Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | ePaper

How Rabindranath Tagore used Raksha Bandhan as means to prevent 1905 Bengal partition

Following Tagore's call, hundreds of Hindus and Muslims in Kolkata, Dhaka and Sylhet came out in large numbers to tie Rakhi threads as a symbol of unity. Tagore's heartland Santiniketan still follows the tradition and the university students tied Rakhi to neighbours and common people to give a message of harmony

  • Print


Weekend Plus Desk :
At a time when the country is witnessing a surge in religious intolerance, an instance from the annals of history serves as a timely reminder of religious harmony. As we celebrate Raksha Bandhan on August 7, 2017, it's interesting to take cognizance of how more than a century ago, the concept and sentiment behind the festival were used to unite two communities, Hindus and Muslims.
Bengal was at its peak of nationalist movement at the dawn of 19th century, which eventually emerged as a formidable threat to the British Raj. To curb this nationalist movement, the Britishers decided to divide Bengal, a move vehemently opposed by various leaders of the time, including Rabindranath Tagore.
The decision was taken at a meeting between Lord Curzon and a Muslim delegation in Assam in June 1905, where the Muslims were convinced of the idea of a separate state to keep their identity. The plan was to divide the Hindu majority regions of West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha from Muslim-dominated areas of Assam and Sylhet.
The British government passed the orders of partition in August 1905, which came into effect on October 16 of the same year. However, the date fell in the month of Shravan, when the festival of Raksha Bandhan was celebrated by the Hindu community. Tagore deftly used the concept of brotherhood, togetherness and 'the thread of protection' as a medium to protest against British's partition policy by showing a picture of unity among the two communities.
Following Tagore's call, hundreds of Hindus and Muslims in Kolkata, Dhaka and Sylhet came out in large numbers to tie Rakhi threads as a symbol of unity. "He transformed the religious tradition of Raksha Bandhan to a secular motif of unity among diversity and resisted Banga Bhanga (Partition of Bengal)," writes A Majumdar in his book 'Tagore by Fireside'.
The decision to partition Bengal was withdrawn in 1911, after six years of widespread protest by both the communities from West and East Bengal. But its vision was short lived as the religious venoms led to the partition of India in 1947.
Some other historical incidents of Raksha Bandhan:
Battle of Hydadpes
Historically, Rakhi was celebrated to strengthen political ties among kingdoms. Porus refrained from striking Alexander the Great to stick to his brotherhood commitment as his wife Roxana tied him Rakhi, with a request of her husband's life.
Humayun and Chittor queen Karnavati
It was an instance from the biography of Mughal Emperor Humayun, where the king restored the kingdom of Chittor to keep his brotherly promise. Humayun received a rakhi from Chittor queen Rani Karnavati with a request to protect her kingdom from Gujarat Sultan Bahadur Shah's invasion. Though Bahadur Shah invaded the kingdom and Rani Karnavati, with other women, set themselves on fire to avoid captivity, Humayun honoured the rakhi sent to him by restoring the empire and giving it to Rani Karnavati's son, as a symbol of respect and love.
Mahabharata
The epic novel gives a sense of brotherhood and humanity coined with this festival. Once Draupadi tied a piece of cloth on Lord Krishna's wrist, as he was bleeding profusely. As a gesture of brotherhood, Lord Krishna helped Draupadi during the episode of bastraharan by ensuring she was always covered with a sari.
Akin to these historical instances, Tagore's attempt at unifying Bengal using Raksha Bandhan portrays how a festival can act to unite a community and society. His poem on Raksha Bandhan, Amar Sonar Bangla, Banglar mati Banglar jol (O lord! give blessings to the Earth and Water of Bengal) amplifies a sense of love for the motherland and the countrymen. Tagore's heartland Santiniketan still follows the tradition and the university students tied Rakhi to neighbours and common people to give a message of harmony. n

More News For this Category

In search of Famagusta: Wandering in a beautiful Mediterranean island, Cyprus

In search of Famagusta: Wandering in a beautiful Mediterranean island, Cyprus

S Mazumder :The mass of land appeared out of nowhere in the Mediterranean waters below as I woke up from a nap and raised the window shield.  It was

Cure morning woes with easy  to make English breakfast

Cure morning woes with easy to make English breakfast

Weekend Plus Desk :You may get scared with the idea of making a full English breakfast meal, but it's not that tough. Just get bacon, eggs, toasts, sautéed mushrooms,

Make your home look bigger

Make your home look bigger

Weekend Plus Desk :Make your abode appear bigger and spacious by using mirrors, decluttering your house and pay attention to the colours you pick for the curtains, suggest experts.Sunil

Muhammad Mansuruddin

For Haramoni, he visited hundreds of villages of Rajshahi, Pabna, Nadia, Murshidabad, Mymensingh, Faridpur, Barisal, Noakhali and Dhaka. He was encouraged by the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Kshitimohan Sen, Pallikobi

Writer, journalist, linguist Syed Mujtaba Ali

Writer, journalist, linguist Syed Mujtaba Ali

Literature Desk :Syed Mujtaba Ali (13 September 1904-11 February 1974) was a Bengali author, journalist, travel enthusiast, academician, scholar and linguist. He lived in Bangladesh, India, Germany, Afghanistan and

Pioneer folklorist Muhammad Mansuruddin

Pioneer folklorist Muhammad Mansuruddin

Literature Desk :Muhammad Mansuruddin (31 January 1904 - 19 September 1987) was an author, literary critic, essayist, lexicographer and biographer. He was an authority on folklore and was famous

Schizophrenia may up  death risk by three-fold

Schizophrenia may up death risk by three-fold

Weekend Plus Desk :People suffering from schizophrenia are three times more likely to die, and die younger, than the general population, indicating a need for solutions to narrow this

Ice Cream makes you smarter!  Get yourself a big scoop for breakfast

Ice Cream makes you smarter! Get yourself a big scoop for breakfast

Weekend Plus Desk :What long hours of tuition and a large stack of books cannot do for your kid, a scoop of ice cream can do! Wonder what? Make them

Friends can make your marital  conflict less stressful

Friends can make your marital conflict less stressful

Weekend Plus Desk :Marital conflicts can take a toll on your health, but having even a few close friends and family members to turn to can help reduce the

Running may help  you quit smoking

Running may help you quit smoking

Weekend Plus Desk :Finding it hard to quit the bad habit of smoking? Joining a running group can help you say no to tobacco, a study has claimed.The study,