The Last Queen of Kashmir
And back to Kashmir to tell you the story of an interesting time in the history of Kashmir. A story of the last Queen of Kashmir. A story of the first Muslim King of Kashmir who came from Ladakh. A story of Shah Mir. And a story of a Tragedy.
It was the 14th Century and the Lohara Dynasty was in power in the Kashmir Valley and as was usual with the Loharas there was intense infighting amongst the Loharas and with the local Chieftains known as the Damaras. And the Loharas had already repulsed a number of attacks by the Ghanivids but however Kashmir being a protected natural Fortress was a big advantage and the Invaders concentrated more on the easier conquests in the plains of North India.
Besides there were invasions from the Central Asian side by the Mongols and Turks who use to come in and occasionally raid the country. The later Loharas were weak incompetent Rulers and it was just a matter if time before they would fall. It was imminent and at the same time they relied more on outsiders in the matters of importance given the distrust between them. There were two notable outsiders there at that time who’s name would go down in history.
One was the Buddhist Ladakhi Prince Rinchen, who after failing in an attempt to take over the Kingdom of Ladakh had crossed over the Mountains into Kashmir and found employment with the King. The King Suhadeva who was in power made the Ladakhi Prince, who’s full name was Lhachan Gualbu Rinchana, a Minister in his administration. But he wasnt the only prominent outsider who King Suhadeva made apart of his administration.
The other one was Shams-ud-Din Shah Mir, a Muslim who had come to Kashmir from the region Swat which once was a part of the Gandharan Kingdom just like Kashmir and a great center of Buddhist learning. His exact origin is not known but most probably a Swati of Tajik origin (a Gebbari) and his exact reason of leaving his homeland unknown. Whatever the reason was it didn't matter and he was also appointed as a Minister by King Suhadeva.
And then like in every story the Villains turned up. This was a Mongol and Turkic Army under the Command of Dulacha which decided to march into and plunder Kashmir. The Pagan Mongol Commander was about give a lesson in Central Asian Warfare to the Kashmiris. And it hit them like only the Mongols could hit in those times. The King Suhadeva tried to bribe the Mongols into going back but this only increased the burden on the population and he became even more unpopular. He had no option but to flee and he did that and ran away to Kishtwar. The only person in the Kingdom who showed some semblance of resistance was Suhadeva’s General Ramchandra. And in doing so he also became the King. And in the meanwhile the general populace went into hiding and this included the wily Prince Rinchen with his band also went into hiding in what was known as Lars.
And finally the Mongols decided to leave and the country was utterly devastated. Ramachandra had managed to survived the onslaught but soon they had a problem of outlaws coming in from neighbouring regions coming in like Vultures to pick off whatever was left after the Mongol invasion. Ramachandra decided to put Rinchen in charge of whatever was left of the Army to drive out these brigands. This he did but in the process he managed to get a hold over the Army and knew they were at his beck and call. So what does the Prince, who always wanted to be the King do ? He marches back and kills Ramachandra and takes the throne of Kashmir. And he also did one more thing. He married Kota, the beautiful daughter of Ramachandra.
Now to get popular support of the local population who were largely Hindu he decided to convert to Hinduism so as to get maximum support but the powerful Brahmins straight away rejected this for reasons best known to them. And then, Shah Mir who was now a Minister suggested that he could convert to Islam as by this time there was a strong minority of Muslims in Kashmir. The exact story of why Prince Rinchen converted to Islam has many versions so just leave it to that. And soon Kashmir had a its first Muslim King, the first Sultan, Sultan Sadruddin Shah or Hazrat Sadruddin Shah or Hazrat Rinchan Shah as he is also called.
He soon had a son with the Kota Rani, Haidar Khan who was under the tutelage of Shah Mir who was his most trusted Minster. But the state was still under constant threat from Rebels and Brigands and it was on a campaign that Prince Rinchan, as he was originally known was assassinated which again plunged the Kingdom into crisis. And this was the opportunity that Udyanadeva, brother of the last Lohara King Suhadeva came into the picture and usurped the Throne. And not only did he usurp the throne but he also married Rinchan’s Kota Rani. King Udyanadeva was destined the last Hindu King of Kashmir of Medieval times.
But Udyanadeva provide to be a inept Ruler and the real power was held And as his ill-luck would have it another Mongol Turkic Army turned up at the gates and this time it was headed by Allacha, again a Mongol Pagan bent upon giving a dose of Mongol warcraft to the Hindu, Muslims and Buddhists alike. Just like his brother Suhadeva, Udyanadeva fled but to Tibet. And just like her father, Ramachandra, the Kota Queen decided to stand her ground. And she gave strong resistance to the Mongols and took the fight to them and managed to defeat Achalla and the Mongols but at great costs. But she had won and the Mongols left.
And Kashmir had probably its first reigning Queen, Kota Rani and unfortunately she would also be the last.
Shah Mir had played second fiddle for the longest time. It was already 1339 He had served under the different Kings and now with the Queen and her power weakened he decided to make his play. Shah Mir played well and managed to take the reigns of power from the Queen. But that wasnt all, he wanted to marry the Kota Rani as well.
What happened next is well known but how exactly it transpired is not known. And I am one for dramatic endings. It is said that the Queen agreed to marry Shah Mir, who established himself as the first Sultan of what would come to be known as the Shah Miri Dynasty. And the day they got married and Shah Mir came to her, Queen Kota cut her stomach with a dagger and offered her intestines to Shah Mir as a wedding gift. And thus ended Queen Kota.
The Last Queen of Kashmir.
PS: This is my version of Events. And it is an attempt at explaining simply a very complicated time in the History of Kashmir. A time which mostly doesnt figure in public discourse anymore.
To know more about the Queen do read The Last Queen of Kashmir by Rakesh Kaul. Harper Collins. Available on Amazon.