The film Padmavati is facing a lot of resistance. First, Rajput Karni sena had vandalised the set of Padmavati in early part of 2017. Now at the time of release of the film, different Rajput groups have vowed to oppose release and if necessary vandalise movie theatres that screen the movie. As debate around release of the film Padmavati becomes more and more intense, threats are being issued to actor and director of the film. One of the most versatile actress and a prolific director are being called names. All the time law and order machinery is staying unusually quiet. In this scenario, three issues coming out in forefront:
- Did Padmavati actually exist;
- Was Alauddin Khilji a benevolent administrator; and
- Is protest around screening the film correct;
A concerted effort is being made to establish Rani Padmini to be a fictitious character. One such article suggests, according to historians, there is no evidence that Padmavati ever existed. The character Padmavati was created by Malek Jayashi, a sufi poet in 1540:
- “Khalji defeated the Rana of Chittor in 1303 and died in 1316. No one by the name of Padmini or Padmavati existed then — or at any time — in flesh and blood resembling the story. She was born in 1540, 224 years after Khalji’s death, in the pages of a book of poetry by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, resident of Jayas in Awadh, a very long way from Chittor.”
The author goes on to argue that image of Padmini was further polished in Bengal in 19th century to boost resistance movement against colonial power
- ” It was in Bengal in the 19th century that Padmini acquired the persona of a heroic queen committing jauhar in order to save her honour against a lusty Muslim invader. Concealed in it was a vicarious patriotic resistance to colonial dominance which also characterised other literary productions in the region such as Bankim Chandra’s celebrated Anand Math.
- It is this memory in Rajasthan that has been turned into a hard, unambiguous historical fact which brooks no disputation. The inversion of a character imagined by a Muslim poet into the defender of Hindu honour can pass quietly unnoticed.”
The story of Padmavati has survived for more than 700 years, at a time when there was hardly much communication. Most likely it had spread by word of mouth by bards and became a part of folklore.
Even if we accept that Malek Jayashi created Padmavati, could it not be possible that poet Jayashi got his idea from folk history? Padmavati is etched in peoples memory, how many have ever heard of Jayashi beyond exalted academic circles?
Even if it is accepted that in 19th century Bengal, Padmavati was used as a symbol of resistance against colonial powers, how did the message spread? Communication had hardly improved from days of Padmavati in 14th century. There was no internet, no e-mail, hardly any postal service, limited train service?
According to historians, three Jauhars had taken place in Chittorgarh. One in 1303, and two in 16th century. Tale of Rani Padmini has remained etched in the mind of people. Not many know of other two jauhar.
Many of us have heard the story in our childhood, may be in history books, in India of sixties and seventies, when India was ruled by centrist congress and not right wing BJP. Yet the story survived..
As part of physical evidence, there exist a Padmini palace, a jauhar kund in Chittorgarh. These sites are authenticated by Archaeological Survey of India as national monuments. Were these structures built after Padmini? Is there any evidence to this effect?
No one disputes existence of Rawal Rattan Singh. Rattan Singh had fought battle with Alauddin Khalji and lost. Amir Khusroo, who happened to accompany Alauddin Khalji to Chittor, claimed, Rana Rattan Singh had surrendered and his life was spared. Other historians disagree with this point of view. Because on that fateful day, Alauddin Khalji had slaughtered 30000 people of Chittor. There is no reason for victorious sultan to spared the life of a vanquished rana. Amir Khusroo never talked about Rani Padmavati. Would a court historian document failure of his master to attain his objective? That too a person who never cared sparing lives of Hindus and Muslims alike?
There is break in Sisodiya lineage, that was started by Bappa Rawal, after Rawal Rattan Singh. Historians account for Mewar dynasty from 1326 onwards. What happened in 1303 and beyond can be authenticated by family members of Mewar royal family. One can find Sisodia family lineage on the net under Rajasthan Royalty. Kunwar Vishvapratap Singh, a member of royal family, has said on TV that Rani Padmini was his ancestor. He has also written a letter to I&B minister and Prime Minister on the matter. Other kings of Bappa Rawal family existed, but historical records are scant.
In the event of doubt, who should we trust more? Historians or family member who claims Rani Padmavati was his ancestor?