Amid all the chaos surrounding the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic creation, Padmavati, popular historian Irfan Habib has made a controversial remark, calling Queen Padmavati a fictional character. Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmavati derives inspiration from Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s poem Padmavat which describes the valour of a brave Hindu queen from Chittor, who disagreed to surrender herself to the lust of barbaric ruler Allaudiin Khilji and committed Jauhar (self-immolation) to protect her honour. However, Irfan Habib suggests that there is no mention of any such queen in the history books.

According to Habib, Alauddin Khilji, one of the most powerful rulers of the Khilji dynasty had invaded Chittor in 1303 CE and had triumphed over the then Rajput ruler Ratan Singh, shreds of evidence of which are found in history but there is no mention of queen Padmini. “250 years after Khilji’s victory in Chittor, poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi had penned the epic ‘Padmavat’ that mentions about Rani Padmini or Padmavati. Padmavat mentions the marriage of a royal princess from Sri Lanka to King Ratan Singh of Mewar. Padmavat is an epic poem and an integral part of the Rajput literature,” says historian Irfan Habib.

Shyamaldas, the great 19th-century poet who is popularly referred as Kaviraj (king of poets) was one of those writers who documented the history and culture of Rajasthan. He also wrote about the royal kingdom of Mewar, describing the period when Khilji attacked the empire. Irfan Habib says that the description of that particular period by Shyamaldas mentions that Khilji had fought the war aggressively and had conquered Chittor but there is no proof if at that particular time queen Padmini or King Ratan Singh were present there or not.

As per an Amar Ujala report, professor Habib believes that all the drama surrounding the release of Padmavati is just futile as no such character existed. On the question of distortion of historical facts in the movie Padmavati, he said without doing that the filmmakers cannot get the public excited and entertain them.

Earlier the Rajput Karni Sena had protested against the release of Padmavati, citing distortion of facts. On Wednesday, the Royal Family of Jaipur also threatened to oppose the film if they find it hurtful to the sentiments of a community. “The director of the film Padmavati, Sanjay Leela Bhansali should not wrongly depict the story of Queen Padmavati of Chittor. He should get the facts in the film verified by a forum of historians and then release the film,” former princess, Diya Kumari said in a statement.