Indian history has more than its fair share of villains whom we love to hate – Mahmud of Ghazni, Mohammad of Ghur, Alauddin Khalji, Mohammad bin Tughlaq, Aurangzeb to name a few. At present though, it is Alauddin Khalji’s moment to shine.
Believed to be the most sadistic Shah of all time, was he truly deserving of the infamy that has been heaped on him? Did he have the gym-ripped physique of the boisterous actor who plays him in the much beleaguered film version or the bestial savagery he evinced in the teaser with much scenery chewing, chicken-chomping gusto? Was it true that he coveted another man’s wife as well as kingdom and moved heaven and earth to possess both?
Alauddin the Ruthless Ruler
Alauddin Khalji was certainly a ruthless ruler; he murdered his own father-in-law, the King, to seize the throne of Delhi, enemies and traitors were also dealt with in this iron-fisted manner. He reportedly ordered the rape, torture and executions of the wives of his rebellious Mongol generals. But not before they were forced to watch their babies and children tossed from the ramparts to be skewered on the spear-points of his soldiers. Even the legendary chronicler Amir Khusrao, appointed by the Shah himself, could not bring themselves to deny his cruelty, though they certainly did their best to dress it up and pass it off as a desirable trait, worthy of an emperor.
Alauddin the Able Administrator
Yet, Alauddin was also said to have been an able administrator in addition to a canny and brave conqueror. It was a practise of his to demand the hand of a princess of royal birth from the house of those he vanquished in battle.
After the fall of Gujarat, the King, Karan Singh Vaghela fled with his tail between his legs, taking his daughter with him but left his wife, the beautiful Kamala Devi behind. It has been opined that she refused to go with her husband, preferring to give herself to the conqueror instead, having had just about all she could take with the former’s cowardice, outrageously debauched tendencies and sadism.
Alauddin: “Alexander the Second”
In light of available evidence which is admittedly scanty and contradictory, it nevertheless seems unlikely that Alauddin chose to besiege Chittor for any reason besides political expediency and a mad desire to rule the world rather like his personal hero, Alexander the Great. He had even taken to referring to himself as Sikander Saini, Alexander the Second.
He most certainly lusted after the treasures of Chittor and its strategic importance in his quest for pan-Indian dominance but we can assume the vaunted beauty of its Queen was mostly irrelevant to him, though it certainly may have been of passing interest. After all, Alauddin Khalji was a lot of things but a romantic he most certainly wasn’t!
We will never know the truth beyond a shadow of doubt. Then again, most of us can hardly remember the minute details of our own lives and the minutiae of our misdeeds with unerring accuracy. Trying to understand the motivations, deeds, and transgressions of a mighty Shah who was way before our time, whose story we have gleaned from dusty tomes that fall short of scholastic requirements, is a tall order indeed. Alauddin may have been monstrous or merely a highly flawed human wielding absolute power with its unmatched ability to corrupt even the purest of souls. The only certainty is that he was a product of a world which valued might over morals.
Watch the trailer of Anuja Chandramouli’s new book Rani Padmavati:
Read the full book here