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  • Anirudh Kanisetti

16. A Forgotten Queen


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The 5th century Queen Prabhavati-Gupta, daughter and grandaughter of kings and emperors, mother and grandmother of queens and empresses, was one of the most remarkable women in Indian history.


Prabhavati-Gupta was the daughter of Chandra-Gupta II and his wife Kubera-Naga, a princess who had been sent to the Gupta court as a political hostage. Despite the highly dangerous political situation in which she found herself, Kubera-Naga managed to not only become one of the chief Gupta queens but also raise a daughter, Prabhavati, whose actions transformed the fate of the Deccan. Prabhavati, too, was a political mastermind, and her contribution to history is all too often glossed over. This is the story of her dramatic, extraordinary life. 


Voice Credits & Notes Below.


Voice Credits (in order of appearance):

Prabhavati's Daughter - Zoya

Harishena/Kamasutra Reader - Abbas

Notes:

  1. On Pravarasena's use of Prakrit, see Ollett, Andrew. Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India. Univ of California Press, 2017.

  2. On early medieval Indian courts, there is no better book than Ali, Daud. Courtly Culture and Political life in Early Medieval India. Cambridge University Press, 2004. Highly recommended.

  3. Quotes on the king's sex life and discussions on life within the harem are from The Kamasutra and The Arthashastra. I use the translations by AND Haksar and RP Kangle respectively.

  4. On Gupta civil wars in Vidisha, see Bakker, Hans, Martin Brandtner, and Shishir Kumar Panda. "A Theatre of Broken Dreams: Vidiśā in the Days of Gupta Hegemony." Interrogating History: Essays for Hermann Kulke (2006): 165-87.

  5. The quotes by Prabhavati's daughter are adapted from Bakker, Hans, and Harunaga Isaacson. "The Ramtek Inscriptions II: The Vākāṭaka Inscription in the Kevala-Narasiṃha Temple." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 56, no. 1 (1993): 46-74.

  6. On royal women, see Roy, Kumkum. "The King's household: Structure/space in the Sastric Tradition." Economic and Political Weekly (1992): WS55-WS60 and also her excellent collection of essays, "The Power of gender & the Gender of Power." Oxford University Press, 2018.

  7. My interpretation of Prabhavati's life draws on Bakker, Hans. “Religion and Politics in the Eastern Vākātaka Kingdom.” South Asian Studies 18, no. 1 (2002): 1–24.

  8. Prabhavati's inscription comes from Mirashi, VV. Corpus Inscriptionem Indicarum IV: Inscriptions of the Vakatakas. 1960

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©2020 by Anirudh Kanisetti. Cover images by Apoorva Lakshmi.