Beauty Queen

rajasthani-beauty

 

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“Did you hear my queen? He is coming. He coming for you….” Padma was feeding her ‘Hiramani’ when her handmaid came running in her royal court, she cried those words breathlessly.

“Who’s coming for me?” Padma looked at her miserable handmaid and asked, there’s a smile hanging from the corner of her lips.

“The mad sultan, he has gone crazy by that one look at your reflection. I have warned you not to go there to show yourself, I pleaded you to let me go there instead.” Handmaid Jhumki bai cried the words again and started to sob.

Padma looked back at Hiramani, “Hira, what do you think of this sultan?”, “Old fool, an imbecile.” The parrot replied with its sharp birdy voice. Hearing that Padma started to giggle. Jhumki stopped sobbing and kept looking at her with puzzling eyes.

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The situation was deteriorating faster than it was anticipated. Padma now days only sitting near the windows and looking out at the soldiers are marching, led and instructed by their leaders and generals. Rawal Ratan Singh is always looking worried and discussing with his trusted subordinates about the current state of affairs.

 

Padma can still remember that day, Jhumki and few other maids were giggling and falling onto each other while looking it her. “What is it?” Padma asked them curiously.

“Did you not know? The Sultan of Delhi is smitten by your beauty. Heard now a days he stopped eating and drinking and forgot about his hundreds of wives and concubines, he is only dreaming about you.”

Even Padma also heard it. She felt so strange, at her teens she got married to Ratan Singh. She likes her middle aged, quiet husband, who is always busy with various administrative works of his Chittorgarh, in his leisure time either he is with the musicians or slumbering in his opium addiction. His first wife Nagmati tries hard to show her affection and care towards her, but her helpless anger sometimes erupts in different ways. But Padma is not sure if she loves her husband just the way she supposed to.

She doesn’t blame Nagmati for her jealousy and resentment for the younger wife of her husband, as soon as she attained her puberty she was the talking point in all the royal families for her bewildering beauty. Malkhan Singh was even ready to give away an arm and a leg for her, Ratan Singh being the most reputed of Rajputs won her hand in swayamvara, though of their age gap and he being already married. She let off a long sigh, now this mad Sultan.

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The condition has deteriorated further. The cunning Sultan played his dirty trick and captured Mewar King and demanded an unconditional surrender. But he couldn’t keep him into confinement for long. His trusted generals Gora and Badal, the Uncle-Nephew duo and soldiers disguised themselves as Rajput women and released Ratan Singh. Gora died in that attempt, rumor has that sultan saved himself by hiding behind one of his women as Badal was about to slay him.

Padma recalled the day when Ratan Singh came to her,

“You have sit near the lake for few moments.”

“Why?” Padma asked.

“Somebody will see your reflection on the water for those moments.” Ratan answered with a bowed head and clenched teeth.

“Someone who?” Padma knew who that is, still she asked.

“You don’t have to know, just go there near the lake when you see my sign, and don’t sit there more than few moments.” Ratan blurted those words and started to walk, halfway he stopped and turned at her, his eyes were wet and red, he closed his fists, “Padma, if I not have to think about my people and avert a war, I would have killed that bastard with my own hands.”

Jhumki was pleading to her not to go, instead she was rushing to the lake. “My Queen, Sultan doesn’t know who you are, he never saw you. Let me go instead and save you from this humiliation.” Padma did not answer, wasn’t she also curious to see that crazy Sultan? Who came all the way from Delhi to Mewar to have a glance at her reflection?

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It’s chaos everywhere. A huge pyre is burning in red flames and consuming all the Rajput women, who are chanting prayers and jumping in it. All of the men of Chittorgarh today are wearing saffron, robes and turbans, the color of sacrifice, to fight till the last breath, as they have nothing to live for after their women turn into ashes. Nagmati was first to sacrifice herself, Jhumki also followed.

Padma was standing on the edge of the fire, she saw the main gate of the city is slowly opening, Alauddin and his men are entering into the city. The city of blood, ashes and ruins. Maybe Alauddin saw her there, standing in her red bridal dress, almost similar to the flames burning in front of her. Maybe he raised his hands and telling her not to jump in. What is he saying? Offering wealth and comforts of all the world? Offering her to be above all his begums and concubines?

Padma couldn’t help but smiled and then cried.” ‘Typical men’, as always running after the desire of winning the most beautiful woman. All my life I only witness the appreciations, wishes and longingness in the eyes of these men, hardly the respect and love what I searched for.

Perhaps today in his last breathe Ratan Singh will think of me, Perhaps tonight ‘Sultan of Delhi’ Alauddin Khilji will mourn in my death. Perhaps some poet of the 15th century will write poem on me and on 19th and 20th century scholars will debate and argue whether I existed at all. But I will always remain known and spoken of, for this fierce beauty of mine, my blessing, my curse. Only if I could let people know, I am more than a beauty queen.”

Rani Padmini let her body fall onto the pyre, with closed eyes as she was falling into it, she knew her memory will live, always, forever.

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[The above story is an adaption of the well-known tale of ‘Rani Padmini’ of Chittor, Rajasthan, who was famous for her unparalleled beauty. Then Sultan of Delhi ‘Alauddin Khilji attacked Chittor to defeat Rajput king Ratan Singh Rawal and win Padmini for himself, after getting infatuated by her . Rani Padmini and all the other Rajput women performed Jauhar (self-immolation) to save themselves from dishonour as the defeat of inevitable and the men died fighting Alauddin’s huge force.

She appeared in the epic poem written by ‘Malik Muhammad Jayasi’ in 1540 CE ‘Padmavat’ and in the folk lores of Rajasthan. Even today scholars and historians debate if she is a real or fictitious character as the historical evidences found about her are little. ]

 

dewalrani

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