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DIDDA ( –1003 )


Didda was a queen of Kashmir and dominated the history of that kingdom between the years 958 and 1003. She was the daughter of Simraja, King of Lohara, and the granddaughter of the Shahi king Bhima or Bhimapala of Udabhabdapura. She was married to the Kashmiri King Kshemagupta in 950. According to Kalhana’s Rajtarangini, a chronicle of Kashmir composed in the mid-12th century, Didda had such an influence on her husband that he ‘became known by the humiliating appellation of Didda Kshema’. Kalhan’s statement is supported by the copper coins of Kshemagupta, which bears the name ‘Di-Kshema’. In 958 after the death of Kshemagupta, Didda raised her son Abhimanyu to the throne under her guardianship.

Courage and diplomacy along with vice and profanity reached their zenith under Didda’s regency and rule. During Abhimanyu’s rule Didda discovered that many nobles were conspiring to seize the throne of Kashmir, and turned them out of the palace in spite of their great influence. When these nobles rose in rebellion against her, she quickly bought off their Brahmin supporters. One of the bribed Brahmins was Yashodhar, and when he became powerful and rose in turn she crushed him with the help of her minister Naravahana and the valiant Kashmiri force, the Ekangas. Kalhana says eloquently of Didda, ‘Those treacherous ministers who for sixty years … had robbed 16 kings, from King Gopala to Abhimanyu, of their dignity, lives and riches, were quickly exterminated by the energy of Queen Didda.’ Didda also built a number of monasteries, temples and cities.

Didda encouraged nepotism on the one hand while on the other she ruthlessly crushed her followers if she felt them to be disloyal. Many high officials served as her panders and they are said to have visited her bedchamber without hindrance. She had an affair with her minister Phalguna, who conquered Rajauri, and with a young herdsman named Tunga Kashi who crushed a formidable rising of the Damaras in her reign. In 972 A.D. King Abhimanyu died. After his death Didda installed his son, Nandigupt, on the throne. But she held the reins of the Government in her hands. Unable to control her desire for power and her promiscuity, she led a violent pogrom against her grandson, in which legend has it that she employed witchcraft, and ascended the throne of Kashmir in 981. Didda kept her country united despite many problems through her success in controlling conspiracies, assassinations and political intrigues. She lived till 1003 and before her death selected her brother’s son Sangramarala of Lohara as her heir, thereby securing a change of dynasty without any political upheaval.

Piyashi Roychoudhury
 
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