Rani Padmini was the Rajput queen of Chittorgarh in the 13th – 14th century. She was married to Rawal Ratan Sen of Chittorgarh. Her name in Sanskrit means, she who sits on a lotus, literally meaning Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
She was a legendary beauty. Her husband, Rawal Ratan Sen was a just and noble king. He was a great patron of artisans. In his court, he had a poet/artist Raghav Chetan. It is believed that Raghav Chetan practised black magic. Rawal Ratan Sen caught him red-handed and had him banished from his court.
A humiliated Raghav Chetan left for Delhi. He vowed to avenge his humiliation.
Delhi at that time was under the rule of Allah-ud-din Khilji. Raghav Chetan sang songs describing Rani Padmini’s extraordinary beauty. This had the required effect on Allah-ud-din Khilji . He was enamoured by the description and wanted to see her at any cost. He went to Chittorgarh and met Rawal Ratan Sen. He extended a hand of friendship. Rawal Ratan Sen accepted the offer and welcomed him. Allah-ud-din Khilji wanted to see Rani Padmini so; he requested Rawal Ratan Senm who firstly couldn’t refuse after accepting his hand of friendship and secondly he was a guest.
And so following age-old Indian culture of guests being God, he granted the request. He asked Rani Padmini to appear in front of Allah-ud-din Khilji. The Rani, being a proud, wise and a brave Rajput woman refused. She accepted the request after further persuasion by the Rana but on one condition that Allah-ud-din Khilji would only get to look at her reflection. So the next morning it was arranged that when Rani Padmini would appear at the window of her palace, her reflection would be seen in the lotus pond beneath her window. As soon as Allah-ud-din Khilji saw her reflection in the pond, he felt that Raghav Chetan’s poems did no justice to her beauty as she was breathtaking. He was filled with lust and desire to possess her.
He then asked Rawal Ratan Sen to accompany him up to his camp.
On reaching the camp, Rawal Ratan Sen was captured, and news was sent to the palace that Rani Padmini was to be given to Allah-ud-din in exchange of Ratan Sen. Rani Padmini agreed. The next day, 150 palanquins left the fort towards the camp. On reaching the camp brave Rajput soldiers dressed as women jumped out and fought the enemy and freed Ratan Sen.
Allah-ud-din was furious; now he wanted to crush Chittorgarh apart from having Rani Padmini. He laid a siege to the fort which lasted for many days. The supplies of the fort were depleting fast.
It was then decided that Rajput men would fight the enemy until the last man and the women led by Rani Padmini could perform Jauhar (an act of self-immolation performed by queens and women to save their honour from the enemy, who usually would enslave and sexually exploit them). The fort gates were opened, and Ratan Sen led his men to the last battle. In the fort, a huge pyre was lit. On one side the Rajput soldiers fought to the last man, and on the other side, Rani Padmini was the first to jump into the fire followed by the rest of the women.
After the battle had ended in Allah-ud-din’s favour, he marched into the fort to meet Rani Padmini but when the gate was opened the smell of burning flesh filled his nose. Disgust spread over his face as he saw the charred bodies and bones left. He left the fort and returned to Delhi empty-handed.
The fort of Chittorgarh, and the hand imprints on the walls of the women who performed Jauhar stand as a testimony to the incident.