The story of Rani Padmini or Padmavati should not be rejected as a myth

Posted on 2018-01-07 09:44:22 in Medieval History of India


It can be questioned whether there was any queen named Padmavati or not due to lack of documented historical evidence but the existence of King Rawal Ratan singh, Khilji conquest of Chittor, and jauhar committed by Ratan singh's queen along with other royal women can't be questioned as there are many historical evidence.

Almost all the left leaning writers are hell bent to prove Rani Padmavati as a fictional character. Some has even called people not to glorify this fictional character as she chose Jauhar over life (talking about The Quint's video).

The existence of Padmavati can be debated but nobody can be 100% sure whether she existed or not. So let's look at the historical evidence available today.

1. Padmavati palace in chittor

The palace on the right is where Padmini is supposed to have stood.

According to Archaeological Survey of India, Padmini Palace is named after Rani Padmini, the beautiful queen of Rana Ratan Singh, the palace stands at the northern periphery of the Padmini pond. It is said that it was from here Alauddin Khilji took a glimpse of legendary beauty of Rani Padmini through a mirror and subsequently attacked the fort. A three storeyed pavilion known as Jal Mahal stands in the middle of the pond. 

2. The place where Jauhar was committed

According to locals, Jauhar was committed at this place

There is no validity of facts (historical evidence) whether Alauddin Khilji actually saw the queen or not but we can't question the existence of King Rawal Ratan singh and her queen (we will come back to it later). 

Now talking about Jauhar, it was a common practice in ancient India to commit Jauhar by Royal women to protect their honour. So we can't question the authenticity of this practice either. 

Jayasi's Poem Padmavat

Now let's talk about the poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540AD. Jayasi’s Padmavat was based on Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji's attack on Chittor in 14th century, nearly 200 years after the attack actually took place. As per the poet, Rani Padmavati was born in the Sinhala Kingdom to King Gandharvsena and his chief consort Champavati.

A parrot named Hiraman is said to have played a pertinent role in spreading the tales of her beauty to lands far and wide. This could be the reason King Ratan Rawal Singh, the ruler of Chittor got smitten with her, despite being a married man. What followed was Padmini’s swayamvar, where Ratan Singh won over the princess after defeating her in a sword game.

King Ratan Rawal Singh had a lovely palace adorned with some of the most talented minds of the time. Among them was Raghav Chetan – a deft artist and the King’s gateway to the happenings inside the palace. But Chetan had a dark side to him. He was a sorceror who secretly practiced black magic inside the palace to his own benefit. The King caught him red-handed and thereby banished him from the court. This, according to Jayasi, was the beginning of the revenge tragedy.

Raghava ran away to Delhi and decided to take revenge by provoking Khilji to attack Chittor. After reaching Delhi, Raghava told Khilji about the unparalleled beauty of Rani Padmini. That prompted Khilji to attack Chittor, but he found the fort to be heavily defended. So he laid siege to the fort and forced Ratansen to negotiate with him.

Desperate to capture the beautiful Padmini, Khilji sent a word to Ratansen about him wanting to meet her. The Raja asked Padmini, who flatly refused. However, on being persuaded by her beleaguered husband, Rani Padmini agreed to let Khilji see her in the mirror.

The mirror in Chittor in which Khilji is said to have seen Padmini’s reflection 

Note : According to Govind Singh Khagarot, head of Karni Sena's Chittorgarh arm, and many other locals, Mirror story is pure fiction, were put up for Nehru's visit'

Next, Khilji entered the fort with a group of select warriors who had observed the fort's defences on their way to the palace. On seeing Padmini in the mirror, Khilji decided that she must be his.

While returning to his camp, Khilji deceitfully kidnapped Ratansen and took him as prisoner. Thereafter, he informed the Rajput Sardars that Padmini should be handed over to him if they wanted to see their king alive.

The Rajput generals, led by two gutsy warriors, Gora and Badal, who were related to Padmini, decided to beat Khilji at his game. They sent out a word that Padmini would be handed over the next morning.

At the crack of dawn, 150 palanquins (in which royal ladies were carried in medieval times) left the fort and made their way to Khilji's camp. The palanquins stopped before a tent where King Ratansen was held prisoner. To his surprise, armed Rajputs jumped out from the palanquins, freed Ratansen and galloped away to Chittor, riding the horses grabbed from Khilji's stable.

Khilji was furious. He ordered the army to storm Chittorgarh. However, the army could not break into the fort. Due to a prolonged siege, food supplies for the troops were running out. So Ratansen opened the fort gates, and Rajputs rode out to fight. They were overpowered, and achieved martyrdom. Rani Padmini and wives of thousands of warriors preferred jauhar (fire is lit, and women jump into the flames) over losing their honour to Khilji's army.

When Khilji entered the fort, all that he found were ashes of these brave women. Their sacrifice has been kept alive by Bards in their songs, where they praise women who preferred supreme sacrifice to dishonour.

I should remind you that locals don't belive this story at all. Source

Now let's dive further to validate Jayasi poem.

Contradiction of Jayasi poem 

1. What the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan's book on Indian History says?

In January 1303, Khilji set out on his memorable campaign for the conquest of Chittor. He received strong resistance from the Rajputs under Rana Ratan Singh. The Rajputs offered heroic resistance for about seven months and then, after the women had perished in the flames of jauhar, the fort surrendered on August 26, 1303.

Whilst later writers like Abu-l Fazl, Haji-ud-Dabir (note these two authors use Padmini not as a name, but as a woman possessing special attributes) have accepted the story that the sole reason for invasion of Chittor was Khilji’s desire to get possession of Padmini, many modern writers are inclined to reject it altogether. They point out that the episode of Padmini was first mentioned by Malik Jayasi in 1540 A.D. in his poem Padmavat, which is a romantic tale rather than historical work. Further, the later day writers who reproduced the story with varying details, flourished long after the event, but their versions differed from one another on essential points.

2. Contradictions in Lanka story  : In Padmavat, Jayasi wrote that Padmini was the daughter of Raja Gandharva Sen of Sri Lanka. But the name Raja Gandharva Sen is nowhere found in Sinhalese history. The names of Lanka rulers at the time were Vijayabahi - III (1220-24), Parakramabahu - II (1234-69), Interregnum (1283-1302) and Vijayabahu V (1325-26 to 1344-45). Source

In Padmavat, there is a reference to a parrot who flew all the way from Sri Lanka to Chittor as a messenger to inform Raja Ratansen, or Rawal Ratan Singh, about the beauty of Padmini, daughter of the Sinhala ruler Gandharvasen, making Ratansen travel all the way to the Sinhala kingdom to win the hand of Padmini. This narrative lacks credibility since Lanka never had a king by that name.

3. Amir Khusro, the court poet of Khilji, who accompanied him during the Chittor attack, did not write about Padmini, nor did he allude any episode to her in his book Twarikh-e-Allai

Now if we trust Amir Khusro book, then Padmini didn't exist. But we must remember, history is written by victors. Court poets and writers often followed the instructions of the ruling kings. 

Some scholars, such as Ashirbadi Lal SrivastavaDasharatha Sharma, and Mohammad Habib, have suggested that Amir Khusrau makes a veiled reference to Padmini in Khaza'in ul-Futuh.

According to the Islamic mythology (Quran 27.22-28), King Solomon once set out on an expedition with a vast retinue which include a bird called hudhud. Once, while he was encamped, he noticed that hudhud was absent, and asked it to appear or be punished. Subsequently, Hudhud appeared before him, and told him that it had visited the territory of Sheba. It described Queen Bilkis of Sheba as an intelligent and powerful woman, whose subjects worshipped the Sun. Solomon then sent a message to the Queen, asking her to submit before him and her subjects to worship Allah instead of the Sun. The Queen sent some gifts to Solomon after consulting with her advisors, but the Solomon declared that he would not accept anything less than the personal submission of the queen. The queen ultimately adopted Islam

While describing Alauddin's attack on Chittor, Amir Khusrau calls Alauddin the Solomon of their time. He further states that this Solomon's army attacked the fort that reminded them of Sheba. Khusrau goes on to call himself a hudhud bird in Alauddin's vast retinue. 

However other historians, such as Kishori Saran Lal and Kalika Ranjan Qanungo, have rejected the interpretation that Amir Khusrau's reference is about Padmini.

Based on above incidents it fair enough to say that Jayasi's poem Padmavat is a figment of his poetic imagination. It has also been argued by historians that the invasion of Chittor was the natural expansionist policy of Khilji. 

It can be questioned whether there was any queen named Padmavati due to lack of historical evidence but the existence of King Rawal Ratan singh, Khilji conquest of Chittor, and jauhar committed by Ratan singh's queen along with other royal women can't be questioned as there are many historical evidence.

If we think rationally, it is hard to believe that locals started believing about Rani Padmini after a Poet wrote a fictional story.

It has also been argued that Padmini word was used instead of the real name of the queen to portray her beauty. So calling Rani Padmini will always refer to the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh whose existence is well documented.

Whether one wants to believe in the existence of Rani Padmini or not it's their choice but one should not insult the belief of local people of Chittor by Saying the character of Padmavati (or Padmini) and her act of committing Jauhar to protect her honour is fake because there are enough historical evidence available about Khilji conquest of Chittor and king's wives opting for jauhar. We can only debate about the name of the queen, not her existence. However the intentions of Khilji for attacking Chittor will always be debated.

Reference : Rani Padmini, Wikipedia, Swarajya



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