Razia Sultana

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Sultana Raziya
sultan of Delhi
Sultan of Delhi
Reign 10 October 1236 -14 October 1240
Coronation 10 October 1236
Predecessor Rukn ud din Firuz
Successor Muiz ud din Bahram
Born c. 1205
Budaun, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died 14 October 1240 (aged 35)
Delhi, Delhi Sultanate
Burial Bulbul-i-Khan near Turkmen Gate, Delhi
Spouse Malik Altunia
Full name
Raziya Begum bint. Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish
Regnal name
Jalâlat-ud-Dîn Raziyâ
House Mamluk
Father Iltutmish
Mother Qutub Begum
Religion Islam

Sultana Raziya, attributed as Razia Sultana, or popularly known as Razia Sultan (1205 – 14 October 1240) was the Sultan of Delhi from 10 October 1236 to 14 October 1240. A member of the Mamluk dynasty, she is known for being the only female ever to rule the Delhi Sultanate.[1]

Early life and Career[edit]

Razia Sultana was the daughter of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish,[2] who had begun life as a Turk slave and ended it as Sultan of Delhi.[3] Iltutmish had been a great favorite of his master, Qutb ud din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and had been married to his only daughter Qutb Begum, who gave birth to Razia.[4][5]

She had her own brother named Nasiruddin Mahmud.[6] Razia being a member of the ruling family, grew up in privileged circumstances and was close to the levers of power both within the harem (where her mother was dominant) and in the court, where she was a favorite of both her maternal grandfather and her father. This was in contrast with her half-brothers Rukn ud din Firuz, and Muiz ud din Bahram who were the sons of former slave-girls, and thus grew up quite distant from the centers of power.

When Razia was five years old, Qutubuddin Aibak died and was succeeded by Iltutmish. Razia was a favorite of her father, and as a child was allowed to be present around him while he dealt with affairs of state. Later, like some other princesses of the time, she was trained to administer a kingdom if required, in the absence of her father or her husband.[7] Her abilities and diligence, no less than her mother's royal lineage, commended Razia to Iltutmish and made her a confirmed favorite with him. Nevertheless, Iltutmish's eldest son Nasiruddin Mahmud (Razia's brother) was groomed by Iltutmish to succeed him.

However, Nasir ud din Mahmud died suddenly in 1229 CE, and Iltutmish was at a loss as to a successor because he felt that none of his several surviving sons, born of his other wives, were worthy of the throne.[3] In 1230, he had to leave the capital in order to lead an invasion against Gwalior. During his absence, Razia acted as a competent regent, with the assistance of the Sultan's trusted minister. Iltutmish returned to Delhi in 1231 after having captured Gwalior, and the issue of succession was foremost on his mind. Iltutmish became the first sultan to appoint a woman as his successor when he designated Razia as his heir apparent. Razia was the first and only female ruler of Delhi Sultanate. However, after Iltutmish died on Wednesday 30 April 1236, Razia's half-brother Rukn ud din Firuz was elevated to the throne instead.

Rukn ud din Firuz's reign was short. With Iltutmish's widow Shah Turkaan for all practical purposes running the government, Rukn ud din abandoned himself to the pursuit of personal pleasure and debauchery, to the outrage of the citizenry. On 9 November 1236, both Rukn ud din and his mother Shah Turkaan were assassinated[8] after only six months in power. With reluctance, the nobility agreed to allow Razia to reign as Sultana of Delhi.[9]

Razia was an efficient ruler and possessed all the qualities of a monarch. According to Minhaj-i-Siraj, she was "sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent, and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a king. She is also famous for her romantic involvement and legends with her lover and later turned husband, Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia "[10]

Personal Life[edit]

Razia and Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, the governor of Bathinda, were childhood friends. Some recognize them as childhood sweethearts who were strongly in love with each other. However, when Altunia was in Bathinda, the Turkic aristocracy spread rumors about Razia's romantic involvement with Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, an Abyssinian Siddi (Habshi) slave. This triggered Altunia's jealousy and he led a rebellion against Razia, simply with the intention of getting her back.[11] As Iltutmish wanted Razia to rule over India, to keep her father’s promise Razia did not marry Altunia but she kept a friendly relationship.


Minhaj us Siraj in Tabaqat I Nasiri[12]

“Together they ( Sultana Raziya and Malik Altunia after their marriage) marched an army towards Delhi, aiming to dethrone Bahrām Shah . But the new sultan led out a force to rout his sister and Altunapa and succeeded. The troops accompanying the couple abandoned them, and both Raziya and her husband were killed by Hindus on 25 Rabiʿ I 638/14 October 1240. “

Ferishta (1560-1620) writes inTarikh I Ferishta that Sultan Raziya fled to Bithunda after her defeat by her brother’s forces. Here she again recouped and made another advance against Delhi with an army.

She was defeated at Katihal by Malik Eizuddin Bulbun ( Aluf/ Ulugh Khan). Both she and her husband were seized by Zamindars and assassinated .


Billon Jital of Razia

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. She especially protected and preserved the indigenous cultures of her Hindu subjects during her reign.[13] Her reign was characterised as spirited and dynamic by many.

In popular culture[edit]

Razia Sultan is a 1983 biopic on Razia Sultan, with Hema Malini taking the titular role.[14]

In 2015, & TV started airing Razia Sultan, a TV series on the life of Razia Sultan, starring Pankhuri Awasthy. It highlighted her tough journey towards becoming a Sultana and her much spoken about passionate love life with Altunia.[15]

Burial site[edit]

According to Historian Rana Safvi's book, 'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi', Sultana Raziya's grave lies near Turkman Gate in Bulbulikhana near Bhojali Pahari. It is known locally as Rajji Shajji Ki Qabr. The other grave is said to be of her sister Shazia. She was a devotee of Shah Turkman Bayabani, a thirteenth-century saint and the place where she is buried is said to be his khanqah, his hospice.

Rana Safvi's book 'The Forgotten Cities of Delhi' quotes Sir Syed and states that Sultan Raziya's grave was built by her brother and successor Muizuddin Bahram Shah.

In her book, Rana Safvi writes, "The lanes leading to her tomb are very confusing and one has to ask for directions at Bhojala Pahari. There is an ASI board which leads into Bulbulikhana. At the end of some narrow, dingy lanes is another stone sign by ASI, which announces the last resting place of South Asia's first female monarch."


  1. ^ Table of Delhi Kings: Muazzi Slave King The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 368..
  2. ^ "The rise and fall of Delhi's only female monarch".
  3. ^ a b Reina Pennington (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: a Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood press. p. 355. ISBN 0313291977.
  4. ^ Sharma, Sudha (21 March 2016). The Status of Muslim Women in Medieval India. SAGE Publications India. pp. 196, n.2, 3. ISBN 978-9-351-50567-9.
  5. ^ Jackson-Laufer, Guida Myrl (1999). Women Rulers Throughout the Ages: An Illustrated Guide. ABC-CLIO. p. 341. ISBN 978-1-576-07091-8.
  6. ^ Siddiqi, Iqtidar Husain (1992). Perso-Arabic sources of information on the life and conditions in the Sultanate of Delhi. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 6.
  7. ^ Gloria Steinem (Introduction), Herstory: Women Who Changed the World, eds. Deborah G. Ohrn and Ruth Ashby, Viking, (1995) p. 34-36. ISBN 978-0670854349 Archived 19 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Satish Chandra, History of Medieval India(800–1700), New Delhi, Orient Longman, (2007), p.100. ISBN 81-250-3226-6
  9. ^ Reina Pennington (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: a Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood press. p. 356. ISBN 0313291977.
  10. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  11. ^ Richard Pankhurst (21 May 1999) "Ethiopia Across the Red Sea and Indian Ocean" Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine., Addis Ababa, Addis Tribune.
  12. ^ http://ranasafvi.com/4733-2/
  13. ^ Majumdar, R.C., ed. The History and Culture of the Indian People. Volume V. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1957
  14. ^ "Razia Sultan". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Pankhuri Awasthi follows Hema Malini for 'Razia Sultan'". Times of India. IANS. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
Preceded by
Rukn ud din Firuz
Mamluk Dynasty
Succeeded by
Muiz ud din Bahram
Preceded by
Rukn ud din Firuz
Sultan of Delhi
Succeeded by
Muiz ud din Bahram


  • Asif, Salman, and Kate Montgomery. Razia: Warrior Queen of India. London: Hood Hood Books, 1998. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/43208215
  • Goel, Devendra, Chandrakant Chadda, Nirupa Roy, Jairaj, Kamran, M. Kumar, N.A. Ansari, and Lachhiram. Razia sultan Raziyā Sultāna. Mumbai: Shemaroo Entertainemtn, 2012. DVD; NTSC all regions; 5.1 surround sound. Hindi with English subtitles. Abstract: A tale of stormy love and passion for each other and unflinching loyalty between Razia, the Queen Empress of India and an Abyssinian slave Yaqub. She became immortalised as a symbol of the highest, the noblest and the most sacred in love. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/905056178
  • Dasgupta, Shahana. Razia: The People's Queen. New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2001. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/422540172
  • Maqbul Arshad. Razia Sultana. Lahore: Maqbul Academy, 1900. Fiction: Juvenile audience: Urdu. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/651942430
  • Waeerkar, Ram, and Anant Pai. Sultana Razia: Empress of India. Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha, ACK Media, 2009. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/609715545
  • Zakaria, Rafiq. Razia, Queen of India. [Bombay]: Popular Prakashan, 1966. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1210383

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