Portrait of Durgavati
|Maharani of Gondwana|
|Born||5 October 1524|
Kalinjar Fort (Banda) (Uttar Pradesh)
|Died||24 June 1564 (aged 39)|
Narai Nala, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh
Rani Durgavati (5 October 1524 - 24 June 1564) was the ruling Queen of Gondwana from 1550 until 1564. She was born in the family of Chandel king Keerat Rai. She was born at the fort of Kalinjar (Banda, Uttar Pradesh). Rani Durgavati's achievements further enhanced the glory of her ancestral tradition of courage and patronage.
In 1542, she was married to Dalpat Shah, the eldest son of king Sangram Shah of Gondwana kingdom. The Chandel and Rajgond dynasties were allied because of this marriage. This resulted in Keerat Rai gaining the help of the Gonds at the time of Muslim invasion of Sher Shah Suri.
She gave birth to a son in 1545 A.D. who was named Vir Narayan. Dalpat Shah died in 1550 and due to the young age of Vir Narayan, Durgavati took the reins of the Gond kingdom. Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha and Minister Man Thakur helped the Rani in looking after the administration successfully and effectively. Rani moved her capital to Chauragarh in place of Singorgarh fort. It was a fort of strategic importance situated on the Satpura hill range.
The Rani's contemporary was a Mughal General, Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan, an ambitious man who vanquished Ramchandra, the ruler of Rewa. The prosperity of Rani Durgavati's state lured him and he invaded the Rani's state after taking permission from Mughal emperor Akbar. This plan of Mughal invasion was the result of expansionism and imperialism of Akbar.
When the Rani heard about the attack by Asaf Khan she decided to defend her kingdom with all her might although her Diwan Beohar Adhar Simha (Adhar Kayastha)  pointed out the strength of Mughal forces. The Rani maintained that it was better to die respectfully than to live a disgraceful life.
To fight a defensive battle, she went to Narrai, situated between a hilly range on one side and two rivers Gaur and Narmada on the other side. It was an unequal battle with trained soldiers and modern weapons in multitude on the Mughal side and a few untrained soldiers with old weapons on the side of Rani Durgavati. Her Faujdar Arjun Das was killed in the battle and the Rani decided to lead the defence herself. As the enemy entered the valley, the soldiers of the Rani attacked them. Both sides lost some men but the Rani lost more.
At this stage, the Rani reviewed her strategy with her counselors. She wanted to attack the enemy in the night to enfeeble them but her lieutenants did not accept her suggestion. By next morning Asaf Khan had summoned big guns. The Rani rode on her elephant Sarman and came for the battle. Her son Vir Narayan also took part in this battle. He forced Mughal army to move back three times but at last, he got wounded and had to retire to a safe place. In the course of battle, the Rani also got injured badly near her ear with an arrow. Another arrow pierced her neck and she lost her consciousness. On regaining consciousness she perceived that defeat was imminent. Her mahout advised her to leave the battlefield but she refused and took out her dagger and killed herself on 24 June 1564. Her martyrdom day (24 June 1564) is even today commemorated as "Balidan Diwas".
In the year 1983, the Government of Madhya Pradesh renamed the University of Jabalpur as Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya in her memory. Government of India issued a postal-stamp commemorating her death, on 24 June 1988. The train between Jabalpur Junction and Jammutawi is known as Durgavati Express (11449/11450) after the name of the Queen.