Sunday, 26 November 2017

Queen Padmavati's Legacy


Images of Paintings of Queen Padmavati , Queen Nagmati

The recent controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie has raised an important question of how India’s past is being defined. The heroic event of a proud queen chosing to sacrifice her life instead of being captured by the enemy has been inspiring awe amongst millions of people worldwide. But what is unfortunate is that in order to avoid any responsibility the makers of the movie sometimes seek to portray(through media and “experts”) Queen Padmavati as a fictional character, while at the same time imparting impeccable authenticity to the movie with painfully realistic and authentic costumes[i] and sets. What is also intriguing is that while applying to the Censor Board of Film Certification approval, Bhansali and his team chose to conveniently leave out the mandatory declaration of whether the movie was a work of fiction or historical[ii], thereby making their documentation incomplete.
I have found records from most media[iii], with the notable exception of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, where it is claimed that the movie is based on the poem Padmavat,[iv](1540), by Malik Muhammad Jayassi[v] – written almost 200 years after the event of the siege of Chittor by Allauddin Khalji[vi] in 1303.
Ali Gurshasp, a.k.a. Allauddin Khalji, the second ruler from the Delhi Sultanate of the Khalji Dynasty, of Turko-Afghan origin known for its faithlessness and ferocity[vii] came to power after eliminating his uncle and father-in-law Jalal-ud-din Khalji. Several renowned Hindu dynasties were wiped out during his reign, including the Paramaras, the Vaghelas and the Chahamanas, leaving their wealth and history completely plundered. This included the seizure of the world famous Kohinoor diamond from the Kakatiya Dynasty in Warangal.[viii]Interestingly the brutal campaigns in South India were led by his trusted general Malik Kafur – apparently, a converted African and a eunuch slave[ix] from Gujarat. Some historians like Ruth Vanita and Salim Kidwai, also claim that Malik Kafur and Alauddin Khilji were in a homosexual relationship.(Same Sex Love in India- Reading In Indian Literature- Page 132)The notable historians quote the writings of chronicler Barani of that period(1285-1357),"the Sultan was loosing his memory and his senses, he had fallen deeply in love with the Malik Naib."
Citation: Same Sex Love In India:Readings in Indian Literature

While historians appear fairly confident about the chronicles of Allaudin Khilji, many appear to be equally confident that Padmini was nothing more than a figment of the imagination. They argue that her name is never mentioned by any historian or poet during her time (13-14th Century) and that Jayassi’s poem, where historians find her earliest mention involves too many elements of fantasy. As per Padmavat, Rani Padmini hailed from Sri Lanka(Ceylon, Singhal Kingdom). Stories of her legendary beauty were conveyed to King Rattan Sen of Chittor by a parrot named Hiraman.
 Thereafter, in 1589, Hemratan’s Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai, was considered the first Rajput adaptation of the legend and more such Rajput versions were found between the 16th and 18th centuries. These versions were said to be under patronage of Rajput chiefs which focussed more on Padmavati’s supreme sacrifice to safeguard honor.
Lieutenant-Colonel James Tod[x] an officer of the British East India Company, published 2 volumes of his book Annals and Antiquities of Rajas’han, from 1829 and 1832,elaborating the geography and history of Rajput clans. His version tended to lean towards the Rajput version. This led to widespread criticism from the British who were keen to discredit his work. On the other hand his work was widely appreciated in Mewar Province where a village has been named after him – Todgarh. His book also inspired the works of Jyotindranath Tagore’s Sarojini ba Chittor Akramaand other Bengali nationalist writers.
Jawaharlal Nehru, in his book The Discovery of India, also mentions the event of Khalji seeing Padmini in a mirror.
While looking at various versions, it is also worthwhile to look at the various historians and their predispositions. It is said that historians have questioned the reliability of historical accounts about the Khalji Dynasty[xi].
While Aamir Khusraw, who is believed to have accompanied Alauddin Khilji on his campaign, doesn’t mention Padmini in his Khaza’in ul-Futuh, he does describe the love story of Alaudding Khilji and the princess of Gujarat in Diwal Rani Khizr Khan. Scholars like Mohammad Habib(father of noted historian Irfan Habib), Dasharatha Sharma and Ashirbadi Lal Shrivastava have suggested Amir Khusraw’s indirect reference to Padmini by equating Alauddin Khilji with King Solomon and Padmini as Queen of Sheba.
“On Monday, 11 Muharram, AH 703, the Solomon of the age [Alauddin], seated on his aerial throne, went into the fort, to which birds were unable to fly. The servant [Amir Khusrau], who is the bird of this Solomon, was also with him. They cried, "Hudhud! Hudhud!" repeatedly. But I would not return; for I feared Sultan's wrath in case he inquired, "How is it I see not Hudhud, or is he one of the absentees?" And what would be my excuse for my absence if he asked, "Bring to me a clear plea"? If the Emperor says in his anger, "I will chastise him", how can the poor bird have strength enough to bear it?”
Amir Khusrau in Khaza'in ul-Futuh[27]

Khusrau also referred to Jauhar in his account of Alauddin’s Ranthambore campaign preceding the one at Chittor. His quote above also illustrates how terrified he was of Alauddin Khilji, which may have also been the reason for his completely omitting any mention of any event which would cast a humiliating shadow on his master.
Historian Satish Chandra[xii], who has rejected the authenticity of Padmavati legend, has authored several books on Indian Medieval History. In his textbook for school children, he included a highly derogatory passage on 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh, describing him as a plunderer claiming he “resorted to plunder and rapine.. (Pg 65,Guichard, 2010)”. Along with historians Romila Thapar, R.S.Sharma, Bipin Chandra and Arjun Dev, he is referred to as “left leaning” or “influenced by a Marxist approach to history”. Their political patrons were mainly the Indian National Congress party as well as the Communist Party of India(Marxist).The strong influence of bias amongst historians in India, the influence of their political patronage and the conflicts in interpretation and narration of history are to some extent presented in the book – The Construction of History and Nationalism in India by Sylvie Guichard. While Sylvie, the author, exposes bias by labelling the Left-wing historians as “secular” and “nationalist” and those offering another version as “Hindu nationalist or communalist”, it is worthwhile to refer the book, now that the word “secular” has been replaced with “pseudo secular” in common parlance. The author writes,
“Ashis Nandy believes that their (left centered historians) control and monopoly[xiii] over the field of history increased during the 1970s when Indira Gandhi was prime minister and Narul Hasan (a Leninist) was education minister.”
In light of the controversy over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, noted historian Irfan Habib,[xiv]declared Rani Padmavati to be an imaginary character[xv]. Irfan Habib is notable for leading historians of the Indian History Congress to move a resolution against “saffronisation” of history, accusing the BJP government in power of “trying to invent history[xvi].” His accusations were aptly responded by the NCERT, which had brought out a 246 page counter publication [xvii]-‘History in the new NCERT textbooks:fallacies in the IHC report’.
Most of the information provided in Wikipedia page on Rani Padmini[xviii] refers to Ramya Sreenivasan’s book[xix] as a source. While the book is resourceful in the context of exploring the various narratives of Queen Padmini, the author exposes her bias and leanings against certain political parties. However, her sources for such critical statements turned out to be as baseless as her claims. On page 5 of her introduction to the book, she writes, “The success of the political party leading the temple movement in subsequent elections and it’s pronounced majoritarian tilt led to the organized assaults on historical scholarship and, increasingly, attacks on individual historians, along with attempts to introduce a glorious ancient past in school history textbooks. She supports this with an html reference in her endnote- – The problem is that this link is not found. It is appalling that her book which is winner of the 2009 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book prize, sponsored by the Association for Asian Studies has references which are baseless and that even Wikipedia quotes her book 23 times. The author does manage to bring out several versions of the narrative of Padmavati and also the apparent biases and affiliations of both the “Historians/narrators” as well as the audiences.
Sher Shah Suri, commons, Rajputs.
Seeking Patronage of Mughal ruler,
Rajput adaptations
Jain,Rajput elites and locals
Seeking to re-establish Rajput pride
Tod’s version
Rajput elites
Seeking to connect with the Rajput elite
Bengali adaptations
Anti British
Pride in history and culture. Honor valor and sacrifice.
Post Independence
Indian masses and patrons of foundations
Seeking to promote politics of appeasement of minorities under garb of “secularism”, funding from colonial institutions
Current conflict- Bhansali
Made for profit
Commercial interests, Corporate profits dominate current cinema, overriding the sensitivities of Rajputs, many of whom worship the idol of Queen Padmini in temples dedicated to her.

Indian Cinema
Jai Chitod
Chitoor Rani Padmini
Maharani Padmini

Indian Television
Chittod Ki Rani Padmini Ka Johur – Sony TV

The question raised repeatedly by media channels supporting whatever creative liberties Bhansali may have taken with the Padmavati incident is why no one objected to the earlier versions. The protestors cite lack of awareness amongst people and the fact that in the past, successive Governments were motivated by politics of appeasement.

While some historian’s deny the very existence of Rani Padmavati, millions of tourists have been shown the mirrors in Chittorgarh fort maintained by the Archeological Survey of India, mentioning the probable location where Alauddin Khilji had seen the Queen’s reflection.
The varied accounts of her narratives never compromise on the courage and righteousness of the Queen despite the predilections of the authors. Her saga is etched into the psyche of the Rajput Kshatranis who worship her as a Goddess even today.
In the absence of written records, these people feel it is all the more important that the narrative is preserved just as it was handed down to them for generations. They realize and fear the impact mass media can have on the sanctity of their beliefs.
They believe their Queen is too reverent to be portrayed dancing on a gigantic screen in front of millions. But they are up against the commercial might of some of the world’s powerful media corporates who’s mantra appears to be to profit at any cost. This controversy will undoubtedly help them[xx] surpass their projected turnovers. In fact, so powerful is the media, that, Bhansali and company chose to show the movie to certain section of media even before it showed it to Censor Board. By making this movie, Sanjay Leela Bhansali may probably establish himself amongst the group of historians or bards.But unlike the past, this  narrative appears to reek of greed and self interest.

History is already being written as this moment passes. It is for the people to decide what they want a historian, from a hundred years in the future to write. For it would be rather unfortunate if our future historians write the account of a Queen Padmavati, dancing in royal courts , exposing and shaking her waist, based on a movie made by a renowned Director. With such historians, our children wont know whether to read history or believe it.

No. PublicationArticle name AuthorExternal linkBack To Blog link

[i] News18.comPadmavati:200 Craftsmen..

[ii] NDTVMakers Knew Paperwork Was IncompleteIANS

  Business TodayPadmavati TrailerBT Online

[iv]  WikipediaPadmavat

[v]   WikipediaMalik Muhammad Jayasi

[vi]  WikipediaAlauddin Khalji

[vii]  Encyclopaedia BritannicaKhalji Dynasty

[viii]    A History of India-Page160Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund

[ix]   The Hindus:An alternative History-Page 420Wendy Doniger

[x]    WikipediaJames Tod

[xi]    WikipediaKhalji Dynasty

[xii]   WikipediaSatish Chandra

[xiii] Citation The Construction of History and Nationalism in India- Page 88,

[xiv] WikipediaIrfan Habib

[xv] Hindustan Times …Padmavati is an imaginary character..

[xvi] The Times of IndiaGovt Trying To Invent History

[xvii] Indian ExpressNCERT brings out book..

[xviii] WikipediaRani Padmini

[xix] The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen.. Ramya Sreenivasan

[xx] Business TodayWill Padmavati Row Help The Movie..Ajita Shashidhar


  1. Only those with patience to read your blogs will get the big picture. Rest are all brainwashed by media

  2. Bhansali should show dream sequence between Gay Alauddin Khilji and Malik Kafur/Naib

  3. Enough of these sickular Historians rewriting India's past. They should be jailed for defamation

  4. It looks like Mr.56 inches is also slave to Dawood sponsored Bollywood and Viacom18

  5. Why is ruling party BJP behaving so timidly? Movie should be banned based purely on CBFC rules!!! Is BJP getting a cut from the profits ?

  6. It seems crook and fraudster Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his Partner in crime Viacom18 have hijacked the Wikipedia page as well. Totally biased wiki.Thank God for blogs like @rottenmangoman

  7. I came to your blog through Quora and I loved the research you have done for the Padmavati Case. I hope the "fringe" elements read this so they can argue and present their case properly. Right now the media is making them appear like illiterate fools.

  8. Karni Sena is like our own homegrown Taliban. The fact that such persons are not being arrested shows why paki is not taking any action on Hafiz, he too enjoys similar support of people in power. Though bhansali's movies are not to my liking I feel he and Karni sena are hand in glove to maximize profits