Padmini, also known as Padmavati, was a legendary 13th–14th century Indian queen (Rani). The earliest source to mention her is Padmavat, an epic fictionalized poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE. The text, which features elements of fantasy, describes her story as follows: Padmavati was an exceptionally beautiful princess of the Singhal kingdom (Sri Lanka). Ratan Sen, the Rajput ruler of Chittor, heard about her beauty from a talking parrot named Hiraman. After an adventurous quest, he won her hand in marriage and brought her to Chittor. Alauddin Khalji, the Sultan of Delhi also heard about her beauty, and laid siege to Chittor to obtain her. Many events occurred during the period of the Siege, till the Fort was finally taken. Meanwhile, Ratan Sen was killed in a duel with Devpal, the king of Kumbhalner who was also enamoured with Padmavati’s beauty. Before Alauddin Khalji could capture Chittor, Padmavati and her companions committed Jauhar (self-immolation) to protect their honour. After her sacrifice, the Rajput men died fighting on the battlefield.
Several subsequent adaptions of the legend characterised her as a Hindu Rajput queen, who defended her honour against a Muslim invader. Over the years, she came to be seen as a historical figure, and appeared in several novels, plays, television serials and movies. However, while Alauddin Khalji’s siege of Chittor in 1303 CE is a historical event, the legend of Padmini has little historical evidence and most modern historians have rejected its authenticity.
Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s Padmavat (1540 CE)
Padmavati was the daughter of Gandharv Sen, the king of the Singhal kingdom. She became close friends with a talking parrot named Hiraman. Her father resented the parrot’s closeness to his daughter, and ordered the bird to be killed. The parrot flew away to save its life, but was trapped by a bird catcher, and sold to a Brahmin. The Brahmin bought it to Chittor, where the local king Ratan Sen purchased it, impressed by its ability to talk.
The parrot greatly praised Padmavati’s beauty in front of Ratan Sen, who became determined to marry Padmavati. Guided by the parrot and accompanied by his 16,000 followers, Ratan Sen reached Singhal after crossing the seven seas. There, he commenced austerities in a temple to seek Padmavati. Meanwhile, Padmavati came to the temple, informed by the parrot, but quickly returned to her palace without meeting Ratan Sen. Once she reached the palace, she started longing for Ratan Sen.
Meanwhile, Ratan Sen realized that he had missed a chance to meet Padmavati. In desolation, he decided to immolate himself, but was interrupted by the deities Shiva and Parvati. On Shiva’s advice, Ratan Sen and his followers attacked the royal fortress of Singhal kingdom. They were defeated and imprisoned, while still dressed as ascetics. Just as Ratan Sen was about to be executed, his royal bard revealed to the captors that he was the king of Chittor. Gandharv Sen then married Padmavati to Ratan Sen, and also arranged 16,000 padmini[a] women of Singhal for the 16,000 men accompanying Ratan Sen.Queen Nagmati talks to her parrot, an illustrated manuscript of Padmavat from c. 1750 CE
Sometime later, Ratan Sen learned from a messenger bird that his first wife — Nagmati — is longing for him back in Chittor. Ratan Sen decided to return to Chittor, with his new wife Padmavati, his 16,000 followers and their 16,000 companions. During the journey, the Ocean god punished Ratan Sen for having excessive pride in winning over the world’s most beautiful woman: everyone except Ratan Sen and Padmavati was killed in a storm. Padmavati was marooned on the island of Lacchmi, the daughter of the Ocean god. Ratan Sen was rescued by the Ocean god. Lacchmi decided to test Ratan Sen’s love for Padmavati. She disguised herself as Padmavati, and appeared before Ratan Sen, but the king was not fooled. The Ocean god and Lacchmi then reunited Ratan Sen with Padmavati, and rewarded them with gifts. With these gifts, Ratan Sen arranged a new retinue at Puri, and returned to Chittor with Padmavati.At Chittor, a rivalry developed between Ratan Sen’s two wives, Nagmati and Padmavati. Sometime later, Ratan Sen banished a Brahmin courtier named Raghav Chetan for fraud. Raghav Chetan went to the court of Alauddin Khalji, the Sultan of Delhi, and told him about the exceptionally beautiful Padmavati. Alauddin decided to obtain Padmavati, and besieged Chittor. Ratan Sen agreed to offer him tribute, but refused to give away Padmavati. After failing to conquer to the Chittor fort, Alauddin feigned a peace treaty with Ratan Sen. He deceitfully captured Ratan Sen and took him to Delhi. Padmavati sought help from Ratan Sen’s loyal feudatories Gora and Badal, who reached Delhi with their followers, disguised as Padmavati and her female companions. They rescued Ratan Sen; Gora was killed fighting the Delhi forces, while Ratan Sen and Badal reached Chittor safely.
Meanwhile, Devpal, the Rajput king of Chittor’s neighbour Kumbhalner, had also become infatuated with Padmavati. While Ratan Sen was imprisoned in Delhi, he proposed marriage to Padmavati through an emissary. When Ratan Sen returned to Chittor, he decided to punish Devpal for this insult. In the ensuing single combat, Devpal and Ratan Sen killed each other. Meanwhile, Alauddin invaded Chittor once again, to obtain Padmavati. Facing a certain defeat against Alauddin, Nagmati and Padmavati committed self-immolation (sati) on Ratan Sen’s funeral pyre; other women of Chittor also died in mass self-immolation (jauhar). The men of Chittor fought to death against Alauddin, who acquired nothing but an empty fortress after his victory.