Queen Padmini’s intoxicating beauty drove the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji, mad with lust after seeing her reflection in the mirror. Alauddin craved her at any cost — laying siege to Chittargarh and demanding the surrender of King Ratan Singh, Padmini’s husband, in exchange for the queen. When King Ratan Singh refused, a brutal battle unfolded, and the king lost his life. Padmini refused to be Alauddin’s concubine, and she, along with 800 devoted women, committed mass suicide by jumping into a fire. The act, known as “Jauhar” was created to escape dishonor.
This poignant story of love, sacrifice, and relentless courage continues to captivate the imagination of all who hear it.
Early Life of Padmini
Rani Padmini was born into the Sinhalese royal family of Singhaladweep (present-day Sri Lanka) in the 13th century. Her parents were King Gandharvasena and Queen Champavati. Padmini wasn’t just a pretty face; she was also a skilled archer and a formidable warrior.
Padmini’s early life was spent in the serene surroundings of the Singhaladweep royal palace. She had the privilege of receiving an education from the kingdom’s finest tutors. Her studies covered various subjects, from the Vedas (religious texts of India) and philosophy to literature. Padmini was not just an intellectual but also trained in martial arts, becoming a skilled warrior.
Talking Parrot & Marriage to King Ratan Singh
Rani Padmini became close friends with a talking parrot named Hiraman, who often told her stories and kept her company. Princess Padmavati and Hiraman studied the Vedas together. But her father, upset by their closeness, ordered the parrot to be killed. Hiraman flew away to save its life, but it was entrapped by a bird catcher and sold to a Brahmin. Eventually, it ended up with Rajput King Ratan Singh of Chittorgarh, who was amazed by its ability to talk. The parrot praised Padmavati’s beauty in front of Ratan Singh, who became determined to marry her.
Padmini’s father organized a Swayamvara (bridegroom selection ceremony), inviting princes from across India. Even though he was already married, Ratan Singh had attended the Swayamvar event. The challenge was to defeat a masked royal swordsman for the chance to marry her. No one knew that the swordsman was Princess Padmini in disguise. Ultimately, King Ratan Singh of Chittorgarh emerged victorious, and she joyfully married him. After marriage, he returned to Chittorgarh with his second wife, Padmini, also known as Padmavati.
Raghav Chetan’s Cunning Plot
King Ratan Singh was a devoted husband and an art patron. He valued art and had many talented people in his court. Among them was Raghav Chetan, a skilled painter and composer with a dark side, using black magic to harm his enemies. When Raghav Chetan was caught summoning evil spirits, Ratan Singh grew furious. He punished Raghav Chetan by exiling him on a donkey, turning his face black. This act made Raghav Chetan Ratan Singh’s enemy.
King Ratansen’s harsh punishment created an enduring enemy in Raghav Chetan. Seeking revenge, Chetan headed to Delhi to persuade Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji (one of the most powerful rulers of that time) to attack Chittor. Near Delhi, Raghav Chetan settled in a forest frequented by the Sultan for deer hunting.
One day, as the Sultan’s hunting party entered the forest, Raghav-Chetan’s melodious flute captivated their attention. Intrigued, the Sultan sent soldiers to find the talented musician. When brought before the Sultan, Chetan questioned why the king wanted a mere musician when there were many other beautiful objects. Curious, Ala-ud-din inquired further, and Chetan revealed Padmavati’s beauty, igniting Sultan Khilji’s lust.
The Legend of the Mirror and Alauddin Khilji
After hearing so much about her beauty, Alauddin Khilji wanted to meet her. He told King Rawal Ratan Singh that he wanted to see Chittor’s beauty to check if the stories were true. Ratan Singh allowed it to avoid trouble and asked his wife, Padmavati, to meet him. But Khilji had other plans – he secretly brought his best soldiers to scout Chittorgarh’s weaknesses.
Queen Padmini didn’t directly meet Khilji but let him see her in a mirror. Mirrors were set up in the palace so that Khilji could only see her reflection. However, Khilji became very obsessed with Queen Padmini and fell in love with her. Now, he wanted to have her for himself.
The Siege of Chittorgarh
With evil intentions in mind, Khilji slyly welcomed King Ratan Singh to his camp near the royal palace. Deceptively, he arrested Ratan Singh and sent a message to the palace, telling them they had to send Padmini to Delhi to save their king’s life. In response, they sent a message saying the queen had agreed to come.
Approximately 100 palanquins (a portable enclosed bed or couch) headed towards Khilji’s camp the next day. However, it was a clever ruse because the queen was not in those palanquins. Instead, soldiers concealed themselves inside, fought bravely and rescued their king. It made Khijli mad, so he decided to attack Chittorgarh.
Allaudin decided to attack Chittor. Allaudin had a big army of 50,000 soldiers, while only 20,000 brave Rajput warriors were in Rana Ratan Singh’s army. The battle was intense, with the brave Rajput warriors fighting until the end. Rana Ratan Singh fought bravely against Allaudin, but he was brutally killed by Allaudin Khilji’s army, not by Allaudin Khilji himself.
The Mass Suicide
When Padmavati heard about King Ratan Singh’s death, she was worried that Khilji’s army would harm all the men of Chittorgarh. They had two tough choices: either they could go through a challenging ritual called Jauhar (self-immolation) or show disrespect to the victorious enemy soldiers.
Padmavati, along with 800 devoted women of Chittorgarh, decided to perform Jauhar. They lit a massive funeral fire, and together, all the women courageously jumped into it. Rani Padmini was the first one to jump. The enemy army watched from outside. The unbearable heat and sounds from the fire were so painful.
In response, the men of Chittorgarh made a heroic decision to fight to the last breath. They dressed in special attire and turbans and battled the enemy army until defeated. When the victorious army eventually entered the fort, they only found ashes and burnt bones.
The story of Rani Padmini first appeared in a poem called “Padmavat,” written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540. Jayasi’s poem is the most popular version of Rani Padmini’s story, but many other versions have been told over the centuries.
Jauhar is no longer practiced in India today. It was a ritual of self-immolation that women performed to avoid capture and dishonor in times of war. The last known case of Jauhar was in 1839, when a group of Rajput women performed jauhar to prevent capture by the British army.
- Fizza Tanveer writes stories about history for The Feisty News. She resurrects lost stories with her pen-as-time machine. To her, history isn't mere facts and figures; instead, it's about understanding the past's impact on our world.
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