Padmavati Controversy: Issue and Current Status

Here are some relevant questions and answers on Rani Padmini, Padmavati and ongoing controversy.

What is the history of siege of Chittor?

Mewar Kingdom was established by a Guhil chieftain Kal Bhoja aka Bappa Rawal in circa 728 AD. By the end of 12th century, Mewar had emerged as most powerful state of Rajpuatna.

Alauddin Khilji ruled Delhi between 1296 and 1316. For him, winning Chittor was essential to expand his power in Gujarat and Deccan. Further, one of the declared objectives of Alauddin was to capture Rani Padmini. The siege of Chittor lasted for eight months (January to August, 1303). At that time, Rawal Ratan Singh was ruling as 42nd ruler of Mewar. Rattan Singh had ascended the throne in 1301 after death of his father Samar Singh. The immediate forefathers of Ratan Singh were powerful and successful in repulsing the invasions from earlier sultans of Delhi. For example, Rana Jaitra Singh (1213-33), the grandfather of Ratan Singh had repulsed an attack by Iltutumish.

After a lengthy siege, Rawal Ratan Singh seems to have negotiated for peace but Alauddin resorted to strategy to achieve success. Rawal was taken captive by treachery but then his warriors Gora and Badal liberated him from Khilijis. This was followed by a bloody clash between Rajputs and Khiljis resulting into collapse of Rajput resistance and capture of Chittor. Rawal Rattan Singh died figting the battle while Rani Padmini and other Rajput ladies committed self immolation (Jauhar). Alauddin was deeply incensed by the stubborn fight put up by Rajputs and self immolation of Padmini. After the occupation of the fort, he ordered general massacre of the populace of Chittor and as a result 30 thousand Rajput men, women and children were put to sword in cold blood.

Alauddin appointed his eldest son Khizr Khan, who at that time was a young lad of seven or eight, to be the governor of Chittor. Chittor was renamed as Khijrabad. Here, Khijra Khan was also declared heir apparent to throne of Delhi. The fort was heavily garrisoned by the Sultanate army.

Post this capture, the Rajputs retracted to forests and carried on their freedom struggle through Guerilla warfare. In 1311, Khijr abandoned the fort and entrusted it to a puppet Rajput noble Maldeo. However, Rajputs of Mewar did not recognize him to be their ruler. After death of Alauddin, Maldeo was expelled by Hamir, son of Rawal Ratan Singh in 1318. Thus, Mewar became independent of Delhi within two years of death of Alauddin.

What are historical views about Padmavati legend?

Most direct reference about Rani Padmini comes from Padmavat, the epic poem of Malik Muhammad Jayasi, written in circa 1540. It is believed that this work is based on historical truth but has lots of fantasies as well. According to Jayasi, the lustful Alauddin promised to raise the siege of Chittor if Rana gave him glimpse of his queen. Rana obliged and Alauddin was admitted to enter to the fort and Rani was shown him in standing posture from behind a glass screen / mirror. Rana and the nobles then came out of the fort to see off the Sultan. But then, they were taken captive by the Muslim soldiers. Thereafter, Alauddin demanded Padmini as price for liberation of Rawal Ratan Singh. The latter was however rescued by the Rajputs through a manoeuvre.

Other references include an indirect reference to the story of Hudhud bird by  Amir Khusrow; and documentation by James Todd in Annals and Antiques of Rajasthan. James Todd mentions that –

The fire of Jauhar was lighted in a “subterranean cavern, which still exists and the Rajput ladies led by Padmini, jumped into the flames….The fair Padmini closed the throng which was augmented by whatever of female beauty or youth could be tainted by Tartar lust. They were conveyed to the cavern and the opening closed upon them, leaving them to find security from dishonour in the devouring element.

What is the controversy about the movie?

The movie is controversial ever since it’s shooting started. The key issue was a dream sequences that is thought to have been filmed between Alauddin and Padmini. However, producers have denied such scene. Then, the songs which were released also came under fire from the Rajput organizations including fringe elements for their misrepresentation of facts and history. The movie shooting saw death of a painter on sets of film in December, 2016; Vandalism in Jaipur in January 2017; Vandalism in Kolhapur in March 2017;  burning of the first look posters of movie in September, 2017; threats to burn Cinema halls; temporary hold for release; protests by Karni Sena in various parts of country; roads blocked in Rajasthan at several places; distributors backing out; FIR against Sanjay Leela Bhansali; petition against the movie in Supreme Court, which the court rejected; various state governments blocking the movie; police security to Bhansali and so on.

What was Supreme Court Stance?

The Supreme Court dismissed the petition against the movie while saying that all aspects before granting a certificate to any film are considered by CBFC and it would not intervene in CFBC’s jurisdiction. As six states, including Rajasthan, have already announced that they won’t allow release of the movie, Supreme Court also rebuked the people holding official positions for making prejudicial comments over movie and called it a breach of principle of rule of law.

On what basis, parliamentary committee intervened the matter?

Few Lok Sabha MPs had filed a plea in the Lok Sabha Committee on Petitions on objectionable content in the movie. The committee then sought a report from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Censor board. Before that, a Parliamentary committee on IT had also grilled the movie producer Bhansali. The parliamentary committees have intervened the matter because the movie is creating law and order problem in several parts of the country and huge amount of taxpayer money is being spent on security issues that erupted in the wake of these protests.

Factbox: Parliamentary Committees in Petition

Petition is a formal process of appealing to parliament. The public can petition parliament to make MPs aware of some issues and request action on that issue. There is a committee on petition in each house of the parliament. The petition can be sent to them by any member of public in matters related to (1) any bills pending before the house (2) any matter of general public interest related to work of central government.  However, petition should not be raised before matters that are already sub-judice or if there is already any remedy available under the law. The committee may choose to take action on petition, seek report from concerned ministry or ask anyone to appear before it.

The key questions asked by committee on IT were – (1) can a film maker depict the practice of Sati, which is banned? (2) Is it ethical to do selective media screening even before CBFC clearance is obtained?

However, in the meet of Parliamentary committee on IT, BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani is reported to have sad that the matter should be decided by the CBFC and panel’s proceedings are pointless.