India, vividly known for its culture and history has mostly celebrated its Kings. But there have been a lot of lesser known Queens (read, Maharanis) who have laid the stepping stones to the liberal world that we live in. The lives of the royal women within the “Andarmahal” or the inner chambers have always been shrouded in mystery. But historically each of those women had quite a significant role to play when it came to influencing Politics or Culture. Some of these royal women were rebels, broke social norms, fought battles and brought in a cultural renaissance. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi is well known through history. However there are quite a few lesser know royal rebels. The Begums of Bhopal were enlightened enough to play empowering, decisive roles in the kingdom way back in the 1800’s. There are documented photographic evidences of royal women wearing a pant suit (Maharani Tara Devi of Kashmir). While I was reading up about the Maharanis of India, one particular woman left me in awe – The Royal Tigress of Bengal, Ray Baghini Rani Bhavashankari of Bhurishreshtha Kingdom (Present day Howrah and Hoogly).
This post isn’t a feminist’s take on the age-old patriarchy that has existed across centuries. Rather, this post is about channeling that inner Queen that lies within each one of us. This post is inspired by the virtual Costume Party #costumepartybyS hosted by Spardha Malik where we have a fun theme each week. The theme “Maharanis of India” particularly interested me. I started reading up about the royal women and came across Rani Bhavashankari. Therefore, I decided to recreate her look in my own way.
Rani Bhavashankari of Bhurishreshtha Kingdom (Present day Howrah and Hoogly) in the 16th Century. She was a rebel who defeated the Pathan resurgence in Bengal. She spent her girlhood in the company of her father. From an early age, her father began to train her in horse riding, swordsmanship and archery. She was also dressed up in military armour and accompany her father on horseback. She grew up into a brave young soldier of Bhurishrestha. Then she took lessons in war, diplomacy, politics, sociology, philosophy and theology. Maharani Bhavashankari was bestowed with the title of Raybaghini, who gradually came to denote a courageous or sometimes rebellious woman and became a part of Bengali proverb. Her story of valor became a part of folklore and were immortalized by ballads and village poets. (Source: Wikipedia)
But does it require one to be born “privileged” or “entitled” to be a Queen in the truest sense? I believe, “Royalty” is in the mind. One needs to think and act like a Queen to be one. A simple act of courage is all it takes – courage to speak against injustice, stand up for one’s values and principles and take a stand. All we need is a strong spine and a stronger voice. And most importantly, the belief that we are high-value women, Maharanis in truest spirit.