Beautiful Padmavati of Rajastah folklore is as much a historic fact as Shakauntala of Kalidasa was. The latter, at least, finds passing mention in the ancient epic, Mahabharata . Padmavati story has no such scriptural background.
Padmavati, if you imagine that she existed, was neither a Rajput and, by being of non-Indian origin, nor a Hindu. If you go by the saga as penned by its creator, Muslim Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The epic poem, for whose storyline no historic background can be found, has just one character who has a place in history – the powerful and purportedly ruthless Sultan of Delhi – Alaudin Khilji (AD 1296 –1316). Jayasi’s poem appeared in 1540 more than two centuries after Khilji’s death. The events described bear as much authenticity as Islamic Hadiths, which are supposed to be the private sayings of Prophet Muhammad, but recorded two hundred years after his death.
The story of Padmavati is an incredible poetic fantasy. She lived in the Singhala kingdom seven seas away from Rajasthan (an Indian province which has no approach to seas). Singhala is presumably Srilanka, because it’s the only place known by that name, accessible from India, but across the ‘seven seas’. If, say, you set sail from the Rann of Kutch, the closest access to the sea from Chittor, the description fits allowing for a bit of poetic exaggeration. So if Padmavati originated in Srilanka, it was unlikely that she was a Hindu or a Rajput. According to historical evidence, Singhala (Lion’s den) or Srilanka was almost entirely Buddhist by the third century BCE. Alternatively, she was one of the few Tamils who emigrated there in the second century BC. If you wish to go by Hindu legends that pass for history in India, then she must be a Rakshasi – a demoness – and, being a princess, a later progeny of Ravana’s royal heritage. In any event, she was no Rajput.
A talking parrot escaping death from the fury of the king of Srilanka and flying across ‘seven seas’ to reach Chittor in Rajasthan – more than 2700 kilometers as the parrot flies – and then describing the beauty of princess Padmavati to a credulous king, Ratan Singh or Ratansimha, named Ratan Sen in the poem, is possible only in a poet’s creative imagination. However, the existence of a real Ratansimha as the last ruler of Mewar, who was defeated by Alaudin Khilji, is on record. The, said king of Chittor, trusting the words of the talking parrot, leaving his kingdom and sailing the seas to find this beauty in far away Srilanka would be, at best, an event from the Panchatantra or the Arabian tales. After a series of adventures and risk to his life and loss of his 60,000 soldiers, Ratan Singh returned to Chittor with Padmavati with a lot many female escorts for her. Just as romantic but incredible is the part of the story that Alaudin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, attacked Chttor for the sake of this woman, her beauty based on hearsay.
Allaudin’s conquest of Chittor fort and its siege for 8 months is history. Amir Khusru, who accompanied Allaudin also tells us with elan that 30,000 Hindus of Chittor were massacred. History also says that the womenfolk, as was the revolting tradition of Rajputs of the time, committed mass suicide – Jauhar – on a common bonfire. There, unfortunately, was not a single female like the Rani of Jhansi among the poud Rajputs to fight the invaders and die a heroic death.
The movie Padmavati, painstakingly and quite expensively created by Sanjay Bhansaii and his talented team at an alleged cost of 1600 million rupees (25 million US Dollars – quite a sum even by Holywood standards of extravaganza) is sure to be a spectacle surpassing the ancient movie Ben Hur and India’s own Mughal e Azam or the more recent Bahubali. Nobody who objects to the film and the little goon who offered 100 million rupees for the head of the producer-director of the movie has a clue why they should want to ban it.
According to those who have seen the preview of the movie, there is nothing in it that should humiliate Rajput or Hindu pride. Even assuming there is such a scene as the Srilankan-born Padmavati or some other Rajput wife succumbing to Alaudin’s power or kingly charm, there is nothing in it that should arouse Hindu anger. It is well known that the more recent Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542– 1605), had married several Rajput women and kept them in his harem. The proud Rajputs had no qualms nor concern about Hindu honour when conceding their women folk to the Muslim rulers for the sake of political expediency, to save their skin, or just to get into the good books of the men of power. The pride of Rajputs is no nobler than the pride of the suicide squad. Their history is one of mutual wars and mostly of external defeats. Like Lot of the Bible, many of them willingly offered their daughters and sisters to Mughal kings to curry favour and to win a place in the Mughal Darbar. Apart from Akbar, who allowed a semblance of equality among his Hindu and Muslim wives, even allowing some of them to retain their faith, no such concession was allowed by his predecessors or successors to the Hindu members of their harem.
What the Rajputs cherished was the number of wounds sustained, not victories attained. Rajput Maharajahs amassed great wealth with their quid pro quo treaties with the Mughals and later with the British. Rajput royalty took pride in the palaces they built, number of wives they acquired, and the tigers they hunted in white man’s company. There is very little to show, barring occasional glimpses, of valour that resulted in victory. That credit, though short-lived, rests with post-Shivaji Marathas.
The reason for the ongoing violence and threat to kill by quasi-Rajputs and pretenders to Hindu pride is clear. Radicalism among Hindus of India is making a bid to match the radicalism in Pakistan. Recall the Go-to-Pakistan slogans of the 2013-14 election period. Hindu radicalism that was born with the election of former RSS Sanchalak Narendra Modi has by now assumed alarming proportions.
Mr. Modi himself has come to be revered as a Prophet to match the Islamic concept of one, if not a Hindu god himself. Those who raise a finger against his name, says a minion – a minister at that – will have his hands cut. A Muslim boy who posted a photo (supposed to be a morphed one) of Modi is in jail. Men are being thrashed, even killed, in the name of cow protection while taking cattle to the market or for skinning dead cows (an economic necessity). Journalists are being jailed or shot dead just as it routinely happens in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Gauri Lankesh, popular Kannada writer who was also the editor of an independent publication was shot dead in cold blood. . in less than four years, at least four writers of repute were thus shot dead in cowardly fashion for their secular views. Two days before this writing, a young man was found killed and hanged in the name of the movie named Padmavati http://moviesamachar.com/news/padmavati-we-don-t-just-burn-effigies-young-man-found-hanging-from-jaipur-s-nahargarh-fort). “We will not stop at burning effigies,” stated a note found beside his dead body. Two popular Muslim actors – Amir Khan and Salman Khan – have been made to shut up for saying that there is intolerance in India. The intolerance resounds in the silence of these vociferous men.
Mr. Adityanath Yogi, a temple priest, who is now the chief minister of India’s most populous state proclaimed that Secularism is a lie. Mr. Modi and his cabinet members call it sickularism presumably because the phrase makes them sick. Secularism, by the way, is a principle that is enshrined in the Nation’s Constitution that these worthies had sworn to protect while assuming power.
The reason for blocking the release of a movie based on an imaginary poetic saga, killing people on its name and putting a hectic price on the head of its producer-director and caste is simply the same as Ayatollah Khomeini putting a price on Salman Rushdie’s book without ever reading it. A school drop-out yoga teacher, who has also emerged as a corporate giant by reviving what is alleged to be Hindu system of medicine, threatened to behead all those who did not shout Bharat Mata ki Jai (Victory to Mother Bharat – a slogan invented by the Congress during the freedom struggle). The trend is violence and murder of presumed opponents of the revival of a religious ‘revolution’ and the heralding of an imaginary Ramarajya (Rama Kingdom) where women would be treated as chattel and expelled in the name of family honour if she was allegedly molested or stayed in a stranger’s house . Since Rama beheaded a Shudra South Indian for practising Brahminic austerities (‘beyond the Vindhya Mountains, which is Southern India), this will become the rule of the Rama kingdom. Phrases such as pull out tongue, Behead, Skin alive etc. have become common political parlance. Muslims and Christians will remain second class citizens, their children singing Vande Mataram (not the National anthem), practising Sun worship (Surya namaskar – a form of compound exercise along the principle of a vedic concept where elements such as sun, fire and stars were worshiped as gods) and studying Gita (which tells you to do your duty without expecting wages) in school. Cows will be avenged with human lives; cow dung and urine will be used in soap and shampoo and birthday cakes. If one could follow the example of the great leader Mr. Modi, you could do a selfie with your morning urine before the mandatory yoga, which would be considered a part of your nationalistic fervour.
We are only seeing the beginning yet.