Queens of India a tale of beauty valor and devotion

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Anupama Nair


The Queens of India were known for their beauty, chastity, valor. I had written about two great daughters of Bharat Ma, who defeated the invaders when the dark ages started in India when Ghori killed Prithvi Raj. Naiki Devi and Kurma Devi, defeated Ghori much before Prithvi Raj Chauhan and Kurma Devi defeated Aibak.

That was the beginning of centuries of slavery and when our beloved mother Bharat Ma was finally freed from slavery, she was amputated on the basis of religion and more than 1 million of her children – Hindus and Sikhs were killed mercilessly by Islamic terrorists in Lahore, Rawal Pindi, Karachi and Dhaka. How much my Bharat Maa must have cried to see her children being killed!

There is a falsehood that women were not treated well in Bharat, it may be true in the modern world, but in the ancient period, women were equal to men and treated well. Women were well versed in archery and known for their bravery. Think about the great daughters of this land. I had written a series of articles about great queens of India. We were anything but regressive! India is famous for the beauty of her women. Many ballads hail the beauty of our Indian Queens, however they are known for their valor, chastity and never-give up spirit. There’s a fact about history, we are never sure what exactly happened, because often, the facts get altered with the ravages of time and travel. Today I am going to write about two more brave queens Rani Padmavati who bravely sacrificed her life to fight against the lusty invader Allaudin Khilji, and Mira Bai who gave up her life of luxurious life in Mewar to serve her Giridhar Gopal.

There are many, versions to the history of Rani Padmini and I am going to write about all these versions. However, there’s one thing that was common in all the versions – a woman of great beauty and the ‘Johar Kund’. The ‘Johar Kund’ in Chittorgarh where Rani Padmavati performed ‘jauhar’ (custom of self-immolation by Kshatriya women) is a place as significant in our history. It is very surprising to note that in the earlier versions of the story, Alauddin Khilji’s conquest of Chittorgarh has no mention of Rani Padmavati at all. The first mention of the queen is in the epic poem written in Awadhi language by Malik Mohammad Jayasi called ‘Padmavat’.

The Jauhar of Rani Padmini presented her with a goddess-like stature in the history of  our country, where chastity of our women was worshipped. The antagonist, is the lusty invader Allauddin Khilji who attacked Chittor and led to the martyrdom of both Padmini and Rana Ratan Singh.

According to Jayasi, she was the daughter of the king of Singhal or Sri Lanka. She was famous for her beauty and her archery skills. She had a talking parrot Hiraman, and the king hated their friendship, so, the parrot was ordered to be executed. However, it somehow escaped and managed to reach the palace of the king of Mewar Rana Ratan Singh. The parrot praised the beauty of Rani Padmavati and Rana Ratan Sen who was enchanted by her beauty was determined to marry her. He reached Singhal and he married her after he fulfilled her vow of defeating her in a duel. However, his first wife Nagmati refused to accept her.

There was a Brahmin courtier in the court of Ratan Singh called Raghav Chetan. He was banished from the kingdom by Ratan for fraud. Raghav reached Delhi to the court of the cruel and lusty Sultan Alauddin Khilji. He praised the beauty of Rani Padmavati and the womanizer that he was, Alauddin decided to obtain her and hence, attacked Chittor. However, he failed to conquer Chittor and offered a fake peace treaty to Ratan Singh and deceitfully captured him. However, a sequence of events followed and the brave Rana was released from his captivity by his loyal men, Gora and Badal who entered the fort by disguising as Rani Padmavati while they sat inside the palanquin. In a battle Rana Ratan Singh was martyred and Alauddin then attacked Chittor. The brave women of Chittor led by Padmavati committed Jauhar to save the honor from their honor from the lusty Islamic invaders.

There is another version of  Jayasi, that has a different story. Rani Padmini was well-trained in war strategies and battleship. This made her adept at the art of swordsmanship. During her swayamvar, she kept a condition that whoever would defeat the designated fighter in a sword battle would win her. However, the designated sword fighter was Padmini herself. Many princes and kings lost to her and it was only king Rawal Ratan Singh who won and she had to marry him.

Raghav Chetan was an artist in the royal court of Chittor and was secretly a sorcerer who killed many for his purposes. Once, Ratan Sen caught him red-handed and he was banished from the kingdom. This led him to Alauddin Khilji, praising Rani Padmini in front of him and Alauddin besieging the kingdom of Chittor. In this version, he only saw Padmini in a reflection as she didn’t allow to see him face to face. Alauddin deceitfully captured Ratan Singh. This led to the women of Chittor prepare for Jauhar while the fight was still going on. As many soldiers of Chittor’s army died, Ratan Singh also died while fighting beside his men.

The women walked down a secret passage within the fort that led to the Jauhar Kund. Padmini was the first to jump in the Jauhar Kund while other women followed. Their cries and wailings were so loud that Alauddin ordered the passage to be closed permanently and it was reopened only after many years by the king of Chittor to honor the brave women.

Meera Bhai, was a great devotee of my Lord Krishna. She lived and died for the Lord. Her entire life is a life of devotion and proved the “power of faith”. Most folklores about Meera Bai mention “her fearless disregard for social and family conventions, her devotion to Krishna, her treating Krishna as her husband and being persecuted by her in-laws for her religious devotion. Hindu temples, such as in Chittorgarh fort, are dedicated to Meera Bai's memory. Legends about her life, of contested authenticity, have been the subject of movies, comic strips and other popular literature in modern times”.

Meera Bai was born in 1504 at Chaukari village in Merta District of Rajputana state. Merta was a small state in Marwar, ruled by the Rathores, who were great devotees of Lord Vishnu. Her father, Ratan Singh, was the second son of Rao Duda ji, a descendent of Rao Jodha ji Rathore, who was the founder of  the city of Jodhpur. Meera Bai was raised and nurtured by her grandfather. Her education included knowledge of scriptures, music, archery, fencing, horseback riding and driving chariots as was customary for a princess of her time. However, Meera Bai grew up amongst an atmosphere of total “Krishna consciousness”, which was responsible in molding her life in the path of total devotion towards Lord Krishna.

When she was just four years of age, she revealed her deep devotion to Krishna. It is said “Meera Bai watched a marriage procession in front of her palace . The young child, spotted the well-dressed bridegroom and asked her mother innocently, “dear mother, who will be my bridegroom?” Her mother smiled, “and half in jest and half in earnest, pointed towards the image of Sri Krishna and said, “My dear Meera, Lord Krishna is going to be your bridegroom”. As Meera Bai grew up, her love for Krishna grew intensely and she believed that Lord Krishna would come to marry her. When she grew up, she became firmly convinced that Krishna was to be her husband.

It is said “Meera was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered, gifted, sweet, and sang with a melodious voice. She was one of the most extraordinary beauties of her time” with her fame spreading to several kingdoms in the country. Rana Sangram Singh, or Rana Sangha, the powerful King of Mewar, approached her grandfather for her hand in marriage to his son Bhojraj known as Rana Kumbha. Bhojraj expressed his desire to marry Meera for her pious nature and devotion. However, “she could not bear the thought of marrying a human being when her heart was filled with thoughts of her Krishna”. But unable to go against her grandfather’s word, she finally consented to the marriage. She left for Chittorgarh, with her husband.

Every day, Meera would go to the temple of Lord Krishna, “worship, sing and dance before the idol of her beloved Lord Krishna daily”. However, the other ladies of the palace did not like the ways of  Meera because they were worldly-minded and jealous. Meera Bai's sister-in-law Uda Bai made a plan to defame Meera and told her brother that Meera was having an affair and heard her talk to a man in the temple. The enraged Kumbha ran with sword in hand towards Meera, but as luck would have it Meera had gone to her Krishna temple. A sober relative of the Rana counseled him, “Rana! You will forever repent for your hasty behavior and consequences. Enquire into the allegation carefully and you will find the truth. Meera bai is a great devotee of the Lord. Remember why you sought her hand. Out of sheer jealousy the ladies might have concocted scandals against Meera Bai to incite you and ruin her”. Kumbha calmed down and accompanied his sister who persistently took him to the temple at the dead of night. Rana Kumbha broke open the door, rushed inside and found Meera alone in her ecstatic mood talking and singing to the idol.

The turning point in her life occurred when Akbar and his court musician Tansen came in disguise to Chittor to hear Meera's devotional and inspiring songs. By then Meera became famous across the country. Akbar had always wanted to listen to her songs. “Both entered the temple and listened to Meera's soul-stirring songs to their heart's content. Before he departed, he touched the holy feet of Meera and placed a necklace of priceless gems in front of the idol as a present. Somehow the news reached the Rana that his enemy Akbar had entered the sanctum sanctorum of the holy temple in disguise, touched the feet of Meera Bai and even presented her a necklace. The Rana became furious and told  Meera Bai, “drown in the river and never show your face to the world in future. You have brought great disgrace on my family”.

Meera Bai decided to obey the words of the King. She proceeded to the river to drown herself. The names of the Lord “Govinda, Giridhari, Gopala” were always on her lips. She “sang and danced in ecstasy on her way to the river”. When she raised her feet from the ground, a hand from behind grasped her and embraced her. She turned behind and saw her beloved Giridhari. She fainted on seeing her Lord. After a few minutes she opened her eyes. Lord Krishna smiled and gently whispered: "My dear Meera, your life with your mortal relatives is over now. You are absolutely free. Be cheerful. You are and have always been mine".

On ‘Krishna Janmashtami’ at the temple of Lord Krishna, there was much happiness all around “The light of the lamps, the sound of the bhajans and the energy from the devotees' ecstacy were filling the air. With Tamburi in one hand and cymbals or chipla in the other the great ‘tapasvini’ was singing ecstatically with her Giridhar Gopala smiling in front of her closed eyes. Meera stood up and danced with her song 'Mere Janama Maran ke sathee', and when the song ended, Meera rose up abruptly, stumbled and fell at the flowers on the feet of Giridhari. She said “Oh, Giridhari, are you calling me, I am coming”. When Kumbha and the rest were watching in awe, “there was a lightning which enveloped Meera and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum closed on their own. When the doors opened again, Meera's saree was enveloping Lord Krishna's idol and her voice and the flute accompaniment were the only sounds that could be heard”. She became eternal and one with her Giridhar Gopala.

I will be writing more about more such great queens in the coming days.


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