As Bollywood plans to make biopics on two female rulers of Kashmir — Queen ‘Didda’ and the last Hindu queen, ‘Kota Rani’ — nobody can predict which one will reign supreme at the box office but one thing is sure – the stories of both the Queens – Didda and Kota Rani are bound to intrigue the audience.
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut will play Kashmir’s warrior queen Didda in Manikarnika Returns The Legend of Didda, which will be a standalone sequel to her 2019 film, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.
Ranaut posted a picture of herself alongside film producer Kamal Jain in a tweet. The English translation of the Hindi tweet read,
“India has seen several bravehearts like the queen of Jhansi. Another such untold story of heroism is of a queen from Kashmir, who defeated Mahmud of Ghazni not once but twice in battle).”
हमारा भारतवर्ष साक्षी रहा है झाँसी की रानी जैसे कई वीरांगनाओं की कहानी का. ऐसी ही एक और अनकही वीरगाथा है कश्मीर की एक रानी की, जिसने महमूद गजनवी को एक नहीं, दो बार हराया. ले कर आ रहे हैं @KamalJain_TheKJ और मैं, #ManikarnikaReturns: The Legend of Didda ? pic.twitter.com/sgrqkqilj6
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) January 14, 2021
On the other hand, Indian director Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films along with Reliance Entertainment are producing a film on Kota Rani, who is often called the Cleopatra of Kashmir.
Kashyap’s Phantom Films posted a tweet, “Here is perhaps the most relevant story today that you need to know.. @RelianceEnt& #Phantom are proud to announce a film on the last Hindu queen of Kashmir, #KotaRani. @Shibasishsarkar @madmantena.”
While there is no clarity on when the two movies will be released, there is a high chance that the two films may be pitted against each other in cinemas and on OTT platforms.
Born in 930 AD, Queen Didda was the daughter of Simharaaja, who ruled the Lohara region in the Pir Panjal range of mountains. The kingdom was located on a trade route between western Punjab and Kashmir.
One of the very few female monarchs in Indian history, Queen Didda went on to rule the northern region of Kashmir from the period of 958 CE to 1003 CE. It is said she faced many obstacles in her life.
Queen Didda suffered from a deformity in her leg, because of which her father did not treat her well during her childhood. This was said to be one of the reasons why Simharaaja, in spite of not having a male child, had for long refused to consider Didda as his heiress.
Valaga, an African-origin maid, took care of Didda, and she grew up as a strong and fearless woman. It was Valaga who instilled characteristics in Didda that made her become one of the strongest female personalities in the history of Kashmir.
Following the death of her husband, Ksemagupta, the King of Kashmir, Didda got rid of troublesome ministers and nobles, who rebelled against her.
Rising above her disability, she went on to rule the unified land of Kashmir, which included the Lohara kingdom, for over four decades.
Her reign represented the peak of women’s power in Kashmir, for which she was often called the Catherine of Kashmir, referring to the ruthless Catherine the Great, of Russia.
— Phantom Films (@FuhSePhantom) August 27, 2019
Queen Didda had a fair share of controversies during her time as well. While many agree on her exceptional survival skills, her ability to rule and select capable lieutenants for her kingdom, it was her thirst for power and alleged affairs with multiple men that brought her under moral scrutiny.
However, according to historian, archaeologist, and scholar, Mark Aurel Stein, Queen Didda possessed a statesmanlike instinct, which helped her rule Kashmir for almost half a century.
“The statesmanlike instinct and political ability which we must ascribe to Didda in spite of all the defects of her character, are attested by the fact that she remained to the last in peaceful possession of the Kashmir throne, and was able to bequeath it to her family in undisputed possession,” wrote Stein.
The 13th-century ruler, Kota Rani, was the last Hindu queen of Kashmir before the Islamic regime began in the valley. According to Indian historian Mohibbul Hasan’s Kashmir under the Sultans, Kota Rani was the daughter of Ramchandra, the commander-in-chief of Suhadev, who was the king of Kashmir belonging to the Lohara dynasty.
It was said that Ramchandra was tricked and defeated by a Ladakhi prince, known by the name of Rinchan, one of Ramchandra’s administrators.
Known to be ambitious, Rinchan already had his sights on the throne, and in order to gain the trust of the locals, he married Kota Rani and took Ramachandra’s son, Rawanchandra, in his confidence by making him his commander-in-chief.
Rinchen went on to have a son with Kota Rani, who was named Hydar. Hydar became the king following his death. But since he was a minor, Kota Rani acted as Regent, and later on, ascended the throne herself.
Kota Rani went on to become the 14th queen of Kashmir, and later fought and protected her land from invaders. She was known to be a fearless warrior, a great administrator, and a military strategist.
According to Rakesh Kaul, the author of The Last Queen of Kashmir, the Hindu queen played a key role at a significant time in Kashmir’s history.
“The brave and beautiful Kota Rani played a critical role at a historic inflection point in Kashmir’s turbulent history. An icon of resistance against invaders and a symbol of the universal values that Kashmir’s civilization stands for, her enduring message, “we were we will be”, is especially relevant to the challenges of contemporary times.”
“Kota is the girl with fire, the girl who will light you up, the girl who will make you kiss your heart goodbye. Her story speaks globally to the men and women of today. Importantly, Kota’s Kashmir will upend many ideological and theological historical constructs which have led to the closing of the Kashmiri mind, culture, and society,” said Kaul.
The two films will revive interest in Kashmir’s history, as well as the life and time of two powerful female monarchs of India.