Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama Padmavati is already facing protest from a fringe group Rajput Karni Sena. Starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, it is being alleged that the filmmaker is twisting historical facts by romantically linking Queen Padmini (played by Deepika) with Sultan Alauddin Khilji (played by Ranveer). The sena members even attacked the SLB during a shoot at the historic Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur on Friday.
Though the filmmaker has assured that there are no scenes like that, the sena is now demanding change in name of the project. It brings us to an important question that most of us may not have the answer to. Who is Queen Padmavati?
Rani Padmavati, also known as Padmini, is believed to the 13th century and the earliest reference to the queen is found in an epic Awadhi poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 called ‘Padmavat’. She is mostly known for poems, stories, and anecdotes which are based on a storyline of a beautiful queen being coveted by a rival king.
Legends have it that she was from the Singhal Kingdom in modern-day Sri Lanka and the stories of her beauty were famous till Chittor. The then king of Chittor, Raja Ratan Singh married her as a conquest.
The stories of her beauty also reached the Muslim ruler Khijli. Khijli just wished to once see the royal beauty and thought of her only as his sister. He was permitted to see her reflection in the mirror. This event apparently added fuel to his desire to win her.
Khijli attacked the kingdom and captured Ratan Singh. Now, there are different versions of this part of the story. One story claims that two courtiers manage to rescue Ratan Sen from Khilji’s prison post which Ratan Singh enters in a duel with Khijli and loses it.
The other story states that Khijli attacked Chittor to capture Rani Padmini but captured Ratan Singh and sent a message to Padmini that the king would be released if she agrees to go along with him. It is said that Rani sent 700 troops to rescue Rana Ratan Singh and the troops were successful in rescuing the king but Khilji followed the troops and the king and another battle ensued. The king lost his life in the battle.
Owing to the death of her husband and as per the traditions of that time, Rani Padmini committed ‘sati’ (self-immolation) in her husband, Ratan Sen’s funeral pyre.
No matter which story is historically correct, what matters is that Rani Padmini has been a symbol of courage and pride amongst the Rajputs.
In fact, there are skeptics who even claim that there is not a bit of historical evidence that Rani Padmini existed for real and that the legend only taints the legacy of Alauddin Khilji, who defeated the Mongols and is praised as one of most able administrators of India.
Much of Queen Padmini’s story remains open to interpretation and this story has been told time and again.