India is proud homeland of a variety of warriors who entered the Indian landscape at different points, but always with the single-minded India mission of setting new paradigms for others to follow. Not only were they exemplary warriors but also master strategists that earn even our admiration. After all, if we still remember them with pride and admiration centuries later, it only means they were brilliant not only for their times but that they have stood the test of time.
Here is a list of the 10 greatest Indian kings and warriors that made resplendent history:
1. Emperor Ashoka (304 BC)
He ruled over an area of 3 million sq. Km, one of the largest territories Indian emperors ever called their kingdoms. He later had a change of heart and became a peace-loving person. He spread Buddhism outside Indian borders and is also the one to innovate many ideas that we have included in our cultures, such as the wheel in our national flag, or the Ashoka Chakra and the national emblem. Ashoka is respected not just in India but also in Asian countries.
2. Raja Raja Chola & Rajendra Chola (10th century AD)
This is a father-son duo among the greatest of Indian kings. Raja Raja Chola I ruled over South India between 985 and 1014 CE. Under his rule, the Chola kingdom expanded beyond South India, from Kalinga in the north to Sri Lanka in the south. He also launched naval campaigns that led to the capture of the Malabar Coast, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
His son, Rajendra Chola extended the empire to the Gangetic banks in the north and across the Indian Ocean in the West, thereby increasing its sphere of influence in India. He also conquered the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and he invaded Indonesia, Srivijaya in Malaysia and southern Thailand.
3. Maharana Pratap (May 9, 1540, to January 9, 1597)
A brave Hindu Rajput ruler from Rajasthan, he stood up valiantly against the Mughal kings, especially Emperor Akbar. He is famed for putting up a tough fight against the Mughal invaders to save his homeland from the clutches of the foreigners. Ultimately, he sacrificed his life for his motherland. His legendary horse, Chetak, supported him in all his military ventures.
4. Chandragupta Maurya (340 BC)
Indian history’s first emperor and the grandfather of Emperor Ashoka, he united the various kingdoms and territories of India and defended it against foreign invasion. He is remembered even today as one of India’s greatest warriors. He defeated the prime minister of Alexander the Great and earned a distinction for that in Greek and Latin records. One of Indian history’s greatest strategists, Chanakya, was his advisor who devised methods and strategies to defeat his enemies. He founded the Mauryan Empire.
5. Samudragupta & Chandragupta II/Vikramaditya: (4th century AD)
The son and successor of Chandragupta I of the Gupta Dynasty, Samudragupta was the greatest ruler of this dynasty. In fact, he was called the “Napolean of India.” He conquered the entire Indian subcontinent and through his efforts, he ushered in the Golden Age of India. He led many military campaigns and annexed the entire subcontinent for which he earned the title of Rajadhiraja. He was chosen to succeed his father though he wasn’t the eldest son.
6. Akbar (October 14, 1542, to October 27, 1605)
Emperor Akbar ruled the entire northern and central regions of India. He fought and won the Second Battle of Panipat against Hemu using amazing strategies. He initiated many military innovations that were later used by other kings. His warfare tactics were singularly well-strategized by Emperor Akbar in several wars which he won. He was known to be a fair emperor and treated non-Muslim subjects with great fairness and tolerance.
7. Krishnadevaraya (16th-century Vijayanagara Empire)
One of South India’s greatest kings, Krishnadevaraya united all the southern kingdoms and repelled Mughal invasions in the south. He also built beautiful temples and was a patron of arts.
8. Harshavardhana (7th-century Vardhana empire)
Harshavardhana came to the throne after the death of his elder brother. The star emperor of Central India, Harshavardhana consolidated most parts of central India after the Gupta empire came to its knees. A highly respected ruler, he successfully repelled the advances of emperors from the south such as Pullakesin in the north.
9. Sher Shah Suri (1486 to 1545)
Farid Khan, Sher Khan or Sher Shah Suri founded the Suri Empire in the Indian Subcontinent after taking over the Mughal Empire. He was considered the ablest army general in Indian history and the best strategist in military warfare. His physical prowess is also remembered in connection with him slaying a tiger bare-handed without any weapons.
10. Shivaji (17th century AD Maratha Empire)
The founder of the Maratha Empire and the greatest emperor of Western India, Shivaji ruled over the entire Indian subcontinent. He as a past master at guerrilla warfare and the peak of his reign, he had an army of 100,000 soldiers. His warfare strategies were considered mind-boggling and awe-inspiring. He put up a fight and resisted the might of the Mughals. He was crowned Chhatrapati for fighting against the Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur and the Mughal Empire and winning.
Each of these kings and warriors made their own unique impact on the course of Indian history. No wonder India today is a rich and diverse land of ethnicities, cultures, people, customs and traditions.