Did Mughals start the tradition of 'Raksha Bandhan'?

·3-min read

Even as a billion Hindus celebrate ‘Raksha Bandhan’, a debate has erupted on social media over the origin of the festival.

The genesis of the argument lies in the suggestion made by a ‘historian’, Rana Safvi, that the festival of ‘Raksha Bandhan’ has its origins in the Mughal era when, in 1759, ‘Shah Alam II began the practice of celebrating Salona (Raksha Bandhan) to honour a Hindu woman’.

Closeup of hands, sister tying rakhi, Raksha bandhan to brother's wrist during festival or ceremony - Rakshabandhan celebrated across India as selfless love or relationship between brother and sister.
Closeup of hands, sister tying rakhi, Raksha bandhan to brother's wrist during festival or ceremony - Rakshabandhan celebrated across India as selfless love or relationship between brother and sister.

Safvi also related a story to fortify her claim in a prominent English daily.

However, her assertion was soon shredded by a host of netizens who accused her of stretching the truth and indulging in propaganda in the guise of history.

“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,” wrote ‘True Indology’, a popular Twitter account.

Many countered her claim by asking if the festival was heralded by Mughals, why don’t Muslims celebrate ‘Raksha Bandhan’ and follow the tradition?

The social media storm that followed had netizens questioning the veracity of Safvi’s claim. Soon, the historian passed the buck on to the newspaper saying that while the content was her own, the headline and the description were that of the daily and those had since been ‘corrected’.

Raksha Bandhan, or Rakhi, is observed to celebrate the sacred bond between a sister and a brother. Rakhi is a thread that the lady ties on the wrist of her brother, who in turn pledges to always protect her from any harm.

While there are numerous tales linked to Raksha Bandhan, the earliest reference to the tradition is in The Mahabharat, the Sanskrit epic which is one of the most important texts in the Hindu religion. The story goes that once Lord Krishna cut his little finger and Draupadi tore off a part of her sari and bandaged his finger. As a form of gratitude, Lord Krishna promised to protect her at all times.

The practice has since been celebrated by Hindus the world over.