While I whole heartedly criticise the vandalism and attacks on the eminent director-producer Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali as well as actors associated with it, I earnestly hope that the film ‘Padmavati’ does not show the Rajput queen – Rani Padmini in a dishonourable light.
She is revered as a Veerangana (courageous lady) by not only the Rajput clan but all of India. More than her resplendent, flawless beauty, it was her fierce stance to defend her honour that made Rani Padmini into a legend. Do you remember the lines from the famous song – ‘Aao Bachon Tumhe Dikhayein…’ (Jagriti) –
“Yeh Hai Apna Rajaputana Naj Ise Talavaro Pe, Isane Sara Jivan Kata Barachhee Tir Kataro Pe.
Yeh Pratap Kaa Vatan Pala Hai Aajadee Ke Naaro Pe, Kud Padee Thee Yaha Hajaro Padminiyan Angaron Mein”
The last line here says it all! Thousands of brave women like Rani Padmini performed Jauhar (mass sacrifice) and jumped into fire to protect their honour from enemies.
Rajput men have a special place in the history of India and great warriors like Maharana Pratap, Rana Sanga, Prithviraj Chauhan, Veer Kunwar Singh etc have been a part of this clan. But Rajput women were no less.
Fed on stories of great, courageous leaders since childhood, they upheld honour and valour in the highest regard. True, they observed purdah (veil) but that did not mean they meekly followed male authority. They had immense self respect and pride in lineage and tradition. These women were warriors in thought and spirit from behind the purdah. They were often well educated and would learn all the battlefield skills from the very start.
Even the commoners were skilled in warfare. These ladies were no damsels in distress, they could cook as well as kill with the same expertise.
The legendary story of Hadi Rani underscores the lofty ideals and pride of a Rajput lady. She cut her head when she felt that her husband was so much enamoured by her beauty that he was reluctant to go to the battlefield.
According to wikipedia, “When Maharana Raj Singh I (1653–1680) of Mewar called Hadi Rani’s husband to join the battle against Aurangzeb, the Sardar, having married only a few days earlier hesitated about going into battle. Rajput honour being what it is, he had to join the battle regardless of his reservations. He asked his wife Hadi Rani for some memento to take with him to the battlefield.
Thinking that she was an obstacle to his doing his duty for Mewar, she cut off her head and put it on a plate in her dying moments. A servant covered it with a cloth and presented it to her husband. The Sardar, devastated but nevertheless proud, tied the memento around his neck by its hair. He fought bravely, making Aurangzeb’s army flee.” (Source: Wikipedia).
Another rebel of sorts was the devotee Mira bai, who drank poison in the name of her God Krishna but did not compromise with her ideals. Then there were Rani Durgabati, Rani Karnavati, Rani Chanderi who like Rani Padmini refused to submit to enemies and committed Jauhar (mass sacrifice) to defend their honour. They preferred to die rather than be defiled by blood stained hands of intruders.
For Rajput women of yore, committing adultery even in dream, thought, word or under any circumstance was unacceptable. So, they preferred death. This is precislely the reason why Mr Bhansali should tread these lines carefully.
I am hopeful that Mr Bhansali will do justice to Rani Padmini in his film ‘Padmavati’ so that our kids get a new understanding of the words – Honour, Pride, Valour and Integrity.