The Rohu Fish & the Mughals

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The Labeo Rohita, popularly known as the Rohu or Rui fish, is a delicacy in the Gangetic plain and Bengal. A recipe for fried Rohu, even finds mention in Manasollasa, a Sanskrit encyclopedia and book of recipes complied in the 13th century. But did you know that beyond being just food, the Rohu fish enjoyed a particularly exalted status in the Mughal court. It symbolized the highest authority that flowed from kingship – the honor of the Mahi Maratib.
The Mahi Maratib was the highest honour in the Mughal Empire, something similar to India’s ‘Bharat Ratna’, the French ‘Legion of Honour’ or the British Knighthood. It symbolized honour, bravery and strength and the Mughal emperors only conferred it upon their highest dignitaries. It comprised of the giant face of Rohu fish, with scales and iron teeth mounted on a large pole. Beyond it, was attached a long fabric, symbolizing the fish’s body which inflated when air passed through the fish’s mouth. It was always carried in processions, accompanied by golden spheres on poles on its either side. Together, they were known as ‘Mahi-o-Maratib’ or ‘Fish & the (two) dignities’.

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