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KARNAVATI, QUEEN OF CHITTOR (? - 1535)


Rani Karnavati was a queen and temporary ruler of Chittorgarh. She was from Bundi and married to Rana Sangram Singh, known as Rana Sanga of the Sisodia dynasty of Chittorgarh, the capital of Mewar. She was the mother of the next two Ranas, Vikramjit and Uday Singh, and grtamdmother of Rana Pratap.

After the first Mughal emperor Babur had captured the throne of Delhi in 1526, Rana Sanga of Mewar led a confederation of Rajput rulers against him, but they were defeated in the Battle of Khanua the following year. Rana Sanga died of his wounds, leaving Rani Karravati a widow and regent of Chittorgarph in the name of her elder son Vikramjit. Vikramjit attained maturity but was weak and suffered a defeat at the hands of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Bahadur Shah pressed on and attacked Chittorgarh itself.

Rani Karnavati appealed to the other Rajput rulers to help defend the honour of Chittorgarh. The rulers agreed, but they insisted that the princes be sent to Bundi during the war for their personal safety. Karnavati also sent a rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, offering him the status of a brother and appealing for help. Humayun was then in the process of reducing Bengal; he abandoned the campaign to ride to her rescue. She is thus remembered every Raksha Bandhan.

Karnavati then prepared to face Bahadur Shah. At first she tried diplomacy, offering him the spoils of Chittorgarh’s defeat of Malwa. This worked initially, but Bahadur Shah returned in 1534 determined to take the fort. Realising that defeat was imminent, Karnavati and the other noble ladies of the court immolated themselves in a mass suicide by fire, while the men donned saffron clothes and went out to fight to the death. All the children were also killed except the princes who were entrusted to Karnavati’s maid Panna Dhai (q.v.), who escaped with them to safety. Humayun arrived too late to save Karnavati, though he did defeat Bahadur Shah.
 
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