Shivaji was an Indian warrior-king. He is credited with founding the Maratha Empire, which became a force to reckon with during the 18th century. He is also credited with creating his own navy. Considered one of the most important Indian kings and a hero of the Hindus, Shivaji's life and work have inspired several works of art, including films.
Remembered for her heroics against the British, the Indian Joan of Arc Rani Lakshmibai remains an icon of the 1857 Indian Rebellion. The wife of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao, she is known for leading the fight against the British after her husband’s death. She also inspired the legendary lines Khoob Ladi Mardani.
Chandragupta Maurya established the Maurya Empire in India. He was mostly advised by philosopher Chanakya. He conquered the Nanda Empire and fought the Seleucid-Mauryan War, too. His reign was marked by religious tolerance, and cultural and economic prosperity. He later relinquished his throne and became a Jain monk.
A king from the Chahamana dynasty, Prithviraj Chauhan ruled Sapadalaksha in present-day north-western India. The son of king Someshvara and queen Karpuradevi, he ascended to the throne when he was just a child. As a young man, he became known as a brave warrior and an excellent military commander. Various sources differ on the exact circumstances of his death.
Razia Sultana is known for being the only female Muslim ruler of Delhi. She ruled the Delhi Sultanate in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent from 1236 to 1240. She was the daughter of Mamluk Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish. Upon her ascend to the throne, she was challenged by rival nobles, many of whom she defeated.
Raja Raja Chola I was an emperor who reigned over south India from 985 to 1014. Also known as Rajaraja the Great, the emperor was deemed the most powerful southern king. He is remembered for resuscitating the Chola power and controlling south India and Indian Ocean. He is also credited with building the Brihadisvara Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The son of legendary Gupta emperor ruler Chandragupta I, Samudragupta ruled from 350 to 375 CE. He was part of the golden age of Hindu history and is known to have revived the horse sacrifice or Ashvamedha ritual. A devout follower of Vishnu, he had control over almost the entire Gangetic valley.
Akbar, the third Mughal emperor, played an important role in inculcating Persian culture into the Indian subcontinent. Akbar is considered one of the most important rulers of the Mughal Empire, an empire that seeped foreign ideas and culture into medieval India, the effects of which are still visible in modern-day India, especially in the northern parts of the country.
Aurangzeb reigned over most part of the Indian subcontinent for 49 years as the sixth Mughal emperor. He helped the Mughal Empire reach its greatest extent and helped India become the biggest manufacturing power and the world's largest economy. He was known for his religious piety and led a very simple life..
Shah Jahan, emperor Jahangir’s son, ruled as the fifth Mughal emperor, from 1628 to 1658. He is known for commissioning the Taj Mahal for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, among other contributions to Mughal architecture. He was put under house arrest by his son, Aurangzeb, during his final years.
Fourth century BC Indian prince Porus only finds mention in Greek texts but is said to have ruled over a vast land in what is present-day Punjab in the Indian subcontinent. He fought and lost against the legendary Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great in the Battle of the Hydaspes.
Bindusara, son of Chandragupta Maurya, reigned as the second Mauryan emperor of India. He was the father of Ashoka the Great. Not much is known about his life. It is believed that much of the Deccan had been conquered by him, though there is no concrete proof of the same.
The Maratha Empire’s second Chhatrapati, Sambhaji Bhosale, was the eldest son of Shivaji. After losing his mother at 2, he was raised by his grandmother. A treaty made him a Mughal mansabdar. Later, following repeated clashes with the Mughals, he was eventually captured and tortured to death.
Baji Rao I was a peshwa, or chief minister, of the Maratha empire in India. His conquests led a massive blow to the Mughal Empire. In spite of being married to Kashibai, he took a second wife, half-Muslim Mastani, a story that was retold in several movies later.
Humayun was the second emperor of the Mughal Empire, which ruled over South Asia for nearly two centuries. At the time of his demise, the empire spanned nearly one million square kilometers. The expansion of the empire under Humayun’s reign helped his son Akbar establish a substantial legacy of his own.
Mariam-uz-Zamani, or Jodha Bai, was the wife of Mughal emperor Akbar. She was a Hindu Rajput princess and the daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amber. Mariam’s marriage to Akbar signified her father’s submission to the Mughal emperor. She was symbolic of the gradual rise of multiculturalism in the Mughal era.
Harshavardhana, the second son of king Prabhakaravardhana of Thanesar, became a king at 16. Also known as Harsha, he reigned over a vast region of North and Northwestern India from 606 to 647 CE. Hieun Tsang’s Harshacharita detailed how Harsha converted from Hinduism to Buddhism, banned animal slaughter, and built monasteries.
Nur Jahan was the chief consort of Mughal emperor Jahangir. She reigned as Badshah Begum of the empire from 1620 to 1627. Nur Jahan is often credited with influencing Jahangir's decisions for much of his reign. She is also remembered for her strength and courage and her skills in hunting ferocious tigers. Her life has inspired many books and movies.
Ahilyabai Holkar was the Queen of the Maratha Empire who reigned from 1767 to 1795. A great pioneer, Ahilyabai is credited with building hundreds of temples throughout India. She is best remembered for rebuilding the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple which had been plundered, desecrated, and converted into a mosque by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Maharana Sangram Singh I, better known as Rana Sanga, is remembered in history as a fierce Rajput king of the Sisodia dynasty. He controlled modern-day Rajasthan, Gujarat, and MP, with Chittor as his capital. In his struggle for power, he had lost one arm and one eye, and was crippled for life.
Muhammad of Ghor of the Ghurid Empire went down in history as the man who established Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent and set the tone for the upcoming Mughal dynasty. He ruled over a vast area, which included India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, among others, along with his brother, Ghiyath ad-Din Muhammad.
Rajendra Chola I, or Rajendra the Great, was a Tamil ruler who reigned over the mighty Chola empire. He outdid his father Rajaraja I and expanded the kingdom to areas such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives. His conquests in the North covered the Gangetic plain.
Bharata finds mention in the Indian epic Mahābhārata, and was the son of Dushyanta and Shakuntala. He also appears in poet Kalidasa’s Abhijñānaśākuntalam. Though Bharata’s dynasty gave rise to the Pandavas, it is believed they were not his real descendants. Sources also mention him as an ancestor of Kurus.
Fifth-century BC empire of Magadha, what is now South Bihar, Ajatasatru was the son of King Bimbisara, and forcefully gained control of the kingdom by imprisoning his father. The Haryanka dynasty ruler formed the city of Pataliputra and also extended the kingdom to Kashi. He lived during the time of Buddha.
Tarabai reigned as the Queen Regent of the famous Maratha Empire from 1700 to 1708. The queen of Rajaram Bhosle I, Tarabai played an important role in fending off the Mughal forces from the Maratha territories after the demise of her husband. Tarabai's life and heroics have inspired films like Shivrayachi Soon Tararani where she was portrayed by Nishigandha Wad.
Rani Durgavati reigned as the Maharani of the Gond kingdom from 1550 to 1564. She is best remembered for defending her kingdom when it was attacked by Mughal General Asaf Khan. Although she knew that the Mughal army was superior to her army, Rani Durgavati refused to surrender and took her own life in the battlefield when defeat was imminent.