The Queen Bids Adieu
It has been nearly four months since my book, PADMAVATI - The Queen Tells Her Own Story, was released into the market but I still remain captive to her enchantment. Having delved deeply into her life and persona, the Princess has become so much a part of my intrinsic self that it is nigh impossible to tear myself away from her enticement.
I am grateful and humbly appreciate the many accolades that have come my way since Padmavati was launched. Yet, often I wonder, in moments of infinite clarity, whether those laurels were for me or for Queen Padmavati, a persona beyond compare. To me, this mystical queen has been larger than life. Breaching the aeons of time between us she has touched my soul with her magical presence.
I shall never forget my experience of the Chittorgarh Fort. When I walked the ramparts, astounded by history literally unraveling before my eyes, Padmavati walked with me. When I stood in the middle of Jauhar Sthal, it was she who whispered in my ear tales of Chittor’s women; their great fortitude and valour that gave them the courage to embrace the flames rather than give up their convictions. The echo of their voices singing nuptial songs wafted to me on the breeze. When I ascended the steep steps from the Gomukh Kund to the small Ek Lingji temple, the Princess climbed with me, her long hair and lehenga dripping water trails. The pristine Jal Mahal floating in the still green waters took my breath away. I saw her sitting on the steps chatting animatedly with Ginni, her soul mate. I saw her white chunri floating like a cloud from the rooftop chattri as she pined for her land across the seas. I saw her running across the wide terrace pursued by her beloved Ratan Singh. She called out to me as I meandered among the pitted stones of the fort. Thus, it is understandable how the hairs on the backs of my hands inexplicably crackled as I touched the huge stone that blocks the tunnel where she committed jauhar. How do some people say she did not exist? Not only was she as much flesh and blood as you or me, if one has the sensibility, it is easy to feel the allurement of her aura at Chittorgarh.
I truly believe that somehow, for some dark, murky reasons, the splendor of this resplendent woman had been wiped out from the annals of history leaving behind numerous undying myths that were passed through bards’ tales from generation to generation. Sadly, even these oral legends focused more on her death rather than her life.
I have ridden the waves and surfed the breakers of the maniac hype that surrounded the mere mention of Queen Padmavati a few months ago. Even in her own lifetime, she must have not inspired such contradictory emotions of love, hate, curiosity and obsessive aversion as displayed over days leading up to the launch of the film carrying her name. No doubt the crowds on the streets threatening mayhem and the endless debates on media about the rights or wrongs of the film made her a renowned figure not only in this country but in most of the world. When she lived, only a small region of India knew of her. With Jayasi’s Padmavat the world of learning came to celebrate her. But it was only in this century that some crazy outfit called Karni Sena decided to give her the status of a political controversy. Thus ensuring her popularity reached mammoth proportions with billions of people making her name a household word. I am not sure whether she would have enjoyed her dubious fame, but all of it certainly whetted people’s interest in her.
When my book was launched, the ballyhoo was at its zenith. Other than readers who were familiar with my previous writing and liked it, there were many who picked up the book with the sheer desire to acquaint themselves with this 12th century Queen. From what I understood of the comments galore on my book, they fell headlong in love with her. Not just her exquisite beauty, but her wisdom, courage and spirituality tugged at their heart strings. Besides, every reader came back to say how they identified with her determination to stand up for her ideas and even die for them.
It is with a quiet joy that I take great satisfaction in knowing that I have been able to expose her eminence, at least, to some degree, if not fully. Many readers of my book, Padmavati have divulged their desire to visit Chittorgarh to see it with their own eyes and maybe sense her charm for themselves. These seekers have the best of my wishes in their journey to discover the truths about this great queen.
Today, the din and babel of all controversies regarding the illustrious Queen is over. I can almost see Padmavati holding up her heavy red lehenga, bangles and ornaments tinkling, a bright yellow bandhini chunri trailing behind her, walking away from me into the evening mist. Just before the haze obliterates her, she looks over her shoulder, the gem-studded nathni and jhumkas sparkle in the gloom. Her cupid’s bow of a mouth curves into a smile. She tilts her head and her large, limpid eyes say, ‘Let me go…back into repose and peace.’ I nod without knowing that I do so.
There is no doubt that I will always remain beholden to posterity that I was given this unique opportunity to bring back to life the incredibly fabulous and phenomenal Queen Padmavati all the way from the 12th century. But it is time for her to go back across the sands of Time. Let us bid her farewell and let her magic live only in our imagination.
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