As the release date of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali Movie ‘Padmavati’ is coming near, protests are taking place everywhere day by day. Padmavati story like any other story has undergone many mutations. The Padmavat a book of poetry by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi is perhaps the first available text to be grafted upon a historical event. Padmini… Read More »

As the release date of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali Movie ‘Padmavati’ is coming near, protests are taking place everywhere day by day. Padmavati story like any other story has undergone many mutations. The Padmavat a book of poetry by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi is perhaps the first available text to be grafted upon a historical event.

Padmini (appearing in some text as Padmavati) was born in 1540 in the text of Jayasi, 224 years after Alauddinkhilji’s death. Khilji defeated the Rana of Chittor in 1303 and died in 1316. No one by the name Padmavati or Padmini existed then at that time. And yes, Jayasi was the resident of Jayas in Avadh, a very long way from Chittor.

Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi

Most of the tales in Padmavat feature a heroic king’s quest who successful thwarted Mongol invention of India, strictly enforcing low prices of commodities in the markets for the common people, the conquest of large territories etc. but it is nowhere mentioned that he had a lust for women. There are just two historical facts relevant to the story, Khilji’s attack on Chittor and Rana Ratansen defeat.

In Jayasi’s poem, a parrot, Hiraman, tells the king of Chittor, Ratansen, of the incomparable beauty of the princess of Sinhal, Padmavati. Hiraman’s description of her beauty is enough to initiate desire in the mind of Ratansen to attain Padmavati. He was already married to Nagmati but then he leaves her behind. Becomes a yogi, and heads out, along with his men who also become yogis, they journey to Sinhal. With great difficulty, and only after he is ready to give up his life for the quest, Ratansen marries and united with Padmavati. However, love for his natal home and suffering of Nagmati pulls him to Chittor, bringing Padmavati along with him.

While Ratansen was building peace between his first wife Nagmati and her new wife Padmavati, a fraudulent brahman, expelled from Ratansen’s court, it was told that the brahman was performing black magic. Seeks revenge by going to Delhi and informing Khilji of Padmavati’s stunning beauty. Admiring Padmavati’s beauty in his mind, Khilji decides to march upon Chittor to demand Padmavati. Ratansen refuses to part with her. With the Sultan’s forces closing in, Ratansen dies of injuries sustained in a fight with a Rajput rival.

Padmavati and Nagmati commit Sati on Ratansen’s funeral pyre while the remaining Rajput men go into the battlefield to be martyred. When somehow Khilji manages to finally conquer the fortress, all that remains of Padmavati are her ashes. His victory is thus rendered hollow.

Other Sets of Stories

But then, beside recorded and verifiable historical fact, there are many sets of stories too, culturally constructed in popular memory, told once, retold and yet again retold across the land and over the centuries. Not trained to differentiate between historical fact from cultural memory, these types of things acquire status for history for common people.

Some composition copies clarify the Sufi import of the story by alluding to Chittor as the body, Ratansen the soul, Padmini the mind, Hiraman the guide, and Khilji as an illusion. Portrayals of Khilji in a polyvalent content, like the Padmavat and in future cycles of the story at that point ought not to be taken as authentic. The chronicled Sultan AlauddinKhilji, as we probably know him from records of his chance, was a talented statesman who fortified the wall of the Delhi Sultanate, extended the frontiers of his kingdom, and proficiently shielded north India from the growing Mongol domain, an accomplishment that a lot of his peers couldn’t achieve.

Concerning Padmavati, there is no chronicled prove that there was such a figure in Chittor when it was blockaded, or that want for a lady played any role in Khilji’s interest in conquering the fortress. Any portrayal of Padmavati/Padmini in this way can’t be a twisting of history since, in our present condition of knowledge, she never existed.

Clarified by Historian

A student of history Ramya Sreenivasan has precisely shown in her book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen, in each retelling, the shapes of the story and the key characters within it, including Padmini, changed. Beginning, in Jayasi’s version and its interpretation into Urdu and Persian between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Khilji was seeking Padmini with a view to wedding her. Amid the same period in Rajasthan, the accentuation changed to the defence of Rajput respect.

Likewise, by the eighteenth century, after the decline of the Mughal realm yet before colonial expansion, the tale of Padmavati was reframed in Mewar to slander AlauddinKhilji, additionally emphasising his Muslim character and introducing the conflict between the Rajputs of Chittor and the Sultan of Delhi as the protection of Hindus against an infringing, sullied Islam.

It was in Bengal in the nineteenth century, Colonel James Tod, Political Agent in Rajputana, English East India Company, was guided in his endeavour to compose the first definitive history of the region. He picked data from the scope of pre-colonial sources available at that time. He fused the dignified Rajasthani Padmini the persona of a heroic queen committing ‘Jauhar’ to spare herself from the lust of Muslim intruder Khilji. As the most earlier imaginings of an Indian country, and a Hindu country, started to come to fruition, Padmini turned into a token of the prudent and pure Hindu lady that should have been at its heart.

In this admired frame, her choice to obliterate her own particular body was commended for the conservation of her ‘respect and honour through which was listed the respect of her husband, her family, her community, her religion, and now, her country. So, born as a figment of the poetic imagination, she is free to be reshaped in the hands of different creators and writers.

Who Will Gain from the Protest

The time has come to think, as Ms Sreenivasan has shown, that while the Rajputs were articulating a new claim upon the Padmavat in the 17th century, other Padmini tales continued to be composed. A Sufi migrant from Bengal to the Arakan court, in today’s Myanmar, composed his own version of the text in Bengali.There have then been many Padmavati, just as there are many Ramayana’s. Instead of protesting we should thank Sanjay Leela Bhansali that at least he made people google about Padmavati. Before this only 15-20% of people in our country know about Padmini or Padmavati.

We do not have any serious book written on this issue, all we have is screaming on news hour’s debate on TVs and protest by different non-historian politically motivated people. And most of these are the people who did not have any knowledge of history. The only thing which we can deduce is that this is just politics, there is much to be gained by the political parties from this strategy.

Whether political parties win or lose the election they will continue to fool people and they will remain fixated to the Hindu-Muslim Equations, From Khilji to Aurangzeb, to Taj Mahal to Padmavati, and the question of Poverty, corruption, economic, development, equity and riots between the community will remain the same forever.

– Subham Saurabh

Content Writer @ Legal Bites

Updated On 17 March 2020 12:03 PM GMT
Subham Saurabh

Subham Saurabh

Himachal Pradesh National Law University

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