Islamic Sources and the Myth of Kamala Devi & Deval Devi
- Character assassination of a medieval Hindu queen and a princess in modern historiography based on a preference of Islamic sources…
Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi from 1296 to 1316 CE, invaded the Gurjara (1) region (modern day Gujarat) around 1300 CE (2). The Khiljis, followers of Islam, sought to expand their reign by invading territories, ravaging settlements, plundering, and pillaging: all of them were an integral part of their rule. Hindus and Hinduism suffered to a great extent under the Islamic Sultanate. And the chief bearer of this suffering were Hindu women, both in reality as well as how they were depicted in literature. The Hindu princess of Devagiri, who was captured by Alauddin Khilji in his campaign against the Seuna Yadava kingdom of Deccan, bears testimony to the fact. But there is one more instance of such suffering which is rarely written about, covered as it is in the heavy mist of lies, innuendos, and misperception.
This is about Princess Deval Devi and Queen Kamala Devi of the Vaghela Rajput Kingdom of Gujarat, and how a preference of the medieval Islamic sources in modern historiography has led to the character assassination of these Hindu women.
What Modern Historians Have Written
Prominent modern historians like RC Majumdar, HC Raychaudhuri, and Kalikinkar Datta (3) have written that Queen Kamala Devi was captured in Khilji’s invasion of Gujarat and married to Alauddin, while Deval Devi fled to Seuna Kingdom of Devagiri. Historians further write that Deval Devi was later captured in Khilji’s second invasion of Devagiri (1307) and married to Khizr Khan, the eldest son of Alauddin.
The claim is furthered by VD Mahajan (4) who writes that Deval Devi, after Khizr Khan’s death, was taken as wife by the next Sultan, Mubarak Shah, and later by Mubarak’s killer Khusrau Khan. N Jayapalan (5) provides a similar narration albeit with his own addition that “Deval Devi was dragged into Khusrau’s harem”. AL Shrivastav and Satish Chandra (6) are some of the other scholars to mention of this Deval Devi episode.
Beyond the works of professional historians, this episode of Deval Devi and Kamala Devi has found mention in modern fictional novels like Karan Ghelo of Nandshankar Mehta and Deval Devi: Ek Aetihasik Upanyas of Sudheer Maurya.
This story’s frequent repetition in the works of historians and novelists alike has made it quite a mainstream episode which is hardly questioned despite the fact that historical scrutiny of the sources behind the story presents a case of a very complex yet fanciful concoction by medieval Islamic writers.
Study of the Islamic Sources – Ashiqa of Amir Khusrau
The earliest reference to the story of Deval Devi and Kamala Devi comes from Amir Khusrou’s Ashiqa (or Deval Devi wa Khizr Khan) whose first part was written in 1316 CE and the second part was completed no earlier than 1320 CE. All other writers of the Court of Delhi picked up the story from this Ashiqa. KM Munshi (7) has rightly termed the narration of Ashiqa as “imaginary episodes” with no historical validity.
As per Khusrau, there were two Khilji invasions of Gujarat under Alauddin’s commander Ulugh Khan, with the second invasion carried out in 1306 CE. But in reality, as KM Munshi pointed out, Alauddin invaded Gujarat only once, not twice. Jiya-ud-din Barani, a historian and a contemporary of Amir Khusrau, refers to only one invasion as a result of which Karna lost his throne. Muhanota Nainasi, the Rajput historian, also refers to only one invasion. All authorities agree that as a result of this invasion Karna lost his throne. There was no Karna on the throne in 1306 or 1308 CE to require a second invasion. Ulugh Khan, who Khusrau said was the general in command of the second invasion of 1306 CE, in fact died in 1302 CE in the battle of Ranthambhore against the Chauhan Rajputs.
Poet of the Ashiqa, Amir Khusrau is an interesting personality of his own. Born in 1253, he went on to ensure his presence in the courts of various Sultans from Muhammed, son of Balban, to Malik Chhajju and Hatim Khan, to keeper of royal Quran under Jalaluddin and Alauddin Khiljis. He was then given patronage in the courts of Mubarak Shah and Nasiruddin Khusrau and went on to live long enough to write Tughlaqnama for Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq.
Amir Khusrau was a dishonest courtier who would write voluminous panegyrical praises for each of his masters during their lifetime but would change like a chameleon after their death. He offered heaps of praises for Mubarak Shah in Nur-Sipahr but after his death, Khusrau calls him a “wretch”(8).
Further critical scrutiny of the Ashiqa reveals conflicting years and ages of Khizr Khan and Deval Devi. According to Ashiqa, Khizr Khan was ten-years-old in 1306 CE and was a 22-year-old in 1318 when he was assassinated. However, by August 1302, Khizr was already appointed as the Governor of Chittor and it is evident from other sources that by the time of his assassination Khizr already had a ten-year-old son. So, if Khusrau is to be believed then Khizr had a son when he was only 12-years-old. Which, obviously, is extremely unlikely.
Furthermore, Ashiqa tells that when Khizr Khan was assassinated, Deval Devi was beside him, at the same spot. But Ibn Batuta, who arrived in India in 1333 CE and stayed for ten years, and is widely regarded as the most reliable contemporary, does not even once mention either Deval Devi or Kamala Devi. Ibn Batuta, as KM Munshi says, possessed great historical sense, and had met the Qazi Zain ud-Din Mubarak who was present at the fort when Khizr Khan was being assassinated there. The Qazi told Batuta that only Khizr’s mother was present at the spot. Ibn Batuta had met Khizr’s mother in Mecca (1327 CE), and had any woman with the name Deval Devi been present there, Khizr’s mother would have surely narrated this to Ibn Batuta.
G.H. Ojha (9) has opined, based on his detailed study of the records, that there existed no such princess as Deval Devi in Gurjardesha. Khusrau had actually taken this name from the daughter of the mighty Rajput ruler of Ranthambore, Hammirdeva Chauhan, whom Alauddin unsuccessfully tried to get as a bride for his son.
All this evidence conclusively suggests that Amir Khusrau’s Ashiqa was a work of fancy.
Ferishta, Barani, Isami, and Others
Many Islamic writers post-Khusrau mention this story of Deval Devi, with their additions and subtractions, mostly on dates, events, and characters. Nizam-ud-din Ahmad in the Tabaqat-i-Akbari and Abdul Kadir Badaoni in the Muntakhab ut-Tawarikh, both 16th century accounts, gave “less garbled versions based mainly on Amir Khusrou’s version and did not add any details” as per Dr Baini Prasad (10). Haji ud-Dabir, another historian from the 16th century, talks about the defeat of Karna Rai at the hands of Ulugh Khan but does not name any of his captured wives or daughters.
That leaves us with three major records, contemporary or near, which shed light on this Deval Devi episode: Ferishta’s Tarikh-i-Ferishta, Ziya-ud-din Barani’s Tarikh-i-Firozshahi completed in 1357, and Khwaja Abdul Malik’s (Isami’s) Futuh us-Salatin completed in 1350.
With regards to Isami, Dr Baini Prasad writes that “to the present enquiry, this work is of little value, as his account of Deval Devi and Khizr Khan is only an abridgement of Khusrau”.
Barani, much like others, also state that wives and daughters of Karna Rai fell into the hands of Khilji’s force but he does not mention the name of either Deval Devi or Kamala Devi. This is especially surprising because by this time Khusrau’s story of Ashiqa had travelled far and wide and Barani’s contemporaries like Isami had already borrowed the story with names from Khusrau. But Barani has no names to provide, and so he nowhere concludes that Deval Devi or Kamala Devi were captured. Those wives and daughters could have been anyone from Karna Rai’s harem of wives and concubines.
Ferishta too had taken the episode of Deval Devi and Khizr Khan from Khusrau as by the time he wrote the story was already known in the Court of Delhi. It has been pointed out by AK Majumdar (11) that the often touted point about Ferishta’s tale of Deval Devi being taken in by Nasiruddin Khusrau Shah is actually a misconception emerging out of a mistranslation. Unlike what Sir John Briggs has translated, Ferishta does not say that the wife who was taken by Nasiruddin Khusrau was Deval Devi. All that Ferishta, Barani, and Badauni say is Khusrau took a wife of Mubarak Shah. That wife could be anyone.
We have thus seen through a careful study of the medieval Islamic sources that the episode of Deval Devi and Kamala Devi cannot be verified as true, and it entirely owes its creation to the court poet and musician Amir Khusrou’s Ashiqa. Khusrau, sitting in the comfort of Delhi court, far away from Hindu kings and Hindu women, created this fanciful story of love between a Hindu princess and a Muslim prince, the reason for which can be nothing else than what AK Majumdar says: “Khusrau seems to have been suffering from a delusion that the Hindus had no sense of honour and their women no sense of chastity”.
Khusrau’s creation of this tale attacking and undermining Hindu women’s honour and character was born from his hatred for the infidels’ religion. While modern scholars of history may have their own obligations and interests in finding the truth, some of their blind reliance on medieval Islamic texts, without careful scrutiny, further undermines Hindu religion and people – a device which Islamic writers started centuries ago.
- A contemporary Jain text, “Nabhi Nandan Jinnodhar Prabandh,” calls the region Gurjara. This was the name that was prevalent in the past, in Sanskrit, and it is the name from which modern Gujarat emerged – possibly during the time of Harshavardhan of Kannauj.
- There is some confusion over the year — whether it is 1297, 1298, 1299, or 1300 CE. But major consensus of the contemporary sources like Tarikh-i-Firozshahi and an inscription near Somnath gives 1299 as the year.
- An Advanced History of India, by K Datta, RC Majumdar, and HC Raychaudhuri, 1960/2018, p. 296
- History of Medieval India, by VD Mahajan (Revised by M Bhatnagar), 2011, p. 131 & 138
- History of India, Vol 2, N Jayapalan, 2001.
- Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals Delhi Sultanat (1206–1526) – Part One, Satish Chandra, p. 92
- The Glory that was Gurjardesha, KM Munshi, Part 3, 1944 edition, p. 225
- KM Munshi, Glory that was Gurjardesha, Part 2, 1955 edition, p. 417
- Gujrati, Annual Number, 1933
- KM Munshi, Glory that was Gurjardesha, Part 2, 1955 edition, p. 431
- AK Majumdar, Chalukyas of Gujarat, 1956, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, p. 196