The Legend of Rani Padmini

Rani Padmini was a legendary Indian queen from the 13-14th century. She is also referred to as Padmavati.

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The earliest known source to feature Rani Padmini is an epic poem called Padmavat. It was written in 1540 CE by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in Awadhi language. The text of the fantastical poem encapsulates the story of Padmavati in the following manner. Padmini was a really gorgeous princess from Sri Lanka’s Singhal kingdom. The Rajput king of Chittor, Ratan Sen, heard about the immense beauty of the Rani from Hiraman, a talking parrot. After a long quest filled with adventures, Ratan successfully married Padmini and brought her to his kingdom. The Sultan of Delhi Alauddin Khilji got wind about the exceptional beauty of the Rani and hence invaded Chittor to capture her. During this time, Ratan Sen died when in a battle with the ruler of Kumbhalner, Devpal, who also wanted the Rani to be his queen. Before the capture of Chittor by Alauddin, Rani Padmini self-immolated or committed Jauhar along with her companions. They did this to protect and guard their honor from Khilji.

Rani Padmini and Husband Ratan Sen

Alauddin Khilji

Subsequently, many adaptations of the legend of Padmavati featured the Rani as a devout Rajput Hindu queen who defended and protected her honor from an Islamic invader. During the course of many decades and centuries, the Rani attained the status of a historical figure and was featured in many plays, novels, movies, and TV serials.

A few movies based on Rani Padmini legend include 1930 silent film called Flames of Flesh or Kamonar Agun by Debaki Bose; 1964 Hindi movie Maharani Padmini; and the upcoming Bollywood movie ‘Padmavati’ by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Rani Padmini Pictures

Different versions of the legend of Rani Padmini

Accounts about the conquest of Chittor by Alauddin which were written before Malik’s Padmavat had no mention of the Rani. It was only after 1540 CE, that several works of literature began making references to the story of Rani Padmini. These varied versions of the legend of Padmavati can be classified into 4 main categories as mentioned below:

  • Rajput ballads: Hemratan wrote the first Rajput adaption of Rani Padmini legend in 1589 CE. It was titled ‘Gora Badal Padmini Chaupai’ and it presented the story as being true. Additional Rajput versions of the legend were composed in the 16 to 18th centuries with support from Rajput chiefs. Malik’s poem had themes of courtship and marriage, but these new ballads had emphasis on defense of Rajput honor against Khilji.
  • Urdu and Persian adaptations: About 12 or more Urdu and Persian adaptations and/or translations of Padmavat were done between the 16 and 19th Additional Urdu versions were produced in 20th century and all of them featured the tradition and theme of Malik’s love poetry.
  • Version of James Tod: James’ book ‘Annals and Antiquities of Rajas’han’ had a late 1820s and early 1830s colonial recounting of the legendary tale of the Rani. The information for the book was gathered from texts and oral works of writers who worked for the Rajput chiefs.
  • Bengali adaptations: Many Bengali versions of Padmavati’s legend were created during the period of late 19th These adaptations showed the Rani to be a Hindu queen who self-immolated to guard her honor against the lust of a Muslim invader.

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