that she generally communicated with men all day instead of ruling from a harem. Her behavior was considered shameless on the verge of debauchery. And the appointment of an Ethiopian foreigner (albeit a loyal supporter) as emir was generally considered an insult by the Turks. They were ready to see only a man of their tribe sitting over them. He was even suspected of having a love affair with Oasiyo - otherwise why such mercy? But what infuriated the nobility most of all was, no doubt, the complete independence of the tsarina. Many hoped that the woman would be easily persuaded to make decisions in her favor.

The viceroy in Lahore was the first to revolt. Razia not only suppressed the riot, but also entered into an agreement with the governor, giving him, in exchange for loyalty, the neighboring region on hand. Someone would see in this act an unwillingness to quarrel with a former comrade in arms, but the enemies preferred to see weakness in the queen.

As soon as Razie returned to Delhi, the rebellion was raised by the governor of Bhatinda, Altunia. Razia set off on a new campaign, this time unsuccessful. Her loyal emir of the emirs was killed, Razia Altunia herself was taken prisoner, but he did not kill, but imprisoned her in the Tabarkhin fortress, where she was treated, however, with due respect. The sultan imprisoned the surviving brother of Razia Bahram, and the real power was in the hands of the husband of Bahram Aytegin's sister.

Disc cover with songs from the film about Razia

But Razia wasted no time in captivity. Taking advantage of the fact that Altunia was dissatisfied with the results of the new redistribution of power and the insufficient mercy of Bahram, she persuaded him to an alliance. Altunia became the husband of the deposed queen, and together they went to return the throne to her. Razia was immediately supported by several emirs, but their combined army was defeated.

Having retreated, Razia gathered a new army and again went to Delhi, hand in hand with her husband. In October 1240, the two armies met near the city of Kathal. But several emirs got scared and withdrew with their troops, leaving Razia and her allies behind. Bahram's army gained the upper hand and defeated the people of Razia.The queen herself, along with Altunia, was captured. Both were executed. Queen Razia was not let down by either intelligence or courage, but she could not do anything with betrayal.

However, the people could not come to terms with such a prosaic - for those times - end of their beloved queen. And now they tell the legend that Razia in men's clothing escaped from the battlefield. Tired, she asked for bread and shelter from one of the peasants. He fed and put the stranger to bed, but, looking at the caftan on the sleeping man, he was tempted by the high cost of clothing and stabbed the guest. And when he realized what he had done, he let the queen's horse run wherever they looked so that his crime would not be revealed …

Sultan Bahram was killed by his own people two years later, and for many years the Delhi Sultanate plunged into endless civil strife.

Ultimately, Razia went down in history as the only woman on the throne of her country - and as a queen beloved by the people. Just like the ruler of Poland, Jadwiga, who eventually became a Catholic saint.

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