Padmavati Row: Regression to Medieval Norms?

As the Padmavati row rages on, defending the honor of mythical medieval queen has raised a lot of questions. While the Supreme Court of India has rejected the calls for stopping the release of the movie, some states  including Madhya Pradesh have banned the movie.

Questionable evidence to support the lore

First, the basis of the movie, the legend of Queen Padmini has little historical evidence and many contemporary historians have questioned the story’s authenticity. The earliest mention of Padmavati is the epic poem ‘Padmavat’ by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The capture of Chittor by Alauddin Khilji is the only fact supported by evidence. Imagination of the poet is responsible for the Jauhar or self-immolation by the women in the fort.

Also, the queen’s portrayal as princess of Sri Lanka with a talking parrot raises doubts. However, the supporters of the lore clearly believe that this is a true account and have caused the Padmavati row.

Glorification of Jauhar

How justified is it to glorify the practice of Jauhar in today’s day and age? Jauhar was path chosen by wives of the king and soldiers to save themselves from captivation and rape by the invading army. A product of being in the constant warzone and defending the lands from hordes of invaders, the practice probably morphed into an obligation to protect the royal lineage and honor.

But today, do we define honor still so narrowly in our minds? We should challenge the conditioning of psyche that death is a better alternative to humiliation and captivity. How do we justify idolizing helplessness of women who chose to die a painful death than any other alternative course of action? In the land that worships the Goddess Durga  and Queen Laxmibai of Jhansi, I think reinforcing the belief that a woman who suffers assault is not worthy of living is rather disturbing.

Violence is the answer

The fact that someone like Suraj Pal, a prominent BJP leader offers 10-Crore for someone who beheads the main actress Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali should make us question our values. Another Rajput outfit Karni Sena threatened to chop off nose of Deepika. The miscreants vandalized the sets of the move earlier.

The mob justice can’t be the answer for everyone whose views we don’t agree with.

Then what does the Padmavati row point to? We are ready to incite violence and cause bodily harm to women to protect the honor of a fictional figure. Is the Rajput honor that easy that it will get tainted by incorrect portrayal by some film maker? Are we going back to false ideals of past and measuring everything with medieval yardstick?

I find it shameful that we choose to glorify the things that we should be ashamed of and at the same time, we as a society believe that mob justice and violence are the only means to get our point across.

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