Virtuous queen and the Sultan - Rani Padmini of Chittor - her poignant story

Rani Padmini of Chittor, Rajputana

Through out ages, Indian women's commitments to family are enormous as she is the main pivot in a closely-knit family system. Besides raising her children, taking care of the elders - mainly in-laws, cooking and other chores, she is expected to share a big chunk of responsibility in the family. The fascinating aspect about a Hindu wife is, she is always loyal to her husband at any cost and safeguard the family's name and dignity by strictly following certain norms imposed by the society. That was the way she had been brought up in the bygone era by the family as the society was very much  conservative. To be frank, this may not be true of men folks if they had a liaison with other women at his will and pleasure, society being male chauvinistic, his mistakes committed in moments of aberrations would be magnanimously and 
gladly excused  or ignored by the elders. However, a greater preponderance of males were as much loyal to their wives  as they were to them.

In ancient texts there are innumerable stories, poems and even dramas, extolling the virtuous women and looking upon them as guardians of  chastity or virtue. In some places,  people  compare such women with goddess and build temples  of Chasity.  Some of them may be biased and replenished to suit the male dominated society, purposely ignoring their glaring frailty. The Indian society gives  much emphasis on women's modesty and chastity  for some reasons so that  the hereditary line will go undisturbed right on the track, thus retaining the family's ethos and not affecting the children's education  and future, etc 

Before the advent of the British company in India in the1600s and the British rule under the crown later, a bizarre and  biased custom had been in practice for centuries called ''Sati.'' It means a widowed woman, irrespective of her age, is expected to get into her husband's funeral pyre - a sort of self-inflicting suicide over the unexpected loss of her husband. Some times force will be used by her kith and kin to push the unfortunate, bereaved woman into the funeral pyre if she is reluctant. The basic assumption is after her husband's death the woman, if young, may go astray and spoil family's name.       

Though there was room for remarriage in the case  of young Hindu widow in ancient India, remarriage of women was not considered an ideal  choice. Either she had to undergo the ordeal of remaining  a widow without active participation in family functions till her death or commit sati. It was her choice to choose either of the two. On the other hand  if  a man loses his  young wife and becomes  a widower, he can remarry one or more times.What a paradox!!

Anyway, this  custom was done away with when numerous Indian reformers took the cudgels against this painful ritual under the British who gave them full support.

In the case of Hindu royal families, women's responsibility is more as  she has to uphold the trust and good name of the king and his dynasty. In the event of  defeat of a king in the war by Muslim rulers, these royal pious women and her dedicated servants will  plunge into the towering inferno specially prepared for them. They will rather brook  this kind of  death than facing the excruciating pain of falling into enemy's hands who will be ready to devour them or push them into a harem and treat them as yet another rags of flesh and blood, a target of their pleasure. Such a  bad situation gradually opened up for an unfortunate, royal Hindu Rajput queen of wisdom and unparalleled beauty that caught her unawares ..... 

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Among the kingdoms of northwest India, Mewar was the most powerful one ruled by Rajput  clan. The Rajputs were known not only for their wisdom, and patriotic zeal but also for their valor and bravery. They never failed to follow the norms of war and would fight their enemies face to face, There was no back-stabbing  that was common among the NW intruders and others. They were religious and devout Hindus. 

As for the Muslim invaders from the NW, it was a difficult task for them to break the Rajput clan's hold on their kingdom and the people. The slave dynasty which had been ruling from Delhi wanted to capture the Rajput kingdom. On 28 January, 1303 Alauddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultan started for Mewar to declare war on the ruler. According to legend, the more Alauddin heard  stories about the mystifying beauty of Rani Padmini, wife of Ratan Singh, the more he became anxious to get her as his consort. 

Rani Padmini (Padmavati; died 1303 CE), was the queen of Chittor, Mewar, Rajasthan, India the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh and the daughter of the contemporary Sinhala king. She was the personification of beauty, ideal Indian womanhood and sacrifice. Her great story of beauty and tragedy is  commemorated in ''Padmavat,'' an epic poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi  in Awadhi language in1540 CE.

Because of some family feud in the royal Rajput clan, it is believed, that the Sultan developed keen interest in Rani Padmini at the instigation of King Ratan Singh's  jealous brothers.

Sultan  Khilji seeing the mirror image of Rani Padmini'

Upon his arrival at Chittor, Khilji sent a message to the ruler  expressing his wish to see the Rani. This was an act of shame and insult to an equally competent ruler and the Sultan's arrogance was quite evident. Smart as he was, Ratan Singh gave in and convinced the queen to see Alauddin. However, she  allowed the Sultan to see her on one condition that he could see only her reflection on a mirror to which the Sultan agreed.  On seeing the Rani's mirror image, his infatuation grew stronger and  Alauddin was determined to get her for his harem at  any cost.

Rani Padmini's palace, Chatisgarh,
On his return to Delhi, the Sultam had Ratan Singh accompany him, using this opportunity, he kidnapped Ratan Singh. The Songara Chauhan generals Gora & Badal decided to hoodwink the Sultan at his own game and sent back a word that Padmini would be handed over to Ala-ud-din following morning. Next day at the crack of dawn, one hundred and fifty covered palanquins (meant for royal ladies for travel  in medieval times) left the fort and made their way towards Ala-ud-din's camps The palanquins stopped before the tent where king Ratan Singh was being held prisoner. On seeing the arrival of covered palanquins purportedly carrying his queen from  Chittor, King Ratan Singh was quite perturbed. But to his  surprise, stepped out from the palanquins, were not his consort and her women servants, but  his own fully armed soldiers, who quickly freed Ratan Singh and galloped away towards Chittor on horses  stolen from Ala-ud-din's stables. This getaway happened in a jiff. King's military commander Gora fought bravely against Sultan's soldiers  to ease king's  safe escape  with another leader Badal and during the skirmishes he laid down his life, thus proving his loyalty to his King and his Rajput valor.

1963 hit Tamil film Chittor Rani Padmini en.wikipedia.o

Above image: 1963 hit South Indian Tamil film "Chittor Rani Padmini" starring late Chevallier Sivaji Ganesan, Vyjayanthimala, Nambiar & other prominent actors.
 Sony's TV drama- The Queen Padmini of Chittor.

 Above image: Actress Tejaswini Lonari. Sony's famous TV drama- The Johur of the Queen Padmini of Chittor

After he was outwitted by Rajput warriors and his plan to get the queen went haywire, the Sultan's anger and disappointment knew no bounds. Now he again attracted the king's fort at Chittor with better army. As  he was unable to penetrate the huge fort, Ala-ud-din decided to lay siege to the fort. The siege being a long drawn one, supplies within the fort  gradually became depleted. As a last resort, King Ratan Singh and his men  fought to finish with the besieging troops. 

Rajput royal ladies  committing ' (sati) en masse to avoid dishonor  sati;

Meanwhile Queen Padmini was worried about the impending danger and safety of her husband and the kingdom because Sultan's army was huge and treacherous. Further, they would not follow the norms of 'just war.' With no other options available to avoid the disgraceful act of falling into enemy's hands and be torn to pieces, virtuous women of Chittor  took the extreme step - divine ''Jauhar''(suicide).

The choice was in favor of suicide through Jauhar/ sati practiced by the royal female members of Rajput in case the ruler loses the battle); they would rather face honorable death than be a slave and show girl in Sultan's harem. A huge pyre was lit and followed by their queen, all the women  jumped into the flames and committed suicide en masse,  thus deceiving lustful Alauddin and his army men who were waiting to devour them.

With their womenfolks turning into a mound of burning cinder,  Rajput soldiers fought tooth and nail against the mighty Sultan's army till they lost every drop of their blood on the soil; after all the men had nothing to live for. Now, the victorious  Sultan's troops entered the fort  amid heaps of dead soldiers, wounded men, wailing and weeping. The sultan's big empire was built on the alter of cross bones and corpses of virtuous Rajput women and brave Rajput men to whom ''a honorable life is worth living.'' 


History of chittorgarh - Rani Padmini