The so-called liberals have been an upset lot ever since Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was roughed up at the sets of his latest magnum opus – Padmavati- by a group of men belonging to Shri Rajput Karni Sena in Jaipur last week.
This group has been protesting against Bhansali’s alleged distortion of history and wrongful portrayal of character of the queen of Chittor during the 13th century – Padmini and Delhi sultanate’s ruler Alauddin Khilji’s obsession with her.
Since then Bollywood and advocates of free speech have unleashed a vicious online campaign on how this is an infringement on creative expression. If Bhansali is really serious about the portrayal of Khilji’s romantic life, he seems to have missed out on the most interesting love story: Malik Kafur.
Khilji also had a weakness for beardless boys. He was fascinated by Kafur’s effeminate beauty and ended up buying the slave for a thousand Dinars during his conquest of Gujarat. Kafur took full advantage of Khilji’s enamour for him and rose through the ranks to become the Malik Naib (deputy ruler).
This love affair between Khilji and Kafur is well documented in many books including the Tarikh-e-Firozshahi. It is believed that Khilji had almost 50,000 beardless boys in his harem at the height of his empire.
There was no love between Rani Padmini and Khilji. On the contrary, it was Padmini who led the 1,600 odd Rajput women to jump into the pyre and commit Jauhar rather than being taken prisoner. Padmini is revered for her valour and has acquired legendary status over the centuries with many temples and shrines dedicated to her memory.
Why should any filmmaker want to film a dream sequence where Padmini and Khilji are romancing? How about sticking to history and shooting a sensual, romantic song between Khilji and Kafur?
Malik Kafur was believed to be a Hindu by name Manik from the city of Khambat( now Cambay) in Gujarat. After Khilji’s capture of Khambat, he bought Manik as a slave for a price of 1000 dinar. It’s said that Manik’s effeminate looks captivated Khilji, who castrated him, converted him into Islam, and had a homosexual relationship with him.
Kafur soon rose among the ranks, to be one of the leading generals in Khiji’s army, earning him the title of Malik Naib, a honorific. He led an expedition to the Yadava kingdom of Devagiri( now Daulatabad). He defeated the Yadava army, killed the prince Sankaradeva, and captured Devagiri. He also led the Khilji Army against the Mongols at the Battle of Amroha in 1305, inflicting a crushing defeat on them.
He is noted for his two major campaigns in the South, which enhanced his status, and also expanded the Sultanate to it’s maximum extent. The first in 1309, was against the Kakatiyas of Warangal, where he defeated them, made them a vassal, and forced their ruler Prataparudra to pay tribute. The next was against the Hoysalas of Halebid, where he attacked the famous Hoysaleswara Temple. The ruler Veera Ballala III, was defeated, pay a tribute and send his son Veera Virupaksha to Delhi.
His third one would be in 1311, when he laid siege to Madurai, the capital of the Pandyans, the Sultanate’s first foray into Tamil land. Cutting off the water supply to Madurai, Kafur defeated the tired Pandyan army, and captured it’s emperor Sundara Pandyan. However his siege on Madurai was a failure, when the Pandyan soldiers defended with arrows, and surprise attacks on the Sultanate Army at night. Kafur himself was handicapped by using battering rams of poor quality. He finally had to call of the siege, and release Sundara Pandyan, in return for a huge amount of tribute he got, in form of wealth, elephants.
Kafur was instrumental in his master’s death in 1316, he also blinded his two sons Khizr Khan and Shadi Khan. However Khilji’s third son Mubarak Khan who escaped, later had Kafur assassinated by his soldiers.