Jayasi’s Padmawati is real or a fiction, with her ‘jauhar’ she puts invaders to shame and rekindles sense of pride and sacrifice
Dr. Rakesh Kumar Pandey
Was Padmawati a real live character or a fictitious poetic imagination of Jayasi? This question holds no relevance now because her character has quite successfully served its purpose for centuries after coming into existence.
The ‘secular’ historians have invested a century utilising their expertise in glorifying barbaric Islamic invaders as benevolent emperors. They left no stone unturned in their effort to project the medieval era as a glorious period governed by Babur, Akbar and Aurangzeb. This was done in a motivated manner by suppressing and hiding the glaring display of their barbarism on one hand, and by magnifying some of their insignificant and semi-confirmed attributes, on the other.
In their zeal to project a picture completely different from the reality, they did not hesitate to dwarf and even demonise the local kings, indigenous characters and dynasties such as Maharana Pratap, Prithviraj Chauhan, Lalitaditya, Vijaynagar empire, Peshavas and Shivaji.
However, ‘Padmawati’ seems to have beaten them in their game of appropriating historical characters. Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmawati successfully exposes the brutal, inhuman and pervert methods of the Islamic invaders and creates a heroic icon Padmawati, who chose ‘Jauhar’ over humiliation.
What was heroic in a mass-suicide as they could have fought those inhuman invaders till death? This is the current defence of the pseudo-historians in their last ditch effort to glorify the invaders and denounce the victim.
In fact, had she died in a war with Khilji she would have had failed to convey what these invaders were making the women to pass through in the territories won by them. She
sacrificed herself with hundreds of other women only to successfully register the perverted brutality of the invaders in the books of history and the minds of the readers.
The heroic act was not that she asked thousands of women to participate in the act of self-immolation but in the fact that she denied the perverts the enjoyment of humiliating and violating the dignity of living and dead women.
That her act caught the imagination of the people then who made this ‘creation’ of Jayasi an extremely popular text is a proof enough to establish this point. Irrespective of the fact that Padmawati was real or imaginary.
After all, why did Jayasi write Padmawati and why did it become so popular? Make no mistake about the popularity of ‘Padmawati’ that drew one of the most successful contemporary Bollywood filmmakers in choosing this as the central and title character of his new ‘marketable’ venture.
We all know very well how the character had come out of the pages of Jayasi and caught the imagination of the readers in his times. It certainly resonated with the wishes and suppressed dreams of those who read the text and felt completely connected to it. Whether Jayasi wrote a fiction to infuse a sense of ‘false’ pride in the defeatist mindset of the humiliated losers or he narrated a true story —in both the cases the brutal, cruel and pervert methods of the invaders get highlighted with his masterstroke. Padmawati was ‘at worst’ an imagination of a poet that satiated those who were completely humiliated and were finding some reason to save their pride and dignity. Unfortunately for the ‘secular’ historians both—real and imaginary—incarnations of Padmawati go on to establish the cruel barbaric ways of the monstrous invaders in dealing with the local inhabitants.
(The writer is an Associate Professor of Physics, Kirori Mal College, Delhi)