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Makar Sankranti & Alamgir

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History as never told before.

Most Indians don’t know Makar Sankaranti is a gift of Mughals to India. It was initiated by the much vilified Aurangzeb. Baadshah-e-Hind Alamgir was troubled a lot by the cunning ways of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Aurangzeb used to refer to him as “Mountain Rat”. He also called him “Makkaar” or someone who was cunning. We all know how the Chhatrapati escaped from Aurangzeb’s captivity using extreme con.

But Aurangzeb also had great respect for Shivaji Maharaj for his intelligence and valor. Hence the “austere Islamic Scholar” (like Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi) decided to celebrate a festival in honor of his enemy Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He named the festival “Makkaar Sahan Kraanti” or “Revolutionary Tolerance of the Cunning Man”. Being a down to earth man, he celebrated the festival by distributing sesame and jaggery (Til Aur Gud), representing the bittersweet relationship he shared with his arch enemy. Aurangzeb also started the practice of flying kites. This gesture symbolized the freedom enjoyed by Hindus under his rule.

The festival subsequently went on to become a boisterous and ostentatious Hindu festival called Makar Sankaranti. But it had humble origins in the modest Mughal palace under the benevolent and tolerant Baadshah Aurangzeb. Revolution and tolerance are always associated with Mughals, more specifically Aurangzeb. That is why Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and Audrey Truschke are so fond of the Benevolent Dictator !

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