Did Mughals birth Raksha Bandhan? Historian Rana Safvi clarifies after online outrage

On Monday, even though the customary articles calling Rakhi an ‘oppressive, patriarchal Hindutva festival’ were missing in action, there still was some time for an online outrage about the origins of Rakhi.

A host of Twitterati took umbrage to a Livemint article which had the heading How Mughal Delhi Gave Birth To Raksha Bandhan.

This led Twitter user True Indology to write: “This "eminent historian" declares that Mughals invented Rakhi in 18th century. Such blatant lies contradict every available primary source. Anyone having elementary knowledge would laugh at these factually incorrect lies. But in India such authors are promoted by establishment.”

Replying, Rana Sana Safvi wrote: “My apologies for hurting your sentiments dear "anonymous historian" but this story was a misprint by Livemint. It was corrected on my insistence. And this story is from an1865 Urdu account. I suggest you read both carefully.”

According to the account shared by Saqvi, Raksha Bandhan came out after the heinous murder of Alamgir II, who went to meet a faqeer.

When he went to meet a Sufi faqeer, he was reportedly assassinated at the behest of his Wazir.

The story goes that a Brahmin lady found his mutilated dead body and recongised it was the emperor. The slain king’s retinue finally found the lady guarding the king and gave him a proper burial. The next emperor rewarded the woman generously and called her his sister.

Saqvi writes: “After that, on every Salona (as Rakshabandhan was called) festival, she would come and tie a rakhi of pure pearls on Shah Alam II’s wrist. Accompanying the rakhi would be lots of sweets. In turn, he would gift her clothes and gold coins, as was the norm. Until the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar hadn’t been exiled from the Red Fort, this practice continued, with women of Ram Kumari’s family coming to tie rakhis on the wrists of the Mughal emperor and other princes.”

This led a host of jokes from Twitter users as well, who wondered if the Mughals had discovered gravity and made other path-breaking discoveries.

There are several different origin stories for Rakhi per se. Draupadi tied a rakhi to Krishna and she promised to protect her for eternity. Another claims, Humanyun was sent a Rakhi by Rani Karnavati to help her when Bahadur Shah attacked. Another version claims that Roxana, Alexander the Great's wife sent a Porus a sacred thread and asked Porus to not harm her husband.

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