Chittor had fallen but at what cost. The battle had been fierce and the loss great, but in the end the warrior king had seen success. Was he happy with the result?
August 26, CE 1303, the summit of Chitori Hillock, Fort of Chittor (present-day Chittorgarh, Rajasthan)
A muscled man stood at the edge of a precipice, his arms crossed across his chest, attired in full battle garb. His large eyes were opened wide, blazing with a mixture of triumph and contempt, despite being lined with weariness. He must have been exhausted, but judging by his well-trimmed, short beard and clear face, no one could have guessed that he had fought in battle — and won.
“And so, mighty Chittor has fallen,” murmured a soft voice. He turned.
A small-made, slender man, attired in courtly dress rather unsuited to an army camp stood beside him, his hands folded demurely.
The warrior smiled, grimly. “Did you think it wouldn’t?” His voice was soft, but held a chilling hint of menace.
The slender man spread his hands out elegantly. “But how could that ever be? The mighty Juna Khan, the Solomon of this Age, went into the fort on his aerial throne,” he spoke, as though quoting from a poem — which indeed he was: his own work, Khazain-ul-Futuh . “And this servant, who is also the bird of Solomon, went with him, did he not?”
“And how did the poet Amir Khusrau enjoy the sights of Rana Ratan Singh and his men, caught and bound by our forces?” enquired the warrior, still smiling.
“As any servant of Your Majesty would — with delight.”
There was a note of disappointment in his voice, and the warrior was quick to notice it. “Why, what ails you?”
No queen for the king
“Nothing my liege! Just that that there is no lady to welcome you here; no queen, as beautiful as the ones usually described in these parts.”
“And that galls you, eh?” The warrior laughed. “I too, have heard of elegant queens — they are divided into four classes of beauty, aren’t they? And the best are known as Padmini.”
“That is so, Sire,” exclaimed the poet eagerly. “And yet, I see no Padmini, here.”
“No — not when they all perished in the flames of jauhar .”
Used to war and its horrors as they were, it had still been terrible to enter the Chittor fort and see the remains of the huge fire, into which the women had fallen. The stench of smoke and burning had nearly made them clutch their throats.
“They have escaped humiliation,” said the warrior, briefly.
“And the men — most fought to their deaths,” murmured the poet. “I would have wished, still, to see a beautiful heroine at the end of your trials, Sire.”
The warrior laughed outright. “Not all wars are fought for the sake of elegant women, my Amir,” he said. “The defeat of Chittor was part of my expansion policy. This fort, as you know, is one of the strongest of Rajputana, and you saw how my men struggled to enter, despite using catapults and even ladders, to scale the walls.” He paused. “Those Rajputs put up a heroic resistance for seven long months,” he admitted, grudgingly.
“What now, Your Majesty?”
“I shall appoint Khizr Khan to govern this fort, and return to Delhi,” the warrior replied briefly. “I have been hearing reports that the Mongols are planning an invasion upon my lands, under Targhi, and …”
The rest of the conversation was centred on war, battles and administration; the warrior turned to his sub-ordinates, while Amir Khusrau let his mind wander, as he looked at the Fort of Chittor. It was a great pity, he mused, that there was no queen here, a beautiful woman of the Padmini class, to welcome his king. Ala-ud-din Khilji, nephew to Jalal-ud-din Firuz Shah, ruler of Delhi, deserved a heroine. Perhaps there was no one in real life — but what was to prevent him from giving certain hints, here and there, in his own work? And later, who was to say that some poet might not evolve a legend around this very fort, the Khilji ruler, and the Rajputs?
Perhaps, he thought, as his eyes dwelt on the Fort, touched by the evening sun. Perhaps, the Legend of Padmini, Rani of Chittor, might take a life on its own.
Historical Note : Juna Khan Khilji, also known as Ala-ud-din Khilji, was the most powerful ruler of the Khilji dynasty, ruling from CE 1296 – 1316. His conquests ranged from Ranthambore, Chittor, to Devagiri; it was under his reign that Malik Kafur’s armies looted the South and brought back enormous riches (1300 -1311 CE).
Although the legend of Chittor Rani Padmini is popular, most historians agree that it is largely fictional. It was first brought to public notice through the epic Padmawat , written in Awadhi, by Malik Mohammad Jaisi, in CE 1540. Some feel that Amir Khusrau referred to a beautiful queen of the Padmini class, in his epic work Khazain-ul-Futuh — but there’s no proof of this. The words he speaks in this story, about Ala-ud-din Khilji being the Solomon of this Age, however, are actually taken from his work.