Where to start. Where to end. It is not a tale, it is not a story to be told for entertainment. It is a page written not in history books but on the cheek of time.
Maharani Padmini, wife of Ratnasimha, also known as Rawal Ratan Singh-King of Mewar, Rajasthan- doesn’t need any introduction, at least for every proud Indian. Maharani Padmini was not only considered to be the most unprecedented beauty of her time but she also gave an ultimate test of honor when the moment arrived, but today I will not talk about her legendary life but about her ultimate decision for the dignity of not only Rajputs but whole womanhood- her Jauhar (a practice of self-immolation by the royal women to escape being captured, enslaved, raped by foreign invaders).
Since last few days, I have been witnessing some women talking about how wrong Rani Padmini’s decision was to commit Jauhar, or how the latest Bollywood movie Padmaavat, a Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus glorifies Jauhar. And the only reasons I see behind such stances is that either they don’t understand the psyche of brave, proud royal women of 13-14th century or the meaning of honor has deteriorated over time.
While some say she had all rights to live(do they mean in Delhi’s Sultan Allauddin’s harem?), others go a step ahead in being not only bizarre but imprudent to say that why didn’t Maharani Padmini fight the tyrant Sultan of Delhi(as if fighting the army of millions of trained militants was such a piece of cake)?
Even if we forget for a moment such bizarre statements as to why didn’t Rani sa(The title by which Maharani Padmini is called by many) take these aforementioned actions, one thing that people making such statements and calling it against feminism forget is that feminism-a cloak many(not all) use these days to get either fame or undue advantages/privileges- is not only about equality, it’s not about having a desire to be like men(a definition many feminists give subtly), it’s about what’s the worth of a woman’s life in her own eyes and moreover about the right women have over their lives, their body, their dignity and the very self. It’s about what’s more important for you- to live like a slave, lacking pride with scarred self-esteem, or to choose the path you see is the only one left while encountering an stalemate situation, a situation in which there can’t be seen a way in which a lady can safeguard her dignity, honor, self-respect, and above all her body which has been considered since ages by many as a mere beautiful object to acquire. Now what I believe is that Feminism is about women having equality, all rights over their lives, and no one including blabbering feminazis can deny women that.
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The question here is that- is living that important even for empowered women or even men for that matter, that dignity, honor, and self respect become second priority?
When the army of Allauddin Khilji surrounded the fort of Chittorgarh and their fate was inevitable, the women of Chittor had only two ways left- live in the harem of Khilji to satiate his unending lust or surrender the bodies he was obsessed to get, to fire. I’ll not say it was very easy to go for the latter one, it must not have been although it’s very easy to comment on it sitting in one’s comfort zone with popcorn buckets. She could give her body to a lustful barbaric maniac and “LIVE” but she burned the very same body to ashes-a body which had a soul unscathed by the ogling eyes.
You may call those women’s decision right or wrong, but for them, saving the honor by escaping the humiliation inflicted by lustful men was more important without a doubt. They jumped into fire- fire which makes us go through boundless pain even if we burn our tiniest finger. They didn’t tell others to follow it, they didn’t glorify it, for them, it was a way to save the very basic tenet they considered most important. As for those who say that why did Rani take permission from her husband before Jauhar in the movie Padmaavat- well it was not that she had no right on her life, it was an unsaid way a message is conveyed to us that without her husband, her life would be meaningless and that too not because a woman needs a man to live, but because of the fact that Maharani Padmini was a woman who loved her husband unconditionally and life was nothing for her without him.
Maybe it is difficult for feminists of modern age to understand all these principles of life that Maharani Padmini and other Rajput women had. But at the same time, maybe they will understand all these tenets once they put themselves in the place of those brave women.
Coming to the modern age, with rampant cruelties against women even with the wave of feminism, it would be extremely remiss of me not to give my opinion that with this piece of writing, I do not intend to tell anyone that any kind of suicide is justified- IT IS NOT. Even for someone who is escaping an act like rape or for rape survivors, end of life is NOT AT ALL JUSTIFIED.
But but but…..at the same time those giving hell lot of advises as to what the brave Rajput women should have done, they need to understand that Rani Padmini had bravery which is unimaginable in the modern age, because it’s easy to live with shame than to die with pride, and she died for her true love and who also fought to death. No wonder Maharani Padmini is no less than a goddess in many corners of India, particularly in Rajasthan. For Maharani Padmini, it was not only about living or dying, it was for her pride, her husband’s pride, her love for him, his love for her, her denial to let any other man touch her, it was a statement to let the world know that a woman’s soul is hers and its up to her to let it be liberated or incarcerated.
Today, we call Khilji a villain but the question at the moment is that what are we?
Questioning Maharani Padmini? Calling her act not a brave one? And above all, calling her a fictitious character? Maligning today’s women? Inflicting humiliation on them? These are all harsh realities of our ‘Modern World’.
The poem called Padmaavat came in 1540, but if you visit Rajasthan, you will get to know that folk songs dedicated to her are something every child grows up with there. She is not only a queen who once lived, she was a mother, she was a Rajput pride, she was the one who was no less brave than the Rajput warriors, for her one decision could change the whole course of history and the way we look at our gallant warriors and the very brave Rajput community.
To all the pseudo feminists out there, I leave it to you all to think what is more important- time has changed, world has changed, but for most of the females all around the world, agony is still the same. Forget the age, forget the crisis, forget the different conditions, give it a moment and choose between what you’ve been calling a practical approach and what your conscience allows you, and you will get to know the pride of Rajasthan Maharani Padmini and her Jauhar.