When you visit Chittorgarh Fort, Rajasthan, among other historical stories, two stories about two women, you will come to know. Local guide will take you to the palace and the self immolation site of Queen Padmini and narrate about her beauty and how she committed Jauhar (self immolation) to protect her honor. Here, I will attempt to tell the tale of Rani Padmini (Queen Padmini) of Chittor. Her life story is an eternal legend in the history of Chittor.
Rani Padmini (Queen Padmini) was the queen of Chittor, the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh and the daughter of the contemporary Sinhala king Gandharvsen. Rani Padmini was renowned across Indian land for her bewitching beauty.
Padmini or Padmavati spent her life in Singhal under the care of her father Gandharvsen and mother Champavati. Her father arranged a swayamvara and invited all the Hindu kings and Rajputs to ask for her hand (request to marry her by showing their eligibility). In that Swayamvara, Rawal Ratan Singh won the Swayamvara and married Padmini. He had another queen, Nagmati. He returned Chittor with his beautiful gorgeous Padmini, the second queen.
In 1206 Sultan Allauddin Khilji took the reins of Delhi throne. He was very ambitious and adopted as his title ‘Sikander Sani’ (Second Alexander).The Sultans made repeated attack on Mewar. Reason being Allauddin Khilji wanted to win Chittor because Chittor never accepted the rule of Islam. Another reason was Rani Padmini, most gorgeous beautiful queen of Chittor. When he came to know about her, he launched an attack on Chittor in order to capture her.
But to his dismay, on reaching Chittor, Alauddin found the fort to be heavily defended. Desperate to have a look at the legendary beauty of Padmini, he sent message to King Rawal Ratan Singh that Khilji could have a glimpse of Queen Padmini’s face he would return Delhi. In order to maintain peace and avoid loss of life, Rawal Ratan Singh agreed to let Khiljee see Padmini’s reflection in mirror.
Khilji alongwith his bodyguards entered the fort and after looking at her in the mirror,returned. By way of courtesy Ratan Singh, alongwith his warriors went to see him off to the gate of the fort. There the deceptive Khilji signaled his soldiers to arrest the King Ratan Singh and sent a message through his men that in order to gain release of Rawal Ratan Singh, Padmini should agree to accompany Sultan to Delhi.
Everyone was taken aback by this message. Queen Padmini at once arrived at a counter scheme by which could get release of her husband and protect her honor as well. Her reply to the Sultan was that if the Sultan could send seven hundred Dolis or Palkis1 for her seven hundred maids then she could accompany him.
Sultan accepted the proposaland consequently sent her seven hundred Palkis. According to Padmini’s plan a warrior in woman’s disguise was made to sit in each palki which carried arms for six soldiers disguised as footmen of the each Palki. So, these 700 palkis led by Goura (Padmini’s uncle) reached Sultan’s camp and conveyed it to him that Padmini wants to meet her Husband for the last time. Sultan agreed, whereupon Palkis moved towards Rawal’s camp. The warriors freed him from bondage and he was taken back to the fort. The turn of events took the Sultan and his soldiers completely by surprise and before they could take hold the situation the 700 warriors from the Palkis and 4200 footmen turned warriors fell upon the enemy and routed them out of Chittor.
A frustrated Allauddin though returned to Delhi but he seethed in agony to avenge his insult. In no time did he organize his army and attacked Chittor again. However, hard as they tried the Sultan’s army could not break into the fort. Then Allauddin decided to lay siege to the fort. The siege was a long drawn one and gradually supplies within the fort were depleted. Finally King Ratan Singh gave orders that the Rajputs would open the gates and fight to death with the besieging troops. On hearing of this decision, Padmini decided that with their men-folk going into the unequal struggle with the Sultan’s army in which they were sure to perish, the women of Chittor had either to commit the divine suicide jauhar or face dishonour at the hands of the victorious enemy.
The choice was in favour of suicide through jauhar. A huge pyre was lit and all the women of Chittor jumped into the flames after their queen, thus depriving the enemy waiting outside. After this pyrrhic victory, the Sultan’s troops entered the fort only to be confronted with ashes and burnt bodies.
The Queen Padmini and other women of the palace who performed jauhar perished but their memory has been kept alive till today by bards and songs which glorify their act, which was right in those days and circumstances. A halo of honour is given to their sacrifice.
**Is it that same mirror? Tourist guides say so and demonstrates how Padmini was shown to Khilji in the mirror.
Padmini Palace Garden.
Palki1 : Covered seat enclosed in curtains on which royal ladies were carried in mediaeval times on poles held parallel to the ground on the shoulders of two or four people.