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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Lotus Queen

The Lotus Queen is the story of queen Padmini of Chittor written in a very lucid style. A slim book of 8 chapters, it flits between present and flashback, thereby bringing out the sharp contrast in the life of the queen in jus a space of a year.
Padmini comes to Chittor as the bride of Rawal Rattan Singh – the newly crowned ruler of Chittor. Within a span of 8 months, The Sultan of Delhi, sets his heart on Queen Padmini. His terms are simple just one look at the rare jewel of Chittor. His wish is granted and he is allowed to see her reflection in the mirror.
The Sultan gets back to his camp and wages a war, taking the rawal prisoner. His terms are clear this time- Padmini in exchange of the Rawal.
The Rajputs set up a Trojan horse situation and storm into the army camps in palanquins under the pretence of being the queen’s entourage. They rescue the Rawal but this is only the beginning of their troubles. Chittor gets into a siege and the Rawal takes the final step- Saka- facing the enemy inspite of being at a disadvantage.
Rani Padmini, along with thousands of noblewomen commit Jauhar- self immolation – death before dishonour.
The story of Padmini never fails to horrify me. And it also makes me appreciate those troubled times, where they lived like a King but also had duties that could never be ignored. It was always the people before self. And most importantly- the times were always uncertain. One could be a king one day and a pauper within a space of a few battles.

I related the Trojan horse incident to the kids and asked them in the end- so who were very brave here- without hesitation the kids replied- the soldiers!

There is a small section on the General of the army - he is almost in the process of leaving the battle ground - the author deals with the conflict in his mind and how he overcomes the fear of inevitable death to fight the enemy.

The Rawal made strategic mistakes- for the sake of maintaining the rajput honour- even though Queen Padmini was not in favour. We can see the error of his decisions as we read.

Overall, it is a tale well written- with a smattering of the author's imagination. The author also mentions the lack of concrete record of the existence of the Queen but the story is very much alive in multiple forms- in text books, in comics and in oral tales.

A special mention on the cover art – it is based on kavad art and gives a very traditional feel in keeping with the tale.

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