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MINAL DEVI (11th Century)

Minal Devi or Mayanalla, a famous queen of eleventh century Gujarat, is remembered as an able and just administrator. She was the daughter of Jayakeshin, a king of the Kadamba dynasty in Karnataka and was married to Karna I, a Chalukya king of Anahillapatanawada who met an early death, leaving his queen and young son Siddharaja Jayasimha. Minal Devi acted as regent for her son, who went on to become a legendary hero. An incident described in Rajashekhar Suri’s Prabandha Kosha testifies to the fact that she inspired him in many of his warlike exploits. She also managed affairs of state, built several monuments and lakes and was responsible for the remission of the tax on pilgrims visiting the Somnath temple. Two lakes built in her period were Minalasar or Munsar near Viramgam and Malva at Dhavalakka or Dholka in Ahmedabad. According to legend, there was a house owned by a woman at the proposed site of the lake Malva, which needed to be demolished to give the lake a regular shape. The queen offered a big sum of money to the woman for her house, but she refused, saying, ‘I shall be famous with your lake,’ thus threatening to sacrifice her life if her house was touched. The queen did not coerce her, showing herself to be a just ruler. This event led to the Gujarati saying: ‘If you want to see justice, go to Dholka and have a look at Malva lake.’

Minal Devi is mentioned with high esteem in contemporary literature. A Sanskrit play entitled Mudritakumudachandra-prakarana depicts a learned dispute between the Digambaras and Svetambaras, the two major Jain sects. One topic in this dispute is whether a woman can achieve salvation. The Svetambaras here claim that women possessing sattwa (identity: an inner quality of goodness) could attain salvation and cite Sita from mythology and Minal Devi in the court of Siddharaja Jayasimha as examples.
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