The narrative of Rani Padmavati’s chivallary and sacrifice finds frequent expression in the Bangali literature, making it explicitly clear how the Chittor queen became a symbol of national honour
“The fair Pudmani closed the throng, which was augmented by whatever of female beauty or youth could be tainted by Tatar lust. They were conveyed to the cavern, and the opening closed upon them, leaving them to find security from dishonor in the devouring element.” [Annals of Mewar, Chapter-VII, Book: Annals & Antiquities of Rajasthan, James Tod, Routleder & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, 1829] The narrative of Turkish Sultan Alauddin Khalji by Lieutenant-Colonel James Tod dominated the minds of Bengali intellectuals for about a century. The Bengali intellect considered Padmavati as a symbol of dignity, sacrifice, chastity and an icon of patriotism. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced that she would welcome Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the team of Padmavati with open arms and would make special arrangements for the same. The film is the cinematography of the lyrical story Padmavat by a Sufi poet Mallik Muhammad Jayasi.
Historically Alauddin was a merciless ruler. He killed his own uncle Jallauddin, who was also his father-in-law. He raped a maid Mahru in front his wife Malika-i-Jahan. Alauddin raped hundreds of innocent girls and treated Hindu girls as bounty. After 224 years of his death Jayasi glorified Alauddin as a romantic hero. Incongruously starting from “Padyavati Upakhyan” (1858) to “Shankha Kankan” (1963), the
portrayal of Padmavati in the works of leading Bengali intellectuals was exactly adverse to Jayasi.
Bengal played a lead role in Indian renaissance. The glorious days of Bengal, when Gokhale certified, “What Bengal thinks today, India will think tomorrow!”
A medieval Bengali poet Syed Alaol (1607-1673) also translated “Padmavat” of Jayasi from Persian to Bengali. All the Bengali writers, who narrated the story of Padmavati, had a liberal schooling, and were strong believers in the western rationalism.
Padmavati, an Icon of Patriotism
Rangalal Banerjee, who edited the monthly Rasa Sagar magazine, in 1958 came out with his first book “Padmini Upakhyan”. Perhaps this one is Rangalal’s most important
literary achievements. “Padmini Upakhyan” was a historical romance based on Todd’s Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. The poet described Padmavati as a noble, patriotic character with a strong believer in the Hindu values.
Rangalal narrates that “Swaddhi Sati Patibrata ati Gunavati/ekatha tahare kabe kon murhamati?”, (Padmavati is a perfect Swaddhi, Sati, Patibrata and virtuous, only a fool can tell it to her). He projected Padmavati as an icon of patriotism. His lines from Padmini Upakhyan, ‘svadhinatahinatay ke banchite chay he, ke banchite chay/ dasatvashrnkhal balo ke poribe pay he, ke poribe pay’ (Who wants to live without freedom/Who will wear the chains of slavery round her feet?), inspired revolutionaries in their
struggle for freedom in the twentieth century.
Another historian Romesh Chunder Dutt (Ramesh Chandra Dutta) an ICS officer, and translator of Mahabharat, Ramayan and other Sanskrit classics. He wrote his famous book, “Rajput Jeevan Shandhya” (The Dusk of Rajput Life), where he narrated the fall of Rajput dynasty. He precisely described the betrayal of Mansingh and others. He described the cruelty of Sultan Alauddin Khalji. The fourteenth chapter is Bhimgarh Dhwansh i.e. Fall of Bhimgarh. R. C. Dutta described the most painful incident of Johar by Rajput women,— “Chandan Singh’s mother addressed, ‘Girls,
Let the barbarian Turks see, Rajput warriors are brave heroes, Rajputanis are Satis!’
Early in the morning thousands of Rajputanis took a bath, wearing Pattavastra assembled in front of royal court. Girls, ladies, old age women gathered around the fire, loudly praised the God. After that? Then as per the old tradition of Rajputana, thousands of women entered into the fire with a smile on their face. When defeat, insult and conversion were unavoidable, Rajput women followed Sati to protect their chastity”.
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore wrote a beautiful poem in his book ‘Kath o Kahini’ (1899). The milieu of the poem ‘Hori Khela’ (Holi) is Rajasthan, and the protagonists are Keshar Khan, a Pathan invader and the queen of King Bhunag of Ketun. In this poem though the characters are fictitious, the story is very similar to that of Alauddin and Padmini. Queen sends hundreds of warriors dressed like Rajput women to
celebrate Holi with the Pathan Sultan. Rabindranath awarded a poetic justice to queen of Ketan (Chittor). “Pathanpatir lalate sahasha/maren ranee kashar thalakhana/ raktadhara garhie pore bege/Pathan patir chakkhu halo kana.” (Suddenly the queen hits the Pathan Sultan with a huge bronze dish/bleeds heavily/Sultan’s eye goes blind). The poem ends with the lines, “Je path die Pathan esechilo/se path die firlo nako tara” (The Pathans came but they didn’t go back).
In the Image of
Abanindranath Tagore, nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, painted Bhārat Mātā as a four-armed goddess wearing saffron-colored robes, holding the manuscripts, sheaves of rice, a mala, and a white cloth. The image of Bharatmata gradually became the icon of nationalism during freedom struggle. Sister Nivedita admired the painting and opined that the picture should be displayed from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Abanindranath Tagore was also a noted writer, particularly for children. Popularly known as ‘Aban Thakur’, his books Rajkahini is a landmark in Bengali language children’s literature. “Padmini’ is a story in Rajkahini. Aban Thakur explains the glorious position of Rani Padmavati as, “Alauddin thought, ‘I will go and snatch Padmini’; later he realised, as ribs protect the heart, Rajput swords stand vigil round the clock to protect Padmini. It is easier to cross the sea yet impossible to get Padmini crossing the seven entryways to Chitor fort.”
In order to describe the cruelty of Alauddin, Abanindranath presented an emotional scene, where the pet Buzzard of Sultan attacked a parrot couple and almost kills the male
partner. Sultan ordered to get the wounded bird and cage it. The female bird comes near the half-dead partner and sits on the cage fearlessly. This incident inspired Alauddin to capture Rana Bhim Singh, husband of Padmini. In the story, the basic instinct of Alauddin and hatred of Padmini for him has also been expressed with literary flavour.” The image of Padmini appeared in the mirror. The mirror was as clear as crow’s eye… Alauddin couldn’t resist anymore; he left the Bolster and rushed towards the big mirror to get Padmini with open hands. Two eyes of the queen became red in anger, she forcefully threw a golden cup exactly at the mid of the mirror—the mirror shattered in front of Alauddin.….”
The mutual respect between queen Padmini and Rajput Sardars has been beautifully illustrated by the writer. ‘Padmini is not only wife of Bhim Shingha but also our queen. How could we send her to become the Begam of a Pathan?’ …..All Sardars stood up with swords in their hands and shouted “Jay Maharana ki jai! Jai Padmini ki jai!” .
On the other hand the feeling of Rani Padmavati for Gora, 50 yrs old Rajput-Sardar, has also been beautifully portrayed. The day Rana returned from the prison of Alauddin but Gora died in the battle. Aban Thakur narrates, “Rani Padmini put off the lamp of her bed room, a murmur sound of “Hay-Hay-Hay” was coming through south wind from the crematorium of Chitor for the whole night.”
Last but not the least is Saradindu Bandopadhyay wrote ShankhaKankan. Shankha Kankan (conch bangle) is actually a fictional presentation of Alauddin’s heartless lustful life. Saradindu beautifully explained the moral defeat of Alauddin in the battle of Chitor fort. “….killing his own uncle he got the throne of Delhi Sultanate. His harem was full of beautiful girls, yet he grasped Kamala, the queen of Gujarat and forced her to be his bed partner.
The story of Padmavati could have been taken from any of the narratives of James Todd, Rangalal Banerjee, Ramesh Chandra Dutta, Abanindranath Tagore or Saradindu Bandopadhyay. Even Alaol’s translation is less communal than Jayasi. In a book published by Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Wakil Ahmed opined, Jayasi’s Padmavat had a touch of mysticism and Sufism. What is the reason behind the choice—Mallik Muhammad Jayasi? The answer is really shocking! At present Indian intellect is suffering from “Autoimmune diseases”. Clinically it is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body. Bhansali’s mistakenly attacked Hindu pride which is actually the soul of our nationhood.
(The writer is Kolkata-based lawyer)