Rani Padmini (Padmavati) (died 1303 CE), was the queen of Chittor , the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh and the daughter of the contemporary Sinhala king.
She features in Padmavat, an epic poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE.
Padmini or Padmavati spent her life in Singhal under the care of her father Gandharvsen and mother Champavati. Padmini had a talking parrot named “Hiramani”. 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). Malkhan Singh, a king from a small state came to her swayamvara to marry her. King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor who had another queen Nagmati, also went to Singhal, defeated Malkhan Singh and married Padmini as the winner of the swayamvara. He returned to Chittor with his beautiful second queen Padmini.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sultanate of Delhi – the kingdom set up by invaders – was growing in power. The Sultans made repeated attack on Mewar. The reason for one of attacks on Chittor by Alauddin Khilji was to obtain beautiful Rani Padmini by force. The story is based on the book written by the Alauddin’s historian to justify their attacks on Rajput kingdoms and much to frustrate the bravery and heroism which was present in the males and females of Rajputs warlords. Some historians do not agree with the story which is based on Muslim sources to inflame the Rajput chivalry. The story uses all such tactics and tricks which are required to make it seem true. It goes as follows.
In those days Chittor was under the rule of Rajput King Rawal Ratan Singh, a brave and noble warrior. Apart from being a loving husband and a just ruler, Rawal Ratan Singh was also a patron of the arts. In his court were many talented people, one of whom was a musician named Raghav Chetan. But unknown to anybody, Raghav Chetan was also a sorcerer. He used his evil talents to run down his rivals and, unfortunately for him, was caught red-handed in his dirty act of arousing evil spirits. Some other sources quote that Raghav Chetan was actually called in by Ratan Singh for some dirty work.
On hearing this, King Rawal Ratan Singh was furious and he banished Raghav Chetan from his kingdom after blackening his face and making him ride a donkey. This harsh punishment earned Ratan Singh an uncompromising enemy. Sulking after his humiliation, Raghav Chetan made his way towards Delhi with the aim of trying to incite the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji, to attack Chittor.
On approaching Delhi, Raghav Chetan settled down in one of the forests near Delhi which the Sultan used to frequent for hunting deer. One day, on hearing the Sultan’s hunt party entering the forest, Raghav Chetan started playing a melodious tone on his flute. When the alluring notes of Raghav Chetan’s flute reached the Sultan’s party, they were surprised as to who could be playing a flute with such mastery in a forest. The Sultan despatched his soldiers to fetch the person and, when Raghav Chetan was brought before him, Sultan Alauddin Khilji asked him to come to his court at Delhi. The cunning Raghav Chetan asked the king as to why he wants to have an ordinary musician like himself when there were many other beautiful objects to be had. Wondering what Raghav Chetan meant, Alauddin asked him to clarify. Upon being told of Rani Padmini’s beauty, Alauddin’s lust was aroused. Immediately on returning to his capital, he ordered his army to march to Chittor as he thought that so beautiful a lady deserved to be in his harem.
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 word to King Ratan Singh that he looked upon Padmini as his sister and wanted to meet her. On hearing this, desperate Ratan Singh saw a chance to escape the fury of the emperor and retain his kingdom. Therefore he agreed to show his wife to the emperor, though it was considered a highly shameful and dishonourable act in those times.
On being persuaded by her husband, Rani Padmini consented to allow Alauddin to see her reflection in a mirror. On word being sent to Alauddin that Padmini would show herself to him, he came to the fort with his selected best warriors who secretly made a careful examination of the fort’s defences on their way to the palace.
On seeing Padmini’s reflection image in the mirror, Alauddin Khilji decided that he should secure Padmini for himself. While returning to his camp, Alauddin was accompanied for some way by King Ratan Singh. Alauddin Khilji saw this as an opportunity and got Ratan Singh arrested, and asked for Padmini.
The Songara Chauhan Rajput generals Gora and Badal decided to beat the Sultan at his own game and sent back a word that Padmini would be given to Alauddin the next morning. On the following day at the crack of dawn, one hundred and fifty palanquin (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) left the fort and made their way towards Alauddin’s camps The palanquins stopped before the tent where king Ratan Singh was being held prisoner. Seeing that the palanquins had come from Chittor; and thinking that they had brought along with them his queen, King Ratan Singh was mortified. But to his surprise from the palanquins came out, not his queen and her maid servants, but fully armed soldiers who quickly freed Ratan Singh and galloped away towards Chittor on horses grabbed from Alauddin’s stables. Gora fought bravely during the skirmish and laid down his life while Badal was able to take the Rana safely to the fort in the same fort after some time rani padmawati makes jauhar.
On hearing that his designs had been frustrated, the Sultan was furious and ordered his army to storm Chittor. However, hard as they tried the Sultan’s army could not break into the fort. Then Alauddin 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. With their womenfolk dead, the men of Chittor had nothing to live for. They decided to perform saka. Each soldier got dressed in kesari robes and turbans. They charged out of the fort and fought with the array of the Sultan until all of them perished. After this pyrrhic victory, the Sultan’s troops entered the fort only to be confronted with ashes and burnt bones.
The women 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.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s poem records yet another account of the events.
When Ratan Singh refuses Alauddin Khilji’s demand for Padmavati for his harem, war ensues and the king is taken prisoner. Meanwhile the king of neighbouring Kambhalner makes an indecent proposal to the queen. Ratan Singh escapes and kills the king of Kambhalner, but is himself fatally wounded. His two queens, Padmavati and Nagmati perform Jauhar, and Alauddin’s army arrives when their ashes are still warm. Chittor falls to the emperor.