Legends of Rani Padmini
Numerous texts from the 16th century provide varying accounts of the life of Rani Padmini. The earliest of these texts is the Padmavat, composed in the Awadhi language around 1540 CE by the Sufi composer Malik Muhammad Jayasi. It is believed that this composition was originally penned in the Persian script. Interestingly, the accounts of Rani Padmini's life written by Muslim court historians in the 14th century, describing Alauddin Khalji's conquest of Chittorgarh in 1302 CE, make no mention of her existence. However, Jain texts dating from the 14th to the 16th century, such as Nabinandan Jenudhar, Chitai Charitra, and Rayan Sehra, have mentioned Rani Padmini.
Subsequently, a multitude of literary works that recount her story emerged, and they can be broadly categorized into three main groups:
Persian and Urdu Adaptations: Between the 16th and 19th centuries, at least 12 translations or adaptations of Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padmavat were produced in Persian and Urdu. These adaptations remained faithful to Jayasi's tradition of love poetry. In the 20th century, additional Urdu versions continued to follow Jayasi's narrative style.
Rajput Ballads: In 1589 CE, Hemratan composed Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai, which stands as the first Rajput adaptation of the legend. It portrayed the story as a "true tale." Between the 16th and 18th centuries, several more Rajput versions of the Padmavati legend were compiled in present-day Rajasthan, often with the patronage of Rajput chiefs. These adaptations, in contrast to Jayasi's focus on courtship and marriage, emphasized the valor and honor of defending their kingdom against Alauddin Khalji.
Bengali Adaptations: The medieval Bengali poet Alaol composed the epic poem Padmavati. Starting from the late 19th century, several Bengali versions of the legend emerged after a British scholar’s work on the subject reached Calcutta, the capital of British India. These narratives depicted Padmavati as a Hindu queen who immolated herself to protect her honor against a Muslim invader.
Padmavat by Malik Muhammad Jayasi
"Padmavat" by Malik Muhammad Jayasi is a notable literary work that presents a captivating narrative rooted in the 16th century. In this rendition, Padmavati is introduced as the daughter of Gandharvsen, the ruler of the island kingdom of Sinhala (Sri Lanka). The tale unfolds as a parrot becomes the messenger, conveying to Chittor's king, Ratansen, the exquisite beauty of Padmavati.
Ratansen, deeply moved by the parrot's vivid descriptions, takes a momentous decision. He abdicates his throne, choosing the path of asceticism, and embarks on a remarkable journey following the parrot's guidance. His quest takes him across seven seas, ultimately leading him to the distant island kingdom where Padmavati resides. Ratansen, demonstrating unwavering determination, overcomes various obstacles and even risks his life to win the heart of Padmavati. His efforts are rewarded when he successfully marries her and brings her back to Chittor, where he is reinstated as the king.
However, the narrative takes a tragic turn when Ratansen expels a Brahmin scholar from his court due to misconduct. This scholar, in search of revenge, reaches the ears of Sultan Alauddin and apprises him of the enchanting beauty of Padmavati. The Sultan, consumed by desire, sets his sights on Padmavati and launches an invasion on Chittor to possess her.
Amidst these events, Ratansen meets his demise in another battle, pitting him against a rival Rajput ruler. In a heart-wrenching act of devotion and sacrifice, Padmavati immolates herself to protect her honor and purity, a solemn act known as "jauhar." This self-immolation leaves Alauddin victorious in his quest to conquer Chittor for the Islamic state, yet he fails in his personal pursuit.
Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai by Hemratan
“Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai" by Hemratan is a significant literary work that recounts a tale deeply rooted in Rajput history. The narrative revolves around the Rajput king of Chitrakot, Ratan Sen, who was married to Prabhavati, a renowned cook. One day, dissatisfied with her culinary skills, the king sought to find a woman superior to her in every way. This challenge led Ratan Sen on a journey, accompanied by an attendant, in search of such a woman.
During his quest, Ratan Sen encountered a Nath Yogi ascetic who informed him of the existence of numerous Padmini women on the island of Singhal. With the guidance of another ascetic, Ratan Sen crossed the sea and engaged in a chess match with the king of Singhal, emerging victorious. As a result, the king of Singhal bestowed his sister, Padmini, in marriage to Ratan Sen. Additionally, a lavish dowry was presented, which included half of the Singhal kingdom, along with 4000 horses, 2000 elephants, and 2000 companions for Padmini.
Upon their return to Chittor, while Ratan Sen and Padmini were engaged in intimate moments, an unintentional interruption by a Brahmin named Raghav Vyas occurred. Fearing Ratan Sen's wrath, Raghav Vyas fled to Delhi, where he was welcomed into the court of Alauddin Khalji. Intrigued by tales of the captivating Padmini women on the Singhal island, Alauddin embarked on an expedition to Singhal. However, his soldiers met a tragic fate, drowning in the sea. While Alauddin managed to secure tribute from the king of Singhal, he failed to acquire any Padmini women. Realizing that the only Padmini woman on the mainland was Padmavati, Alauddin mustered a vast army of 2.7 million soldiers and laid siege to Chittor.
Deceptively capturing Ratan Sen after glimpsing Padmini, Alauddin's actions struck fear in the hearts of the nobles of Chittor, who contemplated surrendering Padmini to him. It was then that two valiant warriors, Goru and Badil (also known as Gora and Vadil/Badal), emerged as champions of honor and integrity. These Rajput heroes devised a clever stratagem, ostensibly preparing to deliver Padmavati to Alauddin's camp but, in reality, concealing warriors within palanquins. These concealed Rajput warriors successfully rescued their king. Tragically, Gora met his end while bravely combating Alauddin's formidable army, while Badil escorted the king safely back to the Chittor fort.
The sacrifice of Gora and the steadfastness of Badil in protecting their queen, Padmavati, epitomize the unwavering valor and devotion of the Rajput warriors. The tale concludes with Gora's wife committing self-immolation, and Gora himself receiving a heavenly reward—a share of Indra's throne in the afterlife.
Bengali adaptations of Rani Padmini
The legendary tale of Rani Padmini, the Rajput queen of Chittor who became an emblem of valor and sacrifice, has found its place in Bengali literature through various adaptations over the years. These adaptations draw inspiration from different sources and retell the story of Padmini and her fateful encounter with Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi.
Syed Alaol's Padmavati: Syed Alaol, a prominent poet of the mid-17th century, composed the epic poem "Padmavati," which serves as one of the earliest Bengali adaptations of the story. Influenced by Malik Muhammad Jayasi's text, Alaol's rendition portrays Padmini's decision to hand over the responsibility of her two sons to Alauddin Khilji before her tragic death by committing 'jauhar,' a mass self-immolation.
Yagneshwar Bandyopadhyay's "Mewar": In 1884, Yagneshwar Bandyopadhyay crafted the work "Mewar," vividly depicting the jauhar of Rani Padmini and other women of Chittor. They willingly embrace self-immolation to protect their, alluding to the conflict with Alauddin Khilji.
Rangalal Bandyopadhyay's "Padmni Upakhyan": Rangalal Bandyopadhyay contributed to the narrative with his patriotic and narrative poem titled "Padmni Upakhyan," published in 1858. This work is based on the life and legend of Rajput queen Padmini.
Kshirode Prasad Vidyavinode's "Padmini": In Kshirode Prasad Vidyavinode's play, the ruler of Chittor is Lakshmansinha, and Padmini is the wife of the Rajput warrior Bhimsinha. Vidyavinode's narrative includes various subplots, such as the story of Alauddin's exiled wife Nasiban and Lakshmansinha's son Arun. The story unfolds with Alauddin capturing Bhimsinha through deceit and Padmini's heroic rescue using the palanquin trick, leading to the tragic self-immolation of Rajput women.
Abanindranath Tagore's "Rajkahini": Abanindranath Tagore's "Rajkahini" (1909 begins with a detailed description of Rajput history, leading to Bhimsinha's marriage to Padmini and her subsequent arrival in Chittor. Alauddin's invasion of Chittor to obtain Padmini's beauty sets the stage for a series of events, including the use of the palanquin trick for Bhimsinha's rescue and the ultimate sacrifice of the women of Chittor in the face of Alauddin's siege.
Arrival of Rani Padmini in Chittor
Ratan Singh had married the incredibly gorgeous Rani Padmini, the daughter of King Gandharvasen, and his wife, Queen Champavati and had received a handsome and open-handed dowry from her parents. The brothers thus demanded a large portion of this dowry as payment for their silence. Furious at their refrain, Ratan Singh expelled them from Chittor. To exact revenge, the brothers went to Delhi and prompted Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor.
Advent of Ala-ud-din Khilji
Since, Ala-ud-din realized that he and his opponent were equally matched in military potential; he decided a complicated way out to betrayal and discretion to defeat Chittor. He sent word to Ratan Singh that he was willing to offer friendship if he was allowed to see the exceptional beauty Rani Padmini's face just once and also claimed that he considered the Rani as his sister. The unwary Ratan Singh asked Rani Padmini to meet her newfound Brother, but the Rani Padmini was rather sharp and smart and she could smell an ambush. She refused to meet him; instead, she insisted that her husband to allow the Sultan to look at her reflection in a mirror.
Meeting with Rani Padmini
Ratan Singh agreed and called for Ala-ud-din. He instantly arrived to meet Rani Padmini, accompanied by his most trusted generals and soldiers. While Ala-ud-din waited eagerly to meet Rani Padmini, his generals watchfully examined the fort's defences to help them plan their attack of Chittor. Rani Padmini stood by a lotus pool as Ala-ud-din was stunned and gazed at her reflection in a mirror, awed by her sparkling beauty. When he was further informed that he would not be able to meet Rani Padmini personally, despite his claims of newfound relationship with the couple, the Sultan felt both embarrassed and cheated. As Ratan Singh accompanied him out of the fort, as a good host should, his men pounced upon the King and took him as a prisoner to the Sultan's camp.
Ala-ud-din then sent a note to Rani Padmini that if she wished her husband to get freed unharmed then she should immediately become his mistress. The Rani responded that she would meet the Sultan the next morning. At the very opening of dawn the following day, one hundred and fifty palanquins left the fort and moved towards the camp of Alauddin.
Attack on Chittor and Rani Padmini
The Rajputs, with around 150 strong and stout soldiers, then returned to the fort, after having rescued their King, and momentarily scoring a chief victory over the Sultan of Delhi. Ala-ud-din responded by laying blockade to the fort of Chittor. After a long drawn out operation, supplies within the fort gradually decreased and Ratan Singh gave orders for the fort's gates to be flung open and an all-out attack be planned on the would-be invaders as they could not hold out any more. Rani Padmini was aware that her husband's troops were very less in number and they would be easily defeated and dishonoured once they enter the battlefield. The Sultan's army started pillaging Chittor, Padmini and her attendants of women. All of them decided to commit suicide. The children of the graciousness were moved out of the fort with trusted escorts and attendants in order to save them from the invaders.
Jauhar of Rani Padmini
At dawn on August 26, 1303, a huge pyre was lit in a room with a single door. Rani Padmini and the noblewomen belonging to her court, the wives, sisters and daughters of ministers and courtiers, moved away their young children and men folk out of the area to safety lands, then dressed up in their wedding finery and went into the room with the pyre, locked the door behind them and jumped into the flames in mass. The men with heavy heart put on saffron robes, and threw open the gates of the fort. Almost all of the Rajputs died in the battle that day. The Sultan and his troops entered the fort, eager to seize all the females, but were highly disappointed when confronted with the evidence of the mass suicide.
Jauhar is an ancient tradition of the Rajputs that started with the legend of Rani Padmini and her suicide. Jauhar refers to the voluntary and honorary death of the queen and other royal female members upon the defeat of the Rajput kings. When the Rajput kingdom was defeated by the Muslim rulers, the women preferred to commit suicide, rather than being captured by the Muslim invaders, who used the royal women in their harems. This tradition started with the legend of Rani Padmini and her suicide.
Rani Padmini's life and death has been the subject of many legends, ballads and even movies in recent years. Unfortunately, no images of Rani Padmini have been preserved to tell about her exceptional beauty and personality, although her courage and sacrifice continue to make an impression even today as they did during her lifetime more than seven centuries ago.
Symbolism of Rani Padmini
The tale of Rani Padmini, while widely known for its historical narrative, also carries significant symbolism in various religious and cultural traditions. In these interpretations, Rani Padmini's life story takes on a metaphorical dimension, representing deeper philosophical and spiritual concepts.
Chittor as the Human Body: Within some Muslim Sufi, Hindu Nath, and Jain tradition manuscripts, dating back to the 17th century, Chittor is viewed as a symbol of the human body itself. This interpretation suggests that the events in Chittor mirror the experiences within the human physical form.
The King as the Human Spirit: In these symbolic interpretations, the king of Chittor represents the human spirit, signifying the inner essence and consciousness that resides within each individual.
Singhal as the Human Heart: The island kingdom of Singhal is likened to the human heart, implying that it represents the emotional and spiritual core of a person. This symbolism underscores the importance of the heart in matters of love, devotion, and inner contemplation.
Padmini as the Human Mind: Rani Padmini, in this allegorical context, embodies the human mind, the seat of thoughts, emotions, and intellectual pursuits. Her character symbolizes the complexity and depth of human cognition.
The Parrot as the Guru or Teacher: The parrot in Rani Padmini's story takes on the role of a guru or teacher, offering guidance and wisdom. This element emphasizes the significance of spiritual guidance in navigating the complexities of life.
Sultan Alauddin as Maya or Worldly Illusion: Sultan Alauddin, who plays a central role in the historical narrative, is interpreted as a symbol of Maya, the worldly illusion that often distracts individuals from their spiritual path. His presence serves as a reminder of the challenges posed by material desires and attachments.
These allegorical interpretations of Rani Padmini's life story resonate not only in specific religious traditions but also in the bardic traditions of the Hindus and Jains in Rajasthan. They invite contemplation on the deeper aspects of human existence, the interplay between the physical and spiritual realms, and the eternal quest for wisdom and enlightenment. While the historical account of Rani Padmini remains captivating, these symbolic layers add depth and philosophical richness to her enduring legacy.