This article was written by Shivangi Kaushik.
Maharani Sarandha was a Rajput queen of Bundelkhand (central India). Her brother Anirudh Singh was the ruler of a small estate. Anirudh Singh was constantly engaged with the enemy. His wife Sheetla Devi would be worried sick every time her husband went out with his army; she would plead with him to leave everything and retire. Once at night when Anirudh Singh returned home looking beaten, his wife who had been waiting for him anxiously, heaved a sigh of relief. His sister Sarandha questioned him about the outcome of War and his troops. Anirudh Singh hung his face in shame as he admitted to having abandoned his troops and running for safety. Sarandha admonished him for showing his back in war and coming home alive. Anirudh Singh realized his mistake and left the fort that very instant. His wife, who was a moment ago relieved to see her husband alive and safe, tried hard to stop him.
She came back and questioned her sister-in-law, that did she love her honour so much that she would rather have her brother dead, fighting the enemy than to be safe in the fort. Sarandha replied that had it been her husband, she would have pierced his chest with a dagger. Time passed, and Anirudh Singh returned home victorious and married his sister to Champat Rai, King of Orchha.
They lived in happiness and peace while the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan’s sons were fighting for the throne. Aurangzeb and Murad asked for help from Champat Rai. Soon after Aurangzeb was declared the Mughal emperor, Champat Rai was rewarded with large estates and a position at the Imperial court at Agra. During the war, Maharani Sarandha had sighted a horse without its rider and had it brought to her fort. One day, Sarandha’s eldest son Chhatrasaal went out of the palace riding the same horse, but he returned on foot. The horse actually belonged to a nobleman in the court of Aurangzeb, and he had taken his horse back. Maharani Sarandha was so shocked that he had meekly returned the horse without a fight. She immediately took a few soldiers with her and marched towards the nobleman’s house and demanded the horse back. The nobleman refused to return the horse and offered a large sum of money in exchange for the horse. Maharani Sarandha refused as she felt that the horse now belonged to her. Hearing the commotion outside, Aurangzeb himself came out. He could not understand that Maharani Sarandha was ready to give up anything for the horse. He asked her, “Maharani Sahib, you are ready to lose anything for the horse?” The proud Queen replied, “Yes.”
Aurangzeb asked her, “Even your estates and your position in the court?” She replied, “Yes.” He was puzzled and again asked her, “Maharani Saheb, you are ready to lose everything for a mere horse?” To which Sarandha replied, “No, I am ready to lose everything for my honour.” The horse was handed over to her but with everything else now lost, she and her husband left for Orchha. Some time passed, but Aurangzeb had not forgotten or forgiven them. He sent an army to crush Orchha and in a way, crush Maharani Sarandha’s pride. The Mughal Army laid a siege to the Fort of Orchha. Soldiers of Orchha fought bravely, but Maharani Sarandha knew that it would not hold for long against the mighty army of the Mughals. She had to ensure the safety of innocent women, children and other subjects. She drafted a letter in which she offered to leave the fort if the people of Orchha would be spared.
The very next day, a reassurance letter was sent to her, so she, along with her husband, left the court in the early hours. She had not gone very far when she saw a few horsemen coming as they came closer, she could see that they were from the Mughal Army. She had to make a decision now. She would either be captured and taken away to the Agra Court and suffer humiliation, or she could die with honour. Her husband realized what his wife was going through. He told her that he would rather prefer to die with honour than to be humiliated.
Champat Rai drew out his dagger and gave it to her. She knew what her husband wanted her to do, and she took the dagger and pierced it through her husband’s chest. Before the horsemen could react, Sarandha stabbed herself with the same dagger and fell down lifeless. Orchha became part of the Mughal Empire. Many years later her son Chhatrasal fought the Mughals and took his land back. He ruled the entire Bundelkhand successfully for many years.