Rani Padmini, Fictional Queen of Chittor Whom Ala-ud-din Khilji Longed
Delhi Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji's (r: 1296-1316) conquest of Chittor in 1303 is a matter of controversy for some people. In January 1303, Ala-ud-din Khilji marched towards Chittor (the capital of Mewar) with a large army, and after a siege of 6-7 months, Chittoor was reduced. Rana Ratan Singh (Ratnasimha) offered his submission. Ala-ud-din then bestowed the government of Chittor on his son Khizr Khan and named it Khizrabad.
However, there are many stories related to Ala-ud-din's invasion of Chittor. According to one version of the story, Ala-ud-din Khilji conquered Chittor to get possession of Padmini, the beautiful Sri Lankan wife of Rana Rawal Ratan Singh. Ala-ud-din laid siege to Chittor for 8 years. He then sent a message to the Rana promising to raise the siege if he would let him see Padmini through a mirror. Ala-ud-din had a look at her reflection. After this he treacherously made the Rana prisoner and took him to Delhi and demanded the surrender of Padmini for his release. Padmini accepted Ala-ud-din's terms and played a clever trick to release the Rana. She sent word to Ala-ud-din that she will come to his camp on the next day attended by her handmaidens. Early next morning, a long line of palanquins entered Ala-ud-din's camp, in which Rajputs disguised as Padmini and her female companions were concealed. Half an hour was granted for the parting meeting between the Rana and his queen. At this time, the armed band of Rajputs forth sprang from the palanquins and fell upon Ala-ud-din's army in surprise. They freed the Rana and took him back to Chittor. Shortly after his arrival in Chittor, Ratan Singh died of the wounds received in fighting Devapala of Kumbhalgarh. Meanwhile, Ala-ud-din laid siege to the fort once again and captured it. However, Padmini committed Jauhar and the Rajput men died fighting.
Ferishta, Haji-ud-Dabir, Abu'l-Fazl and James Tod also tells a similar story. Now what's the truth? Rani Padmini or Padmavati is no real person but a character in Malik Muhammad Jayasi's fictional poem 'Padmavat' compiled around 1540. This work formed the base for Ferishta (around 1612), Haji-ud-Dabir (around 1605), Abu'l-Fazl and Tod's (1829) narrations. "No medieval historical record alludes to her existence before Jayasi's Padmavat", says Irfan Habib. Amir Khusro, Ala-ud-din's court poet, who accompanied him to Chittor does not make any mention of 'Padmini' or Jauhar. However, Khusro mentions Kamla Devi and also narrates the love story of Ala-ud-din's son Khizr Khan and Dewal Devi in his works. No contemporary historian mention anything about Padmini. "At the end of his work, Jayasi himself says that Padmavati's love story is a fictional one and the names of characters are metaphors", says Ali Nadeem Rezavi.
Anyway, it is true that Ala-ud-din fell in love with the Gujarati queen Kamla Devi, and married her afterwards. So to conclude, Ala-ud-din Khilji had not invaded Chittor for capturing this fictitious queen, but for extending his dominions.
Ala-ud-din finally transferred the government of Chittor from Khizr Khan to the Rana's nephew. "This Hindu prince in a short time restored the principality to its former condition, and retained the tract of Chittoor as tributary to Ala-ud-din during the rest of this reign", Ferishta writes. However, in the last year of Ala-ud-din's reign (1316), during the regency of Malik Kafur, the Rajputs of Chittor expelled the Mohammedan governors and declared their independence.
Litter: palanquin (a vehicle used to transport people; usually for one passenger, containing a bed or couch often covered by curtains and carried on men's shoulders)
Jauhar: is the Self Immolation done by Royal Rajput ladies when the battle is about to lose, rather than surrender and fall to harem of enemies.
History of the Rise of Mahommedan Power in India By Ferishta