In 1772, the 17 yearold Narayan Rao was appointed as Peshwa under the vigilance of his uncle, Raghunath Rao. His aunt, Anandi Bai, became extremely jealous of this premature rise to the throne. Raghunath hatched a plan to capture Narayan with the help of Guard Sumer Singh Gardi. But Anandi Bai manipulated the orders and it ended in the brutal killing of Narayan instead of just an arrest.
In 1468, the Mewar Empire’s Kumbhalgarh fort lost its much loved king Raja Kumbha who was killed by none other than his own son ‘Prince Uday’. The expansive kingdom and an unending rule of 50 years made the heir of the great king envious and provoked him to seize the throne by any means possible.
Panna Devi was a governess in the royal kingdom of Mewar during the 16th century. Charged with the care of 5 year old Udai Singh, she raised him like her own son Chandan. The hunger for throne led cousin Banbir to assassinate the king, leaving Udai Singh as the only heir and obstacle. To destroy any other claim to the throne, Banbir headed to kill Udai. Exhibiting unmatched loyalty, Panna replaced the sleeping Udai Singh with her son Chandan, and witnessed the slaughter of her own flesh and blood.
Narayan Das – 15th century: During 14701491 A.D. the Hara region was ruled by Rao Bundu who was known for his boundless charities, kindness and service to the people of Boondi. He was overthrown by his two ambitious and power hungry young brothers, Samar Singh and Umar Singh. They exiled Rao to the mountains of Matoonda where he stayed for 21 years and finally died leaving behind two sons. As soon as he was old enough, the elder son Narayan Das who grew up in the mountains resenting his uncles, developed a strong sense of revenge and pledged to take back Boondi or perish otherwise.
Dara Sikoh – 17th century: Dara Sikoh 20 March 1615 – 30 August 1659 was the eldest son and the heir apparent of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. He was favoured as a successor by his father, but was always rivalled by his younger brother Aurangzeb who has never seen him face to face since childhood.. Finally, the war broke out between brothers after Shah Jahan’s death and even after losing two battles, Dara was not prepared to bow down to Aurangzeb. In the end he was betrayed by a friend and handed over to Aurangzeb.
Rao Soorajmal – 16th century: In 1534 AD, Rao Soorajmal ascended the throne of Boondi. He married his sister Sooja Bai to Rana Rutna of Chittoor who developed animosity for Soorajmal due to Sooja Bai respecting her brother more than her own husband. In his aggression, Soorajmal also ticked off the chief of Poorbia by accident. As a dear friend of Rana Rutna, the Poorbia chief incited Rana Rutna to kill Soorajmal during the annual hunting festival ‘Ahairea’. As the kings started to hunt and savor the festival, Rana Rutna eyed a boar with his bow but Poorbia chief nudged him to kill Soorajmal instead.
In 1290, Jalaluddin, a tolerant, liberal and generous king, founded the Khilji dynasty at the age of 70 years. Nobles warned him against his nephew Alauddin Khilji who wanted to usurp the throne. But he paid no heed to their warnings and continued to consider uddin like a son. Blinded with greed, Alauddin conspired to kill his uncle.
Ruh Pawar Agha – 14th Century: Ruh Pawar Agha was the sister of Aladdin Mujahid Shah 1375 1378 who at the age of 19 took over the throne. While Aladdin Mujahid Shah was retreating from a campaign, Masud Khan and Daud khan conspired against him and murdered him when he was sleeping in his tent. Daud khan wanted to become the next king, but at capital there arose two factions one which favored him and the other led by Ruh Pawar Agha, who refused to acknowledge the assassin as king.
Sultan Quli Qutub Shah – 16th century: Sultan Quli Qutbulmulk laid the foundation of the QutbShahi dynasty of Golconda. He came to Deccan in his youth from Persia as a bodyguard to Bahmani Monarch and through his courage, skill and sagacity became the governor of Telengana. But at the end of the Bahmani dynasty, he formed his own, independent dynasty. Jamshid was Sultan Quli’s second son who became impatient and hungry for power and conspired to take over power in the most ruthless way.
Shivaji: Shivaji was a great Maratha king known for his guerilla warfare. Though Shivaji ruled the Indian subcontinent during the 15th century, Afzal Khan was an experienced commander of the Adil Shahi dynasty. Afzal tried to lure Shivaji down the Pratapgarh fort and negotiate peace but Shivaji figured out Afzal’s cruel intentions in advance and strategically planned his next move with his army.
Sambhaji Bhosale was the eldest son of the great Maratha Emperor Shivaji and the second Chhatrapati of the Marathas. At the time of Shivajis death in 1680, there was news of an impending attack of Aurangzebs army on the Deccan and at such a crucial juncture, a strong leader like Sambhaji was the need of the hour. For more than nine years Sambhaji was successful in keeping Aurangzeb and his army away from the Deccan. In the summer of 1689 Sambhaji was resting in Sangameshwar and found himself the victim of a deceptive attack by a small army of Aurangzeb. Sambhaji was captured and brutally tortured for over a fortnight before he was executed by Aurangzeb on March 11th 1689.
Ajatshatru and Bimbisaras story dates back to as early as 542 BC. Bimbisara was the king of the kingdom of Magadh which was one of the most grand and prominent kingdoms. Bimbisara was keen on having a child with Kosala Devi to be his heir and succeed to the throne. They had a child and named him Ajatshatru who grew up to be tall, handsome and talented but was also impatient. Influenced by Devdutta, Ajatshatru had his father imprisoned and decided to kill him by starving him. Though Bimbisaras death was delayed by Kosala Devis efforts, he finally met his fate when Ajatshatru sent a barber to his cell to cut his leg and put hot oil in his wound. Ajatshatru went on to successfully expand his empire and Magadha became one of the most powerful and vast kingdoms in India. However, he was tormented by guilt and turned to the path of Buddhism.
The story of Sushumnas assassination by his halfbrother, Ashoka, is a story from one of the largest empire in Indian history, The Mauryan Empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 321 BC. Chandraguptas legacy of expanding the kingdom was taken over by his son Bindusara who spread the Kingdom to the southern part of India. He had two wellknown sons, Sushumna and Ashoka. Learning from his grandfather, Ashoka mastered the Kshatriya military training and became a strong general and a shrewd statesman whereas Sushumna lacked military prowess. Bindusara though, was in favour of Sushumna over Ashoka. As Bindusara grew closer to his death bed, the drum rolls of warfare between his sons, the royal princes next in line to the throne, rose to a cruel peak. Ashoka, due to his capability was supported by the council of ministers and crowned the king. Sushumna, who was away on a campaign was enraged by the news, and he conspired to kill Ashokas pregnant wife, but unfortunately Ashokas mother is killed in a blunder. Fierce Ashoka was now determined to avenge his mothers death and he made a plan with his minister to assassinate Sushumna. Finally, Sushumna was killed and Ashoka was coroneted as the king. Ashokas ruthlessness was seen later when he went on to capture Kalinga soon after which he had a change of heart and turned towards Buddhism.
In the 12th century, India witnessed many Turkish invasions which aimed at draining away Indias wealth and establishing Islamic rule. One of the Turkish rulers was Mohammed Ghori who succeeded in securing a strong foothold in India and Islamic imperialism was renewed by him in the last quarter of the 12th century. India at that time was the richest region in the subcontinent for its wealth in precious and semiprecious stones, gold and silver but was divided and ruled by many Hindu rulers. Taking advantage of the weak political condition of India, Mohammed Ghori began his invasions in 1175 AD from Multan and Uch followed by Lahore and later Delhi. He plundered villages and exterminated a large local population at the places he invaded. Out of his many wars, the two most significant were the battles of Tarain against the famous Rajput Ruler Prithviraj Chauhan. He expanded further in India and made his trusted General, Qutubuddin Aibak, the deputy in Delhi. Finally, in 1206 AD, on his way back to Ghazni, a strong conqueror, Ghori was assassinated by members of Khokhar tribe, to avenge Ghors atrocities committed on them in one of his invasions. This episode draws light on his invasions, victories and defeats.
At the turn of the 13th century, when the Delhi Sultanate was in power, the emergence of the only woman Muslim ruler of India proved to be an important milestone in the history. This woman making to the pages of history was Razia Sultan. She was the beloved daughter of Sultan Iltutmish who grew up to be an astute, heroic and an incredible combatant. Razia developed a wonderful capacity of leadership qualities, responsibilities and bravery as her characteristics. She was Iltutmishs choice as his successor since his other sons were incapable. His decision was opposed by Razias step mother Shah Turkan and a group of nobles, created by Iltutmish, called the TurkaneChhelgani or The Forty. A number of conspiracies were planned to eliminate Razia from the line of power but fate had some other plans and she was saved. Clad in a red dress, Razia addressed the public with a soul stirring speech and she was made the Sultan by public consent but the forty were not ready to be dictated by a woman. Razia proved herself to be an able ruler and dealt with all the politics happening against her. Resentment against her reached its peak when she promoted some non Turkish officers, Jamaluddin Yakut being the closest to her. A conspiracy to assassinate Razia was hatched by the forty and she was killed in 1240 AD.
Alauddin Khilji was a faithless and ruthless ruler who reigned in India for 20 years and is considered the greatest of the Khiljis. Unfortunately his military legacy would become shadowed by his Slave Malik Kafur. Kafur was captured by Alauddins army and was castrated and made a eunich. He was bought by Alauddins general for a thousand dinars and was also called Hazar Dinari. Kafur was a brave soldier and a tactical fighter and rose quickly in Alauddins army. The successes in the army made him very powerful and he was appointed as the Vazir. As Alauddins health was deteriorating, Kafur and Alp Khan were the two favourites in line for succeeding the throne. Kafur through a series of strategies managed to take the throne killing Alp Khan and blinding Alauddins sons Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan. However when Kafur tried to blind Mubarak Khan, the plan backfired and the very same guards sent to blind Mubarak Khan murdered Kafur in his chamber. Mubarak Khan ruled for 4 years but the Khilji dynasty met its end when he was killed by his eunuch slave Khusro Khan.
Akbar was the third of the Mughal rulers his rule was considered to be one of the finest in the history of India. Under his rule, Akbar excelled economically and it was one of the most peaceful times amongst the different communities. Through conquests and wise strategic alliances with Rajputs, Akbars kingdom and his people prospered tremendously. In 1561, the Mughal army led by Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan invaded Malwa and defeated the army of the Sultan of Malwa. Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad Khan perpetrated mass acts of unnecessary barbaric cruelty, massacring prisoners and killing their wives and children. Akbar removed Adham Khan from the command of the army but Adham Khan aggravated the situation tremendously by killing Ataga Khan who was the Vakil and a father figure to Akbar. Akbar ordered Adham Khan to be flung headlong from the top of the terrace of the Agra fort. Adham Khan however managed to stay alive and was rethrown from the terrace a second time until he died. Akbar had a special tomb erected where both Maham Anga and Adham Khan were buried together, now known as the Bhul Bhulaiya
The Britishers ruled India for 200 years and this is the story of how the assassination of SirajUdDaulah in the Battle of Plassey laid the foundation of British rule in India. The East India Company, had slowly started to enhance their influence in India. They approached Bengal, as it was the wealthiest province. At that time, the Nawabs of Bengal were the heads of the state and Alivardi Khan ruled Bengal independently. SirajudDaulah, grandson of Alivardi Khan was declared his successor since he was fond of him. Sirajs accession to the throne did not go well with his maternal aunt Ghaseti Begum and his maternal uncle Mir Jafar and there was discontent and jealousy within his court. Apart from the politics in his family, Siraj also faced threat from Britishers, when an ambitious officer, Robert Clive came to India. Sensing the discontent in the family, he planned a conspiracy with Mir Jafars support to defeat and kill Siraj. Mir Jafar betrayed Siraj and got him assassinated in the battle of Plassey and this event marked the beginning of British Rule in India.
The story of Dhingra is that of a generation of educated and wealthy young Indians appalled by the hypocrisy of British Imperialism. Dhingra was born in an extremely wealthy family in Amritsar who were loyal to the Raj. Dhingra did not share the same thoughts as his family and thought of them as hypocrites. Wyllie began rising swiftly up the ranks and became the British resident in Rajputana on the overseeing of this administration. Dhingra was sent to London to study Mechanical Engineering where he was deeply influenced by Veer Sawarkar and was becoming more involved with the lectures and meetings being held at India House. Wyllie planted an informant in India House to share secret information with him. This enraged an already fired up Dhingra who decided to finish Wyllie. Dhingra shot Wyllie point blank at the Imperial Institute where Wyllie was invited for a party. He was arrested immediately which was then followed by swift court trial where he was declared guilty within 20 minutes and sentenced to death. Dhingra was disowned by his own family however was recognized as a patriot high up in the British Government and was later praised by some freedom fighters in India like Bhagat Singh.
In the year 1919, post WW 1, India was struggling to break free from the shackles of the 300 year long British rule. As protests among the Indians were growing stronger, the British took a drastic measure by passing the orders to open fire in Jalianwaala Baag where a non violent protest was taking place. Udham Singh who came from a poor family, had lost his parents at an early age, he was also present in Jalianwaala Baag during the massacre. Udham Singh was deeply disturbed by the incident and decided to kill the man behind this ruthless bloodbath – Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. He renamed himself Mohammad Singh Azad and headed to London and killed O’Dwyer in Caxton hall. Udham Singh was declared guilty and was hanged at Pentoville prison on July 31, 1940. This act of assassination was condemned initially but was later praised internationally, even by London’s own ‘The Times of London’ calling him a “fighter for freedom”.
02 February 2015