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Rani Padmini, Queen of Chittor

Rani Padmini, the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh, was the queen of Chittor and often personified as a mythological figure for her Indian womanhood and sacrifice. The great story of Rani Padmini has been wonderfully commemorated in Padmavat, an epic poem. It was written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in Awadhi language in 1540. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Delhi Sultanate conquered the political setting of Northern India. The first sack of Chittor by Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1303 AD is conventionally thought to be the result of his infatuation with Ratan Singh`s wife, Rani Padmini. Ala-ud-Din Khilji received support for his seizure attempts from two of Ratan Singh`s own brothers, namely Raghav and Chetan.

Marriage of Rani Padmini
Ratan Singh had married the incredibly gorgeous Rani Padmini, the daughter of King Gandharvasen, and his wife, Queen Champavati and had received a handsome and open-handed dowry from her parents. The brothers thus demanded a large portion of this dowry as payment for their silence. Furious at their refrain, Ratan Singh expelled them from Chittor. To exact revenge, the brothers went to Delhi and prompted Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor.

Advent of Ala-ud-din Khilji
Since, Ala-ud-din realised that he and his opponent were equally matched in military potential; he decided a complicated way out to betrayal and discretion to defeat Chittor. He sent word to Ratan Singh that he was willing to offer friendship if he was allowed to see the exceptional beauty Rani Padmini`s face just once and also claimed that he considered the Rani as his sister. The unwary Ratan Singh asked Rani Padmini to meet her newfound Brother, but the Rani Padmini was rather sharp and smart and she could smell an ambush. She refused to meet him; instead, she insisted that her husband to allow the Sultan to look at her reflection in a mirror.

Meeting with Rani Padmini
Ratan Singh agreed and called for Ala-ud-din. He instantly arrived to meet Rani Padmini, accompanied by his most trusted generals and soldiers. While Ala-ud-din waited eagerly to meet Rani Padmini, his generals watchfully examined the fort`s defences to help them plan their attack of Chittor. Rani Padmini stood by a lotus pool as Ala-ud-din was stunned and gazed at her reflection in a mirror, awed by her sparkling beauty. When he was further informed that he would not be able to meet Rani Padmini personally, despite his claims of newfound relationship with the couple, the Sultan felt both embarrassed and cheated. As Ratan Singh accompanied him out of the fort, as a good host should, his men pounced upon the King and took him as a prisoner to the Sultan`s camp.

Ala-ud-din then sent a note to Rani Padmini that if she wished her husband to get freed unharmed then she should immediately become his mistress. The Rani responded that she would meet the Sultan the next morning. At the very opening of dawn the following day, one hundred and fifty palanquins left the fort and moved towards the camp of Alauddin.

Attack on Chittor and Rani Padmini
The Rajputs, with around 150 strong and stout soldiers, then returned to the fort, after having rescued their King, and momentarily scoring a chief victory over the Sultan of Delhi. Ala-ud-din responded by laying blockade to the fort of Chittor. After a long drawn out operation, supplies within the fort gradually decreased and Ratan Singh gave orders for the fort`s gates to be flung open and an all-out attack be planned on the would-be invaders as they could not hold out any more. Rani Padmini was aware that her husband`s troops were very less in number and they would be easily defeated and dishonoured once they enter the battlefield. The Sultan`s army started pillaging Chittor, Padmini and her attendants of women. All of them decided to commit suicide. The children of the graciousness were moved out of the fort with trusted escorts and attendants in order to save them from the invaders.

Suicide of Rani Padmini
At dawn on August 26, 1303, a huge pyre was lit in a room with a single door. Rani Padmini and the noblewomen belonging to her court, the wives, sisters and daughters of ministers and courtiers, moved away their young children and men folk out of the area to safety lands, then dressed up in their wedding finery and went into the room with the pyre, locked the door behind them and jumped into the flames in mass. The men with heavy heart put on saffron robes, and threw open the gates of the fort. Almost all of the Rajputs died in the battle that day. The Sultan and his troops entered the fort, eager to seize all the females, but were highly disappointed when confronted with the evidence of the mass suicide.

Jauhar is an ancient tradition of the Rajputs that started with the legend of Rani Padmini and her suicide. Jauhar refers to the voluntary and honorary death of the queen and other royal female members upon the defeat of the Rajput kings. When the Rajput kingdom was defeated by the Muslim rulers, the women preferred to commit suicide, rather than being captured by the Muslim invaders, who used the royal women in their harems. This tradition started with the legend of Rani Padmini and her suicide.

Rani Padmini`s life and death has been the subject of many legends, ballads and even movies in recent years. Unfortunately, no images of Rani Padmini have been preserved to tell about her exceptional beauty and personality, although her courage and sacrifice continue to make an impression even today as they did during her lifetime more than seven centuries ago. 



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