The Sacrifice of Rani Padmavati

The story of Rani Padmini / Padmavati of Chittor is a blend of historic facts and folklore. It is the story of the courage, medieval chivalry and sacrifice exhibited by the Rajput warriors, both men and women.

Though the historic facts behind the story can only be clearly ascertained of Ala-ud-Din’s conquest of Chittor in 1303 with the defeat of the king Ratan Singh (as told in Khazain Ul Futuh (English title: A Treasury of Victory: The Campaigns of Ala-ud-din Khilji) by Amir Khusrau), I will tell the story as narrated in Khuman Raysa, the great chronicle of the Guhilot and Sisodia Rajputs (recompiled during 1572-1597 during the reign of Maharana Pratap Singh) and as it exists in today’s folklore.

In 1296, Ala-ud-Din Khilji the nephew as well as son-in-law of Jalal-ud-Din Khilji (Sultan of Delhi and the first emperor of the Khilji dynasty), killed his uncle and marched on to Delhi with his head on a pike and proclaimed himself king. Then he started the process of consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate which over time would make him the most powerful ruler in the history of the sub-continent and the second unifier of the Indian subcontinent after the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. At the peak of his rule, he dreamt of becoming a world conqueror and prefixed the title of Sikandar Sani which means the Second Alexander. He is also known as one of the very few emperors in history who repeatedly defeated the plundering and warring Mongol armies.

Fort of Chittor
During that time, Mewar was the strongest Rajput kingdom and a bitter opponent of the Delhi Sultanate. The seat of Mewar was the formidable fort of Chittor, the largest fort in the sub continent. The fort had been constructed in the 7th century AD by the Mauryans and had never been sacked in its history. Spread across 700 acres the fort was situated on a hill top and was extremely well fortified.

During Ala-ud-Din’s reign the king of Mewar was Rana Ratan Singh. He married Rani Padmini whose beauty and wit was famous across the Rajputana. In his marriage, Ratan Singh also received a large dowry as a gift from his father in law. Two of Ratan Singh’s brothers, Raghav and Chetan, who were also his courtiers, demanded a part of the dowry from the king. Angered by their demands Ratan Singh expelled them from his court and banished them from Mewar. Sulking after this humiliation, Raghav and Chetan made their way towards Delhi with the aim of trying to incite Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor. There in the Sultan’s court, Raghav and Chetan praised the beauty of Padmavati to the extent that Ala-ud-Din’s lust was aroused. He had been planning to conquer Mewar for a long time but his desire to take Padmavati as his mistress proved to be the deciding factor that shifted his immediate focus towards Mewar and the fort of Chittor.

It was January 1303 when Ala-ud-Din marshaled his army, marched south, and laid siege to Chittor. But seeing the fort and realizing that the breaching its defenses would be a near impossible task Ala-ud-Din came up with a devious plan. He sent an emissary to Ratan Singh that he would return to Delhi with his army if allowed a glimpse of the famous beauty of Rani Padmavati. Trying to avoid a war, Ratan Singh agreed, however consented only to allow Ala-ud-Din to look at Padmavati’s reflection in a mirror.

The sultan came with his most trusted and experienced generals who, while they waited keenly examined the fort’s defenses in order to prepare for their attack on Chittor. Meanwhile on seeing Rani Padmavati’s reflection Ala-ud-Din was awed by her beauty and his desire for her increased. On the way back to his camp, he was escorted by Ratan Singh to the gate of the fort. There, Ala-ud-Din’s soldiers ambushed and captured the king. He was taken as a prisoner to the sultan’s camp. The sultan then sent message to Rani Padmavati and the nobles of Mewar demanding Padmavati in exchange of Ratan Singh.

Rani Padmavati discussed the proposal with her uncle and his son, Gora and Badal, who were also the leading generals in Ratan Singh’s army. Together they came up with an ingenious plan. A message was sent to Ala-ud-Din that Padmavati, along with her serving maids and her retinue would come to his camp in the morning. When dawn arrived, 200 palanquins left the gates of Chittor. Each palanquin was carried by four men from the Rajput army disguised as palanquin bearers. Inside each palanquin sat four more men carrying swords and other weapons for themselves and their disguised friends. Gora and Badal had handpicked the fiercest warriors and were leading the assault themselves. When the procession reached Ala-ud-Din’s camp the Rajputs jumped out from the palanquins and attacked the sultan’s unsuspecting soldiers. Though the Rajputs suffered heavy losses and both Gora and Badal perished, Rana Ratan Singh was rescued and
returned safely to the fort. Ala-ud-Din then lay seize to the fort.

By August, after a long drawn seize, the resources within the fort decreased and Ratan Singh planned an all out suicide attack on the would-be invaders as they could hold out no longer. The womenfolk then resident within that fort decided to collectively committed suicide rather than risk personal dishonor at the hands of the victorious invading army. On 26th August, 1303, a huge pier was lit within the fort and Rani Padmavati, along with other noblewomen belonging to the court committed Jauhar. The Rajput men then wore saffron turbans as a mark of performing saka, rode out to meet Ala-ud-Din’s army in battle and perished to the last man.

The first written version of the legend appeared nearly 250 years after the event in a long narrative poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The epic poem was written in Awadhi around 1540 AD during the rule of Sher Shah Suri.

Rani padmini palace chittorgarh fort

Rani Padmini

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the queen of chittor. For the Indian actress, see Ranipadmini. For the Malayalam-language film, see Rani Padmini (film).
Rani Padmini
22Princess Padmavati ca. 1765 Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.jpg

Queen Padmini of Chittor

Rani Padmini (or Padmavati) is a legendary queen mentioned in Padmavat, an epic poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE.[1] According to the poem, she was the wife of King Ratansen of Chittor;[2] and the daughter of the contemporary Sinhala king[citation needed]. Rani Padmini was renowned across Indian land for her beauty.[citation needed]

There is no historical evidence that Rani Padmini actually existed.[3] Padmavat is the first written reference to Rani Padmini, occurring approximately 240 years after the events described in it.

Early life[edit]

Padmini or Padmavati spent her life in Sinhala under the care of her father Gandharvsena and mother Champavati[citation needed]. Padmini had a talking parrot named “Hiramani”.[4] Her father arranged a swayamvara and invited all the Hindu kings and Rajputs to ask for her hand (request to marry her by showing their eligibility). Malkhan Singh, a king from a small state came to her swayamvara to marry her[citation needed]. King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor who had another queen Nagmati, also went to Singhal, defeated Malkhan Singh and married Padmini as the winner of the swayamvara[citation needed]. He returned to Chittor with his beautiful second queen Padmini[citation needed].

[बोलहु सुआ पियारे-नाहाँ । मोरे रूप कोइ जग माहाँ ?]
सुमिरि रूप पदमावति केरा । हँसा सुआ, रानी मुख हेरा ॥
[Queen Nagamati asks her new parrot: say beloved parrot, Is anyone in the world as beautiful as me?]
The parrot recalled the beauty of Padmavati. It laughed and looked at the queen.[5] An illustrated manuscript of Padmavat, ca. 1750

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Sultanate of Delhi – the kingdom set up by invaders – was growing in power. The Sultans made repeated attack on Mewar. The reason for one of attacks on Chittor by Alauddin Khiljiwas to obtain beautiful Rani Padmini by force. The story is based on the book written by the Alauddin’s historian to justify their attacks on Rajput kingdoms and much to frustrate the bravery and heroism which was present in the males and females of Rajputs warlords. Some historians do not agree with the story which is based on Muslim sources to inflame the Rajput chivalry. The story uses all such tactics and tricks which are required to make it seem true. It goes as follows.

In those days Chittor was under the rule of Rajput King Rawal Ratan Singh, a brave and noble warrior. Apart from being a loving husband and a just ruler, Rawal Ratan Singh was also a patron of the arts. In his court were many talented people, one of whom was a musician named Raghav Chetan. But unknown to anybody, Raghav Chetan was also a sorcerer. He used his evil talents to run down his rivals and, unfortunately for him, was caught red-handed in his dirty act of arousing evil spirits. Some other sources quote that Raghav Chetan was actually called in by Ratan Singh for some dirty work.

On hearing this, King Rawal Ratan Singh was furious and he banished Raghav Chetan from his kingdom after blackening his face and making him ride a donkey. This harsh punishment earned Ratan Singh an uncompromising enemy. Sulking after his humiliation, Raghav Chetan made his way towards Delhi with the aim of trying to incite the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji, to attack Chittor.

On approaching Delhi, Raghav Chetan settled down in one of the forests near Delhi which the Sultan used to frequent for hunting deer. One day, on hearing the Sultan’s hunt party entering the forest, Raghav Chetanstarted playing a melodious tone on his flute. When the alluring notes of Raghav Chetan‘s flute reached the Sultan’s party, they were surprised as to who could be playing a flute with such mastery in a forest. The Sultan despatched his soldiers to fetch the person and, when Raghav Chetan was brought before him, Sultan Alauddin Khilji asked him to come to his court at Delhi. The cunning Raghav Chetan asked the king as to why he wants to have an ordinary musician like himself when there were many other beautiful objects to be had. Wondering what Raghav Chetan meant, Alauddin asked him to clarify. Upon being told of Rani Padmini’s beauty, Alauddin’s lust was aroused. Immediately on returning to his capital, he ordered his army to march to Chittor as he thought that so beautiful a lady deserved to be in his harem.

But to his dismay, on reaching Chittor, Alauddin found the fort to be heavily defended. Desperate to have a look at the legendary beauty of Padmini, he sent word to King Ratan Singh that he looked upon Padmini as his sister and wanted to meet her. On hearing this, desperate Ratan Singh saw a chance to escape the fury of the emperor and retain his kingdom. Therefore, he agreed to show his wife to the emperor.

Rani Padmini consented to allow Alauddin to see her reflection in a mirror. On word being sent to Alauddin that Padmini would show herself to him, he came to the fort with his selected best warriors who secretly made a careful examination of the fort’s defences on their way to the palace.

On seeing Padmini’s reflection of her enticing beauty in the mirror, Alauddin Khilji decided that he should secure Padmini for himself. While returning to his camp, Alauddin was accompanied for some way by King Ratan Singh. Alauddin Khilji saw this as an opportunity and got Ratan Singh arrested, and asked for Padmini.

The Songara Chauhan Rajput generals Gora and Badal decided to beat the Sultan at his own game and sent back a word that Padmini would be given to Alauddin the next morning. On the following day at the crack of dawn, one hundred and fifty palanquin (covered seat enclosed in curtains on which royal ladies were carried in mediaeval times on poles held parallel to the ground on the shoulders of two or four people) left the fort and made their way towards Alauddin’s camps The palanquins stopped before the tent where king Ratan Singh was being held prisoner. Seeing that the palanquins had come from Chittor; and thinking that they had brought along with them his queen, King Ratan Singh was mortified. But to his surprise from the palanquins came out, not his queen and her maid servants, but fully armed soldiers who quickly freed Ratan Singh and galloped away towards Chittor on horses grabbed from Alauddin’s stables. Gora fought bravely during the skirmish and laid down his life while Badal was able to take the Rana safely to the fort in the same fort after some time rani padmawati makes jauhar.

On hearing that his designs had been frustrated, the Sultan was furious and ordered his army to storm Chittor. However, hard as they tried the Sultan’s army could not break into the fort. Then Alauddin decided to lay siege to the fort. The siege was a long drawn one and gradually supplies within the fort were depleted. Finally King Ratan Singh gave orders that the Rajputs would open the gates and fight to death with the besieging troops. On hearing of this decision, Padmini decided that with their men-folk going into the unequal struggle with the Sultan’s army in which they were sure to perish, the women of Chittor had either to commit the divine suicide jauhar or face dishonour at the hands of the victorious enemy.

The choice was in favour of suicide through jauhar. A huge pyre was lit and all the women of Chittor jumped into the flames after their queen, thus depriving the enemy waiting outside. With their womenfolk dead, the men of Chittor had nothing to live for. They decided to perform saka. Each soldier got dressed in kesari robes and turbans. They charged out of the fort and fought with the array of the Sultan until all of them perished. After this pyrrhic victory, the Sultan’s troops entered the fort only to be confronted with ashes and burnt bones.

The women who performed jauhar perished but their memory has been kept alive till today by bards and songs which glorify their act, which was right in those days and circumstances. A halo of honour is given to their sacrifice.[6]


Main article: Padmavat

Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s poem records yet another account of the events.

When Ratan Singh refuses Alauddin Khilji’s demand for Padmavati for his harem, war ensues and the king is taken prisoner. Meanwhile, the king of neighbouring Kambhalner makes an indecent proposal to the queen. Ratan Singh escapes and kills the king of Kambhalner, but is himself fatally wounded. His two queens, Padmavati and Nagmati perform Jauhar, and Alauddin’s army arrives when their ashes are still warm. Chittor falls to the emperor.[1]


It is believed Maharani Padmini performed Jauhar in 1303[citation needed]. Jauhar (also spelled jowhar) is the self-immolation of queens and female royals of the Rajput kingdoms, when facing defeat at the hands of an enemy.

See also[edit]

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