I frankly never understood the controversy around Padmavat when I first heard about it. But when I went to Chittodgadh and interacted with people there did I realize how real Padmavati and her legacy is for the locals. At times as film-makers or media mavens, people forget to consider the local sentiments and how important it is for the normal public. Today after experiencing Chittodgadh and Rani Padmavati palace, I understand the anger that fueled the controversy. I don’t necessarily agree with the way it was put forth, but I definitely understand that the artistic liberties should not be at the expense of local sentiments. It should certainly not take these local legends casually.
A day in Chittorgarh
On our Rajasthan tour, one day was dedicated to Chittodgarh and Padmini Palace. As we reached Chittodgarh, the first thing that caught my attention was the 7 doors through which we had to go to reach the palace. Once there my spirits were a bit low as the palace was actually in ruins. It reminded me of the forts in Maharashtra and thought if I would actually understand it culturally and historically if I didn’t have a guide.
Thankfully, I found one and when he started talking I could relive the grandeur of the place through my mind eyes. With extreme pride in his voice, he talked about the beauty of Chittodgarh in the by-gone era. He spoke about the place where queens prayed to the sun god and pointing to a half-ruined tower he spoke about the huge personal quarters of the king.
Legend of Chittorgarh
According to the guide, King Udai Singh the heir apparent for the Chittorgarh fort was saved by the bravery of his nanny Panna Dai. After the death of his father Rana Sangha, the general and Udai Singh’s uncle planned to kill Udai Singh. When the nanny got to know about this, she dressed her own son as Udai Singh and left him in the cradle taking Udai Singh to safety.
The pride and respect for Panna Dai can only be understood by those who hear this story from the locals. For them, she was the epitome to loyalty and dedication to service.
Our next stop was Rani Padmini Palace
During the release of the movie Padmavat, I even heard stories about how the whole story was a figment of imagination by the poet, but I find it hard to believe. We saw an elaborate palace complete with the lake where Rani Padmavati is supposed to have stood and the King Allahudin Khilji seeing her from a mirror.
Again the local guide had so much conviction about the story that for him she was real. Rani Padmavati is revered here and is the personification of the bravery of Rajput women. She is someone who stood in the face of stiff assault and ensured that the Rajput pride stayed intact.
Last Stop Vijay Stambh
Vijaystambh is a beautiful tower made of sandstone which has intricate carvings all over it. It was supposedly built by Raja Kumbha. It has 9 floors and several balconies at the top. While I couldn’t go up as the entry was closed its intricate carvings and beautiful design is breathtaking. As I looked at the tower from the outside and went around it, I came across a temple just a few meters away. Upon asking, I was told it is the Samadeshwar Temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple too is beautifully designed, but more than the temple a large vacant land that lay in between the Vijay Stambh and the temple attracted me. There was tiny signage that read ‘Johaur Area’
Just looking at the spot I shuddered to think of the many women who jumped to their deaths in the burning pyre. How important it must have been to die that living was not an option. Was it an escape from the rape and humiliation at the hands of the enemy or the belief of ‘honor above all’ Whatever the reason, it only sheds light on the post-war plight of the women; that they preferred to die than suffer at the hands of the enemy.
After hearing to these stories, I could only bow my head in humbleness. I don’t know or care if the story of Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji was real. But the Jauhar was real, the women who died and the brave men who fought against consistent invasions was true and these monuments are pieces of those realities from history. They continue to fuel future generations with pride and honor and this should be respected.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”Marcus Garvey