If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.
History stands testament to the valiance, art, culture, sacrifice, discovery, and the discourses of the past. More than often, we have found ourselves reading about the role of men when it comes to heritage. As women, too, are gaining pace, many historians, readers, and book enthusiasts seem more curious discovering about heritages either built by, dedicated to, or holding sacrificial stories of women.
Several sources and legends have come into light, glorifying the power of women and holding their place in the books of medieval writers and several archaeological sites—the ones collecting dust for a long time. Some legendary women who can be mentioned in this context are Rudramadevi, queen of the Kakatiya dynasty (Deccan Plateau), Razia Sultan, the first woman sultan of Delhi Sultanate, Loka Mahadevi who built the famous Virupaksha temple, and Udayamati who completed the construction of the stepwell Rani ki Vav in Gujarat. It also finds mention of women breaking social norms like the saint poetess Mirabai, or Rani Padmavati of Chittor who preferred death over enslavement.
BY THE WOMEN
Some remarkable monuments whose construction can be attributed to notable women figures include:
Virupaksha Temple, Pattadakal, built by Loka Mahadevi in 740 CE to commemorate her husband king Vikramaditya II, who won against the Pallava rulers. The temple depicts a fusion of two Indian architectural styles: the Dravida and Nagara architecture.
Rani ki Vav, situated in Patan, is an intricately designed stepwell built by Queen Udayamati. The well is famous for the beauty of its staircase and architecture. It was designed in Maru-Gurjara architecture style for her husband king, Bhima I of Solanki Dynasty, as an inverted temple. Recently, this magnificent work has been printed on the new note of Rs. 100.
Humayun’s Tomb was commissioned by Emperor Humayun’s chief consort, Bega Begum, in the memory of her husband emperor Humayun after his death. Built in 1569−70, it was the first structure to use red sandstone at a large scale and is the first garden-tomb in India.
FOR THE WOMEN
One of the largest forts in India, Chittorgarh stands witness to tales of love, war, history, battles, and sacrifice. The fort boasts of the valour of Rajput women—some giving up their lives heroically in defence of their honour, while some remembered to have made great sacrifices. Originally called Chitrakut, Chittorgarh became a chief centre of power and marks the beginning of the rule by the Rajputs,
Garh toh bas Chittorgarh, baki sab Garhiya
Rani toh hai Padmini, baki sab Garhiya
(Excerpt from Chittorgarh: The Braveheart of Rajputana)
A warrior has many names and forms. It is not restricted to the display of courage in the battlefield, but also comes as great sacrifice and devotion, as in the case of Rani Padmini, the queen of Chittor.
As the legend goes, Rani Padmini was known for her winsome beauty and pure devotion towards Chittor and her husband Raja Rawal Ratan Singh. Smitten with her beauty, Sultan Alauddin Khilji marched towards Chittor and ransacked the fort with a desire to get Padmini, who immolates herself by choosing death over dishonour. Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote the epic poem Padmavat in 1540.
Padmini Palace stands on the bank of a lake in Chittorgarh. It is believed that jauhar was performed in the underground chambers of the palace. It was later rebuilt and is now known as Rana Kumbha’s palace.
Mirabai, the saint-poetess, was a devout follower of Lord Krishna from her childhood days. Later she unwillingly married Bhoj Raj, the prince of Mewar, who died shortly afterwards. Mirabai went through many troubled encounters and was forced to accept all kind of social norms. She fought for her rights and set herself free, left Chittor, and took only the idol of Krishna from the temple. She is said to have magically disappeared by merging into the idol of Krishna in 1547.
The temple in Chittor dedicated to Mirabai has both historical and religious importance. It was patronized by Rana Kumbha and has a fine Indo-Aryan style of architecture.
Raziya Sultana Tomb
Earlier known as Rani Saji ki Dargah, situated near Turkman Gate, Delhi, the enclosure is said to be the grave of Raziya Sultana, the first woman sultan of Delhi who succeeded her father Shamshuddin Iltutmish and ascended the throne of Delhi. The tomb is roofless and has four walls and two graves in the centre of the enclosure are said to be those of Raziya and her sister Sajiya.
On this occasion of World Heritage Week, Niyogi Books furthers its aim to promote awareness and education by encouraging conservation and preservation of cultural and historical heritage sites. Given below are two of our finest titles:
Chittorgarh The Braveheart of Rajputana by Dharmendar Kanwar portrays the acts of courage and sacrifice of Rajput women and gives a glimpse into the magnificent history of the fort.
Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas Badami, Mahakuta, Aihole, Pattadakal by George Michell has some amazing photographs by Surendra Kumar, who captures the beautiful architecture of the temples from the Early Chalukya period, known for the sheer beauty of figural and decorative carvings.