First Indian Queen who ruled the vast Kakatiya Kingdom – Rani Rudrama Devi (Reigned 1259 -1289 CE)

( Excerpts from the book `Rani Rudramadevi’ by Alekhya Punjala, NBT, ISBN 978-81-237-7817-4 – Compiled by Ch. Kalyanachakravarthy, Associate, CSIS )

“In the year 1259 CE on one shiny day early in the morning, father and King Ganapathi Deva called his daughter and deputy ‘Rudramba‘ to his chamber. The air is filled with seriousness and responsibility. Father looked at his able daughter, the ageing King looked at his heir apparent. It was not a simple decision. He knew there will be repercussions, his minister and her guru Sivadevayya was present there too. The two important men of the kingdom might have had a long discussion and might have come to a decisive conclusion. The courtroom of the kingdom is unaware of this happening, many important members may support with thorough loyalty, a few of them will oppose as they were waiting to claim their right once the King’s tenure ends. The king made his decision to end all the confusion …”. That’s how the historical moment might have happened. Nothing less than any present-day movie script.

An unprecedented decision, when a woman became heir apparent to the fierce and vast Kingdom of Kakatiyas. Rani Rudrama is the first woman to rule a kingdom in entire southern India and perhaps the first trained woman-ruler in India or even the world. There are queens who ruled their respective kingdoms in different parts of the world, mostly due to the need of the hour. Rani Rudrama’s case is different as she was trained to be a warrior princess. There were probably many reasons for Ganapati Deva entrusting the throne to his daughter. He and his wife had no sons, which in turn nurtured an ambition to ascend the throne among immediate male members of the family. Those male members conspired and connived to join hands with neighbouring foes. Sensing Rudrama Devi’s innate strength and determination, Ganapati Deva made Rudrama go through the rigours of training in horse riding, sword fight and other forms of warfare, under the guidance and tutelage of Guru Sivadevayya. She had a very thorough understanding of political administration, statesmanship and public governance.

 “The Coronation – 1259 CE: Ganaptideva’s decision to make Rudrama Devi his successor was supported by his minister Sivadevayya, Rudrama’s Guru, as there was no male heir apparent or anyone more deserving. Ganapati Deva called for Rudrama and expressed his desire. He made her aware of the responsibility and duty of upholding the honour of the Telugu people, protecting the Kakatiya kingdom from the onslaught of enemy attacks and taking care of her subjects as her father would, and last but not the least bringing name and fame to the Kakatiya dynasty with her exemplary rule. Rudrama was moved by her father’s love and patriotism for his land, love for his people and the confidence he reposed in her. She decided and vowed never to betray this trust, to never let an enemy succeed with attacks on the kingdom and to rule with happiness of the people at heart.

Rudrama was coronated in the august presence of all the dignitaries of the kingdom. The whole kingdom wore a festive look and subjects cheered with cries almost reaching the skies. People came in hordes from all over the kingdom to catch a glimpse of this extraordinary happening with their own eyes. As part of the coronation celebrations, there was singing, dancing, rituals were offered at temples and food was served to all those visiting various places.

The place where the ceremony was to be held was beautifully decorated, and holy water was brought from the sacred rivers. Regally dressed Rudrama arrived in the hall filled with people. Amongst Vedic chants, her father Ganapati Deva placed the crown on her head and handed over the sacred family sword to his daughter. He blessed Rudrama to carry forward the rich legacy and to always keep the honour of the kingdom and its people as top priority.

Rudrama adorned the royal court after the coronation ceremony. She was flanked by her father Ganapati Deva on one side and her guru Sivadevayya on the other. All the Samantha rulers of the kingdom like Gangaya Sahini, Malyala Gundayya, Nagadeva Maharaja, Viriyala Ganapathi, Oppili Siddhi, Cheraku Bolayya Reddy, Saarangapani Deva Maharaja, Vishwanadha Devudu, Allada Pemayya Devudu and Malli Deva Siddhayya Chodudu were present at that time. Chief Minister Sivadevayya, Prime Ministers Govinda Nayakudu, Khayyanna Nayakudu and other ministers like Bhaskara, Pothana Matyudu, Induluri Soma along with poet Thikkanna, Yaadavakula Annamayya Maarana, Kethana Saakalyamalla, Bhattu, and other scholars, made the gathering all the more resplendent. Those people present showered Rudrama with money and gifts as a mark of their love and respect. Soon after, she was taken in a procession throughout the capital on a decorated elephant as was the custom in those days. ( page 33  Rani Rudramadevi , NBT, ISBN 978-81-237-7817-4)

But the accession was not that simple, she had to face lot of infighting. The disgruntled tried their level best. Ganapathi Deva, the king and his minister Sivadevayya forethought this. They prepared her for this role since her childhood, she was a winner in bravery and fighting skills, having fought many wars alongside with her father. She was an excellent commander of forces and was popular in masses too. Rudrama Devi faced lot of internal revolts. Some historians refer to two step brothers and some others deny it, but there was an internal revolt against her succession, however she won the people’s support as their favourite queen. The following lines will prove that she was supported by lot of chieftains.

“ When Rudrama was on a visit to a temple at a place called Mogalicharla, along with her daughter, they attacked the fort and tried to occupy it by force. This was thwarted by her trusted lieutenants and people who rose to give them a crushing defeat. Among them were Recharla Prasaditya, Kannardevudu, Kayastha Jannigadeva, Viriyala Suranna, Rudra Nayaka and Nissanka Malikarjun. They helped Rudrama in crushing the revolt and unanimously strengthened Rudrama’s reign, thus earning her the title of Kakati Rajya Sampratishtanacharyulu, which means ‘Establishers of the Great Kingdom of Kakatiya.’ ” ( page 39  Rani Rudramadevi , NBT, ISBN 978-81-237-7817-4).

Even in marriage she had plenty of courage to challenge her would-be husband Vengi Chalukya prince Virabhadra as she wanted to marry a warrior who can beat her in a duel. The couple were made for each other, the duel went on for three-days, still no winner was declared; her father Ganapathi Deva had to intervene and stop the duel, they were married in 1240CE. Virabhadra lived a warrior life and died very young. Historians say she had two daughters Mummadamba and Ruyamma. The first offspring of Mummadamba and Mahadeva is Pratapa Rudra, whom Rudrama Devi adopted and declared as her successor.

Rani Rudramadevi fought and won many wars successfully. To name a few, the battles with king Mahadeva and King of Devagiri who were eternal foes of Kakatiyas. She won the war and succeeded in annexing Bidar fort to Kakatiya kingdom, making her the only ruler of Kakateeya Dynasty to take control of parts of Yadava Dynasty. She fought a fierce war with her subordinate kayastha king Ambadeva. She was given the title of ‘Raya Gaja Kesari ‘ after proving her mettle. Apart from being a great warrior, she was an excellent administrator and an able queen too.

“We can say that Rudrama Devi was undoubtedly one of the greatest rulers of Andhradesa. Being a woman did not come in the way of her discharging the duties of an exalted ruler. She was a committed ruler who took an active part in governing the country and strove very hard to promote the best interests of the state. Despite the wars which frequently disturbed the country, people in her kingdom remained content and happy under her rule. Rudrama strengthened the fort of Warangal still further, making it highly deterring for the enemy. She had a deep moat dug around the fort to fortify it to a greater extent. It is said that Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller who paid a visit to the kingdom probably a little later, wrote very highly of her as a ruler and administrator” (page 67 Rani Rudramadevi , NBT, ISBN 978-81-237-7817-4).

She served the duties given to her in full capacity, at the ripe age of 80 years she was in a battle field protecting her country.  Inscriptions mention that she died along with her military general, indicating that it could be a war zone where she died. At the age of 80 too, she was inspiring her army and supporting them with strategy.

The record states that both the queen and her general died at the same time which may mean that Rani Rudrama Devi might have been killed by an enemy in their military camp, though not on the battlefield. Rudrama Devi, must have been around eighty years of age during that time. It does not seem possible that she took part in a battle. But being a valiant lady she might have led the forces to inspire the soldiers, guarded by her army general Mallikarjuna. We find information about the demise of Rani Rudrama Devi in the Chandupatla inscription found in Nalgonda District of Telangana State, dating back to 27th November 1289 ad. Scholars have two opinions about the information given in this inscription. One, that she probably died on the same day. Second, she probably must have died twelve days earlier since it is a donation inscription. As according to Hindu customs donations are usually given on the 12th day of the person’s demise..” ( page 47  Rani Rudramadevi , NBT, ISBN 978-81-237-7817-4).

To conclude, we are herewith referring to a warrior Queen who fought all her life to protect her subjects and kingdom, she was a strategist with foresight; as a queen she strengthened the fort of Orugallu/Warangal, as an efficient administrator, she is a reformer who introduced the Nayamkara system in Kakatiya military. Kakatiya rulers had always given importance to agriculture. Rudrama Devi is well known for the construction and maintenance of a network of canals and water-tanks across her kingdom. The glorious memorable queen Rani Rudramadevi was undoubtedly one of the greatest rulers of India, and was justifiably eulogised by many poets as a valiant and courageous warrior.