Is Padmavathi really a sacred symbol of the Sanathana Dharma or is she really a symbol of the misogyny and chauvanism that has crept into our culture through the last few centuries of Islamic and British rule. No disrespect to her but in a land that has given us the likes of Lakshmi Bai, Durgavati, Rudramadevi and the Chennammas of Kittur and Keladi, women who took up the sword and gave their lives to protect their land and honor – I mean really guys.
Does this queen who straddles the shadowy realm between history and folklore need her legacy to be so fiercely protected? Jauhar, the practice of mass self-immolation that has somehow become synonymous with Padmavathi was not really that uncommon in our culture during that period. It was often a practical decision to consider for the women of the fairly large royal harems of the time when trapped within the walls of a fort against a besieging army. And if that army were that of Khilji and his Turks that decision would not have required too much thought. It was not only the women and girls but even the prepubescent boys who had much to fear from this horde who were responsible for the evolution of the Hindi expression ‘t`urkey’ that is synonymous with sexual depravity. So Padmavathi’s decision to choose to end her life was as much a sensible practical one as it was valiant.
Anyway this rant is not about demeaning the sacrifice of a beautiful queen. This is about the dark days this whole incident portents for creative expression in this country. We have a treasure trove of stories from our mythology, history and folklore dying to be told. But is it fair that every time a storyteller wishes to delve into them he must now do so fearful of offending some creed or sect in this multi-cultural, pluralistic society of ours.
Of course a lot of the credit for this shit storm must go to the self-righteous, forever willing to fight for the cause of justice, media of ours.
People who couldn’t hold a fly’s attention if they covered themselves in excrement are given a chance to come on television brandishing swords and threatening to behead and maim artists all for the sake of grabbing a few extra eyeballs.
One of our eminent channels asked a question repeatedly, screaming for our attention. How was the Tamil film based on the Padmavathi legend allowed to have a free run at the box office in the sixties? The simple answer to that is because you’ll were not around to prop up these hooligans and give them a platform to spew their venom and vitriol. But for the media hunger for headline grabbing this seemingly monumental crisis would have at best been reduced to the subject of a lively living room discussion.
While I do not endorse all the views of L Ron Hubbard, one thing he said does strike a chord.
“A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamt by artists.”
We must take care not to stifle and kill these dreams or all we will have to show the future generations for our passing through this world will be sanitized, candy floss romances and a few cheap imitations of over the top Hollywood action films.