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Razia Sultan: The first & the last female ruler of Delhi

Women throughout history have played an inspirational role in society. There are many who have been known for their courage, the changes they bought in (good or bad) & the stories their lives have told. From the oldest of times, women have played an equal role, at times, more than an equal role in society building. Among them is the first & last female ruler of Delhi – Razia Sultan. And yes, she was a Sultan & not Sultana! Read on to know the story of this woman who ruled over Delhi for only four years but left a mark on society forever.

If you thought Daenerys from GOT was a breaker of chains, here meet the real-life breaker of chains born in 1205. This is the woman who refused to be called a Sultana because it was gender-biased. Sultana, in her time, meant the wife or mistress of a Sultan. Well, she was the ruler of Delhi, not the wife of the Sultan, so she refused to be called a Sultana.

Not just this, she gave up the pardah & traditional Muslim female attire of the time & adopted a gender-neutral attire. It seems, Razia was telling the world, I am equal to the men of this world & capable of ruling this sultanate just like any other male heir. But by doing just this can we call her a breaker of chains? If you thought this, read on!

Young Razia that we are talking about now, was probably not even the rightful heir to the throne. No, I am not talking about her competing with the male heirs to sit on the throne (of course, that was there!), I am talking about her family not belonging to the noble family. Yes, not only did Razia’s family not belong to the nobles, her father and maternal grandfather were originally slaves. The two of them rose to power & sat on the throne because they deserved it. Imagine, the ruler of Delhi not only being a woman but also belonging to a family of slaves! That is challenging the power structures of society!

So how did Razia become the ruler of Delhi? It’s simple, she was raised to be a powerful woman. Her father thought it was necessary for Razia to be trained in warfare, military & administration of the state to be a good and deserving queen. Young Razia did not interact much with women, instead, she sat in the court with her father! She was not forced to follow Harem rules. She observed and formed her opinions and assisted her father in state affairs while growing up.

In fact, when Razia’s father was on his deathbed, he decided to name Razia as his heiress because his surviving sons were not capable enough. That is how a father looked beyond the societal norms and trained his daughter to rule.

In the four years of her rule, Razia fought many wars & expanded her sultanate. She even empowered women and promoted education by building schools, public libraries and research centres.

However, she lost her throne to her stepbrother Muiz ud-Din Bahram due to an internal fight with Malik Altunia (governor of Bhatinda &later her husband). In the end, she was robbed and killed by Hindu Jats at the age of 35.