I was sitting at the ruins of old Shiva temple,lost in my thoughts, contemplating on the relationship Sisodia Rajputs shared with the Mughal dynasty. Suddenly, I realized that I had been there for quite long. I had to reach Padmini Palace before five pm after which entry in that palace is not allowed. The Palace was almost one kilometer from the temple and to make up for the lost time, I had to run in between.
Exhausted and huffing like an engine when I reached the palace, I could not find the entrance ticket. I searched all the pockets but it was not there. The caretaker was a generous man. My desperate search convinced him of the genuineness and he allowed me in.
Someone giggled. A familiar female voice! I looked around but could not spot anyone. Then I realized, my imagination was playing wild. I was imagining Jaishree giving a chuckle. She was not with me, so instead of getting embarrassed she could enjoy my lousy forgetfulness. It is usual for her to face situations, when at payment counter I realize, either I forgot the purse or there is not enough money in it. Something unforgettable and unforgivable by any self-respecting wife. And what if such situations are repetitive.
It is also quite common, if I put something in my pocket, Mr Murphy points his ridiculous Murphy’s law at poor me, and so I would find that thing only after several dry searches, checking even that pocket several times. Luckily that day I was alone, if Jaishree would have been with me, I would have been grilled for long, even after the entrance, adding frustrations to the embarrassment.
The entrance to the Padmini Palace complex is flanked by the patches of rose garden. Rusty stairs go to the first floor guest-room where even today a plain mirror is hung to indicate how Alauddin got the glimpse of Maharani Padmini. The mirror appears so old and rusted as if it remained there from that time only. From the window of this room one can look at the white color Padmini Palace that stand in a moat. It is believed that this water body was a Lotus pond. In-fact the Padmini Palace was the first one to be built inside a small water lake that also led to the architectural designs of other island palaces like the famous Lake-Palace of Udaipur. No doubt, this Palace must have been a romantic place in its day of glory.
The history of this palace goes back to the thirteenth century. Maharana Ratansen was ruling Mewar. One day his trusted scholar and astrologer Raghadev deceived him. When Maharana learned that he was cheated by Raghavdev, he was furious. He ordered, “Smear cow dung on Raghavdev’s face, parade him in public on a donkey, wearing a garland of shoes. The liar deserves such a procession and after the procession throw him out of Chittor. He has no place to live in Chittor.”
Raghavdev was punished and thrown out of Chittorgarh as per Maharana’s order. After sometime Maharana forgot about the incident, but the same was not true with Raghavdev. He was burning with an ardent desire of revenge. It is rightly said by Giovannio Guareschi, an Italian Journalist, “A man who offers an insult writes it in sand, but for the man who receives it, it’s chiseled in bronze.”
Raghavdev moved from Chittorgarh into services of the Sultan of Delhi, Sultan Alauddin Khilji. Raghavdev was a learned man, he soon rose in ranks and became Sultan’s trusted courtier. One day he got an opportunity to tempt Alauddin that his harem was incomplete without the queen of Chittor, Rani Padmini.
Curious about Maharani’s beauty, the lust-blinded Sultan ordered his army to attack Chittor. The army siege the fort for around seven months, but the determined Rajputs did not allow him to gain access. Alauddin sensed his army’s growing restlessness and a desire to return. In his last attempt, he decided to trick the Maharana. He sent a messenger for a peace treaty. In his message Alauddin proclaimed the realization of his mistake and a desire to end the siege. He further added, as he got his good senses back he wanted to meet sister Padmini and to apologize. In case this meeting was not possible he would be contented even with a glimpse of her, which would convince him that Maharani has personally forgiven him for his misadventure.
The Rajputs were not convinced about the intentions of turncoat Alauddin. However, they were also tired of the siege and were looking forward to its end. They replied that meeting Maharani would not be possible but to avoid rubbing him the wrong way, they agreed that he could get a glimpse of her from a mirror of the guest room, showing her reflections in the pond surrounding her palace. Alauddin agreed to it.
On his arrival in the fort, Alauddin won Maharana’s confidence with his sweet talks and expensive gifts. When Alauddin’s evil eyes briefly saw the reflections of Maharani he was convinced that Raghavdev was right and his desperation to own her increased. What he saw before him was,
है अक्स आईने में रूखे लाजवाब का
पानी में फूल तैर रहा है गुलाब का |
When Alauddin was leaving, Maharana personally escorted him to the gate of the fort, expressing warmth. In all this talks of friendship he became a little careless. After wishing good-bye to Sultan as he turned he was surrounded and captured by Sultan’s special force.
A message was drafted and sent to the court of Chittor. If Maharani wanted her husband to be alive, she had to surrender and marry Alauddin. The deceit and the subsequent derogatory message made Rajputs furious. They decided to pay Alauddin back in his own coin. A reply was drafted, “Maharani is ready to surrender with five hundred of her trusted maids. She will come to meet Sultan in his tent but before meeting him she will like to meet Maharana in private to express her helplessness and to seek his blessings. And, to protect the modesty of Maharani and the accompanying maids, palanquins carrying them must not be searched.”
Promiscuous Alauddin promptly agreed to the conditions. The next day palanquins arrived and were taken to the tent where Maharana was imprisoned. Maharana was aghast at the thought of Padmini agreeing to Sultan’s ill wishes. As Maharani’s palanquins was brought inside he closed his eyes with disgust.
In sudden trojan war kind of twist, Padmini’s uncle and nephew Gora and Badal jumped out of it. They freed Maharana. Badal and Maharana rushed to the fort on horses. Gora decided to give them cover with accompanying maids who were actually five hundred fearless Rajputs. Gora and all the Rajputs were killed but mission Maharaja was successful as he safely reached the fort.
It was time for the final battle. The defeat was certain. However, as General George Hoover had once noted, “Real battles are fought not for power, money, or land acquisitions. They are fought for self-esteem and pride.” At night Maharani Padmini led thousand of Rajput ladies into the sacred pyre of Jauhar. Next day, the fort gates were opened and an army of seven thousand saffron-clad Rajputs rushed for the final battle. This small band of Rajput army was no match to Sultan’s massive garrison and the battle was over soon.
When lascivious Alauddin entered the fort the stench of burnt human bodies and smoldering ashes of death greeted him. His victory turned sour.
The fire of sacred pyre left a permanent mark of halo around Maharani Padmini’s memory. Several noted historians, however, have raised doubts about her being a real person and not a fictional character created, popularized and immortalized by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in his epic Padmavat. Further explorations though have confirmed the existence of Maharani Padmini during that period. In my opinion, such doubts and discussions are inevitable and have to do more with the tradition of oral communication of history and historical events. I let historians to contest, dig, argue, counter-argue and to separate facts from fictions.
For the readers, let me change the tragic and somber mood to something lighter, something filled with an intense desire to live and thrive. Let me share with you the song of the movie ‘Guide’, filmed on gracious Waheeda Rehman. The song is filmed in the fort of Chittorgarh and the Padmini Palace can also be seen in the backdrop.
Loved this Joie de Vivre.
At the Padmini Palace, I too had a last look at it and try to imagine its beauty with a lotus pond around it. There are many neglected water bodies inside the fort with stinking water. I wish they were clean and well-kept. I believe that pristine water bodies will further enhance the beauty of this fort and attract more tourists.
I had been busy like a bird-dog ever since I entered the fort. After visiting these most important buildings of the fort, I slowed down and moved ahead aimlessly enjoying the human, animal and avian life of the fort. I still had around an hour and a half for covering the remaining part of the fort.
My visit to the fort is not yet complete. I think (hopefully!), I would be able to complete it in the third part of this series. And it all has to do with my passion to share in detail the historical stories associated with this fort. Thanks for remaining with me, and listening these stories 🙂