On January 28, two interesting things happened to Sanjay
Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat in tranquil Goa, where I happened to be.
First, news came that Malaysia’s National Film Censor Board (Lembaga Penapis
Filem) had barred the film from being screened. LPF chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul
Aziz said in a statement that the storyline itself was a matter of concern in
Malaysia, a Muslim majority country.… “[as] it touches on the sensibilities of
Islam. That in itself is of grave concern … [however] the distributor in
Malaysia is expected to appeal LPF’s decision to a separately constituted Film
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, however, the censor board cleared it without any cuts for screening with a U certification. Clearly, Islamic lands to the east of the Indian peninsula reacted differently than those north and west.
Secondly, on that date in BJP-ruled Goa cinemas began to show the film. They initially deferred to the government’s advice not to do so on January 25, when it was released across the country. The protests, vandalism, threats to life and limb including that of school children, collapsed in three days, as audiences came out wondering what the brouhaha had been about.
It is fitting that with the passage of a little time we should look back to ferret out the reason why the so-called right-wing Hindu groups allowed their rancour to be buried under the mountain of cash (earnings in the first month exceeded `400 crore) that began to overwhelm cinema halls. Also, which “sensibilities of Islam” have been touched by Bhansali’s mega-production of an epic poem written in 1540 by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi in Awadhi, originally in the Persian nastalīq script? It is the oldest extant text among the important works in Awadhi. “A famous piece of Sufi literature from the period…”
Hindus may also have noted that Padmaavat was written in the same language that Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitmanas (Ramayana). As far as sensibilities are concerned, the very first shot is a disclaimer; the film has no pretensions to historic accuracy or facts and cites its poetic provenance. However, bent, it seems, on a political agenda, Rajasthan’s Karni Sena did not accept the producer’s invitation to see a preview to check out the truth behind any of the ten objections that some Hindu outfits (particularly Rajput) had raised.
Perhaps for the simple reason that the root of the demands was exposed by a subsequent news item that said “Padmaavat is mired in controversy over conjectures that it distorts facts about Rajput queen Padmavati.”
In Madhya Pradesh, though the government opposed the release of the film, it is now being accused of allowing the glorification of Alauddin Khilji. The Rajput Samaj on February 14 said it would take to the streets if the specific chapter from the history book approved by the state government for Class XII students wasn’t removed. “We have asked the government to order the removal of the chapter as it glorifies Khilji as a hero. Queen Padmini has been mentioned only in a couple of lines but Khilji’s pursuits have been covered in 13 pages.”
While BJP blamed the extended coverage [given] to Khilji on left-leaning historians promoted since Jawaharlal Nehru’s time, the Congress said the BJP had been in power for more than 14 years in MP and did little about it. Rajputs in particular and some RSS-influenced Hindus would like to see that position reversed. It would seem the glorification of vanquished mediaeval rajas and the vilification of mediaeval sultans is what “nationalistic” history should be about—never mind the facts, the right-wing seems to say.
So the agitation seems not to have been over the desecration of a Hindu legend but that such films seem to come in the way of BJP’s support for re-writing history in a way that shows Hindu rajas defeated by Muslim “invaders” in a glow as heroes—and victorious Muslims as villains. What left wing historians have done so far is presented, almost, as sacrilege.
ow far would right wing groups like to go? Should they airbrush or re-brush Padmini, for example, to be portrayed as a Joan-of-Arc figure, as the saviour of Chittor?
If they read the 10-volume Comprehensive History of India, they would find that in the chapter on the Khiljis, in Volume 5, the fall of Chittor is narrated into two parts. The first deals with the capture of the citadel itself and the second with the Padmini Legend. The capture of Chittor, that began with the advance of the “the army of Hindustan” on January 28, 1303, from the south, ended with the surrender of the walled city by Ratan Rai, its ruler, in mid- August 1303. Alauddin Khilji had planned two campaigns for that year, the other being the expedition to Warangal, the capital of the Kakatiya kingdom. He came south from Delhi at the head of the entire force, but upon reaching a decisive point, decided to bifurcate the army and turn one, under his personal command, back to seize Chittor.
Giving supreme command of the second army to Malik Jumla, Alauddin tasked it with the war on Warangal. The Malik found he could not go south through Mewat and thus had to plod the longer road through Bengal and along the east coast to his target. The monsoon undermined his progress. This army failed to get to the theatre of action. It returned with losses a year later.
As far as the Mewar force was concerned, on getting to Chittor, Alauddin found the fort impossible to storm. The attackers could get only as far as the waist of the hill. Even the pelting of the walls and over them with mustaq stones (fireballs) produced no result. The sultan of Delhi and Hindustan seems to have decided to lay siege and starve the town into surrender. He pitched his camp near the base of the fort on an island between two streams and waited. Amir Khusrau, Alauddin’s court historian, records that for reasons unknown Ratan Rai, who had been on the throne of Chittor for only a year or two and who obtained no substantial help from the other Rais of Mewar, one day came out of “his stone gate like a spark of stone” and ran towards the royal tent and obtained an audience with the sultan and receiving pardon, saved himself from “the flashing sword” of the besiegers.
He also received imperial protection first for himself and then for his family. The CHI says that “We have to conclude, therefore, the jauhar rite of Chitor to be a fabrication of a later day. Khusrau, [who entered the fort with the sultan on August 25, 1303,] referred to the jauhar in Ranthambor [where he also accompanied the sultan in 1299 ] and would certainly have referred to the one at Chitor, had there been one.” It is hard to see a star role for Padmini in the narration as it goes so far.
As for the legend of Padmavati, the CHI records:
A historian, who studies the originals, is unable to find
any place for the Padmini legend in 1303. Khusrau, Barani, Isami and all near
contemporary writers are silent about it. Alauddin captured Chitor and hurried
back to Delhi (which was under attack by the Mongols); he forgave Ratan Sen and
we have no reasons for thinking that he bothered about the Rai’s wives or
“But in 1540 –i.e. 237 years after the fall of Chitor, Malik Muhammad of Jais, a small town near Rae Bareli in Awadh, wrote a Hindi poem, a piece of Sufi literature from the period… [No more needs to be said on this score] Padmaavat, which has deservedly taken a very prominent place in the classic Hindu literature… We need not be surprised that in his great allegory (as he himself confesses) ‘Chitor’ stands for the ‘body’, the ‘Raja’ for the ‘mind’, ‘Ceylon’ for the ‘heart’, ‘Padmini’ for ‘wisdom’… and ‘Alauddin’ for ‘lust’. Planning a romance, the author was under no obligation to respect the facts of history, the limitations of geography or the principles of the prevailing Hindu castes and customs. According to him Alauddin could not conquer Chitor even after a siege of eight years. But he captured the Rai by a trick, took him to Delhi and refused to restore him unless the Rai’s wife, Padmini, a Ceylonese princess whom the Rai had obatained after twelve years of wooing in that distant Island, was surrendered to him. But the Rai was brought back safely to Chitor according to the well known trick of Hindu warriors going in female litters to Delhi and only jumping out of them when they had reaches the Rai’s prison… A great scholar of Rajasthan history, the late Dr. Gopal Shankar Ojha has explained at length the factual improbabilities of the legend and his opinion is conclusive.”
But the mission of re-writing history to show up selected
personalities as heroes has little to do with veracity or research. It is in
the domain of creating fables. Most upper castes (indeed all communities)
suppressed by Muslim rule can now vent about the lowering of their status
thanks to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.
If Rajputs rewrite the history of the sultanate of Delhi mythically, Muslims could also embellish their sultans and conquests beyond the known facts. So we could end up with a Hindu history and an Islamic history that would be a tale of alternates unconnected to reality.
Kshatryias, for example, wish to regain the political
primacy given to them by the Vedas and Manu. How then can history be gamed to
support their claim? Indeed, if some evidence surfaces, a royal document or
inscription on a temple wall, that there was a siege that ended not in tame
surrender but in a battle and a duel
that resulted from Alauddin’s concupiscence and lust to induct Padmini into his
harem, it would surely be welcomed by historians and laymen alike.
Thus, if the Rajput Samaj contended that additional research would surely prove the rendition by contemporary bards of the siege and jauhar to be right one could sympathise with the demand. To put out another version without new evidence requires a fictional script that finds the events in the early 14th century to be Hindu victories even if there were none. It would be a patently false, schizophrenic way of proceeding.
But there can be no bar to adding to our large labyrinth of myths about heroes, dastards and bastards. But there is a point to ponder: if Rajputs rewrite the history of the sultanate of Delhi mythically, Muslims could also retaliate by embellishing their sultans and conquests beyond the known facts. So we could end up with a Hindu history and an Islamic history that would be a tale of alternates unconnected to reality. Today’s generation doesn’t know that railway stations in British times had “Hindu Pani” and “Muslim Pani”. This was a part of their divide and rule strategy.
If Hindus want to go ahead, some scenarios for myth-making come to mind. One that I feel would boost Rajput pride of both sexes, and the heavens know that Rajput females could do with more equality in their relations with their men, could run as under. This one is entirely of my own making and should not be confused as a source for history! It is in the realm of historical myth like our epics. So the historian would say, avoid this exercise altogether.
But if they nevertheless persist here is a possibility for the show of valour—even female valour—that would slake their thirst for glory. First the Rajput Samaj and its ilk need to accept the version of the legend as adopted by Bhansali, even if this means they have to swallow the hateful abuse they heaped on it.
So in the opening scenes the Lankan princess Padmini is hunting deer. One arrow misses its target but produces a scream from the jungle. It has lodged in the shoulder of a hunter, who has fallen unconscious as a result. She tends to his wounds personally and hears his proposal for marriage while he is recuperating. The point for the right-wing historians to note is that Padmini is a fine archer and familiar with the other weapons she is shown to carry.
The second sequence with potential for further heroics is the duel between Ratan Rai and Alauddin that presages his murder, the consequent fall of Chittor and ensuing jauhar. In this sequence Padmini is shown in steady, stately and measured advance towards an engulfing inferno almost as high as the ramparts of the fort: while Alauddin runs on them in riding boots like a man possessed, to save her and win his prize.
But facts are scarce and if those who are to rewrite the history books insist that there was a Padmini in 1303, [they] might knit the new tale in a way that shows it to be based on the characters and mahaul of the times. Here is how it could go:
As soon as her husband’s body is retrieved, she sits down by it to assess the military balance. She determines that only an alliance can save the native princes. She has to rally the rais and rajas around Chittor.
[Padmavati] is standing on the ramparts watching the duel
with the satisfaction of a royal smelling the fruits of an historic victory.
After she anoints him for battle, Ratan Rai rides out without an escort,
inviting Alauddin to avoid bloodshed and settle the issue with a duel. He
accepts the wager, his choice of weapons being swords. A duel follows
[Bhansali’s version could be a carbon copy of the one between Achilles (Brad
Pitt) and Hector (Eric Bana) in Troy].
The fight is even but there is a twist in the end: just as Alauddin is worsted and Ratan Rai has the point of his sword on a prostrate sultan—the tormenter of the clans and nobility of lands between the Indus and the Ganga—she sees him buckle and lurch. She can’t make anything of this, but when he swivels, she sees an arrow in his back, and then another and another. As he falls, Alauddin gets to his feet and lets out a roar of triumph. He has won yet again, though by violating the warriors’ code of honour.
Padmini asks for the bow of the nearest archer. She lets loose a fusillade of arrows. The first three find their mark in the chest and shoulder of the sultan and he falls just beside Ratan Rai. She sees the Muslim cavalry galloping up to the antagonists. A trooper gets off his horse, picks up the wounded man and rides back to camp. Meanwhile, the eunuch general, Malik Kafur, the appointed naib, takes command. Padmini knows his reputation. She needs to buy time to rally her troops. She orders the gates of the fort closed, and the slaughter of such enemies as have got in.
s soon as her husband’s body is retrieved, she sits down by it to assess the military balance. Her defences are weak: forts have outlived their capacity to hold back a surrounding force. In the present case it is the catapults and fireballs that forced her husband to open Chittor’s gates and ride out. If he had had his own artillery, the story would have been different. She determines that only an alliance can save the native princes from being defeated and subjugated piecemeal. She has to ride out right away and rally the rais and rajas around Chittor.
She lists the most likely allies. Westward, the rai of Gujarat is a good candidate. A few years earlier he was caught unawares by the army of Hindustan and fled the capital Anhilwara, leaving his treasures and his women. His chief queen, Kamla Devi, fell into the hands of the Turks. She was transported to Delhi and taken into the harem, not to mention the enormous booty that was captured. His generals also sent the beautiful Hindu boy Manik, hazar dinari (purchased by the sultan for a thousand dinars), for his pleasure. In Delhi he was converted to Islam, renamed Malik Kafur and castrated.
She rides under cover of darkness for Anhilwara, travelling only at night. She goes straight to the palace or what is left of it. Hearing that she is at his door, a surprised Karan Vaghela, rai of Gujarat, goes to welcome her.
The rebuilt Somnath Temple was destroyed again and Khusrau
wrote, “Made to prostrate towards the dignified Ka’ba.” All this is cause for
hurt and a call for revenge. As an islander, Padmini knows how quickly maritime
principalities can re-coup lost wealth. Arabian Sea trade is a rich source of
revenue, essential to finance the alliance she has in mind. She can then go
south and east, to Devagiri and Warangal. The former was ravaged by Khilji’s
forces and the treasure of this kingdom helped finance the war with Chittor and
Warangal. So, there are possibilities of a joint defence.
On the 14th day after Ratan Rai’s death, Padmini is on the ramparts of Chittor dressed as a warrior in chain armour, with the full complement of weapons. As people turn to see her cheers of “Rani Padmani ki Jai, Durgamata ki jai, Bhavani ki jai” flow over the walls to the ears of the retreating Turki army. That night she gets together a guard and escort of a hundred horse and rides under cover of darkness for Anhilwara, travelling only at night.The sultan’s spies and informers are everywhere and she cannot be too careful. She goes straight to the palace or what is left of it. News that she got three arrows into Alauddin Khilji has spread the length and breadth of the subcontinent. Hearing that she is at his door, a surprised Karan Vaghela, rai of Gujarat, goes to welcome her and escort her into the audience hall with all the courtesies accorded to a prince. After the preliminary courtesies, he asks her to rest and refresh herself.
The fisherfolk on whom the army must depend are the lowest of the low,. The princes in the east will not ally with the tribals of Gondwana, whom they consider beyond the pale of caste. But as a Sinhalese princess not born into this system can she break it?
When they meet the next morning, she addresses him with
respect taking care to sympathise with the loss of his queen and treasure.
“But my lord, my loss is greater. I have lost my husband and estate through a dishonourable act. Our chivalry has been taken advantage of. If Alauddin had pleaded for mercy I have no doubt my husband would have shown compassion. His only terms would have been withdrawal and a Khilji prince as hostage. But these invaders are not to be trusted. You will be left alone for a while. But in a few years, when Delhi hears that you’ve recouped your losses, there will be another attack.
“For how long are we to suffer such humiliation?
“I beg you to call a meeting of princes to the south and east. I have sent messengers to Targithe Mongol, who has surrounded Delhi after coming through Punjab, to say that when the Turks attack his force to the north we will attack from the south, leading the so-called army of Hindustan into the jaws of death. I have also requested a meeting with him or his trusted envoy to work out the details.
“We have not heard whether the Muslim invader is dead or alive. We should presume that he is alive or else we would have heard of his departure to hell. Please give my request deep thought and call a meeting.”
Karan Vagehla asks for a night to consider the proposal, promising not to discuss it with anyone. In the morning he seems pleased and agrees.
The meeting of princes is kept for the full moon night of September giving them time to travel to Kathiawar, and also because the Delhi armies won’t start a war when the monsoon has not retreated. Karan Vahgela says it is a particularly auspicious day, being the night of a Blue and Super Moon, about a month away. Padmini decides that she will use this time to rally rulers in central and eastern parts of the country. Many are vassals of the sultan, paying heavy annual tribute. No doubt these rulers want to throw off the yoke.
On the road to Devagiri she understands there are problems: in the west, the fisherfolk on whom the army must depend for supplies for the coastal armies and also to cut off supplies for the Turks, are the lowest of the low, so low that even if they cast their shadow on food it is defiled. The princes in the east will not ally with the tribals of Gondwana, whom they consider beyond the pale of caste. It is one reason the invading Turks can buy the neutrality if not support of the lower strata in the social hierarchy. But as a Sinhalese princess not born into this system can she break it? She will offer to lead the Gond army and fishermen guerillas. No one can object to that.
Everyone welcomes her mission. Rai Rama Chandra of Devagiri, fearing another attack on hearing of Khilji’s advance to Chittor has fled to Warangal. After conferring with Padmini he offers to join her on the journey back to Gujarat. She asks for a few days in which she could go to meet the tribal chiefs in Gondwana. She will promise them land and status—assure them of the right to enter temples and worship Hindu gods, if they so desire. She finds them sympathetic.
hirty-two princes gather in Anhilwara on the appointed night of September 1303, including the chiefs of two tribes from the east and one of a tribe from the Western Ghats. It is considered a lucky number as even and divisible. Padmini dressed in full armour complete with riding boots and helmet is the last to enter the hall. She goes around with folded hands, touching each prince’s feet. The rai of Gujarat introduces her—stressing that she hit the sultan with three arrows in the back. There is applause. He invites her to speak.
A tall woman, taller than many of the rais, Padmini is beautiful, of a shining light brown and smooth complexion. Men feel drawn to her. She holds their attention.
“My betters and my lords,
“You have done a woman who is a widow great honour by gathering here. Rai Karan has already explained my circumstance and my mission. Some say I should have walked into the funeral pyre of my husband, that I should have killed myself and accompanied his spirit to the world beyond. I have no fear of death.
“But instead of embracing death in this passive manner, I will embrace it on the battle field. Khilji tried to capture me while I was a housewife in a sari, now let him try when I am in armour and on horseback. He says his heart beats only for me. I will be the one to make it stop beating. So far my arrows have only found his back. He has survived because he was out of range by the time we collected our wits and I drew the bow string. This time one will find his heart.
Padmini is to lead the land force. She says she will be in seclusion for 15 days, the real purpose being a meeting with Targhi. She catches up with the Mongol army on the banks of the Satluj River.
“And I have a historic announcement to make. I have a reply
here from Targi Khan, head of the Mongol army that he will ally with us. First
he will withdraw from Delhi, luring Alauddin to follow him. This gives us time
to advance from the south, forcing him to split his force. I will not let him
pass through Mewar but force him east towards Bengal and into tribal lands. We
have the assurance of the Gond chiefs present here, that they will lay ambush
after ambush and see that the sons of evil are devoured by the jungle or fall
to Gond bows and hunting weapons.
“We have laid a feint by moving treasure chests from Devagiri to Warangal. It is well known that this news has passed to Alauddin. He is a greedy man and we can be sure he will make plans. If instead he moves towards Gujarat again, we will trick him into operations in Kutch and keep him engaged till the Rann fills up with the monsoon and he is trapped on the island. Our fisherfolk allies will harass him with night raids from the sea and by bombardment from siege guns we are mounting on their boats during the day. When the Rann recedes we will make an amphibian landing from all sides that will see him defeated.
“But first, our weapons need new designs and improvement—in particular our catapults must be easily movable, our bows must have greater range, our horses more speed and our arms more strength to fight with hand-held weapons. We will need better training. For all this we will need treasure and here the coastal princes have to bear a disproportionate responsibility. They can rest assured that the Khilji forces will never get past us.
“And we must choose commanders—one for the land forces and another for the sea. We can adjourn and sit in groups to select them.”
At the end of two days all the arrangements are in place. Padmini is unanimously selected to lead the land force and Vaghela’s admiral is named commander of the naval force. She thanks the assembly for the responsibility bestowed on her. She says she will be in seclusion for 15 days, the real purpose being a meeting with Targhi. She catches up with the Mongol army on the banks of the Satluj River. She is pleased with the result and feels that she should fear no deception. She establishes her headquarters at Mhow, which lies at the centre of the theatre of war.
y introductory passage to the new history of India should stop here. From this point on the Rajput Sena has many options. Padmini could emerge as a hero through her own one-to-one duel with the sultan, she could emerge as an astute strategist who lures him into Gondwana to be decimated by the tribal people or devoured by the forest. She could be the commander who traps Khilji in Kutch and personally drives an arrow or a spear through his heart. “Take this, you son of dishonour. May your soul roast in jahannum forever.” Somewhere in this sequence she would be wounded—and carry the scar of the battle as a medal through her life.
Rajput pride, so severely hurt at the hands of Islam, will receive soothing balm. Padmini will earn more than a passing reference in history. Besides, bringing Scheduled Tribes into the ambit of Big History as warriors rather than hunter gatherers, will restore their pride, hurt marginalisation and exploitation.
Only one point remains to be decided. Where does Padmini go after victory and revenge? Is she elevated as empress of India or, having delivered the goods, will she be killed, as Joan of Arc was, by men jealous of a success that injured their male pride?
My own preference would be for her to go to Rameswaram and sail along Adam’s Bridge to her home in Sri Lanka. The Hindu princes would try to find her there and implore her to return, without success. By adopting a tale that would break the taboo against women warriors the BJP could further modernise the story by offering her another swayamvar and choose a new husband, shattering the ban on widow re-marriage and making the ritual of sati abhorrent. This denouement would link her to the epics. What more could the right-wing desire?
Should we wish the rewriters luck with research that uncovers such evidence? Yes, if they can succeed—but they must be warned. Even as they write a new script for the Khilji period, they will need to deal with five more volumes of the CHI!
There is, of course, the probability that yarns such as this one will deepen our existing psychosis about our past. As for research, we should wish them Godspeed so that issues they find inconvenient to their sense of nationalism, including the Aryan invasion, may be resolved either to align with their beliefs or to the acceptance of the present theory of a movement from the Caspian Sea area. Padmini by herself cannot keep them happy for too long.
e now come to the Malaysian objection that “the storyline of the film touches on the sensibilities of Islam.” The coming of Islam has not been a uniformly bloody experience for all of Asia. While people of the subcontinent may think it was spread by the sword, the Southeast Asian experience parallels our west coast process, where the first mosque came up in the Prophet’s life time. Traders funded this as they did the gradual replacement of Hindu kings on the Indonesian archipelago and Malay peninsula, the last of the latter converting in the 19th century. So one can appreciate the Malaysian ban on the grounds that Padmaavat shows Islam as a violent creed that kills idolators without exception. Besides, it condones, indeed encourages, deceitful conduct as shown by Khilji’s capture of Ratan Rai who accepts an invitation to a meal on the same terms and conditions as the Turk had when he went to Ratan Rai’s palace, i.e., unescorted by a guard. The Rai is captured when he sets foot in Khilji’s camp and is taken to Delhi.
The calmest reaction has been that of India’s Muslims. Only the irrepressible Asaduddin Owaisi dismissed it as “bakwas” . In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan said Muslims would never object to a movie over fears that it would distort their history.
In the second instance he is shot in the back on the orders of Malik Kafur when he has disarmed and driven his adversary to the ground, at the end of the duel. There was no need for murder and deceit in Southeast Asia. Preachers spread the faith with the Word rather than the sword. Anyone who has been to Aceh will tell you that violence is not one of the traits of life in this stronghold of Islamic conservatism in Indonesia.
The second possible objection would be to a homosexual relationship between hazar dinari Malik Kafur and the sultan of Hindustan. Actually, homosexual relationships were accepted in high circles. When I was in college some decades ago there was a doggerel ascribed to a Turkish noble that ran: “There is a boy across the river who hath a bottom like a peach but, alas, I cannot swim…”
Or take Greeks like Alexander and his father Philip to start with, and come through the Turkish empire—whatever their preferences, the fact remains that under Islamic law they invite capital punishment. That didn’t happen, although a former Malaysian deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has twice been found guilty of and jailed for homosexuality on highly questionable evidence. And a clever lawyer appealing against the ban may well ask if a relationship with a eunuch is perverted. But homosexuality is not a subject Rajputs would be entirely comfortable about either.
But we should also remember that Pakistan passed Padmaavat with a U certification. Their long-range missile is Ghazni and it should surprise no one if an even more destructive weapon is named Khilji—after all Alauddin got till Madurai and a Muslim state was established there. Terrorist violence in the name of Islam is a fact of life even today.
The calmest reaction has been that of India’s Muslims. Only the irrepressible Asaduddin Owaisi dismissed it as “bakwas” and urged Muslim youth not to see it. In Lucknow despite the raging row over the movie, during which Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister, held Bhansali and Deepika Padukone equally responsible and deserving of punishment, Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan said Muslims would never object to a movie over fears that it would distort their history.
Commenting on the Padmaavat row Khan, who has a penchant for controversial statements said: “There is an objection to the story of a film. Mughal-e-Azam showed Anarkali as Saleem’s mehbooba (lover), when in reality there is no such thing.”
“However, no Muslim objected (to it) because it is a story and Muslims are large-hearted. They know a film can’t ruin their history…”
Last comes the question of morality—if there is any such thing in war. By showing the Muslim side to be deceptive, the Rajputs are shown to be simple-minded followers of a code of honour. So how will this theme pan out now that the right wing is preparing hard for the general election that is to come in 2019 or sooner? How many seats will the trenchant opposition to non-existent slurs yield? I quote from Meghnad Desai’s column in The Indian Express of March 25:
“The Ramayana is a morality tale, simple and linear. The Mahabharata, however, is a complex and non-linear story. Whoever told Rahul Gandhi to cite the battle of Kurukshetra as an analogy of the upcoming electoral barrel should have been careful. The Pandavas were winners in the battle but in no way morally superior. It was Yudhishtra who lied (Ashwathamna) to eliminate Drona. It was Arjun who hid behind the hermaphrodite Shikhandi to strike at Bhishma and broke the code of war to hit Karna while he was repairing his chariot. Krishna guided Bhima to smash Duryodhana’s thigh contrary to the rule of duels with a mace. The Kauravas broke no rules. They just lost the war.
“The battle was never about Truth and Falsehood. The dispute was about who rules in the territory where Indraprastha and Hastinapur stood.”
Is there any lesson for the BJP, in this instance the party of indignant righteous honour, or the Liberal “left-leaning historians promoted since Jawaharlal Nehru’s time”, who are supposed to have insidiously defamed historical characters and taken away their space in history?
The fact remains that though Rajputs may have won some battles they lost the war against political Islam. What re-writing of history will erase this chain of events that spread over1025-1947 CE?
As far as the ruling of India from Indraprastha is concerned, the outcome is a comparatively short term project. The Rajput Samaj and Karni Sena and their clones will find that it is the ballot box that will decide who wins in 2019. The rewriting of history will continue. But hopefully it will not be dictated by the winning side. One can hardly revise facts every five years no matter how gifted as a fabulist.