Tomb of Shah Begum (c. 1570-1605),. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The history of rulership in India is vast, with a ever-growing mix of peoples and migration across the regions. The multiple dynasties in the area, particularly during the time of the Mahā-Janapadas and the successive empires, give a wide scope for examining power and rule. During the time of the Global Middle Ages, India saw continual growth and development as the many kingdoms and empires fought for further expansion. From the sixteenth century onwards the rise of the Mughal Empire changed the global position of the region with its economic strength. After the fall of the Mughals in the eighteenth century, India’s political outlook swiftly changed, with further warfare, and colonisation by the British, which led to its transformation to the British Raj until its partition in 1947.

This is a brief overview to place some of the female rulers of the regions now known as India in their context – you can find more about these women below!


Atwal, Priya. Royals and Rebels. The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Empire. London: Hurst Publishers, 2020

Balabanilar, Lisa. “Women, the Imperial Household, and the State.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Mughal World, edited by Richard M. Eaton and Ramya Sreenivasan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Eaton, Richard M., and Ramya Sreenivasan, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the Mughal World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020

Gupta, Subhadra Sen. Mahal: Power and Pageantry in the Mughal Harem. Delhi: Hachette India, 2019

Khan, Shaharyar M. The Begums of Bhopal: A Dynasty of Women Rulers in Raj India. London: Bloomsbury, 2021

Mukhoty, Ira. Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2018.

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