Protesters of a fringe group, Karni Sena, stalled the shooting and vandalised the sets of Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati at Jaigarh Fort. They alleged that the movie “distorted” history. It features Deepika Padukone as ‘Padmavati’ and Ranveer Singh as ‘Alauddin Khilji’. In his previous movie “Bajirao Mastani”, the history was slanted. Though, Bhansali gave disclaimer stating that the story is conceived to entertain viewers and may not have any relevance with the history. Brahmins from Pune were more mature and cultured, so they had not registered any protest against the films. On the other hand, Rajputs are known to be warriors to the core and expecting maturity on mostly twisted facts under the sweet name of freedom of expression in Bollywood, the backlash was expected. Still, we should condemn violence.
While any such attack deserves to be denounced, it is a fact that the film industry is twisting the history and trying to rewrite it in a deliberately offensive way. The story of Rani Padmini, who killed herself rather than be captured by invading Islamic forces, has been totally rewritten for the screen to show love scenes between the two. Bhansali may be a renowned director but he should have a responsibility to present the history accurately and not to play with the facts and in such obscene levels. This might be the reason, Rajput groups, the very own caste-based outfits warned director against filming Padmavati with ‘distorted facts’. Meanwhile, after the attack five persons were arrested under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), were released as no formal complaint was made against them by the victim.
The account of Alauddin Khilji’s attack on Chittorgarh (1303 A.D.) is based on “Khazain Ul Futuh” (Treasures of Victory) written by the court poet Amir Khusru, who accompanied him during the campaign. The writing neither mentions Padmini nor the story that we know today. Around 1540 A.D, more than two hundred years after the said incident, poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote an epic titled “Padmavat” in which he created the story of Padmini as we know it today. His writing was so compelling that the later poets and court historians took it as it is and thus it flowed on for centuries and approved as ‘history’. Modern historians sharply differ on the account presented by Jayasi, as there is no other contemporary evidence to corroborate the story. It should be brought to light, for people in general and students in particular, that such stories as of ‘Padmini’ do not have clear historical evidence.
Maharani Padmini or Padmavati is a legendary queen mentioned in ‘Padmavat’ by Jayasi. According to the poem, she was the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor. Maharani Padmini was known mostly for her divine beauty, and Jauhar (self-immolation) in 1303A.D, the year Alauddin Khilji attacked Chittor. However, her historical existence is a matter of debate among historians. Padmini or Padmavati spent her life under the care of her father Gandharvsena and mother Champavati.
Padmini had a talking parrot named “Hiramani”. Her father arranged a swayamvara (request to marry her by showing their eligibility) for his beautiful daughter to an able man and invited all the Hindu kings and Rajputs. King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor hearing of Padmini’s attributes went to the Swayamvara regardless of having multiple wives. There, he won her hand by defeating another eligible king, Malkhan Singh. He returned to Chittor with his beautiful queen Padmini.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sultanate of Delhi, set up by Muslim Turkic nomadic invaders, was growing in power. The Sultans made repeated attacks on Mewar. It is famously said and believed that Alauddin Khilji attacked Chittorgarh to have Maharani Padmini all for himself, as describe by Jayasi’s poem, written in Awadhi.
King Rawal Ratan Singh, a brave and noble warrior, had many skilled and talented artists in his court, one of whom was a musician named Raghav Chetan. But what people did not know was that Raghav Chetan was also a practitioner of magic and spells. He used this hidden talent to defeat his rivals. Unfortunately, he was caught red-handed while practicing magic, which greatly displeased the king. Raghav Chetan was thus banished from the kingdom after he was publicly humiliated when forced to sit on a donkey with black paint on his face and ride around the capital. This harsh punishment earned Ratan Singh an uncompromising enemy. Sulking after his humiliation, Raghav Chetan went to Delhi with the aim of trying to incite the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji, with a reason to attack Chittor.
The Sultan on reaching Mewar was anxious to see the beautiful queen Padmini of whose beauty he had heard a lot. As a guest to the kingdom, he requested for a meeting with the queen. Padmini however, suspicious of Alauddin’s demand, declined the request. King Ratan Singh then tried to talk to his queen into agreeing for as he knew the strength of the Delhi Sultanate and the Khilji Dynasty. Padmini then put a condition that Aladdin should see only her reflection that too in the presence of her husband, herself accompanied by a hundred female servants. When Khilji saw her, he was so smitten by her beauty that he wanted Padmini for himself. He thus, decided to attack Chittorgarh. He believed that if he killed Ratan Singh then queen will be of his.
The Rajputs fought valiantly in the battle, but lost. Alauddin Khilji, all triumphant when reached the fort was shocked. To his great dismay and disbelief all the royal women including Padmini had committed ‘jauhar’. The women who performed ‘jauhar’ perished but their memory has been kept alive till date in the bards and songs which glorify their valour. To protect their self-respect and honour, they jumped into the fire pyre.
Other than the epic written by Jayasi, there is no other historical evidence to this entire saga. However, ladies like Padmini were pride of their own culture and carrying the pride and legacy of Rajputana culture. Portraying her romancing with Alauddin, which is not even remotely mentioned in poetry, goes against religious sentiments. Filmmakers must exercise extra caution while narrating sensitive iconic historical characters.
With Inputs from Various Sources
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