India has a rich tapestry of history. There are many legends and stories based on historic figures which took place during times of trials and tribulation. As a result, it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction.
The tale I am about to tell you has been repeated to me many times by several different people. Some say it is just a tale, others swear black and blue that it actually happened.
The only trace I can find of this story is from historical novelist, Srikrishna Alanahalli, who actually wrote the famous Hindi poem entitled “Hadi Rani”, making me suspect that it may just be a colourful legend. However, the battle against Aurangzeb was real and occurred in the timeframe this story is set and the people involved are real individuals who were involved in said battle. There are two conclusions which I have come to, either it is not true but a very well thought out and fabricated story or it is an actual event but because women were not held with much regard and the Rajput women had a reputation for such activities Hadi Rani’s actions were just overlooked, which is highly probable.
Before we get into it perhaps I should give you a bit of background information.
This is a Rajput story. The Rajputs are known within the caste system as Kshatriya. They are the warriors, the landlords and the rulers, which is why their stories are always so fascinating. Another important point that you need to remember is that the Rajput histories are often quite gruesome and evolve around pride and protecting one’s honour. The choices these heroes and heroines make are often perceived as lunacy in the western world but they are held with great regard in the Rajput communities.
The thing that intrigues me the most is how often these stories are romanticised, and you are about to see what I mean.
Hadi Rani was a newlywed queen to Rawat Chundawat, a Chieftain of Salumbar, Mewar. She was a beautiful woman, said to pose the strength and stature of her Rajput forefathers but with fair milky skin, long flowing hair and stunning but piercing eyes. A beauty to behold so it was no surprise the Chieftain of Salumbar was besotted.
Hadi Rani had only just married her love several days before when the king of Mewar, Maharana Raj Singh I, called upon all of his Chieftain to join him in a battle against Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor, including her newly married husband, Chundawat.
Aurangzeb’s reign had seen him take over the majority of the subcontinent of India killing some 4.6 million people in his way and was now threatening the previously impenetrable region of Mewar.
Chundawat had reservations about joining the battle. The thought of his beautiful wife being widowed so young was too much for him to bear, but Rajput honour being what it is, Chundawat had to join in the battle regardless of his doubts.
He came to wife one night and asked for a memento to take into battle. He shared with her his reservations of the battle, of the Maharana’s wishes and of the pressures which come with ruling a kingdom. Hadi Rani sat quietly and listened to her husband, nodding in obedience and making sense of his doubts. When he left she thought about the words her husband had shared and came to a conclusion.
The Ultimate Sacrifice for Honour
Hadi Rani believed that she was a hurdle in her husband’s duty to Mewar and was keeping him from fulfilling his destiny. As her husband prepared for the battle she enlisted the help of her trusted servant to accomplish her final plan.
She sat unflinching at the dining hall table while the servant brought a Khanda, a type of double edge straight sword which the Rajput warriors use during battle which was presented to her on a silver platter. The servant placed the Khanda in her hands as she gently inspected the blade to ensure it was as sharp as they come. She placed the silver platter directly in front of her. With one hand she lifted up her long, charming hair and with the other hand, she brought the blade of the sword to the centre of her throat. In one fast-paced swift movement, she ran the blade along her throat and deep into the skin. This was repeated frantically until her head was severed. The servant, using the queen’s hands which were still attached to the torso, then calmly lifted the severed head from his decapitated queen onto the platter placed before her. He covered the platter with a linen cloth and presented it to the queen’s husband. The Chieftain of Salumbar was understandably devastated but so proud of his beloved for showing him what true sacrifice was and what is was to be a Rajput, to protect one’s honour. He tied the memento around his neck by her hair and proceeded into battle.
The Battle for Mewar
As the battle with Aurangzeb ensured, the Mughal forces were frightened by what they saw around Chundawat’s neck, this allowed him enough time to attack his enemy in their confused and horrified state. As the battle drew on the Mughal forces ended up retreating, terrified at what they were encountering, of all the horrid things that happen during war, no one had ever seen the severed head of a human being, let alone a woman who was obviously of Rajput caste, being worn as a trophy before, understandably they thought the worst of the Rajput warriors and decided that they were a force that could not be conquered. With that Mewar was saved, and to this day is one of the only places where the Mughal Empire was never able to penetrate.
Once Aurangzeb forces fled, Rawat Chundawat, Chieftain of Salumbar dismounted his horse and fell to his knees. He had lost the desire to live. He had won the battle but what was a saved kingdom without a dedicated wife to share it with. Hadi Rani had taught him what it was to keep his honour, what it was to be a Rajput, and for that, he was eternally grateful. Yet there was no will to go on, not without her. He took out his Khanda and just like his wife a few days before, he placed the blade to his throat and gently with only the force required, he slit his own neck.