By Sagarneel Sinha
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavat, which was earlier named as Padmavati has been in the news for the last few months. There are theories by some historians that Bhansali’s film is not doing justice with the character of Alauddin Khilji, the Delhi Sultan who was regarded as the most powerful ruler of the Khilji dynasty. They say that the film portrays Alauddin Khilji as a bad king who rather was a good administrator! To justify themselves they cite the example of Khilji defeating the Mongols invaders to India several times. And they say that Alauddin Khilji introduced new tax reforms for the well being of the people.
- It is true that under the reign of Alauddin Khilji, several attempts of Mongol invasions were thwarted. But does this example give a proof of Alauddin Khilji being a good administrator? Absolutely not. It is very important to mention that Alauddin Khilji ascended to the throne of Delhi Sultanate by killing Jalaluddin Khilji, the then Delhi Sultan. Alauddin was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin and the latter used to love the former as his son. Despite his uncle’s love, Alauddin after pretending to greet his uncle killed him in 1296 AD, which shows the hunger for power. Alauddin did not even hesitate before killing his beloved uncle!
Many historians and intellectuals of our country hail Alauddin as a “people’s ruler” and one of the “greatest ruler” to ever sit on the throne of Delhi. But if the writings of the then Muslim historian Amir Khusro’s are read, then one would come to know the true colors of Alauddin Khilji. It is to be mentioned that Khusro was the court poet in the Alauddin’s court and recorded Alauddin’s wars and administrative services. Many cite the presence of Hindu chiefs in Alauddin’s court as an example of his tolerance. But according to Khusro those Hindu chiefs who bowed their heads before Alauddin were only favored. So, it is very much clear that retaining Hindus as chiefs was not a sign of Khilji’s tolerance but was due to the fact that those Hindus had bowed before him!
There is also a debate whether Rani Padmavati is a historical character based on Khusro’s recordings of the 1303 AD Chittor conquest by Khilji. It is true that the name Padmavati doesn’t find its place in Khusro’s writings but he mentioned an important recording from the Chittor conquest. After Chittor was captured Khusro’s recordings say that Khilji ordered a massacre of 30,000 local Hindus. It is also said that Khilji married Hindu queen Kamala Devi of Vaghela and the relationship was more than above politics. However, truth is that she was captured by his army by defeating the Vaghela king Karna and later she had to marry Alauddin Khilji; it might be she had no option!
If historical records are checked properly, one would find Khilji’s numerous committed atrocities on the Hindus. His army plundered several Hindu towns. When his army attacked the kingdom of Vaghela, the Hindu towns including the famous Somnath Temple of Gujarat were plundered. In around 1299/1300 AD there was a mutiny near Delhi by some of the Mongol soldiers, after the generals forcibly tried to extract a loot from them. In result of this, Alauddin’s administration not only brutally punished the soldiers but also punished the mutineers’ families, including killings of children in front of their mothers. According to Muslim historian Ziauddin Barani, the practice of punishing wives and children for the crimes of men started with this incident in Delhi. The so-called “good” ruler Alauddin as according to contemporary Persian historian Wassaf, was that the Sultan was motivated by religious enthusiasm and his army massacred people for the sake of Islam.
(Wassaf said this while describing Alauddin’s 1299 AD Gujarat campaign).
Alauddin and his generals destroyed several Hindu temples during their military campaigns. These temples, other than Somnath included that of Bhilsa, Devagiri, Vijapur, Jhain, Chidambaram, and Madurai. There are many records of loot committed by Khilji’s generals and his army. Under the most trusted general of Alauddin Khilji, Malik Kafur, the Delhi army looted a large number of treasures, elephants and horses from Dwarasamudra and Pandya kingdom, which Ziauddin Barani described as the greatest loot since the Muslim rule in Delhi!
After checking the historical records, nowhere it is found that Alauddin was a “good” ruler! The so-called “people’s king” and his army is recorded for committing plunder in the history that also by the then Muslim historians! It is said that he introduced tax reforms in this country. Obviously, he did start large-scale reforms. But if Ziauddin Barani and Amir Khusro’s records are checked, then one would come to know that the new reforms introduced were mainly due to Sultan’s desire for targeting the Hindus by depriving them of their wealth and property. The Sultan’s land tax called Kharaj allowed extraction of the peasants’ surplus amount by the ruling class. These records contradict the fact that the reforms were introduced for the well-being of the people! Most importantly Alauddin was not the first ruler to introduce tax system in this country! Around 1500 years before his reign, Arthashastra, the book which deals with government, economics, market, trade, laws, and ethics were written by a scholar named Chanakya. The book was not only influential in Indian history but also in the Asian history. Most importantly the book talks about a fair tax system which should be convenient and easy to pay and also the text states that the King and his administration should ensure security and welfare for the people. All these contradict with Alauddin and his administration.If Mongols were known for their cruelty then Alauddin Khilji was not less than Mongols, where the latter was a destroyer of people’s wealth and property. Alauddin Khilji was never a “good” or “people’s” ruler as glorified by some historians and intellectuals of our country!
The writer lives in Tripura, India. Twitter @SagarneelSinha