Alauddin Khilji was one of the most powerful Sultans of Delhi. He captured the throne of Delhi in 1296 AD by killing his uncle and then ruler Jalal-ud-din Khilji. Over the next few years, he carried out expeditions in North India as well as South. He also conquered the kingdoms of Gujarat, Ranthambore, Malwa, Jalore and Devagiri and amassed a large amount of wealth. However, it is his invasion of Chittor kingdom that has piqued curiosity for centuries thanks to his fascination with Padmavati, the queen of this Rajput kingdom.
Often referred as a tale of lust and valour, the story of Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji finds its mention in the Padmavat, a Awadhi language poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The poem deals with the relation between Chittor king Ratansen, Queen Padmavati and the sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji. The tale describes Padmavati as a “perfect woman”, of beauty “no such was ever seen upon the Earth.” King Ratansen, who had heard about her charisma longed, to marry her. He finally married Padmavati in a swayamvar and brought her to Chittor.
Among Ratansen’s many subjects was musician Raghav Chaitanya. The king banished Chaitanya from the kingdom after he found out about his illegal activities. To take his revenge, Chaitanya reached Khilji’s court in Delhi and informed the Sultan about Queen Padmavati’s unparalleled beauty. Fascinated by Padmavati’s description, Khilji made his way to Chittor in order to acquire her.
Some literature from the period suggests that Khilji’s request to see the queen was turned down as Rajput culture forbade women from meeting strangers. Khilji then waged a war against Chittor but failed to capture the fort. Ratansen, meanwhile was killed. Khilji again invaded Chittor and marched his way inside the fort to look for Padmavati. However, Padmavati and several other women had by then ended her life in jauhar (self-immolation) to get away from Khilji.
However, the truth of the incident has been debated over the years. While some call it a fable, Khilji’s subjugation of Chittor is indeed a part of history. Many historians also believe that Khilji’s invasion of Chittor was an attempt to expand his kingdom rather than a quest for Padmavati. There are also a few who look at ‘Padmavat’ as a historical fiction that was corrupted over the generations. On the other hand, there are a few Rajput groups who look at the jauhar as a significant moment in their history. It is in-fact often seen as an epitome of bravery of Rajput women.