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Did Rani Padmavati ever exist in Indian history?

Saturday November 25, 2017 9:46 AM, Peer Bilal Baba, M Altaf Kumhar

Deepkia as Padmavati
[The Rajput Karni Sena, which has been leading the protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film since January this year, has threatened to burn down any theatre that screens the film. (Photo: Deepika Padukone/Instagram)]

About the History, there is a thing that we are never sure what exactly happened because often, the facts get mutated with the ravages of time and travel. Padmavati, the upcoming Bollywood film based on a poem about a Rajput ‘fictitious’ queen written by the16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi, has sparked vituperative protests across some parts of India over what the fringe elements call the ‘misrepresentations’ and ‘distortion of facts’. It seems controversy has become synonymous with Bollywood films with Padmavati, being the latest in that category. Here arises a serious question that, what actually amounts to the distortion of history in a true sense.

Glorifying myths to a level which at the point of time becomes history or distorting the facts in such a way that there remains no history but a false propaganda. Anyways, history begins informing a theocratic identity, sensitivities of people begins to run mountain high. If anything, even seemingly, threatens or distorts the roots, a sense of anger and victimhood is inevitable. Well, if we talk about the current era of social media, the discourses about history are innumerable and untraceable.

The flurry protests on the part of right-wing Hindutva groups are in full sight since it was announced that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie Padmavati’ which for eminent historians is merely an imaginary character, would be released in the next month on December 1st. Before retrospecting the whole discourse, let’s briefly take a look back into history.

Who was Rani Padmavati and did she ever exist in Indian history. It keeps one's finger crossed to know the concrete answer. Anyways Padmavati’s story is sacrosanct among the Rajputs who erroneously consider her the ideal wife and woman and within her is vested their legacy of bravery and virtue. But for a renowned Aligarian Professor Emeritus and Pudam Bhushan awardee, Irfan Habib,‘Padmavati is merely an imaginary character’. He further added that ‘if any film producer makes amovie on historical facts, he will fail in entertaining the audience.’

If the right wing sevaks are so much concerned about what they call the distortion of history then they are bound to question the credibility of other Bollywood films which are nothing but merely based on distortions and historical myths. Let they answer if ever in the history of Indian subcontinent a match between English and Indians was played in at the cost of remission of three-year revenue as shown in the movie Lagaan?

Was the 2001 Bollywood film Asoka, in which the king, was riddled with historical inaccuracies solely based on historical facts?

Or the movies like Mughal-e-Azam, MangalPandey, Jodha Akbar or Mohenjodaro without the distortions and fabrication of facts? No, they all have much entertainment and less history.

Actually, the story of Padmavati is based on fictitious grounds so far the history is concerned. While commenting over Padmavati, a renowned Aligarian Professor Emeritus IrfanHabib has said that Alauddin Khilji, one of the most powerful rulers of the Khilji dynasty had invaded Chittor in 1303 CE and had triumphed over the then Rajput ruler Ratan Singh, shreds of evidence of which are found in history but there is no mention of queen Padmini.

About 250 years after Khilji’s victory in Chittor, poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi had penned the epic ‘Padmavat’ that mentions about Rani Padmini or Padmavati. Padmavat mentions the marriage of a royal princess from Sri Lanka to King Ratan Singh of Mewar. Padmavati is an epic poem and an integral part of the Rajput literature.

Of course, there were the characters like that of Ashoka, Jodha, Mangal Pandey to name a few, but there was no Padmavati at all in the truest sense. This is authenticated by Irfan Habib who says that ‘Rani Padmavati is not historical but an imaginary character and her existence has always been debatable’.

Therefore it leads one to believe that the ‘Padmavat’ focusing on the time and social order in which it was composed and then analyses the corruption in interpretation it has gone through to finally become an episode of Rajput and Hindu pride.

One fails to understand why this entire unnecessary hullabaloo. Maybe it is driven by some politically motivated interests. The Rajput Karni Sena, which has been leading the protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film since January this year, has threatened to burn down any theatre that screens the film. The irony of the matter is such that to justify their wrong a leader of the Rajput group Karni Sena has ironically invoked a myth and said they would punish Deepika Padukone the way Lakhshman punished Ravana’s sister Surpanakha in the epic Ramayana by chopping off her nose.

Such has dominated these fascist groups that even the producer of Padmavati, had delayed the release of its film on Sunday in light of the whole nuisances created by these fringe elements.

It seems thisso-called Sevak brigade had sidelined the government machinery and hegemonized the whole political discourse aiming to fulfil their goal of making India a Hindu Rastra.

[The authors are RTI activists and can be reached at]

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