Controversy over the portrayal of a 13th-14th century CE queen of Chittor in the film “Padmavati”, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, erupted again with the fort town of Chittorgarh observing a bandh to protest against the film’s scheduled release on December 1.
The bandh was called by the Jauhar Smriti Sansthan (JSS), a research and social group formed in 1950 with the aim of reviving pride in Mewar’s rulers.
The bandh call was circulated on social media a few days ago and received instant support from various groups, including the Karni Sena, a self-proclaimed body of Rajputs in Rajasthan. The Sansthan’s formal bandh announcement a day ago was obeyed by schools, colleges, markets and cinema halls. Rajput women even participated in large numbers in a protest march while holding placards that read “Respect Women”.
The march concluded at the Chittorgarh collectorate where effigies of Bhansali and other cast and crew of the film were burned.
Apart from stirring emotion with questions like “Can a Rajput show his wife to any stranger”, a query that received a roar of “Nahi, kabhi nahi (No, never),” their speeches were also high on empirical data. They claimed Allauddin Khilji did attack Chittorgarh in 1303 AD, but not for Rani Padmini (the Sansthan claims her real name was Padmani), so the question of Khilji seeing Padmavati in the mirror did not arise.
“The popular mirror narrative was coined by Malik Mohammad Jayasi in his poem Padmavati in 1540 CE, during the reign of Sher Shah Suri, almost 237 years after the historical event,” said JSS spokesperson Lokendra Singh Chundawat.
The Sansthan supports their claim by quoting Jain texts from between the 14th and 16th centuries CE —Nabinandan Jenudhar, Chitai Charitra and Rayan Sehra — which, it claims, are more neutral than the Persian and Sanskrit texts. “The Jain texts mention Rani Padmini, her husband, Rawal Ratan Singh, and the war with Khilji, but none of them talks about the mirror incident,” he said.