India is the land where woman is a warrior and a saviour. She can fight alone to protect her son, like Jhansi ki Rani did, and can also sacrifice her life to save her dignity, like Rani Padmavati did.
This tale will once again make you realise that how difficult it has been to attain freedom, be it from foreign invaders or brutal emperors within the country. The flame to acquire and rule the land was spreading like wildfire and the history of Rani Padmavati is true witness of it.
Illustration of Rani Padmavati Wikimedia Commons
The land of the Rajputs will never cease to give you goosebumps. It is resplendent with tales of heroic battles, romantic sagas and treasure which remain mysterious till date. Here, the women are the real heroes who bear the respect of family and their kingdom till the end.
There are many versions about Padmavati. The first and most widely adapted has been Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s ‘Padmavat’, written in 1540 AD. But subsequent versions written by Rajputs, Colonial and Bengali historians present many different angles to the story. What is common in all of them is the fate of Padmavati.
Padmavati was a born in the Sinhala kingdom (modern day Sri Lanka) to king Gandharvsena and his wife Champahati. Since the early age she was given war-related training and with age she became an expert with swords. It became very difficult to find a suitable groom for her as Padmavati’s condition was that she will only marry the man who will defeat an assigned warrior against him.
Illustration of Raja Ratensen and Rani Padmavati. sillyconfusion.com
According to ‘Padmavat’, the Raja’s court was filled with talented artists and skilled warriors who would go to extremes at his single command. One of them was a painter called Raghav Chetan. He was known for making beautiful paintings for the king and also provide inside information of the fort.
However, he kept a major secret hidden from all, that he used to practice witchcraft. He was so aggressively involved in it that people who even accidentally came to know about this were brutally killed by him.
Raja Ratan Singh caught him red-handed and disgraced him in front of entire kingdom. This humiliation struck him hard and shattered his self-esteem. Raghav Chetan was determined to take revenge on the King and bring the kingdom to ashes.
He traveled to Delhi and settled in a forest where Alauddin Khilji used to come for hunting. Khilji’s monstrous cruelty needs no description. Attacking on other kingdoms with the motive of capturing their land and women was what he always yearned for.
Alauddin Khilji, one of the most horrible Islamic rulers of India. media2.intoday.in
Alauddin Khilji was immediately aroused and wanted to meet the Rani. He marched with his army to Chittor. But they were disappointed by the heavy fortification and the mighty army of the Raja. Khilji was so eager to meet the Rani that he sent a note to Raja Ratan addressing Padmavati as a sister.
Khilji’s army marching towards Chittor shareyouressays.com
On hearing this, Ratan asked Padmavati to meet her ‘brother’ but the more sensible Padmavati refused to meet him as she sensed a trap. On being persuaded again and again by her husband, she agreed to meet Khilji but only allowed him to see her reflection in a mirror.
The reflections in mirror seen here by actual figure at distant. sabguru.com
Alauddin bought his best men along with him on way to the fort and asked them to carefully look for loopholes and security pattern of the fort.
Upon looking at the reflection of Padmavati, Khilji’s lust was even more aroused and he wanted to secure the woman for himself. He made a plan and kidnapped Raja Ratan who was accompanying him on his way back to the camp. He kept him in a prison and demanded that Rani Padmavati should come and surrender herself if she wanted her husband back alive.
A Rajput version ‘Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai’ written by Hemratan in 1589 AD states that two brave warriors, Gora and Badal, rescued the King. The same is claimed in James Tod’s version. Other sources say that the nephew of Raja Ratan Sen collected all the force he could and made a plan to defeat the Sultan overnight.
What is common is that 150 palanquins were beautifully covered and they marched their way towards the camp of Alauddin Khilji. Looking at the palanquins from Chittor, Raja Ratan Sen was grieved that his queen and women of kingdom will be tortured but to everyone’s surprise, armed soldiers came out of the palanquin. They quickly freed the Raja and returned towards Chittor on horses that they took from Khiljii’s stable.
This incident triggered the violent rage of the arrogant and lustful Sultan.
Once again due to its heavy security they count enter the fort thus they laid siege on the fort. In the end the Rajputs had no other option but to open gates and fight with all their might. Bengali adaptations, especially Abanindranath Tagore’s Rajkahini (1909) tells us a completely different tale but with the same ending.
High-walled Chittorgarh fort. wildlifephotographytourindia.org
Knowing that Rajput men will lose this battle due to insufficient preparation and lack of army, Rani Padmavati took a brave decision.
Unitedly they made a choice of ending their lives by committing Jauhar than to become slaves of the Islamic invaders. A huge pyre was lit and Rani Padmavati was the first to jump in the fire swearing to the loyalty and strong character that she had.
All the other women followed her by jumping in the pyre. With all the women dead, men of Chittor had nothing to look forward to thus they fought furiously with Khilji’s army. Unfortunately, Raja Ratan and his army lost the battle.
All that Khilji and his army got after they entered Chittor fort were ashes of the women.
They are no more today but their memories are kept alive among us by various folk songs and ballads dedicated to them. This is an extraordinary story of ordinary kingdom whose king, queen and subjects knew nothing but loyalty and honor.