Rani Karnavati – The Forgotten Warrior Queen

In India, the valour of many kings and queens have been buried under the sand of time, often deliberately. One such queen was Rani Karnavati from the Garhwal Kingdom, which like Mewar could never be captured by the Mughals. The queen was known for her ruthless bravery which earned her the title of ‘Nak-Kati-Rani’ which means the queen who cuts the nose.

In Himalayas, in 16th Century there used to be a Garhwal Kingdom, presently known as Tehri Garhwal of Indian State Uttarakhand. Mahipati Shah a Rajput, was the Ruler of the Kingdom. The capital was Srinagar, which got shifted from earlier capital Dewalgarh. King Mahipati Shah had ascended the throne in 1622.

The king was known for his fierce bravery and his stiff opposition to any invasion. When Shah Jahan was crowned on 14th February 1628 at Agra, rulers all across the Northern India went to pay a personal visit to the new emperor. The king of Garhwal decided to avoid this ceremony which enraged the new emperor. The emperor was also told about the Gold Mines in Srinagar region, which increased the determination of the new emperor to plan an invasion. The King Mahipati Shah suffered fatal injuries during the battle of Kumaon and his short reign ended in 1631.

His son Prithvipati Shah was coronated at the age of seven. Mahipati Shah’s wife, Rani Karnavati ruled the kingdom on behalf of her very young son. She ruled till the time her grown up son Prithvipati came to the throne and started ruling.

When the Delhi emperor came to know about Mahipati Shah’s demise, he ordered an attack on the Kingdom of Srinagar in 1640. His general Najabat Khan, along with thirty thousand men marched towards the Garhwal Kingdom.

The queen allowed them to enter the kingdom but held them at today’s Lakshman Jhoola. The men could neither move forward nor retreat. Unknown to the terrain and food supplies running low, the men were losing morale. Najabat Khan sensing defeat sent a peace message to the queen which was rejected.

The desperation in the Mughal army ran high and queen toyed with them like a seasoned predator. She finally came down heavily on them and captured them only to release them after cutting off their noses.

Rani Karnavati resorted to psychological warfare by sending a message to the Mughal court that if she could chop off their noses, she could also chop off their heads. The sultan was embarrassed and enraged. He ordered another attack under Areej Khan who met the same embarrassment under the hands of the brave Rani and her generals.

The drubbing scars of the lost battle were left on the face of the Mughal Empire. Later the Garhwal army regained their lost land and the anecdotage of Rani Karnavati’s victory became popular in the whole region and created a rich history of Garhwal.

The drubbing scars of the lost battle were left on the face of the Mughal Empire forever.

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