Top ten greatest kings of India (Part 1)
I am pretty sure I have never mentioned that I love history, have I?
Well there is a reason to it. In India the current education system is designed such that, the Indian student’s end up having no idea about their great kings who ruled vast territories a thousand years ago.
Most of us are drilled on to learn about the different dynasties of invaders such as the Tughlaq’s, Khilji’s, Lodi’s and The Mughals, our good ole pals, the Mighty Mughals.
There is nothing wrong in learning about these dynasties, after all they too have an impact over the Indian culture. They too have built great structures and monuments for our country. But at the end of the day they were invaders, that is all, who wanted to loot and pillage our country.
So please spare me the speech about why Akbar was the greatest king of India (He was more tolerant and better than other invaders, I’ll give him that.)
But if you want me to boast about the above-mentioned dynasties, then I am sorry, because this article is solely focusing on the true Indian kings. Starting off with:
Disclaimer: this information has been collected by Wikipedia, along with various book, names will be presented in bibliography.
And I am not including any queen, because the great lionesses of our country deserve another article all together.
10: Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Born: 13th November 1780
Death: 27th June 1839
Empire: Sikh Empire
Reign as emperor: April 12th, 1801- 27th June, 1839
“He is called the sher-e-Punjab, which means ‘lion of Punjab’ he is Maharaja Ranjit Singh!”
This man, who had his first taste of battle at the mere age of ten, ended up becoming the uniting force of the Sikh misls under one banner.
His status was elevated when he defeated an Arab army led by ruler Shah Zaman, protecting Punjab from the clutches of afghans at the age of 17
He battered the enemy so badly that the entire army was routed from the battlefield, fleeing in terror, but this was just an appetizer for Ranjit Singh.
1798 afghans attacked once again with a massive army, only to be humiliated and defeated by Ranjit Singh. Defeating such a powerful enemy made him a favourite in the entire region, and paved his way to become the Sikh Emperor, which he did by the age of 21.
He was a visionary, abolishing old taxation rules and re-negotiating land deals. He was also famous for being a great ruler as he would shower his people with gold coins every day during parades.
Being a devout Sikh, Ranjit Singh restored many gurudwaras, most notably the great Harmandir Sahib. He was also religiously very tolerant, prohibiting cow slaughter, and provided one tonne of gold for plating the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
He also used to visit mosques regularly.
Reign: 326-315 BC
Died: 321-315 BC
According to a legend, Alexander states “Our enemies are in east, Medes, Persians. Men who have lived luxurious lives and have gone soft; while we Macedonians for generations past have trained in hard school of war. Above all we are free men, and they are slaves.”
Alexander himself thought that he was son of Zeus, which granted him and his army infinite power that no one could challange.
It was Porus who put alexander’s boastfulness to the test.
Very little is known about his life apart from what the Greek historian Plutarch have written. According to them Porus was a massive man, almost 7 feet tall, while Alexander looked like a child, not over 5 feet.
He is credited to go head to head against Alexander himself and almost winning the battle if not for the rains of previous night due to which the bowmen could not use their longbows properly (At that time Indian longbows had to be held by the toes of your feet from the ground. Due to muddy terrain and slippery slopes they could not do much.)
The Macedonian conqueror had more than ten of his best generals at his command including Ptolemy, Craterius, Selucus, and one traitor to the country called Ambi raja (Taxiles in Greek language), while Porus was alone with his army.
Still he fought bravely, so much so that it humbled Alexander himself, who rode out to Porus asking for peace and sent in Ambi to talk. On the mere sight of coward traitor Porus flung a spear at him which narrowly missed, as the king of Ambi fled in fear.
Alexander understood that Porus wanted to die in combat, and on seeing such valor, he was greatly impressed.
After the battle was one by the Macedonians, Alexander met Porus, and asked how he wished to be treated.
The Indian king still had his laconic swagger as he replied “Just like one king treats other.”
Alexander gave him his lands back, along with larger territory and their respect towards each other allowed the Indo-greek relations to go amicably.
The Indian king might have lost the battle, but he won everyone’s heart.
P.S according to some modern scholars, Porus wasn’t a king, but a tribal chieftain who went head to head against Alexander.
8: Krishna dev raya:
Born: 17 January 1471, Hampi
Died: 1529, Hampi
Empire: Vijayanar Empire.
“He is Rajya Rama Ramana (lit, “Lord of the Kannada empire”), Andhra Bhoja (lit, “Bhoja for Telugu Literature”) and Mooru Rayara Ganda (lit, “King of Three Kings”), he is called Krishnadevraya”
It is said that Dev Raya was the greatest king in over a thousand years to rule the south Indian plains. Son of an army commander, he took the reigns of the empire to improve its internal stronghold and halting its destruction.
His first victory came when completely annihilated the Deccan Bahmani sultanate who had been rampaging across south India for a long time. The sultanate was distributed into five strong kingdoms, yet they could not win against the might of Vijayanagar’s king.
The south Indian poet Muku Tim Mana praised him as the destroyer of the Turkic’s, and for a very good reason.
After annexing the lands of defeated sultans, he gazed over the land of Orissa, where the mighty Gajapati kingdom ruled with an iron fist and beyond that, Kalinga, the ultimate price.
He decimated the Gajapati kingdoms as the first decade of his life was full of bloody conquests, wars, and sieges.
His best tactic during sieges was to send a platoon of elite warriors in the night, who would subdue some guards and open the castle’s gates allowing his army to march in to defeat their enemy.
In the end the king named Prataprudradeva (about whom I might write on a later date) formed a marriage alliance with Krishna Deva with his daughter Annapurna Devi.
He was famous for charging into a losing battle with ferocity and turning the tides in his favour almost every time.
During his time the Vijayanagar empire, which was on the brink of collapse ended up being the stronghold of south India, so much so that when Babur was pillaging north India, Krishnadevraya was considered the strongest king in all of Indian subcontinent.
Along with being a great general and king, he was an able administrator who was strict with his ministers and the law, friendly to the Portuguese. Also, under his reign there was a surge in arts and literature, Krishna himself being a great patron of arts thrived with the beauty of Indian culture in his kingdom.
It was said according to the Portuguese that Krishnadevraya was perhaps the perfect king of all times “the most feared and perfect King… a great ruler and a man of much justice”
He was perhaps one of the greatest kings we have ever had in our country.
By the way, it was in his court that Tenali Raman’s stories and adventures would take place. That’s something new for your nostalgia, isn’t it?
Born: 304 BC, Patliputra.
Died: 232 BC, Patliputra.
Reign: 268-232 BC
“There be a mighty empire, in the land of east where warriors use elephants, and great sages roam without any trouble. There is a great empire in the east, on whose throne sits Ashoka.”
Being the grandson of the great Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka had a huge shadow to stand up to. This was one of the biggest reasons why Ashoka’s earlier life was filled with conquest, and expansion of his empire.
In fact, according to many historians it was under his reign that the empire saw its greatest glory, expanding as far back as Afghanistan.
Ashoka is remembered for his pillars that were constructed under his name throughout the northern country and some still survive to this day.
He is also remembered to be a great patron of Buddhism after the bloody and lethal war of Kalinga where according to the legend, “rivers ran red, as if they were blood and corpse scattered throughout the city as the great king of Maurya empire roamed in the newly annexed state.”
Indeed, the war of Kalinga was extremely destructive, which later lead to Ashoka accepting Buddhism. It is still debated whether he converted to Buddhism as his personal religion, or simply followed the ideology of the great Gautam Buddha, because according to scholars like Basham, dharma propagated by Ashoka wasn’t Buddhism.
Nevertheless, his patronage allowed Buddhism to flourish in India during his reign. Infect, his son Mahindra established Buddhism in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.
Ashoka ruled for approximately 36 years and died at the age of 72. Legend states that during his cremation, his body burned for seven days and nights. After his death, the Mauryan dynasty lasted just fifty more years until his empire stretched over almost all of the Indian subcontinent.
There is so much about Ashoka’s life that its difficult for me to write it all down in this blog. If you all are interested to read more, do check out this link for an e-book on Ashoka the great: http://amzn.in/9qq9PqW
5) Rana Hammir:
“Western India is a land of warriors. The men are strong and their women beautiful. They look calm and silent from the outside, but they keep a storm inside”
Hammer’s Singh life was so legendary, that I am still confused why is there no movie being made on this historical character. His life is so incredible that it can give the likes of Hannibal Barca a run for its money. (Seriously, I am not kidding)
His main contribution was reestablishment of the Hindu rule over Rajasthan, most notably Mewar after the earlier Guhilot Dynasty lost the battle against khilji’s.
He belonged to an impoverished cadet branch of that clan, winning back the region from Tughlaq dynasty and became the first Rana of Sisodia clan.
Hammir was the grandson of Lakshman Singh, distant kinsman of Rawal Ratan Singh (Yes Padmavat’s Husband and king of Chittor) son of Ari and Urmila, who was a peasant girl from village.
Both his grandfather and father were killed during the siege of Chittorgarh, while the whereabouts of his mother are missing. She either committed jauhar, or was captured by enemy forces. Nonetheless, Hammir would never see his mother again after the siege.
A young infant, he was trained and raised by his uncle Ajay.
Being a brave man from the early stages of his life, he proved his valour when he killed a traitor called King Muja Balocha who was disturbing the peace of border villages. This gave him the right to ruling some border posts and finishing off the bandits in the jungle.
King of Mewar, called Maldev was selected by the Khilji’s and worked as their vassal, was jealous of the growing popularity that people had with Hammir. He could easily over throw Maldev as the public loved Hammir and hated the king because of his lack of spine.
Maldev then arranged a marriage alliance of Hammir with his widow daughter called Songari. Her being a widow would mean that Hammir wouldn’t be able to take rulership of an entire region as legally he cannot be the king without a royal queen by his side.
According to some local ballads, Songari was tasked by killing Hammir in his sleep. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it because of his true and honest character. She had come to assassinate the young Rajput but ended up falling in love with him. She did the direct opposite of what she was supposed to do and told him about Maldev’s plan completely, thinking that now she will be killed anyway.
Instead of throwing her out of the kingdom or killing her, Hammir smiled and accepted her as his lawful wife. He never mistrusted her, or judged her, and quite possibly never married to another woman. This was very rare. (You see why I said there has to be a movie for this king! His life was full of awesome moments!)
This gave Hammir a chance to stage a coup against the King, where he succeeded and became the first Rana of Sisodia clan.
Tughlaq’s were unhappy with this action and called it treason as this was done against the wishes of the emperor of Delhi. With an army they marched towards the Rajput Kingdoms with an intent of raising it to the ground. But they underestimated Hammir greatly.
Rana had already thought about this strategy before and mustered his own army by himself, ready to face the oncoming enemy.
There have been some debates whether who really won, as the local ballads state that Rana annihilated the army, while the number seem highly inaccurate.
Though on the inscription on over 1400 temples, it is written that the army being led by Muhmmad Bin Tughlaq was defeated by the forces of Rana Hammir. This was such bad bad defeat for Tughlaq that Mewar got independence from the Delhi Sultanate till 1615.
After defeating the hordes of skirmishers from the Delhi Sultanate for years, he finally achieved independence for his people.
His legacy was carried on by his descendants for more than three hundred years, stamping the bravery of our warriors throughout history.
Here are the pictures of above mentioned kings in order.
This was part 1 of the 2 part series of articles I am writing about great Indian kings. If you liked it then please like and share it with your friends, and I will see you next time
Go, seize your glory.
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