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CHAND BIBI (1547–1599)


Chand Bibi was the daughter of Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar and the wife of Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur, and these two relations tore her life in half. She was married during a short and aberrant period when the two powerful kingdoms, long-standing enemies, were allied against Vijayanagar. Adil Shah recognised her talents and allowed her to accompany him on horseback when inspecting the troops, and generally to involve herself in the management of the kingdom. So when in 1580 Adil Shah was murdered and his minor son ascended the throne, Chand Bibi became the regent. For some years she ruled unmolested, but her minister Kamil Khan began to grow hungry for power. She neutralised him with the help of another noble, Kishwar Khan, who became minister in his stead, but Kishwar Khan too began to foment rebellion. He succeeded in turning the nobles against her, and she was dragged out of her apartment and imprisoned in the fortress of Satara. However, the nobles turned against Kishwar Khan and restored her to power. Perhaps justifiably suspicious of her compatriots, she appointed an Abyssinian (Habshi) as minister. Further complications ensued, with Chand Bibi trying to preserve a precarious balance between the various factions.

Meanwhile affairs in Ahmadnagar were little better, and now Mian Manjhu rose against Nizam Shah, killed him and took the throne. Feeling himself under threat from Chand Bibi, Manjhu called upon Prince Murad (later Shah Jahan) to help him, and Murad’s army was at the gates of Ahmadnagar before Manjhu realised his mistake. He appealed frantically to Chand Bibi to come and save her homeland from the Mughal menace. This she did, fighting heroically at the head of her troops; on one occasion rushing out of the palace barefoot, veiled and carrying a drawn sword to repair the breached ramparts. Incredibly, she kept Murad and the dreaded General Khan-i-khanan at bay. Finally Murad was content to go away with Berar as his prize. However, Khan-i-khanan returned with Akbar’s son Daniyal and surrounded the city. Chand Bibi now realised that victory was impossible and wished to conclude an honourable peace with Daniyal. However, true to type, the Amirs rose against her and killed her before the settlement could be negotiated. This could not save them, and Ahmadnagar became part of the Mughal Empire. Though Chand Bibi failed to save her kingdom, she imspired her people and for a short time held back the most powerful force in India of that time.
 
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