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Rani Padmavati history: Complete story of Rani Padmavati

There's a thing about history, we are never sure what exactly happened because often, the facts get mutated with the ravages of time and travel. Similarly, the story of Rani Padmavati, fondly referred to as Rani Padmini, is wrought in various versions, some claiming her to have been defeated by Ratan Sen in sword fighting that made her marry him, others suggesting that it was her talking parrot that led to the union of the two lovers.
If we talk about the current era of social media, discourses about history are innumerable and untraceable. Nevertheless, there's one thing that runs common in all the versions: she was a woman of unprecedented beauty. And the 'Johar Kund' in Chittorgarh where Rani Padmavati performed 'jauhar' (custom of self-immolation by women) more than seven hundred years ago is a place as significant as, let's say, the Western Wall or the Ka'bah in Mecca.

The jauhar of Rani Padmini has given her a goddess-like stature in the history of the state because it was among the first three major Sakas of Chittorgarh. The antagonist, hence, is Allauddin Khilji who attacked Chittor and led to Ratan Sen's execution.

When history begins informing a theocratic identity, sensitivities of people begins to run mountain high. If anything, even seemingly, threatens or distorts the roots, a sense of anger and victimhood is inevitable. Such sentiments have led to the protest against Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus, 'Padmavati'.

However, it isn't as simple as that. There are many, many versions to the history of Rani Padmini and here we look at all these versions.

It is interesting to note that earlier accounts of Alauddin Khilji's conquest of Chittorgarh make no mention of Rani Padmavati. The first mention that has been made of the queen is in the epic poem written in Awadhi language by Malik Mohammad Jayasi titled 'Padmavat'.

'Padmavat' by Malik Mohammad Jayasi

She was the daughter of the king of Singhal kingdom, former Sri Lanka, and was close friends with a talking parrot, a friendship that her father resented. So, the parrot was ordered to be executed but it somehow escaped and managed to reach the local king Ratan Sen. The parrot was all-praises for the beauty of Rani Padmavati and so, Ratan Sen determined to marry her. In his pursuance of her, he reached Singhal and a love chase followed. They couldn't meet but it led to a chain of events that ultimately got them together and married. However, an enmity ensued between Padmavati and the first wife of Ratan Sen, Nagmati.

Raghav Chetan, a Brahmin, was banished by Ratan Sen from his court for fraud. Raghav reached Alauddin Khalji, the sultan of Delhi and was full of praises for Rani Padmavati. Alauddin then got bent on obtaining her and hence, besieged Chittor. He failed to conquer and offered a fake peace treaty to Ratan Sen and deceitfully captured him. However, a sequence of events followed and Ratan Sen was released from his captivity by his loyal feudatories Gora and Badal who entered his fort by disguising as Rani Padmavati while they sat inside the palanquin. In the meanwhile, Rani Padmavati was proposed by Devpal, the king of Kumbhalner. When Ratan Sen returned, a fatal fight ensued between the two kings and they killed each other. As this happened, Alauddin attacked Chittor. Nagmati and Padmavati had no option but to perform sati, or self-immolation, on Ratan Sen's funeral pyre.


Another version of 'Padmavat' by Malik Mohammad Jayasi

Another version goes thus: Rani Padmini was well-trained in war strategies and battleship. This made her adept at the art of swordsmanship. During her swayamvar, she kept a condition that whoever would defeat the designated fighter in a sword battle would win her. However, the designated sword fighter was Padmini herself. Many princes and kings lost to her and it was only king Rawal Ratan Singh who won and she had to marry him.

Raghav Chetan was an artist in the royal court of Chittor and was secretly a sorcerer who killed many for his purposes. Once, Ratan Sen caught him red-handed and he was banished from the kingdom. This led him to Alauddin Khilji, praising Rani Padmini in front of him and Alauddin besieging the kingdom of Chittor. In this version, he only saw Padmini in a reflection as she didn't allow him to see her face to face. Alauddin deceitfully captured Ratan Singh. This led to the women of Chittor prepare for Jauhar while the fight was still going on. As many soldiers of Chittor's army died, Ratan Singh also died while fighting beside his men.

The women walked down a secret passage within the fort that led to the Jauhar Kund. Padmini was the first to jump in the Jauhar Kund while other women followed. Their cries and wailings were so loud that Alauddin ordered the passage to be closed permanently and it was reopened only after many years by the king of Chittor to honour the brave women.

James Tod's version

This version is quite different from the other versions. It mentions Padmini as the daughter of Hamir Sank, Chauhan ruler of Ceylon, while, Chittor was ruled by Lachhman Singh. Padmini married Bhim Singh and Alauddin besieged Chittor because he had heard many praises of her beauty. Alauddin treacherously captured Bhim Singh who was rescued by Gora and Badal, Padmini's uncle and his nephew respectively. However, the rescue operation led to the death of a very large number of Chittor soldiers and as a result, the women of Chittor, alongside Padmini, committed self-immolation.

'Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai' by Hemratan

This was a 1589-version of the story with the same historical figures but who had different motives. Rattan Sen reached Rani Padmini because he was bored of the food cooked by his wife Prabhavati. The Brahmin Raghav Vyas caught the two making love and was scared of king's anger and hence, escaped to Delhi which lead him to Alauddin Khilji. His praises for the beauty of Rani Padmini led Alauddin to besiege the island of Singhal and then Chittor. After he caught a glimpse of Padmavati, he captured Ratan Sen. Gora and Badal rescued the king from his captivity and Gora died while fighting in the battlefield.

Adaptations in literature

Yagneshwar Bandyopadhyay's 'Mewar' (1884), Jyotindranath Tagore's Sarojini ba Chittor Akraman (1875), Kshirode Prasad Vidyavinode's play 'Padmini' (1906) and Abanindranath Tagore's 'Rajkahini' (1909) are about the legendary history of Chittor and Rani Padmavati. While Bandyopadhyay presented Jauhar as a matter of protecting chastity against a clan he referred to as 'wicked Musalmans', the last two were retellings of James Tod's version. One thing that runs common in all these is the representation of Rani Padmavati as a heroic queen against a lusty 'Muslim' invader.

The controversies

Historians have pointed out that the mythical Rani Padmavati was born somewhere around 1500s and this time is approximately two hundred years away from the timeline of Alauddin Khilji. The version of Jayasi of the story of Padmavati has many loopholes and they are being pointed by professors and historians all across India. It seems like an ardent possibility that 'Padmavat' was only an excellent piece of fiction literature while having no roots in history.

Another fact that supports this claim is that the most reliable source of history of medieval India are considered to be the works of Ziauddin Barani, a writer during the court of Muhammad Tughlaq, Feroz Shah, and Amir Khusrau, an intellectual of Nizamuddin Auliya's court. Surprisingly, these works make no mention of Rani Padmavati.

Another version coming from Aziz Ahmed also states that it was Ghiyasuddin Khilji of Malwa who had taken a fancy for Rani Padmavati and not Alauddin Khilji. This theory is backed up by an inscription in Udaipur that says that Ghiyasuddin had been defeated by Gora and Badal, the Rajput chieftains.

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