members of Rajput community raising slogans against Padmavati in a protest
Members of Rajput community hold protest against upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmavati' | PTI
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Women’s groups have protested against ‘love jihad’ and honour killings, but are strangely silent about the unfettered glorification of ‘jauhar’ in Padmavati.

There is a deafening silence at the heart of the loud and raucous protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film ‘Padmavati’. The silence is that of women.

In fact, what is baffling is that women’s groups are focussing on the same phallocentric issue of Padmini’s revered reputation as their male Rajput counterparts. No one seems to want to cry out against a film glorifying the systemic violence inherent in a patriarchal system that foregrounds the necessity of acts like ‘jauhar’ (self-immolation).

‘Love jihad’ and honour killings have seen massive protests in the past, and have even been the subject of films. Isn’t ‘jauhar’ also an attempt to preserve racial purity? It is the noble women and their children that self-immolate. When the men perish, the women and children have no space to inhabit the planet anymore. Outside of the realm of male protection (and validation), their very identity and existence marches with the men on their ‘saka’.

It is honour-killing by another name. So, why is there no outcry?

The dominant protests so far have been about Rajput pride, Padmavati’s alleged dream sequence, and her ghoomar dance.

But the so-called Rajput valour, inherently patriarchal, glorifies this very concept of racial purity and jauhar. Another crucial aspect is that jauhar is committed only when foreign invaders attack (all Muslims, before the British). In that sense, it is a prototype of modern Islamophobia, which now guides the popular rage against racial intermingling

It is crucial to note the narrative that Alauddin Khalji may not only corrupt the Indian land, but also its women, which is why they must perish to protect themselves. The question of honour, for women, has always been intricately linked to their chastity. Men fight wars while women fight battles on their bodies. Jauhar is about preserving this ‘honour’ of a woman’s body, her community, and kingdom.

The threat of rape, that too by a foreign invader, is a fate clearly perceived as worse than death. But that is not a notion that existed just in the 13th century. A few years ago, Sushma Swaraj said after the rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey that a woman is like a living corpse (“zinda laash”) after rape. We have not progressed very well in all these centuries in how we view the woman after rape: ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’.

For the feminist community that rose up in collective anger against ‘sati’ as recently as in the case of Roop Kanwar, this silence is not just disappointing, but crippling. The all-pervasive discourse of community honour has yet again co-opted the conversation about how violence against women is internalised.

The only voice that spoke against jauhar has found little or no traction – a petition filed against its glorification in the Allahabad High Court.

The narratives and collective memory around Padmini have canonised her actions, normalising the institution of jauhar – long after sati has been outlawed. The ‘jauhar kund’ is a place of worship for many natives of Chittorgarh, which sacralises such violence.

If I may borrow from American writer and feminist Betty Friedan, this movie may only help in the creation of an Indian ‘feminine mystique’ that internalises self-sacrifice as an integral part of being a ‘good Indian woman’.

This brings us to the movie’s protagonist Deepika Padukone’s own public persona and voice. Not too long ago, in a short video about empowerment for Vogue in 2015, she said she “feel(s) empowered when you are not caged, when you don’t succumb to expectations”.

It is ironic that Padukone now defends a film grounded in expectations of a male society that believes female identity may never exist without its men.

Another actor in the film, Shahid Kapoor, said about the protests: “We need to look deep within as a society, as a country, as a people, where are we headed.”

But the problem on our hands is not just that Padmini performed ghoomar.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. I saw the movie Padmavaat in theatre today. What people are failing to understand, is that it’s dramatized version of a Poem which was published 200 years after the so called events took place.
    The movie praised Rajput people, their values , valor and spirit. It portrayed the reality of war. In any war, it’s the women and children who are attacked. That has not changed through centuries. I have nothing to say about Jauhar, no where did I feel that the movie encouraged Jauhar or Sati.
    Banning this movie because it portrayed something that was common at that time is foolishness.

  2. All heterosexual females are phallocentric and all males are vaginocentric within any species. We are no exception. Our activities underlie this theme.

    Women’s actions are guided by the invisible hands of phallocentrism; be it the flaunting of cleavage and legs at a beauty pageant or burning cleavages and legs at collective Jauhar! The women do it for the men! It is the phallus bearers who motivate or give the impetus to the women to do what they will with their cleavages and legs. No woman would do these acts if not for the attention/admiration of men, the acts elicited.

    Similarly men’s actions are guided by the invisible hands of vaginocentrism. All histories are full of stories of how men waged gory wars to conquer, rescue or avenge that one princess or queen! And of how even the strongest of men succumbed to various ‘honey traps’ of women as in the case of Samson and Delyla. The entire Ramayan battle is vaginocentric on Sita.

    The two genders are biologically hardwired to appease/want/engage/chase each other. Let us not blame one gender for instigating the other because it is meant to be that way, for the better or worse.

  3. 3.
    Many Likes You also said that Rani Padmavati was not REAL but its a fictional story……this is FALSE again Bcoz Maa Padmavati Jauhar Kund is Still there , Maa Padmavati Mahal is still there , Maa Padmavati temple is still there , GORA BADAL’S Havali is still there …….those who spreads this LIE that it’s frictional story they should go to chittorgarh rajasthan to see them from their own eyes that how they were already built centuries before the Malik Mohammed Jayasi wrote his Poem

  4. 2. Your Letter is Suggesting a Pressure on Padmavati from Men’s Side to Commit ” JAUHAR ” which is LAUGHABLE , …….they did that by their own wishes bcoz they didn’t ( forget believing but even thinking like u even in dreams about any other man than their respective husbands…..instead of their husaband they won’t like to be even touched by other man forget sex…….so it was not men’s fantasy to see them BURN alive for honour, men themselves goes for SAKA ( means Sure DEATH Battlw with Enemy ) during the JAUHAR …… it was those brave women’s own self-pride and decision to do so

    But YES Had they been COWARD like U then they could have easily wait for finishing of the fight, Killing of all their Men by the Enemy and then accept those RAPIST INVADERS as their NEW MEN ……BUT THEY DIDn’t bcoz they had Self-Esteem & weren’t like the Mental SLave of Invaders like U are Nor they allowed to become their Physical SLaves……So Atleast don’t demean their COURAGE if u can’t RESPECT it Bcoz U might not have it BUT THEY DEFINITELY HAD ! ! !

  5. What a FOOLISH Article unnecessarily linking it with patriarchal viloence without Understanding the Main REASON behind the JAUHAR, so let me enlighten about it –

    So let me enlighten you about it. In Ancient times When 2 HINDU Kings fought with each other, one of them WON & Another one of them Loose BUT Women,Daughters,Ladies of Looser Kings were not targetted or even touched……..When MusLims Attacks started to took place in INDIA & All over the World there was a religious tradition in them to took the Ladies,Daughters,Women of the Looser King as Sex SLaves and Offering them to their Muslim Soldiers for RAPE…..

    …the HINDU Women of HINDU Kings ie Kshatranis on knowing this shamefull practice of Muslims decided to do Normal Suicide ie Killing themselves through Sword or Knife ( Not by Jauhar ie Self-Burning ) if their Husbands or King Loose to a MusLim AttacK………

    ……..BUT when they saw in many instances that MusLim Soldiers RAPED even the DEAD Bodies of those Ladies which had Committed Normal Sucide THEN THEY DECIDED to Adopt a Suicide Practice in which even their DEAD Bodies won’t remain for the RAPE by these inhuman barbaric demons…….and from that this practice of JAUHAR ( ie Self-Burning to save their Honour ) started

  6. Just goes to show that all opposition on such issues is superficial. Mindsets still the same. In fact if you stretch the argument no reasonable woman would/should agree to the portrayal of women in most films where they are objectified. Short dresses, plenty of skin show and characters which are shallow. Where you have a Pink, you also have the same Tapsee Pannu justifying her swimsuit in Judwa 2, another mindless trash from the 90s recycled as a cult movie.

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