Padmini, also known as Padmavati, was a 13th-14th century queen (queen) of the state of Mewar in present-day India.
She is mentioned in several medieval texts, although these versions differ and many modern historians question the extent of the overall authenticity.
The Jayasi text describes her story as follows: Padmavati was an exceptionally beautiful princess of the Sinhalese kingdom (in Sri Lanka).
Ratan Sen, the Rajput ruler of Chittor Fort, heard about her beauty from a talking parrot named Hiraman.
After an adventurous quest, he wins her hand in marriage and brings her to Chittor.
Ratan Sen was captured and imprisoned by Sultan Alauddin Khalji of Delhi.
While Ratan Sen was in prison, King Devpal of Kumbhalner became enamored with Padmavati’s beauty and proposed to marry her.
Ratan Sen returned to Chittor and fought a duel with Devapala, in which both died.
Alauddin Khalji besieged Chittor to get Padmavati.
Facing defeat against Khalji, before capturing Chittor, she and her companions committed jauhar (self-immolation) which defeated Khalji’s mission and saved their honour.
Rajputs attached to Jauhar died fighting on the battlefield.
Many other written and oral traditions of her life exist in Hindu and Jain traditions.
These versions differ from that of the Sufi poet Jayasi.
For example, Rani Padmini is besieged by Ratan Sen Allauddin Khalji, her husband, and then leads Jauhar.
In these versions, she is depicted as a Hindu Rajput queen who defended her honor against Muslim invaders.
Over the years she has emerged as a historical figure and appeared in many novels, plays, television series and films.
Versions of the legend
Several 16th century texts have survived which give different accounts of Queen Padmini’s life.
The earliest of these is the Padmavat (1540 CE) in Awadhi by the Sufi composer Malik Muhammad Jayasi, probably originally composed in the Persian script.
A 14th-century account written by Muslim court historians describing Alauddin Khalji’s 1302 CE conquest of Chittorgarh does not mention this queen.
14th to 16th century Jain texts – Navinandan Jenudhar, Chitai Charitra and Rayan Sehra mention Rani Padmini.
A number of literary works were subsequently produced that mention her story; They can be divided into four main categories:
Persian and Urdu versions –
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, at least 12 Persian and Urdu translations or adaptations of Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmaavat were produced.
More Urdu versions appeared in the 20th century, all of them sticking to Jayasi’s love poetry tradition.
Rajput Ballad –
In 1589 CE, Hemartan composed Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai, the first Rajput adaptation of the legend, and presented it as a “true story”.
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, more Rajput versions of the Padmavati legend were compiled under the patronage of Rajput chieftains in present-day Rajasthan.
Unlike Jayasi’s theme of marriage and marriage, Rajput adaptations emphasize their honor to defend their kingdom against Alauddin Khalji.
Version by James Todd –
Between 1829–32, James Todd included a colonial retelling of the legend in Histories and Antiquities of Rajasthan.
His version was based on information compiled from oral and written traditions of scribes appointed by Rajput chieftains.
Bengali Adaptation –
Padmavati is an epic poem written by medieval Bengali poet Alol.
From the late 19th century, when James Tod’s work reached Calcutta, the capital of British India, many Bengali versions of the legend were produced.
These Bengali narratives depicted Padmavati as a Hindu queen who sacrificed herself to protect her honor from Muslim invaders.
In addition to these various literary accounts, various legends are found in local oral traditions from around 1500 or later; These have evolved over time.
Oral legends and literary accounts share similar characters and a general plot, but differ in details and how they express those details.
Oral versions describe the point of view of a social group while early literary versions describe the author’s court-centered context.
According to Ramya Srinivasan, the oral and written legends about Rani Padmini may have fed on each other.
Every version of her life has been influenced by the sensibilities of the audience or the patrons.
Muslim versions describe the conquest of Chittor by the Delhi Sultanate under Alauddin Khalji.
While the Hindu and Jain versions of the local resistance to the Sultanate of Delhi give an example in the life of Padmini.
The siege of Chittor by Alauddin Khalji in 1303 is a historical event.
Although this conquest is described by the legend of Padmini in which Sultan Khalji lusted after the queen, this story has little historical basis.
The earliest source that mentions the siege of Chittor in 1303 CE is Khazain ul-Futuh, Amir Khusrau, a court poet and pygirist who accompanied Alauddin during the campaign.
Khusrau does not mention any Padmavati or Padmini, although a later translator of Khusrau’s allegorical work alludes to Padmini.
Amir Khusrau describes the siege of Chittor in his later romantic work Diwal Rani Khizr Khan (c. 1315), which describes the love between Alauddin’s son and a Gujarati princess. Again he does not mention Padmini.
Some scholars such as Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava, Dashrath Sharma, and Mohammad Habib have suggested that Amir Khusrau made a covert reference to Padmini in Khazain ul-Futuh.
Similarly, historian Subimal Chandra Dutt stated in 1931 that in Khusrau’s 14th-century poetic eulogy of his patron’s conquest of Chittor, the Hudhud bird is mentioned which appears as a parrot in later accounts.
And “Alauddin insisted. On the surrender of a woman, possibly Padmini”.
On Monday, 11 Muharram, AH 703, the aged Solomon [Alauddin], seated on his aerial throne, entered the fort, over which birds could not fly.
This Solomon’s bird servant [Amir Khusro] was also with him.
They shouted, “Hudhud! Hudhud!” Again and again I will not return; For I feared the anger of the Sultan, if he asked, “How come I do not see Hudhud, or is he one of the absent?”
And if he asks, “Bring me a clear plea,” what excuse will I have for my absence?
If the emperor says in anger, “I will punish him”, how will the poor bird have the strength to bear it?
It was the rainy season when the white clouds of the ruler of land and sea appeared on the top of this high hill.
Rai, struck by the lightning of the emperor’s wrath and burnt from hand to foot, threw himself into the water and flew towards the royal pavilion, thus saving himself from the lightning of the sword.
- Amir Khusro, Khazain ul-Futuh
Other historians such as Kishori Saran Lal and Kalika Ranjan Kanungo have questioned Amir Khusro’s interpretation of the reference to Padmini.
According to Datta, a definitive historical interpretation of Khusrau’s poetic work is not possible.
It is unlikely that Alauddin attacked Chittor because of his lust for Padmini.
Dutt states, and the reasons for this are likely to be political conquests, as in the invasion of other parts of the Mewar region.
According to Ziauddin Barani, in 1297 CE, Alauddin’s Kotwal officer told him that he would have to conquer Ranthambore, Chittor, Chanderi, Dhar and Ujjain before conquering the world.
This would have prompted Alauddin, not Padmini, to launch a campaign against Chittor.
Besides, Mewar sheltered people who rebelled or fought against Alauddin.
Dutt states that Alauddin is mentioned to have demanded Padmini during the surrender negotiations, a demand intended to insult the long-resisting Rajput kingdom.
Further, Khusrau’s account suddenly mentions that Alauddin accompanied him to the fort, but does not detail why.
A Khusrau source later mentions his patron emperor “crimson with rage”, the Rajput king’s surrender followed by “royal mercy”, after which Alauddin’s orders “killed 30,000 Hindus in one day”, according to Datta.
The term Padmini or its equivalent does not occur in Khusrau’s source, but it confirms the siege of Chittor, a brutal war, and the facts that frame the Padmini literature of later times.
According to archaeologist Rima Huja, most of the romantic details of Jayasi’s work are actually mythological but the central plot of the text is definitely based on historical fact.
Amir Khusrau’s work presents Alauddin as Solomon and himself as the Hud-Hud bird who brings news of the beautiful Queen of Sheba (who resides in the Chittor Fort) to Solomon.
Further, as Alauddin’s courtier, Khusrau was in no position to be straightforward about the unpleasant facts of Alauddin’s life and omitted many of them from his work, including the assassination of Jalal-ud-din Khalji for the throne and his defeat against the Mongols.
And they besieged Delhi.