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The attempt to understand the woman who
ruled Kashmir for about 45 years makes
fascinating reading. Being lame did not distract her from an acute
sense of survival. She enchanted her supporters, was ruthless to the
enemy and benevolent with the people. She died as the reigning monarch
in 1003 A.D. Queen Didda was married to King Kesemagupta, the ruler of Kashmir (950 to 958 AD). She was a Sahi princess
and the grand-daughter of a powerful Sahi ruler Bhima Sahi of Afghanistan. Bhima Sahi built the high
temple of Vishnu
It was ten years later that in 1013 AD Mohmud of Gazni defeated the last of
the Hindu Kings ending Hindu rule in Afghanistan and also ending Hindu rule
of over 7 centuries in Kashmir.
The history of the Kings of Kashmir written by Kalahan, one of the
most famous Sanskrit scholars of Kashmir in
12th Century AD, is the book "Rajatarangini".
The Rajatarangini also traces the political history of Queen Didda's reign
and adds to our interest as it also includes Kalhan's views on the morality
and modality of events and personalities.
Kesemagupta was enchanted by his wife and was called Diddaksema or henpecked. At the death of her husband King
Kesemagupta, she was faced with the predicament of becoming Sati, as was the
expected custom in both Afghanistan
and Kashmir, more so among the royal
families. She played each hand that life dealt her with diplomacy,
strength, confidence and in complete defiance of the accepted norms of
behavior expected of a woman. As we delve further into Queen Didda's
life it is easy to find oneself comparing her personality to that of Queen
Elizabeth I of England,
only to conclude that Queen Didda's challenges far surpassed Elizabeth's.
Didda, the lame Queen, ruled Kashmir far longer
than most other monarch have.
958 AD A defining Moment
At King Kesemagupta's death all his queens were expected to emolate
themselves among whom one was Queen Didda. As he had fallen ill with fever he proceeded
to die at Varahaksetra where he had founded a muth. It seems from Kalhan's
account that Sati was not compulsorily imposed against the will, and it was
only when a Queen agreed to be Sati that her desire was acted upon. But
it is quite evident that Sati was a matter of family honor and pride and any
hesitation in accepting Sati rites was looked upon unfavorably. It so
happens that Phalguna, the Prime Minister of the dead King had been at bad
terms with Didda as his daughter Chandralekha was another queen of the dead
king. He was quick to consent when Didda offered, for the family's
honor, to be Sati. Didda herself did not wish to be Sati and on reaching
the funeral pyre regretted her decision to accept it and wished to change her
decision. A minister called Naravahana, moved to compassion, prevented
her by persistent remonstrations from seeking her death. Thus, Queen
Didda lived to reign.
Rakka, who was an adviser of Queen Didda and who was devious by nature, sowed
into the embittered queen the apprehension that Phalguna, the Prime Minister
would usurp the kingdom. Phalguna was apprehensive of his ministers
revolting against him as they were envious of his strong position and out
shown them all by counsel, courage, energy and other good qualities.
Queen Didda sent her guards to have him killed but he joined by other troops
defended himself and later withdrew. The Queen who had found her way
out of death by Sati now went about eliminating other ministers and their
family who were eyeing the throne.
Kashmir was organized among various landowning
lords whose families revered common deities installed in clan temples run and
managed by Brahaman priests and institutionalized as Muths. The Muth
priest had powerful control and influence as spiritual leader of their
clans. In a military standoff with Mahiman, Queen Didda had no
hesitation in contacting his Muth at Lalitadityapura. She bought off
the brahmans from Lalitadityapura with gold and broke the league of the
opposition. They then brought about a reconciliation between Mahiman
and the Queen.
Kalhan astutely observes that the lame queen whom no one had thought capable
of stepping over a cow’s footprint got over the ocean-like host of her
enemies, just as Hanumat got over the ocean. In this observation we
find that the story of the Ramayana in which Hanuman flies across the wide
ocean to reach Sita was recognized and understood imagery.
Deals were struck by Queen Didda who then bestowed upon Yasodhara, who came
from Lalitadityapura, as did Mahiman, the command of the army and other
offices. After a few days she put Mahiman out of the way with witch
craft, and the rule of the widow became undisputed in the land. What
Kalhan calls witch craft in plain terms means a killing in which the method
was not discoverable.
When Yasodhara, the Commander-in-Chief, fought a well won war against the
Sahi ruler Thakkana, who commentaries say could be a Dard King, Didda was
misinformed and being of a weak ear thought he was usurping her power.
Or was she uncomfortable to have any one from Lalitadityapura in a powerful
position? When he returned in glory and heard of this, he and his
supporters rose in revolt. The Queen with her troops fought a battle
extending from near Jayabhattarika to the vicinity of the Suramatha.
The Queen's troops fled back to the palace where the Ekangas, the palace
guards, displayed their array and rallied the troops to fight back.
Rajakulabhatta arrived to join on the Queen’s side. This clinched the
war in her favor.
Didda immediately had Yasodhara, Subhadhra, and Mukula together with their
relatives executed. The valient Eramantaka who had relieved Kashmiri’s from
the tax of Sraddhas at Gaya,
was thrown in the Vitasta with a stone in his neck. Those trecherous
ministers who, during the past sixty years had robbed 16 Kings from
Gopalavarman to Abhimanyu were quickly exterminated by the angry Queen Didda
just as the great asuras were terminated by Durga observes Kalahan.
After destroying those whom pride had made overbearing, the queen placed
Rakka and others in charge of the army and the state. The faithful
Naravahana who had saved her from Sati and stood by her now became her
In relating these developments we find that Kashmiri's were traveling to
Gaya in the state of Bihar,
in pilgrimage. Gaya
lies on the banks of the Gangese and later became known as Bodh Gaya.
That such a trip was essential to consecrate the dead in the observance of
Sraddhas and the payment of a fee by Kashmiri's was a matter of
dissatisfaction. The goddess Durga, venerated most in Bengal was well
known to Kashmir. The Rajatarangini is
full of references of Kings, Brahmans and pilgrims regularly traveling to
various religious places in Kashmir, including from Bengal
and Karnataka. Housing the pilgrims at various foundations was an
essential activity funded and overseen by the Kashmiri rulers.
Kalhana continues to believe that Queen Didda was of weak ear and was
convinced by Sindhu, the chief treasurer, that Naravahana, was conspiring to
end her rule. She therefore refused his hospitality, when for all this
while he had been her closest confidant and there ensued intrigues produced between
them leading to a thorough estrangement, such as there is between sesamum and
oil-cake compares Kalhana.
Kalhan's personal opinion on the above events gives us a sense of the
development of scientific knowledge of that times. His poetic analogy, that
the diamond can be held as proof against all metals, and stone dykes against
the waters, but nothing is proof against the false, tells us that scientific
knowledge of metals and the quality of the density of a diamond were
understood. That stone dykes as a engineer's method for channeling
water was used.
On human nature Kalhan says: "Those who are more foolish than a child,
and yet at the same time more cunning than the teacher of the gods
(Brhaspati),-verily we do not know of what atoms they are composed.
The crow, which has a distrustful mind, takes the young ones of other (birds)
for its own. The swan, which has the power of separating (by its beak)
milk and water, is in dread of an empty cloud. The king, whose mind is
sharp (enough) to take care of the people, thinks the words of a rogue
true. Fie upon the order (established) by Fate in which cleverness and
stupidity are blended!
The foolish queen who was unable to use her feet, became, through her want of
moral principles, an object of reproach, being in character just like a
stupid Brahman (who being foolish and ignorant of the ritual, becomes an
object of reproach through his want of Vedic knowledge.)"
Naravahara committed suicide.
Queen Didda could not forget the son of Samgrama, the Damra, who had shown
prowess, while stopping near her and wanted to kill him . The Damara
fled in fear and killed Rakka, the army chief in doing so. The queen
did not want a rebellion on her hands and began to appease the Damaras.
When Rakka died the queen called upon Phalgun to her side. The same
Phalgun she had deposed as Prime Minister after her husband's death.
Phalgun returned to assist her and also became her paramour. Kalhan
calls Queen Didda the "old wicked woman." Phalgun was the
king of Rajapuri or modern Rajauri. It is a hill territory which lies
to the south of the central part of the Pir Pantsal range, and comprises the
valleys which are drained by the river Tohi of Rajauri and its tributaries.
The favorite of the queen’s brother was in charge of the office. They were
plundering the wealth of Kashmir to
Process of Consolidation
Abhimanyu, Queen Didda's son died of consumption at this juncture. (958
AD-972). Nandigupta his son came to the throne. Didda was in
grief of her son. From then on the wealth that she had acquired as the
queen she began to donate in charity and deeds of piety. Bhuyya,
Sindhu’s brother encouraged her in these acts. She salvaged her
reputation and became esteemed by everyone.
In memory of her son she built the Vishnu temple Abhimanyusvamin and the town
She also built the temple
of Vishnu Diddasvamin
together with Diddapura, and a Muth for the residence of people from
Madhyadesa, Lata and Saudotra. This Muth has left its name on the Did
mar quarter of Srinagar,
situated between the sixth and seventh bridge on the right bank of the river.
This identification is well known to the Kashmiri Pandits.
For her husband’s eminence she showered gold and built Kanakpura. Maybe
the modern Kangan village on the right bank of the Sindh river.
She also built a second Vishnu temple Diddasvamin of white stone, which was
dazzling as if bathed with the waters of the Gangese as it issues from the
feet of Vishnu.
She also built a Vihara with a high quadrangle for Kashmiris and foreigners.
For her father Simharaja, she erected the illustrious Vishnu shrine
Simhasvamin, and a Mutha for the residence of foreign Brahmans who came to
Kashmir from other regions of India.
She sanctified the confluence of the Vitasta and the Sindhu. She built in all
64 foundations in different localities. She was bent on the restoration
of ruined buildings and built stone walls around almost all temples that had
The Rajtarangani describes a porter woman called Valaga who used to
carry about on her back the lame queen and particularly at games which
required running, in whose honor and gratitude she had the Valgamatha to be
By 973 AD Nandigupta her grandson died. Her other grandson Tribhuvan died as
well in 975 AD and her last grandson Bhimagupta as well in 980/81 AD.
Kalhan seems to suggest she killed them.
Old Phaguna, the Prime Minister, died as well. Kalhan seems to have
great reservations about Queen Didda as a person. He views her years of
piety with skepticism. He describes the next phase of her reign as her
committing excesses by open misconduct.
Tunga was the son of Bana, a Khasa whose native village was Baddivasa in
Parnotsa. He had come as a buffalo herdsman with his 5 brothers
Sugandhisiha, Prakata, Naga, Attayika and Sanmukha to the city. The
city was a most different and exciting experience. He became a letter
carrier and Queen Didda noticed him and he had soon won her heart. She
had the youth brought to her secretly and a relationship developed between
the two. Bhuyya, who had been her confidant was dissatisfied with Queen
Didda and had expressed it to her. Bhuyya soon died of poisoning and
Kalhan believes she killed him. In Bhuyya’s place she appointed Rakka’s
son who had acted as the facilitator in her relationship with Tunga.
Leading men like Kardamaraja, the Prime Minister and officers were her
The Queen’s passion for Tunga had increased and he was made the Prime
Minister. The former ministers whom Tunga and his brothers had ousted
rose in rebellion. They sought the support of Queen Didda’s brother’s
son Vigraharaja, a strong prince. He persuaded the Brahmins to enter a
fast in order to cause disturbance in the kingdom. When the Brahman
united, the people rose to kill Tunga. Didda hid him for a few
days. She knew the failings and weaknesses of friend and foe.
Then with presents of gold she gained over Sumanomantaka and other Brahmans
and the fast ended. Vigraharaja returned and Tunga had Kardamaraja, the
previous Prime Minister and others who had raised rebellion against the Queen
killed. When dissatisfied they exiled Sulakkana, Rakka’s son and when
they felt like it they brought him back.
Vigraharaja again tried to work through the Brahmans. But Tunga knew
they took bribes and had them killed. All the Brahmans who had taken
Didda’s gold were caught and put into prison including Sumanomantaka.
Queen Didda was unforgiving of her opposition and never forgot a bargain forced
Didda raised the son of her brother Udayaraja called Samgramaraja as the heir
to the throne. When in 1003 AD Queen Didda died he became the
King. She ruled from 958 to 980 AD as her child Abhimanyu and
grandchild Nandigupta's guardian and directly from 980-1003 AD as the supreme
Queen of Kashmir
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Or the Shahi Dynasty of Afghanistan