Rani Padmini

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This article is about the Queen of Mewar. For the Indian actress, see Ranipadmini. For the Malayalam-language film, see Rani Padmini (film).
Rani Padmini
Rani of Mewar
An 18th century painting of Padmini.
Spouse Rawal Ratan Singh
Religion Hinduism

Padmini, also known as Padmavati, is a legendary 13th-14th century Indian queen (Rani). The earliest source to mention her is Padmavat, an epic poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE. The text, which features elements of fantasy, describes her story as follows: Padmavati was an exceptionally beautiful princess of the Singhal kingdom (Sri Lanka). Ratan Sen, the Rajput ruler of Chittor, heard about her beauty from a talking parrot named Hiraman. After an adventurous quest, he married her and brought her to Chittor. Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi also heard about her beauty, and attacked Chittor to obtain her. Meanwhile, Ratan Sen was killed in a combat with Devpal, the king of Kumbhalner who was also enamoured with Padmavati's beauty. Before Alauddin Khilji could capture Chittor, Padmavati and her companions committed Jauhar (self-immolation).

Several subsequent adaptions of the legend characterized her as a Hindu Rajput queen, who defended her honour against a Muslim invader. Over years, she came to be seen as a historical figure, and appeared in several novels, plays, television serials and movies.

Versions of the legend[edit]

The earliest source to mention the queen Padmini or Padmavati is the Awadhi language Padmavat (1540 CE) of Malik Muhammad Jayasi.[1] The earlier accounts that describe Alauddin Khilji's conquest of Chittorgarh make no mention of this queen.[2] Subsequently, many literary works mentioning her story were produced; these can be divided into four major categories:[3]

  • Between 16th and 19th centuries, at least 12 Persian and Urdu translations or adaptations of Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padmavat were produced.[4] More Urdu versions appeared in 20th century, all adhering to Jayasi's love poetry tradition.[5]
  • In 1589 CE, Hemratan composed Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai, the first Rajput adaption of the legend, presenting it as a "true tale".[6] Between 16th and 18th centuries, more Rajput versions of the Padmavati legend were compiled in present-day Rajasthan, under the patronage of the Rajput chiefs. Unlike Jayasi's theme of courting and marriage, the Rajput adaptions emphasized their honour in defending their kingdom against Alauddin Khilji.[4]
  • During 1829-32, James Tod included a colonial re-telling of the legend in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajas'han. His version was based on the information compiled from the oral and textual traditions of writers employed by the Rajput chiefs.[4]
  • From late 19th century onwards, several Bengali versions of legend were produced, when James Tod's work reached there. These Bengali narratives portrayed Padmavati as a Hindu queen who immolated herself to protect her honour against a lustful Muslim invader.[4]

The Discovery of India (1946) by Jawaharlal Nehru also narrates Khilji seeing Padmini in a mirror. But it is believed that Nehru's narrative is based on recent local poets.[7]

Legendary accounts[edit]

Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padmavat (1540 CE)[edit]

Main article: Padmavat

Padmavati was the daughter of Gandharv Sen, the king of the Singhal kingdom. She became close friends with a talking parrot named Hiraman. Her father resented the parrot's closeness to his daughter, and ordered the bird to be killed. The parrot flew away to save its life, but was trapped by a bird catcher, and sold to a Brahmin. The Brahmin bought it to Chittor, where the local king Ratan Sen purchased it, impressed by its ability to talk.[8]

The parrot greatly praised Padmavati's beauty in front of Ratan Sen, who became determined to marry Padmavati. Guided by the parrot and accompanied by his 16,000 followers, Ratan Sen reached Singhal after crossing the seven seas. There, he commenced austerities in a temple to seek Padmavati. Meanwhile, Padmavati came to the temple, informed by the parrot, but quickly returned to her palace without meeting Ratan Sen. Once she reached the palace, she started longing for Ratan Sen.[8]

Meanwhile, Ratan Sen realized that he had missed a chance to meet Padmavati. In desolation, he decided to immolate himself, but was interrupted by the deities Shiva and Parvati.[9] On Shiva's advice, Ratan Sen and his followers attacked the royal fortress of Singhal kingdom. They were defeated and imprisoned, while still dressed as ascetics. Just as Ratan Sen was about to be executed, his royal bard revealed to the captors that he was the king of Chittor. Gandharv Sen then married Padmavati to Ratan Sen, and also arranged 16,000 padmini[a] women of Singhal for the 16,000 men accompanying Ratan Sen.[12]

Queen Nagmati talks to her parrot, an illustrated manuscript of Padmavat from c. 1750 CE

Sometime later, Ratan Sen learned from a messenger bird that his first wife — Nagmati — is longing for him back in Chittor. Ratan Sen decided to return to Chittor, with his new wife Padmavati, his 16,000 followers and their 16,000 companions. During the journey, the Ocean god punished Ratan Sen for having excessive pride in winning over the world's most beautiful woman: everyone except Ratan Sen and Padmavati was killed in a storm. Padmavati was marooned on the island of Lacchmi, the daughter of the Ocean god. Ratan Sen was rescued by the Ocean god. Lacchmi decided to test Ratan Sen's love for Padmavati. She disguised herself as Padmavati, and appeared before Ratan Sen, but the king was not fooled. The Ocean god and Lacchmi then reunited Ratan Sen with Padmavati, and rewarded them with gifts. With these gifts, Ratan Sen arranged a new retinue at Puri, and returned to Chittor with Padmavati.[12]

At Chittor, a rivalry developed between Ratan Sen's two wives, Nagmati and Padmavati. Sometime later, Ratan Sen banished a Brahmin courtier named Raghav Chetan for fraud. Raghav Chetan went to the court of Alauddin Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi, and told him about the exceptionally beautiful Padmavati.[12] Alauddin decided to obtain Padmavati, and besieged Chittor. Ratan Sen agreed to offer him tribute, but refused to give away Padmavati. After failing to conquer to the Chittor fort, Alauddin feigned a peace treaty with Ratan Sen. He deceitfully captured Ratan Sen and took him to Delhi. Padmavati sought help from Ratan Sen's loyal feudatories Gora and Badal, who reached Delhi with their followers, disguised as Padmavati and her female companions. They rescued Ratan Sen; Gora was killed fighting the Delhi forces, while Ratan Sen and Badal reached Chittor safely.[13]

Meanwhile, Devpal, the Rajput king of Chittor's neighbour Kumbhalner, had also become infatuated with Padmavati. While Ratan Sen was imprisoned in Delhi, he proposed marriage to Padmavati through an emissary. When Ratan Sen returned to Chittor, he decided to punish Devpal for this insult. In the ensuing single combat, Devpal and Ratan Sen killed each other. Meanwhile, Alauddin invaded Chittor once again, to obtain Padmavati. Facing a certain defeat against Alauddin, Nagmati and Padmavati committed self-immolation (sati) on Ratan Sen's funeral pyre; other women of Chittor also died in mass self-immolation (jauhar). The men of Chittor fought to death against Alauddin, who acquired nothing but an empty fortress after his victory.[13]

Hemratan's Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai (1589 CE)[edit]

Ratan Sen, the Rajput king of Chitrakot (Chittor) had a wife named Prabhavati, who was a great cook. One day, the king expressed dissatisfaction with the food she had prepared. Prabhavati challenged Ratan Sen to find a woman better than her. Ratan Sen angrily set out to find such a woman, accompanied by an attendant. A Nath Yogi ascetic told him that there were many padmini[a] women on the Singhal island. Ratan Sen crossed the sea with help of another ascetic, and then defeated the king of Singhal in a game of chess. The king of Snghal married his sister Padmini to Ratan Sen, and also gave him a huge dowry which included half of the Singhal kingdom, 4000 horses, 2000 elephants and 2000 companions for Padmini.[14]

In Chittor, while Ratan Sen and Padmini were making love, a Brahmin named Raghav Vyas accidentally interrupted them. Fearing Ratan Sen's anger, he escaped to Delhi, where he was received honourably at the court of Alauddin Khilji. When Alauddin learned about the existence of beautiful padmini women on the island of Singhal, he set out on an expedition to Singhal. However, his soldiers drowned in the sea. Alauddin managed to obtain a tribute from the king of Singhal, but could not obtain any padmini women. Alauddin learned that the only padmini woman on the mainland was Padmavati. So, he gathered an army of 2.7 million soldiers, and besieged Chittor. He deceitfully captured Ratan Sen, after having caught a glimpse of Padmini.[14]

The frightened nobles of Chittor considered surrendering Padmini to Alauddin. But two brave warriors — Goru (or Gora) and Badil (also Vadil or Badal) — agreed to defend her and rescue their king. The Rajputs pretended to make arrangements to bring Padmavati to Alauddin's camp, but instead brought warriors concealed in palanquins. The Rajput warriors rescued the king; Gora died fighting Alauddin's army, as Badil escorted the king back to the Chittor fort. Gora's wife committed self-immolation (sati). In the heaven, Gora was rewarded with half of Indra's throne.[15]

Bengali adaptations[edit]

Yagneshwar Bandyopadhyay's Mewar (1884) vividly describes the jauhar (mass self-immolation) of Padmini and other women, who want to protect their chastity against the "wicked Musalmans".[16]

Kshirode Prasad Vidyavinode's play Padmini (1906) is based on James Tod's account: The ruler of Chittor is Lakshmansinha, while Padmini is the wife of the Rajput warrior Bhimsinha. Vidyavinode's story features several sub-plots, including those about Alauddin's exiled wife Nasiban and Lakshmansinha's son Arun. Nevertheless, his account of Alauddin and Padmini follows Tod's version with some variations. Alauddin captures Bhimsinha using deceit, but Padmini manages to rescue him using the palanquin trick; another noted warrior Gora is killed in this mission. As the Rajput men fight to death, Padmini and other women immolate themselves. The lineage of Lakshmansinha survives through Arun's son with a poor forest-dwelling woman named Rukma.[17]

Abanindranath Tagore's Rajkahini (1909) is also based on Tod's narrative, and begins with a description of the Rajput history. Bhimsinha marries Padmini after a voyage to Sinhala, and brings her to Chittor. Alauddin learns about Padmini's beauty from a singing girl, and invades Chittor to obtain her. Bhimsinha offers to surrender his wife to Alauddin to protect Chittor, but his fellow Rajputs refuse the offer. They fight and defeat Alauddin. But later, Alauddin captures Bhimsinha, and demands Padmini in exchange for his release. Padmini, with support from the Rajput warriors Gora and Badal, rescues her husband using the palanquin trick; Gora dies during this mission. Meanwhile, Timur invades the Delhi Sultanate, and Alauddin is forced to return to Delhi. 13 years later, Alauddin returns to Chittor and besieges the fort. Lakshmansinha considers submission to Alauddin, but Bhimsinha convinces him to fight on for seven more days. With blessings of the god Shiva, Padmini appears before Lakshmansinha and his ministers as a goddess, and demands a blood sacrifice from them. The women of Chittor die in mass self-immolation, while the men fight to death. The victorious Alauddin razes all the buildings in Chittor, except Padmini's palace and then returns to Delhi.[18]


The Padmini palace is a relatively modern structure

Alauddin Khilji's siege of Chittor in 1303 CE is a historical event. Although the legend of Padmini is the best known story about the siege, it has little historical basis.[19] Amir Khusrau, who accompanied Alauddin on the Chittor expedition and described the campaign in his Khaza'in ul-Futuh, makes no mention of any Padmavati or Padmini. In fact, according to Khusrau, Ratan Sen and his family were spared after the conquest of the fort. Other chroniclers, such as Barani and Isami, also state that Alauddin returned to Delhi after forgiving Ratan Sen and his family.[20][21] The so-called Padmini Palace at Chittor is a relatively modern structure.[22]

When the British writer James Tod, who is now considered to be unreliable,[23] compiled the legends of Rajasthan in the 1820s, he presented Padmini as a historical figure, and Padmini came to be associated with the historical siege of Chittor. In the 19th century, during the Swadeshi movement, Padmini became a symbol of Indian patriotism. Indian nationalist writers portrayed her story as an example of a heroic sacrifice, and a number of plays featuring her were staged after 1905.[24] Ireland-born Sister Nivedita (1866-1971) also visited Chittor and historicised Padmini. The Rajkahini by Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951) popularised her as a historical figure among schoolchildren. Later, some history textbooks began to refer to Khilji invading Chittor to obtain Padmini.[25]

By the 20th century, some elite Rajput women of Rajasthan characterised Padmini as a historical figure who exemplifies Rajput womanhood.[26] Although there is no historical evidence that Padmini existed, she has become a symbol of valour and sacrifice in Rajput history.[27] Hindu activists have characterised her as a chaste Hindu woman, and her suicide as a heroic act of resistance against the invader Khilji.[25]


In 2017, Bollywood film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali had announced he was working on a project titled Padmavati, the film was to be based on the folktales of Padmini. There were rumours that that the film had a scene featuring a love sequence between Padmini and Alauddin. This led to protests from a Rajput caste organization called Shri Rajput Karni Sena, whose members accused Bhansali of distorting history. A small mob of protestors attacked Bhansali, the staff and vandalised the film set. In the aftermath of this attack, filming was temporarily halted and there were suggestions suggestions of the film set being relocated.[28][29]



  1. ^ a b In Indian sex manuals such as Ratirahasya, the term padmini (literally "lotus woman") refers to most desirable among the four types of women; the other three being chitrini, shankhini, and hastini.[10][11]



See also[edit]