Padmavati or Queen Padmini of Chittor.

The controversy that’s been raging in India for a whole month lit a fire under me and made me find this portrait of Queen Padmini or Padmavati from my archives.

The lore tells us of a beautiful Srilankan princess who crossed the Indian ocean to be with her husband and beloved Ratansen, the king of Chittor.

Recently, a Bollywood period-drama based on the life of Queen Padmavati found itself in choppy waters, presumably for tinkering with history. The movie, say those who claim that their sentiments were hurt, shows the queen dancing. A queen who tread such high moral ground that she not just immolated herself but led all other women of Chittor into the funeral pyre to ensure they died with their dignity intact, couldn’t stoop so low as to dance. They are also of the opinion that the movie shows some romantic moments between that creepy invader Khilji and Queen Padmavati, which the producers say, actually show Khilji fantasizing about the queen.

There are too many moot points.

  • Whether or not there was actually a queen called Padmini who was actually a Sinhalese princess the tales of whose beauty had driven Ratansen to cross the ocean and go to Sri Lanka to marry her and bring her back?
  • Who is right? The movie-makers or the movie-attackers?
  • Why we still hear of nose-chopping and head-lopping as the right way to set matters of honor straight?
  • How the freedom of artistic expression be curbed “slowly?”

I’m sure the list is longer than my tired brain can produce.

Queen Padmini Padmavati portrait of her reflection in mirror - Alauddin Khilji's attack on Chittor.

A Portrait from the Mists of Time – Queen Padmini of Chittor (Size: 18″ x 22″, Medium: Graphite Relief Work, Copyright 2004, All Rights Reserved.

Actually, upon reading the stories, I do believe that they are more fantastical than historical. (A question that keeps perplexing me is what happened to the children of the women who immolated themselves? There’s no mention of children anywhere. In the days of the yore, I’m sure that in the absence of any birth-control measures, children were aplenty.  Silly question, I know. Yet, I’d like to know how they were whisked away from a fort that lay under siege for so long that people had begun to starve.)

Anyway, the long and short of the Padmavati story is that eventually the dust would settle. The movie-makers will find a way not only to salvage their 300 Cr. investment but also to make it bear fruit. It’s only a matter of time.

In the meantime, lose yourself in the lore of Padmini.

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5 comments on “Padmavati or Queen Padmini of Chittor.

  1. I had read somewhere that Padmavati and her legend was just the brainchild of a royal poet, and that the time period in which Khilji thrived didn’t even match the one mentioned in the legend, or something like that. Whether it was just a legend or not, I don’t see why there is so much hue and cry about it? I feel it should just be treated as a piece of art, which it actually is.

  2. I have watched the trailer and may not watch the movie simply because I did study her story (as you very well know) and many historians now say she never really existed but she was created during the Mughal Empire like many other Rajput legends… but don’t you dare suggesting this to the Rajputani or they WILL go nose-chopping and head-lopping on you! 😉 Colonel Tod gathered all those legends and he’s still adored for his Annals of Rajasthan, but then… maybe they were just that, legends…

      • Went through it. I agree that historically there isn’t much to go by. But making Padmavati “breathe, dream, doubt, fall, question” would make the angry mob angrier, for she is infallible, a near-goddess, a super-human, a woman who walked into the funeral pyre smiling, and perhaps didn’t even scream with pain. I studied Padmavati’s story in my school books and the image of her leading the women into the funeral pyre is usually the cover art.

    • I don’t think they have issues with the absence of historical facts – for them Padmini is a larger than life presence – the epitome of sacrifice for saving one’s honor. Now with the omnipresence of media and the light-speed dissemination of information/misinformation, the communities that were once happy in their isolation have suddenly realized that others perhaps have a different view of their beliefs. That and the gradual thinning of our skin too has something to contribute to it…now one must be extremely careful while even cracking a joke. All said, Bhansali could’ve chosen any topic under the sun…

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