In their dossier on invoking the Public Safety Act (PSA) against top Jammu & Kashmir politicians, the state police have referred to former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as “Kota Rani” — a mediaeval queen of Kashmir.
“The subject is referred for her dangerous and insidious machinations and usurping profile and nature by the masses as ‘Daddy’s girl’ and ‘Kota Rani’ based on profile of a mediaeval queen of Kashmir, who rose to power by virtue of undertaking intrigues ranging from poisoning of her opponents to ponyardings,” the PSA dossier on Mehbooba Mufti read. The meaning of the word “ponyardings” was not clear.
What the accounts say
Kota Rani died in 1339, the last ruler of the Hindu Lohara dynasty that ruled Kashmir. She was the daughter of Ramachandra, prime minister of the then King Sahadeva. In 1300, when Mongols invaded Kashmir, Sahadeva escaped to safety and his prime minister Ramachandra took refuge in a fort near Sonamarg. The Mongol leader Zulchu conquered Kashmir but could not hold it for long; while leaving ahead of winter, he died in a snowstorm in the Pir Panjal mountains.
Historical accounts say that after Zulchu’s death, Ramachandra tried to claim the throne and was rivalled by Rinchan — a Buddhist prince from Ladakh — and Shah Mir, a Swat resident and the founder of Kashmir’s Shahmiri dynasty. It was Rinchan who occupied the throne and killed Ramachandra. Rinchan married Ramachandra’s daughter Kota Rani.
It is said that under the influence of Kota Rani, Rinchan wanted to convert to Shaivite Hinduism. Eventually, however, he is said to have converted to Islam, becoming Sadr-ud-din, while Kota Rani held on to her Hindu beliefs. After Rinchan’s death, Kota Rani chose not to enthrone her son Haider and instead invited Udayanadeva, brother of King Sahadeva, to take over. Kota then married Udayanadeva.
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Some years later, Kashmir was invaded again and Udayanadeva fled to Ladakh. Kota Rani stood her ground and, together with Shah Mir, defended Kashmir. When Udayanadeva returned to Kashmir, Kota Rani re-installed him as king.
It is said that Shah Mir too asked for Kota’s hand in marriage. According to some records, she didn’t accept the proposal, while other records claim that she did marry Shah Mir. In one historical record, it is said that Kota Rani married Shah Mir and could have tried to assassinate him on the wedding night.
After Udayanadeva’s death, Kota sidelined her sons — Haider from Rinchan and Bolaratan from Udayanadeva — and assumed power. She made Bikhshana Bhatta her prime minister, who was reportedly killed by an upset Shah Mir.
The PSA link, if any
It is unclear how the description in the PSA dossier, “undertaking intrigues ranging from poisoning of her opponents to ponyardings”, matches what is written in accounts about Kota Rani.
Prof Mohammad Ashraf Wani, former Head of the Department of History at Kashmir University, said it could actually be a reference to another queen, Didda, Kahsmir’s first woman ruler, sometimes described as the “Cleopatra of Kashmir”. Didda ruled Kashmir directly and indirectly for around five decades in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Didda’s husband, King Ksemagupta, died suddenly of fever contracted during a jackal hunt. After his death, Didda was expected to perform sati but it is said that she managed to escape after bribing courtiers.
Didda anointed herself as the regent of her minor stepson, Abhimanyu, who died some years later. After Abhimanyu’s death, she herself took the throne. It was during this period that her two grandsons also died, both of them allegedly killed at her behest. “Didda was very ambitious woman,” said Prof Wani.
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