A volcano of anger erupted in Rajasthan after the movie Padmavat released in 2018. It stars Deepika Padukone. She plays the role of Rani Padmini or Padmavati. Her role is alongside Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. Many critics are of the view that distorted history is visible in the movie. Reality is not visible. The story revolves around the affair between Rani Padmini and Alauddin Khilji.
In this article, we will cover the facts and myths encapsulating the life of Rani Padmini. This discussion will happen alongside her own historical background.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote a poem titled Padmavat in 1540 CE. This revolved around the life and legends of 14th century queen of Mewar kingdom. This rani’s name is Padmini or Padmavati. Many historians have questioned the authenticity of this poem. This hitherto remains the basis of all the events related to this era.
Hemratan composed Gora Badal Padmini Chaupal in 1589. It is the first adaptation of the legend by Rajputs themselves. Here you find a marked difference in tales when compared with the one composed by Malik Jayasi. Rajput composition focuses more on protecting honor against Alauddin Khilji. It does not focus on the prominence of marriage in the Jayasi version of the legend. If you wish to know more about the legend, there is another version of it. It was by James Tod in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan in 1832. It is about the information gathered from the textual and oral tradition of Rajputs. You can also find the Bengali version of this legend.
Epic Poem by Alaol
This was before the time when James Tod’s writings reached the Subcontinent. Alaol was one of those Bengali poets who crafted an epic poem titled Padmavati. Once again you will find reference to immolation by the Hindu queen. She did it to protect her honor against Alauddin Khilji. An interesting point to note here is that there are various versions of it. There are various oral legends narrated by the locals. The difference lies in the details. In this case, you find the differences. The literary compositions are different from the royalist perspectives.
The oral traditions would highlight the resistance of Rani Padmini. This was against the tyrannical rule of Alauddin Khilji. The Muslim side of the narrative highlights the grandeur of Alauddin Khilji. He subjugated all his enemies and ruled the kingdom with his anger and might. Let us look into the narrative of Jayasi at the outset.
Padmini was the daughter of Gandharvsen who ruled the island of Singhal, now known as Sri Lanka. The king of Chittor, Sultan Ratansen got to know about Padmavati. This information came from a talking parrot named Hiraman. The sultan enjoyed the description of the talking parrot. He crafted a beautiful portrait of queen Padmini in his imagination. Soon, he left his kingdom to pursue his dream of finding queen Padmini. He traveled across the seas with the help of the talking parrot. Ratansen finally completed his journey. Success came to him! to find the woman of her dreams. He won the heart of queen Padmavati and brought her back to his kingdom. Indeed the journey was not easy. Nor were the people of Mewar. Ratansen had to overcome various obstacles. This happened because he wanted to reach the lands of his dominion.
Now you will be wondering how Sultan Alauddin got to know about Padmavati. One of the brahmin scholars received accusation of misconduct. He got banished by Ratansen. This scholar reached the lands of Sultan Alauddin. Here he came before the ruler. When he described the lands and beauty of Ratansen’s kingdom, he could never miss the beauty of rani Padini. Sultan Alauddin starts his quest to conquer Chittor and win the heart of Padmini. Ratansen defended his honor. Sultan Alauddin succeeded in his conquest. But, he failed to win the hand of Padmavati as she immolated herself in the name of protecting her honor and lands.
As highlighted, this is not the only legend known about Padmini. Jayasi’s poem disseminated the Sufi culture, norms, and traditions across the subcontinent. We find many offshoots of the main narratives. These happened in the time between the 16th and 19th centuries. All the manuscripts are part of the Sufi tradition.
You remember the talking parrot named Hiraman. One composition revolves around the story of the parrot alone. It speaks of the difficulties it faced. This parrot, according to the narrated legends, was very close to queen Padmini. The extent of friendship was evident by the two studying the Hindu scriptures known as Vedas. Queen Padmini’s father realized the closeness between her daughter and the parrot. He got suspicious and announced his new order of killing the bird. Hiraman got scared and in his fear bade farewell to the young princess and flew to save his life. Somehow, Hiraman got the attention of a bird catcher and this person sold it to a Brahmin. The Brahmin brought this bird to Chittor. The talking ability impressed King Ratan Sen. So, He purchased it.
Hiraman Goes to Ratan Sen’s Court
Ratan Sen heard all the praise about Rani Padmini. He took his 16000 followers to travel across the seas and find the queen and make her his own. The bird informed Padmini about Ratan Sen and his lust for Padmini. She went back to the palace without meeting the king. Ratan Sen got desolated for not finding an opportunity to meet Padmini. He decided to immolate himself. In his state of discontent, the two deities, Parvati and Shiva proscribed him advice. Shiva advised Ratan Sen to start an attack on the royal fortress of Singhal along with his followers.
To their misfortune, the armies of Singhal kingdom defeated them. So, they imprisoned them. Ratan Sen along with his soldiers was near execution. One of his royal bards revealed that he was king Ratan Sen, the king of Chittor. The decree of execution was revisited. Gandharv Sen offered the hand of Padmini to Ratan Sen. That was not all. 16000 women of Singhal had to marry soldiers of Ratan Sen’s army.
Ratan Sen’s Love for Queen Padmini
One day Ratan Sen got to know from a messenger that Nagmati, his first time long for him to return. Ratan Sen got so emotional that he got firm to start his journey back to Chittor alongside Padmini. Along with them were the 16000 followers with their Padmavati companions. Ratan Sen became a victim of his pride in the hands of the ocean god. This was his test along with his army of 16000 soldiers. A storm hit them. At the end, only Ratan Sen along with queen Padmini were the sole survivors of the incident.
Ocean God saved Ratan Sen. The next test was even more demanding than the previous one. Lacchmi tested Ratan Sen’s love for queen Padmini. He disguised herself in the queen’s appearance. Lakshmi in the guise of Padmini came before Ratan Sen but he adored her charms. Ratan Sen received gifts after passing this test. Soon, he reunited with his beloved to return back to Chittor.
Raghav Chetan, one of Ratan Sen’s courtiers, was guilty. Ratan Sen banished him from the kingdom. He reached the court of Alauddin Khalji who was the sultan of Delhi. As he described the beauty of Ratan Sen’s wife, Padmavati, Alauddin Khalji got firm in winning Padmavati. At the initial encounter, Ratan Sen agreed to offer tribute to the upcoming Sultan but there was no question of involving Padmavati. Alauddin Khalji made his attempt to annex the Chittor fort but failed to acquire the place.
Finally, he offered a peace treaty to deceive Ratan Sen and captured him for taking to Delhi. Padmaavati asked for help from the loyal feudatories of Ratan Sen, known in the narratives as Badal and Gora. They prepared their followers in the guise of queen Padmini and her fellow companions and took the journey towards Delhi. They all got successful and Ratan Sen escaped to reach safely back to Delhi. However, Alauddin forces killed Gora.
The King of Kumbhalner, Devpal
Before the return of Ratan Sen in Chittor, the king of Kumbhalner, Devpal was also infatuated with the beauty of Padmavati. He took the imprisonment of Ratan Sen as an opportunity to offer his own proposal to Padmavati. Although this proposal was refused, it did turn into a duel between Ratan Sen and Devpal when he got aware of this proposal and took it as an insult. This one to one combat got lethal and both the kings killed each other.
This war weakened Chittor and the neighboring regions and Alauddin took this as another opportunity to annex the region. Although Ratan Sen’s army tried their utmost to defend the fort, the Alauddin’s army was strong and they took control of the empty fortress as most of the soldiers got killed against the Alauddin’s forces. Padmavati, Nagmati and the other women of Chittor committed jauhar which refers to mass self immolation meant to protect the honor of their region by not falling into the hands of the enemy.
In case you got too indulged with the above version of the narrative, there is another parallel universe where the events appear to be a little different. Hemratan recorded it in Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai. But the outcome is almost the same. Prabhavati narrated that the wife of Ratan Sen was an excellent cook. However, Rajput king was discontented with the meal she prepared for the king on one particular day. Prabhavati got furious and gave a challenge to the king to find a woman who is more beautiful and can cook better than her. This became the reason for Ratan Sen to start his journey alongside his attendant to search for the woman.
An ascetic told the king that the woman he is seeking can be found on Singhal island. Another ascetic helped to cross the seas when he finally encountered the king of Singhal. The duel was based on a game of chess that Ratan Sen won against the king of Singhal island. The king offered his sister Padmini’s hand to Ratan Sen whom he happily accepted alongside some precious gifts. The dowry included half possession of the kingdom along with 2000 companions, 2000 elephants and 4000 horses.
Alauddin Khalji, The King of Delhi
There was a man named Raghav Vyas who accidentally interrupted Padmini and Ratan Sen. As he feared the wrath of Ratan Sen for his unintentional act, he fled to Delhi where he got received at the court of Alauddin Khalji. When the king of Delhi came to know about the mesmerizing beauty of Padmini women, he launched an expedition towards Singhal island to conquer the place and win all the padmini women as trophies. To his fortune, most of his soldiers were drowned and he barely survived the storm.
Although he got the tribute from the King of Singhal, he got disappointed not to find any padmini women in the vicinity. He realized that there is only one padmavati woman who is found in the mainland and she lives in Chittor. Sultan Alauddin prepared an army of around three million soldiers to annex Chittor. He captured Ratan Sen as he caught the glimpse of queen padmavati’s beauty.
The Bravery of Badal and Goru
All the nobles got frightened by the military might of Alauddin and thought of kneeling down before the new ruler as he already captured Ratan Sen. They even thought of handing over Padmini to Alauddin. However, there were only two brave fellow warriors of Chittor armies, Badal and Goru who stood firm against the Alauddin’s army and made a strategy to help Ratan Sen escape from Delhi. The two alongside their other fellow rajputs pretended to bring Padmavati to Alauddin’s own camp themselves after being subjugated and making a peace treaty. To his surprise, it was not Padmavati with her fellow companions but the Rajput armies concealed in palanquins. The warriors rescued the king and brought him safely back to Chittor. However, Gora died fighting against Alauddin’s army. Gora’s wife was unable to bear the pain of losing her husband and committed self immolation.
In case you still have doubts the actual legend, we have more resources to give you a better picture of the story. James Tod is a renowned British writer of the 19th century. He published his compilation as Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. As mentioned by Tod himself, he used many sources. This includes persons, inscriptions and manuscripts. These compiled into one single legend that he could publish after verification. Still, no exact sources were available in his book. He did not take any reference from Jayasi’s version of the legend.
This indicates that the majority part of his composition is about the local legends. He follows the version narrated and recorded by Jain and Hindu literary accounts. Gyanchandra was the Jain monk who has helped Tod in reaching all the primary sources and data related to Padmini. If we dive deeper into the legend as narrated by James Tod, Padmini was the daughter of the Ceylon ruler, Hamir Sank.
The Conquest of Chittor
At that time, Chittor’s ruler was Lachhman Singh whose uncle married Padmini. As Alauddin was aware of her beauty, he came to conquer Chittor and win her as a trophy. But, negotiations led to an agreement. Alauddin would be pleased only to see Padmini’s reflection through a mirror. Rafputs agreed and made Padmini sit in a room which was next to a water tank. When Alauddin saw a glimpse of Padmini’s reflection, his heart got even more infatuated with a desire to have Padmini.
He deceives all the rajputs by taking Bhimsi hostage on their arrival at the army camp. The captors demanded Padmini for releasing and returning the rajput king.
Ambush Planned by Padmini
In the meanwhile, Padmini plans an ambush to deteriorate Alauddin’s plot to have all the padmini women. The ambush planned alongside her uncle Gora and his nephew Badal rescued Bhimsi. The two informed Alauddin that Padmini would arrive with her companions to surrender. But, the reality was the arrival of Chittor soldiers. They were ready to defeat the entire army of Alauddin and help Bhimsi escape to Chittor. Gora and Badal were successful in their whole plot. But, their whole plan infuriated Alauddin.
He attacked Chittor with even more brutal force. Bhimsi along with all the other Chittor forces fought till their death. They were defending the Chittor fortress. But, they were not a match against the armies of Alauddin. In the end, queen Padmini along with her fellow females had no other choice. She defended her honor by self-immolation. As a result, Alauddin got nothing except the empty walls of the Chittor fortress. After the release of this legend, some other resources corrected the history records. In particular, they talked about the person ruling Chittor. It was not Lachhman Singh. According to resources and inscriptions, the name was Ratan Singh.
Despite all these narrations, the element of doubt still persists. This happened especially after the release of the Bollywood movie in 2018. Most critics have censured the romance portrayed between Padmavati and Alauddin. They say this was never the case according to the legends. Padmini committed self-immolation alongside other Padmini women. It was for safeguarding their honor against the tyrannical rule of Alauddin.