The politics over has deep roots in Gujarati history
For the Bharatiya Janata Party, the opposition to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati is not just about protecting Rajput honour and sentiments, especially in this election season. It is primarily about Alauddin Khilji and the loss of Gujarati glory in the hands of the Delhi sultan. The Bhansali film may not have focused on the Gujarat part of Alauddin Khilji’s story, but both Prime Minis- ter Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, apart from BJP’s Gujarat based politicians, are well aware of what happened in history. It’s a story that stirs Gujarat’s collective memory.
Alauddin Khilji is infamous in Gujarat as the Turkic invader who, in 1305, killed Karan Vaghela, the last panGujarat Hindu king, and abducted his daughter Deval, also known as Duval. The Vaghela dynasty ruled from Anhilwad Patan, then the capital of Gujarat.
The story of Karan Vaghela, the last Hindu ruler of Gujarat, was also the central theme of Karan Ghelo, Gujarati literature’s first ever novel, written by the reformist Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta, and published in 1866. Khilji’s character is an intrinsic part of Gujarati folklore because after he defeated and killed Karan Vaghela, for 650 years either Muslims or the British ruled large parts of Gujarat.
The fall of Anhilwad Patan and that of the Vaghela dy- nasty started when Vaghela fell in love with Roopsundari, the wife of Madhav, his prime minister. When Madhav was away on some work, Vaghela decided to abduct her. In the bloody conflict that ensued, Madhav’s brother died while defending his sister-in-law. His wife Gunsundari committed sati. Roopsundari reached Vaghela’s palace but immolated herself before Vaghela could exploit her.
Seeing the horrific devastation of his family, Madhav decided to take revenge and went to Alauddin Khilji’s durbar in Delhi. Khilji was more than ready to help Madhav. Persian historian Ziauddin Barani wrote in his book on Khilji, “At the beginning of the third year of the reign, Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan, with their amirs, and generals, and a large army marched against Gujarat. They took and plundered Nahrwala (Anahilwad Patan, capital of Gujarat from where Vaghela dynasty ruled large parts of Gujarat) and all of Gujarat. Karan, Rai (king)