By Harshmeet Singh
Every now and then a celebrated list comes out containing the names of top women managers around the world. Names like Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma adorn such lists, making us take note of the rising women power in the country where women have historically been seen as ‘inferior’ citizens. But a closer look at the history would tell you that long before these powerful CEOs took over their empires, a number of women rulers in India took on a much tougher role and etched their names in history forever. One such ruler was Rani Rudrama Devi.
South India’s history has been dominated by male rulers. But one exception to this norm was the ruler of Kakatiya Empire in Andhra, Rani Rudrama Devi. Though Ganpathideva lived on till 1269, he decided to hand over the reins of his empire to his 14 year old daughter, Rudrama Devi in 1262 itself. But it was only after the death of her father that Rudrama Devi celebrated her coronation. With no precedent of a woman ruler, Rani Rudrama Devi was bestowed with a male name, ‘Rudradeva’ to continue the tradition of male rulers. She even asked the artists and workers to use her male name in all the inscriptions. She attended all the public meetings dressed as a man so that the people take her seriously.
With the nobles not ready to accept the rule of a woman, they initiated an uprising in the empire which was ably handled and suppressed by Rani Rudrama Devi. Her nearly four decades long rule is widely called the golden period in Andhra’s history. She also completed the construction of the Warangal fort which was commenced by her father. Some historians also believe that Golkonda Fort’s construction was started by Rani Rudrama Devi.
During her rein, the kingdom was attacked by the mighty Yadavas and Cholas. But neither could defeat the warrior Queen. Studies say that since she was brought up as a man and given the kingdom at an extremely young age, she never developed a fondness for arts and music, but she still prescribed her army to practice Shiva Tandavam to keep them fit and battle ready.
True to her warrior image, she died on the battle field in 1289 and left her grandson Prataparudra to the throne of Warangal. Her rule was perhaps one of India’s first brushes with a female ruler and an indication that women rulers are here to stay and shape India’s future.