India has a history of atrocities against women. It has been going on for years and very little has changed even now.
Somewhere around the 9th century, a girl child was born to the King of Lohara, Simharaja. Lohara lies in the Pir Panjal range of mountains, between western Punjab and Kashmir. They named her “Didda”. She was born a limp. Being a girl child, and also limp, was not less than a curse for her. The King gave her to his maids. She was raised by the maids and learnt fighting tactics despite being physically disabled.
In those days Kashmir was ruled by Kshama Gupta. He was known to be a womaniser. Around 950 CE he offered to marry a not so young and physically disabled queen, seeking political legitimacy. The queen was beautiful and soon Kshama Gupta fell madly in love with her. He was so spellbound that he engraved her name in front of his name on coins as “di-kshem”.
People started calling him Didda-Kshema Gupta. It sounds romantic and cute in this century, but in the 9th century, it was considered humiliating. It is quite rare to find a husband adding his wife’s name to his own or get it minted on coins. Even in the 21st century, we don’t see a woman’s name or her face on notes or coins; the only exception is Indira Gandhi. Much later in 1985, we saw her face on a ₹5 coin with her name. Doing something like this in the 9th century was feminist in true sense.
Her fight with patriarchy started early with her birth as a limp, but the real battle started when in 958 CE Kshemgupta contracted a fever and died. His funeral gathering was a challenge for the queen as she was forced to commit Sati, but Didda was too fierce for this, she let the first queen commit Sati and refused to do it herself, enunciating that Abhimanyu (her son) was too small and needed her protection.
Abhimanyu was then crowned as ruler and she became the regent. She acquired power and got rid of many troublesome ministers and became more powerful. The banished ministers later rebelled against her. As a female ruler, her life was not easy, but she was tough and knew how to protect her state and her throne.
She fought many battles to retain her power. The most famous is when she defeated Mahmood Ghaznavi’s 45,000 Army men with 500 men and won only in 45 minutes. She gave us the fighting tactics which are now known as “guerrilla warfare”. Didda later issued copper coins with goddess Arodoxsho (counterpart of Goddess Laxmi) seated with a mention of “Sri Didda”.
She was much more than the “langdi chudail“ as people called her back then. She ruled Kashmir for 44 years. She was intelligent, clever, fierce and did everything a man could not imagine being done by a woman in those days. It’s not new that when men see women rising above her abilities, the first thing they do is attack her character. It’s shameful that as a warrior queen, she is almost washed off from history. Queen Didda was “ruthless, characterless, limp, did witchcraft, killed people, power-hungry queen”, that’s all we know about her through history written by “intellectuals”.
Surviving a patriarchal society in the 9th century, escaping Sati, dealing with power-hungry men who could not stand a woman ruler; itself was not less than a battle for her and she not only won it, she conquered it with Grace.
So if next time you talk about feminism or feminists, don’t forget Didda — The Queen. Let us not fade her glory and give her the place and respect in history she deserves.