Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things
Padmavati aka Padmini is not a historical figure. There is no historical account which proves that any such queen existed. This is a part of popular folklore of Rajasthan though. The name of Padmavati is found in the book called “Padmavat” written by a Muslim poet Malik Mohammed Jayasi. But myth or reality doesn’t matter when the issue is of faith. Sometimes myths are more powerful than reality. Because they give us courage and hope. Padamavati is a symbol of resistance against barbaric Muslims and devotion to religion and husbands.
Alauddin kills his father in law and uncle in cold blood. His wife Malika Jahan (Daughter of Jalaluddin Khilji) is equally cruel and is beaten by Khilji. Khilji is ambitious and want to expand his empire in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Rajputs know the ambition of Alauddin and try to put up a united front. Ratan Sen of Chittor is married to Nagmati. Padmavati is married to him in second marriage. She is like an incarnation of Laxmi and they both love each other deeply. Nagmati doesn’t like it naturally and she nurse a grudge against Padma. What happens afterwards is the story.
The book is a huge deviation from Padmavat and the pre conceived notions. Rajputs are not as smart as folk tales and Allauddin is not a lustful looter. He is ambitious and wants to be monarch. He has no intention of raping Padmavati.
Language of book is simpler than Anuja’s previous mythical books. That makes it a quick read and it can be finished in one sitting. The story is well paced and romantic scene between Ratan and Padmini are very well told.
That is the good part. But there are some glaring mistakes logically as well as historically. Religion was a rallying point in medieval period and Delhi sultans have clear agenda of expanding Islam by hook or crook. Allauddin was a cruel looter who was a religious fanatic. He broke many temples and plundered every city he invaded and conquered. He killed Jalaluddin after looting Devgiri and it shows how ruthless he was. Rajputs were no better either and they were a divided house. Treachery was common and it helped Islam to spread. But it was a Hindu-Muslim conflict. They broke, looted temples and converted Hindus by force. They raped Hindu women and took them in their harem. In fact the Purdah came after Islamic invasion. In the book it is shown that the conflict was only because of power lust and had no religious or lust angle which is totally wrong as per my understanding of history. We cannot wish away the horrible things done by these plunderers only to buy peace. If we want to have peace between Hindus and Muslims the right way is to admit the differences and atrocities carried out in the past. As for Padmini and her Jauhar all I have to say that there is no evidence of Padmini in history. But Jauhar was practiced. The book shows that Nagmati is the prime culprit and both Padmini and Ratan knew that Alauddin has no intention of raping her. That makes the logic of Jauhar untenable. There are logical fallacies in the book and in the end I found out it a confused book. Maybe Anuja was in two minds in trying to balance the rift between two communities and then showing Jauhar of women. This is a paradox.
3/ 5 stars.
P.S: A brief mention of Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus “Padmavati”. The movie is since then renamed “Padmavat” (Jayasi book). Karni sena, a Rajput army has waged a war against the movie. They has done most reprehensible act of attacking a school bus. Though their method of brute force is wrong, this shows the power of myths. Maybe we should not try to rewrite history to suit present day reality. We should accept the historical wrongs and take it forward from there rather than to wish away the things.
Holocaust never happened I guess.
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