The pol­i­tics over has deep roots in Gu­jarati his­tory

The Sunday Guardian - - Front Page - SHEELA BHATT NEW DELHI

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)

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