Popular Rakshabandhan Tales from History and Mythology
Krishna and Draupadi
Perhaps the most popular of the rakhi stories in our mythology is that of Lord Krishna and Draupadi – the wife of the five Pandavas.
An incident in their lives finds a mention amongst the various stories of the Mahabharata.
According to one version on a Sankranti day, Krishna managed to cut his little finger while handling sugarcane. Rukmini, his queen immediately sent her help to get a bandage cloth while Sathyabama, his other consort rushed to bring some cloth herself.
Draupadi who was watching all of this rather simply tore off a part of her sari and bandaged his finger.
In return for this deed, Krishna promised to protect her in time of distress.
The word he is said to have uttered is ‘Akshyam’ which was a boon: ‘May it be unending’.
And that was how Draupadi’s sari became endless and saved her embarrassment on the day she was disrobed in full public view in king Dritarashtra’s court.
Queen Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
Among the many tales of Raksha Bandhan, a version of the story of Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun is one that often finds a mention.
Karnavati was the regent of Mewar after the death of her husband Rana Sanga. She ruled in the name of her elder son Vikramjeet.
When Bahadur Shah of Gujarat attacked Mewar for the second time — he had defeated Vikramjeet earlier — the queen began reaching out to her nobles for support.
Initially apprehensive, the nobles finally agreed to take on Shah.
In the meanwhile, Karnavati also wrote to Humayun, for help. She sent him a rakhi and sought protection.
Interestingly, Humayun’s father Babur had defeated Rana Sanga when he led a confederation of Rajput armies against him in 1527.
The Mughal emperor was in the middle of another military campaign when he received the call for help. Abandoning it he turned his attention to Mewar.
Unfortunately, he never made it on time. As the Rajput army was defeated in Chittor – where the battle was taking place — Karnavati committed Jauhar — an act of self-immolation to protect herself from indignity of falling in the hands of Bahadur Shah.
Shah however could not go any further and had to turn away from Chittor as Mughal military reinforcements arrived soon after.
Humayun then restored the kingdom to Karnavati’s son, Vikramjit.
One of the most fascinating stories on Raksha Bandhan is that of Yama and Yamuna. Their story stands for the chaste brother-sister love and sacrifice. This day stands for the re-unification of brother and sister. It also symbolizes the society’s respect for all women. The day gives every man the noble outlook to consider every woman as mother or sister.
Yama and the Yamuna
There are several versions of the legend of Yama and Yamuna. According to the Shiv Puranas Vivasana or the Sun was married to Samjna (Tvashta’s / Vishwakarma’s daughter). It states that Samjna is more beautiful than her husband (From Rig Veda and Harivamsa) and probably has more power than her husband. They have three children, Manu, Yama and Yamuna. But unable to bear Sun’s dark form, Samjna flees back to her father. She creates a shadow woman of her own, Chaaya, and asks her to stay with her husband. Chaaya and Sun have a son of their own.
And like the stereotypical step mother, Chaaya paid more attention to her own son. Manu accepted the situation as it is, but Yama revolted. “In his anger and childishness, and through the force of future destiny, Yama threatened the shadow of Samjna with his foot.” As a result, Chaaya cursed Yama “Let that foot of yours fall”. Yama went and reported it to Sun and also asked him to revert the curse. Sun deduced that Chhaya could not be Yama’s mother. He grasped Chhaya by the hair and the truth came out. Sun then went to Tvashta in search of Samjna. It was discovered that Samjna had done all this because she could not bear the energy of her husband. Tvashta chiseled off some of Sun’s energy so that his radiance become muted.
King Porus and Alexander Wife Roxanne
The ancient reference to the festival of Rakhi dates back to 300 BC at the time when Alexander conquered India. King Alexander of Macedonia also tried to take over the kingdom of the Indian King Porus but he was resisted by King Porus.
Seeing this, Alexander’s wife Roxana got worried and the Greek ruler’s wife hastily approached King Porus with a rakhi.
As she knew the custom and importance of Raksha Bandhan, asking him not to harm her husband during the battle.
In the nick of time, I’d say, because in the very next battle Alexander fell off his horse and found Porus holding a sword to his neck. A moment later, Porus let him go. He had promised his sister after all.
Hence, she became a sister of his and this is the reason King Porus restrained himself to deliver the final blow to Alexander which would have taken his life.
The Birth of Santoshi Maa
Now even though this tale has no basis in the Hindu scriptures, the take of the birth of Santoshi Maa has been linked to the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
Maa Santoshi is daughter of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha has two wives Ridhi and Sidhi and two sons Shubh and Labh.
On the day of Rakshabandhan when Mansa Devi tied Rakhi to her brother Ganesha , then Shubh and Labh asked their Mothers about Rakhi and the festival. Both the sons Subh and Labh asked their father to give them a sister who will tie them rakhi.
Subh labh asked their father to give them a sister as they also want to celebrate Rakhi. Ganesha decided to give them sister and he from his powers gave them their wish, Santoshi Maa. Santoshi mata tied rakhi to her brothers Subh and Labh.
Santoshi maa is the goddess of Satisfaction.
Goddess Laxmi and King Bali
Unlike the previous one, this legend does find mention in various Hindu scriptures. It has reference in Bhavishyottara Puran : 137/20.
As part of a promise, Lord Vishnu has been protecting his devotee and the demon King Bali, disguising himself as his doorman.
Back in Vaikunth, the abode of Vishnu, his consort Laxmi has been missing him.
Disguising herself as a woman seeking a shelter to live in since her husband has been away, she approaches Bali. The generous king opens the doors of his palaces for the lady.
As Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity enters the household Bali begins to prosper.
On the full moon day of in the holy month of Shravana, Laxmi ties a thread of coloured cotton on Bali’s wrist and wishes for protection and happiness.
Bali asks her what she desires and promises to fulfill it.
Laxmi simply points to the gatekeeper who now reveals his real identity. The goddess follows suit.
Bali keeps his promise and requests Vishnu to return to his home with his consort. In return, Vishnu promises to return and be with Bali for four months of each year.
Popular Rakshabandhan Tales from History and Mythology – Historical and Mythological Stories