Uttarakhand Stories

Rani Karnavati ‘Nak-Kati-Rani’: The Invincible Queen of Garhwal

by Manoj Bhandari
Jun 02, 2016

Uttarakhand, a beautiful Himalayan state of India referred to as ‘Dev Bhoomi’ always lack good historians that can showcase the real facts and figures of the aesthetic region. Being carved out of Uttar Pradesh, this mountainous region was almost neglected by many. But, after the formation of Uttarakhand, the writers of Uttarakhand took the initiative of bringing into notice the history and diversity of Uttarakhand.

There had been several brave warriors in Uttarakhand since the Mughal Era of which not many elite writers have written about but are quite popular among the Pahari dwellers such as Rani Karnavati, also known as ‘Nak-Kati Rani’, a lion-hearted lady who had a sharp mind like the edge of the sword. The inspirational story of Rani Karnavati, a princess who ruled the kingdom of Garhwal and drove the enemies away by cutting off their noses will surely give you goosebumps.

Rani Karnavati’s husband ‘Mahipati Shah’ died in a battle between the kingdom of Garhwal and Kumaon after which a wave of deep weeds charred the hearts of the people of Srinagar Garhwal (a town on the banks of Alaknanda region and capital of Mahipati Shah). But, Rani Karnavati was not among those who would sit quietly, she kept on thinking of how she is going to save her kingdom. She increased the number of soldiers on the borders and send the troops in all the directions.

Just three years after her husband’s death Rani Karnavati had almost fixed the drawbacks of her kingdom. One day a snoop who was spying in Delhi came back and gave her the news that Mughal army is all set to invade Garhwal kingdom. During that period, the Mughals were ruling over a very big part of India and because Garhwal kingdom was very close to Delhi so attacking it was instinctive for the Mughals.

The Mughal army was well equipped for the war and the only thing they lacked was the experience of fighting the enemy in the tough Himalayan mountains. Shahjahan who was the Mughal emperor was well aware that Mahapati Shah, the king of Garhwal kingdom had died and a lady was sitting on the throne so nobody could stop their army from attacking the kingdom. He then handed his army’s command to Najawat Khan for attacking the Garhwal Kingdom (some historians suggest that Shahjahan handed this attack to his regional commander of Meerut i.e Kirodi Mirza).

In April 1635, this invading campaign was started by the Mughal army who were in large numbers of trained soldiers. They easily captured the Shargarh town which was situated on the east bank of Yamuna River, continuing this they invaded Kalsi(Mahipati Shah captured Kainigarh (Kalsi) and Viratgarh of Dehradun from Sirmaur (Himachal Kingdom),  Bairatgarh, and Sanar. At Haridwar, they crossed the Ganga River from Chandighat from where they march towards Srinagar Garhwal. The Mughal army was so confident by their recent wins that they entered in the region marked by Rani Karnavati.

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Rani Karnavati was a titan of Military tactics. She instructed her commander Dost Beg (Massir– al –Umara mentions that queen had a brave, devoted commander Dost Beg) to build hurdles on the route from where the Mughal army was marching. On every mile, the Mughal army has to cross a wall of stones and fallen trees. It not only wasted their time and energy but also distributed them in small troops. Meanwhile, on the other side the gorilla Garhwal soldiers attacked them in the speed of thunder and after the attack, they used to hide quickly. In this ambush, the Mughal army became terrified of the Garhwal army as they repeatedly attacked the Mughal troops whenever they had the opportunity. Since the Mughal army was unknown to this place as far as their eyes reached they could only see the dense woods.

Soon the monsoon season got started and the rain worsened the situation, the nights became ghosts for the Mughal soldiers and a few days journey seemed like a never-ending gradient. Taking advantage of the moment, Rani Karnavati ordered her army to attack the Mughal battalions with full force. The Garhwal army obeyed her orders and erased the Mughal soldiers. Some of them died, some fled from the war zone to save their life and some jumped into the river Alaknanda and drowned in the river eventually. As per the orders of Rani Karnavati the remaining Mughal army soldiers were captured by the Garhwal army as and their noses were cut off.

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

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Inputs from: Nak-kati-Rani Book and Mera Pahad Forum

Manoj Bhandari

Manoj Bhandari


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