In 1303 Allauddin khilji, Sultan of Delhi, intrigued by tales of the matchless beauty of Padmini, Rani of Chittor, of her wit and charm, decided to verify this himself. His armies surrounded Chittor, and the sultan sent a message to Rana Rattan Singh, Padmini’s husband, to say that he would spare the city if he could meet its famous queen. The compromise finally reached was that the sultan could look upon Padmini’s reflection if he came unarmed into the fort. Accordingly, the sultan went up the hill and glimpsed a reflection of the beautiful Padmini standing by a lotus pool. He thanked his host who courteously escorted Allauddin down to the outer gate-where the sultan’s men waited in ambush to take the Rana hostage.
There was consternation in Chittor until Padmini devised a plan. A messenger informed the sultan that the rani would come to him. Dozens of curtained palanquins set off down the hill, each carried by six humble bearers. Once inside the Sultan’s camp, four well-armed Rajput warriors leaped out of each palanquin and each lowly palanquin bearer drew a sword. In the ensuing battle, Rana Rattan Singh was rescued-but 7,000 Rajput warriors died. The sultan now attacked Chittor with renewed vigor. Having lost 7,000 of its best warriors, Chittor could not hold out. Surrender was unthinkable. The rani and her entire entourage of women, the wives of generals and soldiers, sent their children into hiding with loyal retainers. They then dressed their wedding fine, slid their farewells, and singing ancient hymns, boldly entered the mahal and performed jauhar.
The men, watching with expressionless faces, then donned saffron robes, smeared the holy ashes of their women on their foreheads, flung open the gates of the fort and thundered down the hill into the enemy ranks, to fight to the death. After this pyrrhic victory, the Sultan’s troops entered the fort only to be confronted with ashes and burnt bones.