It can be debated whether Padmavati (i.e. Padmini) is a historical character or fiction, but the impact she has created is an exception. Even, people who are currently alive or whose existence is beyond any doubt, are unable to create such an impact.
When the film on Padmavati was about to release, a controversy has been surfaced. Ultimately the things fall in place, but, it made the names of the queen Padmavati, Raval Ratan Sen (or Ratan Singh) and Khilji; popular in the current generation.
I remember that the first reference I got about queen Padmini is through a Gujarati Book ચિત્તોડની રણગર્જના (ChittodNee RanGarjana) by Late Harilal Upadhyay. Then I came across the tale again while watching an episode of Bharat Ek Khoj TV serial.
Around the time, the movie Padmavat (earlier Padmavati) by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was released, many author came up with a book about queen Padmavati. Some of them wrote it for the first time, while some others went ahead and re-released it. One such attempt was made by Anuja Chandramouli.
The controversy about the movie got uglier and eventually, the makers had to change the name of the movie from Padmavati to Padmavat.
Now, those who didn’t understand the logic behind the name change – which clearly tells that the movie is a dramatic representation of the story inspired by the work of the same name – Padmavat – considered it as removal of a letter “i” from the movie title!
Centuries ago, a famous Sufi poet named Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote a poem of love and named it Padmavat. Again, the people come to a judgment that “Padmavat” is Sufi poetry (or poem). That it is not. Jayasi was Sufi, but, Padmavat is not poetry reflecting Sufi way or style in any way. Half-backed knowledge often lead to misinterpretation or quick conclusions which are often incorrect.
Anyway, considering all these, Devdutt Pattanaik insisted Shri Purushottam Agrawal to write a book about “Padmavat” and convey the real story explored in it. So, those who actually want to know about the actual work should get it.
Rupa Publications (24 April 2018)
Rupa Publications (20 May 2018)
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12786 KB; 191 (Kindle EBook)
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And that is how the project Padmavat An Epic Love Story took shape of a book. It is penned by Purushottam Agrawal and Introduced and Illustrated by Devdutt Pattanaik; and is an analysis of “Padmavat” by Malik Muhammad Jayasi.
The book was in our radar since its release. Somehow, we found it quite pricey. We tried to buy it during a promotion from an online shopping site, but, unable to get it. Eventually, the kindle edition of the book is released and is available for Amazon Prime members to read for free! And, how can we let this chance slip away?!
From our team, I got a chance to read this book and here I am sharing my unbiased views and reviews for the same.
Of course, a book is much more than its cover. And, it must definitely not, be judged by its cover page. But, at the same time, we cannot deny the impact of the book cover. It influences book purchases and/or reading decisions for sure. In both positive and negative ways.
Let us take a look at the cover page of this book.
As you can see the book cover has a very light pink background. The reddish-pink dominates the cover page. And it reflects the theme of Padmavat – “A Love Story” quite well. While the illustration of the protagonists sitting under a tree represents a romantic scene, it also reminds of various ancient Indian scriptures and sculptures showing even divine characters in a similar pose. This is quite an important aspect of the love story. We will learn later that Jayasi has explored the thought of love can be a way to achieve spiritual goals as well. For him the love is divine. And, the illustration reflects it quite well. Also, you should not miss the small illustration of a parrot (which you will later see it within the book as a separator at important points) – Hiraman. And, he (well, the way the character is explored, using “it” for Hiraman, will be improper) is an integral part of the love story of the protagonists.
Overall, a cover page with a minimalistic approach. Impressive and soothing to eyes. I like it.
The plot, including the climax, is known to almost the majority of readers. Let us take a bird’s eye view of the same.
The book explores the epic love story of Rawal Ratansen and queen Padmavati where we meet Nagmati, the first queen of Ratansen, Hiraman – a parrot who is no less than a friend of Padmavati, Khilji, Raghav Chetan and many others. This tale is explored in 5 chapters, followed by a conclusion.
- The Simhal Princess and Her Parrot
- Ratansen and Chittor
- The Hero in Utopia
- Return to Reality
- Ram and Sita Both Disappear
Once upon a time, Rawal Ratansen was ruling Chittor. He was a brave warrior and a good king. He is having a good domestic life too. He and his wife, queen Nagmati loved each other.
As it is said, when there are more than one vessels in a home, they often get clashed a little. The same happened to this couple also. Once, the king was not happy with the quality of food he is eating at that particular time, and he expressed his displeasure. Being a king, he did it bluntly. Nagmati, despite of having so many maids took pride in making food for his beloved husband, and was quite emotional about her culinary skills. She considered herself a brilliant cook. And she was not wrong. So, it didn’t go well with her.
Eventually, Ratansen was told by Nagmati that, in this case (as he is not happy with the food made by Nagmati), he should be married to “Padmini” of “Simhal”.
When asked about the beauty and other arts like cooking, drawing and other stuff about Padmini, Hiraman, the parrot tried being diplomatic, but eventually praised Padmini. And declared her a way better than all other women he had seen.
Ratansen decides to goto Simhala and meet and win Padmini by love and bring her with him.
What happens from this point onwards is better to be read about in the book.
First thing first, this book is not a translation of “Padmavat” by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in Hindi or English. It is an analysis, like “Gyaneshwari Gita” which is an analysis of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita.
The narration style thus is descriptive which revolves around the stanzas of the original poetry. Of course, not all the stanzas of the poetry are mentioned, some are skipped. But, the detailed analysis and description vouch for an interesting reading experience.
Some of the lines and descriptions are repeated at various places, that is the only drawback I found in the book. Of course, you will find it pricey too. I will suggest you to buy when a book promotion is going on. But, anyway, if you like analytical reading and can explore the things open-mindedly, this is a genuine book which you should not miss.
I envy the students of Prof. Agrawal for what possible experiences they have been through when he conducted their lectures. It must have been an amazing experience.
The author is so sorted and calm during the narration that you find him in no hurry to conclude the things fast. He elaborates and explores the things in an interesting and detailed manner. The author’s vast reading and knowledge of various historical stuff, literary materials and contemporary things, is quite evident in the book.
I found the author an open-minded and well-equipped with the armory of knowledge. His explanations are simple yet effective. For example:
modernity is not merely about industrialization and fully evolved capitalism. As a matter of fact, the emergence of modern attitudes precedes industrialization and capitalism. Modernity is first reflected in the change of attitudes and the spread of commerce…
The discussion about “how people involved in trading have played an important part in spreading various beliefs and changing attitudes” is something you shouldn’t miss. In Indian culture, the importance of Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha is equivalent. In this book, the author talks about how they all are related to each other, and how one can walk the path of Moksha through Kama.
The author has studied various folklores and remarkable poets like Tulsidas and Kabir in depth. And, that is not it, you can find him talking about various versions of the famous Indian scriptures and how they reflect the regional stuff where they are popular. In his own words:
… It is important to remember that Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, Adhyatama Ramayan (Malayalam) by Ezhuthachan or Mahabharata (Odia) by Sarala Das are not translations of Valmiki’s Ramayana and Vyasa’s Mahabharata. These, and other such works, are retellings of the age-old narratives in accordance with the temperament of the times. In their creative intent and thought-content, they are original works.
The author is blunt when mentioning facts.
Unfortunately, we have internalized the colonial reconstruction of Indian history.
The author’s understanding of the human psyche and behavior is remarkable.
Ultimately, it is the individual’s temperament and attitude that determines what kind of stance s/he will choose from the available ones.
…everyone nurtures a longing of coming back at least once in life to his/her own “garden of delights”.
Many of us impose the present issues on, and seek their solutions from the past, thus violating the pastness of the past and harming both our present and future.
The worth of anything is appreciated more by those deprived of it; those possessing it tend to take it for granted.
A misogynist while discoursing on existential illusions known as “maya” and a woman while speaking of love – this is the main paradox of Kabir’s poetic sensibility.
The author also talks about the background of the poet, Malik Muhammad Jayasi. How he had spent time in a small village, how that village and its surroundings became the garden of desire for him; and many such aspects of the poet’s personal life is talked about. The author talks about the personal grief of the poet and his physical deformity too. One’s work is nothing but the reflection of one’s thoughts which often are results of one’s experiences and vice versa. The author reflects a really beautiful aspect of the poetry which many of us, otherwise, would have missed. That is:
It is remarkable that in the entire epic, no one is ridiculed on account of any kind of physical handicap or “ugliness”.
Padmavat, amongst other things, is also a powerful antidote to the disease of body shaming.
The author is good at exploring quite opposite emotions as well. For example, he talks about erotic stuff, grief, and heartbreak all with equal effectiveness.
Far from being a sin, the erotic desire can actually orient one to the divine.
This is the stuff tragedies are made of; one has to suffer without any fault on one’s part.
Grief burns you, it roasts you; it is deadlier than the vajra (the ultimate weapon of Indra, the king of devas). IT takes away your sense of shame (i.e. honour). Only he who has suffered, know what grief can do.
Love engulfs the lover and beloved in a parallel world of its own.
Separation in such profound love leads to equally strong emotions. In some cases, suffering a tragedy may cause self-destruction; while in others, it may lead to transformation through an aesthetic or spiritual practice.
The book has some lines which spread wisdom and often are hard-hitting at the point.
Only he who has seen the path himself can be a proper guide.
A true scholar does not bring himself to the market for sale, one who does so loses his knowledge.
We have often seen that often the stories revolve around the protagonists so much that the other characters get sidelined. Here, the author analyses how the poet hasn’t ignored other important characters.
Padmavat is not just about Ratansen and Padmini. It is also about Hiraman and Padmavati. It is not just about a man-woman love, it is also about true friendship.
The author also talks about various symbolic stuff and references from ancient Indian literature taken by Jayasi.
The seven seas symbolize the levels of various attachments and challenges, and the Kilkila, indicating the final confusion just before achieving clarity, is the most ferocious.
No “fort” can be entered without realizing one’s true nature (potentials and limitations). There is an echo of the Bhagavad Gita here, “One is one’s own best friend and worst adversary.”
The author analyzed the poetry from so many aspects that you will become a fan of Jayasi and the way he has implemented various stuff. The way the author talks about the knowledge of Jayasi in food and culinary stuff (and how Jayasi could have been a food-lover or a great researcher) is quite interesting. The author pinpoints some historical references about various vegetables as well.
Incidentally, the potato – the most ubiquitous Indian vegetable today – finds no mention for the simple reason that it arrived in India centuries after Jayasi.
The author also refers to “Padmini” in the context of “types of women” mentioned in Kama-sutra. Here the author could have been into more details and mentioned all four types of women. He, however, talked about various qualities of Padmini (including her ability to cook delicious foods in addition to being beautiful), and that fits in the Ratansen-Nagmati-Padmini context very well.
The author’s analysis of characters in “Padmavat” is academic, and he comes up with a conclusion like:
He (Raghav Chetan) is the only character in Padmavat without any redeeming human quality.
And the author shows reasons as well:
He (Raghav Chetan) knowns things academically, but has no moral integrity, which is a fundamental requirement of a genuine scholar.
Also, the author’s analysis of “Padmini’s persona and it’s positive impacts”, and how it is ineffective in case of Raghav Chetan (and partially in case of Khilji too); is brilliant.
The paras (philosopher’s stone) has transformative power, but it doesn’t work on other stones, but only on iron. You have to have some potential for transformation.
Some people don’t understand the reference of “Jauhar” and consider it being glorified in the poetry. The author pinpoints that mistake in the book, and he tells it more than once.
If one needs to glorify something at all, it should be this facet of Chittor’s life as imagined by Jayasi, not the custom of Jauhar.
In fact, the author says that Jayasi himself has given that incident only 3 words in this entire poetry.
The author also talks about how the interpretations of this poetry miss various important aspects, for example, the movie Padmavat has no mention of Hiraman. Also the warrior duo Gora/Badal are an important part of this poetry.
The author also refers to some other works like “Chitai Charit” and other works. The author draws parallels as well as show the differences and possible reasons for the same.
The author not only praises Jayasi throughout, but he also pinpoints limitations as well. For example:
But here emerges the weakness of a “poet in a hurry”, which Jayasi has certainly become by now.
Also, the reference of “Barahmasa” in Nagmati’s context and how the similar situations were referred to (when the breadwinners of the home were away to earn money) in a modern context, reminded me of the famous Hindi film song:
The story of Padmavat may be fact or fiction, or a mixture of both. The utopian land of Simhala and the way to the same should be considered as symbolic and rest as reality. Actually, it is a mix of both and sometimes one is heavier than the other. Whatever it is, the message it conveys it crystal clear, you need to understand that:
भोगा न भुक्ता वयमेव भुक्ताः
स्तपो न तप्तं वयमेव तप्ताः ।
कालो न यातो वयमेव याता
स्तृष्णा न जीर्णा वयमेव जीर्णाः ॥
The difference between Ratansen and Alauddin is very clear. In the author’s own words:
The core difference between Jayasi’s Ratansen and Alauddin lies precisely here. Ratansen forbids the use of arms even when has been assured of Padmavati’s love for him while Alauddin couldn’t care less. He just had to have Padmini even if it meant using deceit and brute force.
And thus, you can get the love of Padmini only as Ratansen, not as Alauddin. Never become Raghav Chetan where you are academically superior but from the perspective of human attributes, you lack a lot.
I have tried to avoid as many spoilers as possible. The quotes mentioned above must have given you a fair idea of the quality of writing you can expect from the book. I have to skip many attributes of the book as otherwise, it will be full of spoilers and ruin the reading experience. I must mention that the foreword by Devdutt Pattanaik must not be skipped. I expected more illustrations by him, though.
Some readers may have expected the original poetry and its English translations back-to-back and they might be disappointed.
It is one of the most academic yet interesting analysis of a poetry I have read. If it is submitted as a part of Ph.D. research work, it will surely confirm the degree for the candidate 🙂 .
Definitely a fantastic book for anyone who would like to read the analysis of “Padmavat” by Jayasi.
Around 8.5 out of 10.
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