When talking about the legendary great women of India, one can't ignore Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh, who holds a special place and prime importance as an icon of national honor. The story of this queen teaches the lesson of courage, braveness, and sacrifice. It signifies the importance of honor of Indian women and the pure relation of marriage.
Rani Padmini or Padmavati was the daughter of King Gandharvasen and Queen Champavati of Singh. While describing her beauty in the poem Padmavat, the poet Jayasi started by describing the fanciful beautiful kingdom of Simhala-dvipa where Princess Padmani lived. Sinhala or Sinhala-dvippa resides in the Ceylon of yesteryears and today's Sri Lanka. The poet further referred Pamani as a "perfect woman" with beauty that even goddess would be jealous of.
Padmavati had a talking parrot who was called Hira-mani, who was considered as the closest confidantes of the princess. As in many legends and epics animals and birds have been shown speaking the language of the main characters, like the epics or love poems written by Milton's Paradise Lost and the Arab poem of Hatim Tai.
Hira-mani was the one who recited the beauty of Padmavati's beauty to the king of Chittor, Ratan Singh. Hearing about the beauty of Princess Padmavati Ratan Singh was completely mesmerized by her beauty description. From that time the longed to marry the princess, soon after the king was able to do so after a lot of dramatic battles and adventurous turns of events.
Ratan Singh or Ratansimha was the last rule of the Medapata (Mewar) kingdom which in present-day is Rajasthan, India. He was from the Rawal branch of the Guhila dynasty, the one which ruled from Chitrakuta fort now known as Chittorgarh. He was the last ruler of his branch and was cheated and defeated by Alauddin chilli in 1303 CE.Ratan Singh is attested by the 1302 CE Dariba temple inscription. Few coins that were originally issued by him have also been discovered.
It was in 1303 CE when the Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji, the ruler of Delhi Sultanate invaded Chittor. He reached Chittor hill on foot, accompanied by two wings of his army attacked the fort from two different sides. Failing for two months, the attackers started pelting stones on the fort using manjaniqs yet failed to capture the fort. Finally, it was on 26 August 1303, the invaders cheated Ratan Singh and entered the fort.
Princess Padmavati was trained with education about war strategies and possessed an immense skill for a battleship. After Princess Padmini reached marriageable age King Gandharvsena decided to organize a swayamvar for the princess. Kings and Princes from far came along to claim the Princess's hand for her rightful ownership. As in those days, Swayamvar was organized by the princess's parents to let their daughters choose their prince.
However, Princess Padmavati did not have a norma swayamvar. Her's was very different from the ordinary ones of those times. The brave princess came up with the condition that, whosoever defeated the designated fighter in the sword battle, could marry her. The best part is, no one was aware of the fact that, the designated fighter was the princess herself disguised as a male fighter.
Princess fought very bravely and lost the battle to the King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor and respecting her kept condition, she married the King. Ratan Singh was known for his bravery, gallant and loyalty for his kingdom and also for his love and passion for arts.
The royal court of Ratan Singh had many talented and skillful people. Such a skillful man was Raghav Chetan. An artist not only known for his beautiful arts but was one of the king's most trustable person, he served the king with secrets from within the four walls of the palace.
Raghav Chetan shared all the palace's secrets with the king but he wisely hid that he was a sorcerer who practiced witchcraft and black magic for his own selfish needs. To keep his secret intact, Raghav Chetan killed many who came on his way and knew his secret. But unfortunately one day he was caught red-handed by the King. As punishment, he was banished from the kingdom after much humiliation.
After his banishment from Chittor, Ratan Singh went to Delhi and settled in one of the forests where Alauddin Khilji used to visit often for hunting deer. Let's rewind few steps back to the history. Jalaluddin Khilji was the first Emperor of the Khilji dynasty was the Sultan of Delhi. In 1296 his nephew and son-in-law Allaudin Khilji killed him and claimed the throne of Delhi. He won over Mongol armies and had a dream of becoming world conqueror.
Soon after becoming the Delhi sultanate he became one of the most powerful rulers in the subcontinent. One of his bitter opponents was the Rajput kingdom of Mewar. The Chittor fort of Mewar, built by the Mauryan empire in the 7th century AD, located on a hilltop spreading across seven hundred acres with beautiful fortifications It was the time when Rawal Ratan Singh ruled Mewar.
Raghav Chetan was well aware of the bitterness between the Delhi Sultanate and Mewar king. That's the reason he purposely settled in Delhi. one fine day when he came to know that king is visiting the jungle for hunting deer, he decided to impress the sultanate by his talent. He started playing melodies tone on his flute. After hearing his soothing notes the Sultan noticed Chetan and this way Chetan got the chance to meet Alauddin Khilji
After meeting the Sultan Chetan tried his best to convince the king to attack Chittor but the Delhi sultan was not convinced, seeing nothing worked Chetan fed him the details of Queen Padmavati's beauty, which mesmerized the Delhi sultan and he couldn't stop himself from owning the queen.
After hearing about the mesmerizing beauty of Rani Padmavati, Alauddin Khilji was keen to include her in his harem. The Sultan tried many times to defeat Chittor but came empty handed. Finally, he sent a request to King Rawal Ratan Singh stating that he regarded the queen as his sister and wanted to see her in person as he had only heard about her beauty.
To avoid a war, Ratan Singh allowed Allaudin to visit Chittor and meet the queen. On reaching Chittor, Alauddin Khilji found the fort heavily guarded and sent his word to the king to see the real beauty of Chittor. Thinking of this as a harmless meeting Ratan Singh agreed to his request to meet his wife. In disguise of this meeting, Khilji brought his best army men, to take notes of the Chittorgarh fort's defense loopholes.
Aware of the brutalities of foreign invaders Rani Padmini was hesitant to meet the Sultan in person and insisted to show her reflection to the sultan. So arrangements were made and mirrors were set in such a way that Khilji could only see the Queen's reflection in presence of her husband and she herself accompanied by hundred female servants. On seeing her reflection Khilji fell head over heels for her.
As a good host when Ratan Singh was accompanying Khilji out of the fort, Allaudin's men pounced on him and held him prisoner. The very next day Allaudin sent a letter to Rani Padmini demanding her in exchange of Ratan Singh. Khilji believed that killing the king is the only way he can have the queen and his kingdom.
After reading the letter sent by Khilji, the queen herself discussed a strategy with the leading generals of Ratan Singh's army which included of her uncle and cousin Gora and Badal and together they came up with a daring and ingenious plan. So, the very next day a letter was sent to Khilji stating that the Queen would come to his camp in the morning along with her retinue and maids.
The very next morning 200 palanquins with each palanquin carried by four palanquin bearers left the hates of Chittor. These bearers were Rajput Soldiers in disguise.Inside every palanquin were four men carrying weapons. On reaching Khilji's campsite, the soldiers jumped out and attacked the unsuspecting soldiers. This way King Ratan Singh was rescued but the army suffered huge losses with the death of two generals.
The agitated Khilji then declared war to the fort as the long going seige could not be sustained any longer. The Rajput army already had suffered a lot and there were limited resources left for war. In this situation, Ratan Singh had no choice but to decide on Saka and Jauhar. Saka means men fight till their last breath and the women kill themselves by setting themselves on fire.
Ratan Singh and all his men fought bravely but lost the war as they already lost hundreds of warriors and their defeat was for sure. Brave Rawal King Ratan Singh also died fighting with his men. Meanwhile, inside the Chitto fort, Rani Padmavati and all other consorts of Rawal Ratan Singh with the wives of all the army men and all the women present in the state walked down the secret passage that linked from Chittor fort into the Jauhar Kund.
They sang praises about the bravery of their men and together jumped into the fire. It's said that Queen Padmavati was the first to jump into the Jauhar Kund and the entire palace echoed with their cries. By the time Khilji made his way to the fort to claim their authority on royal treasure and women they heard the eerie cries from the Jauhar Kund.
The sound and cries coming from Jauhar Kund were so fierce that Khilji ordered to close the tunnel passage permanently. It was later after hundred years ago, the passage was reopened by the then king of Chittor who honored the bravery of these women. All the women who performed Jauhar are still alive in the bards and songs that glorify their sacrifice. These women chose Jauhar instead of enjoying security and luxury of inglorious captivity.