Raksha Bandhan is derived from two words ‘Raksha’ which means protection and ‘Bandhan’ meaning binding or bound. In Sanskrit, it translates to, “the bond of protection, obligation, or care”. It is recognized by many names like ‘Vish Trak’ – the destroyer of venom, ‘Punya Pradayak’- the best owner of boons and the ‘Pap Nashak’ – the destroyer of sins. Adrian C.
Mayer during his kinship in Central India (1960) accurately stated what is true for most communities in the subcontinent: A man’s tie with his sister is accounted very close. The two have grown up together, at an age when there is no distinction made between the sexes. And later, when the sister marries, the brother is seen as her main protector, for when her father has died to whom else she can turn if there is trouble in her conjugal household.
Rakshabandhan is also known as Shravan Purnima because it is celebrated on a full moon day in the Shravan month, which is August as per the Hindu calendar. Rakhi is a festival that acts as a reaffirmation of the bond of affection existing between brothers and sisters. On this occasion, Sisters tie a sacred thread or a colourful special band, rightly called the ‘Rakhi’ on their brothers’ wrist as a mark of affection, sisterly love, and sublime sentiments. The brothers in return promise to protect their sisters and offer them gifts. Although a Hindu festival, in the modern era people from different faiths celebrate it too. Not only siblings but also cousins and friends celebrate this festival with each other.
History of Raksha Bandhan
Prosperous Indian mythology provides many religious reasons to celebrate the day. Rakshabandhan is mentioned in most of the Indian epics and its origin can be traced back to the mythological times. The practice of tying thread was traditionally prevalent in Indian history.
In one of the legends, it is believed that on every Shravana Purnima day the deity Yamuna used to tie a sacred thread on Yama’s (God of death) wrist. He was so impressed, he declared that anyone who would get it tied from his sister would become immortal. In another legend which is from Mahabharat, when Lord Krishna got injured after battling with King Shishupal, Draupadi tore a piece of cloth and tied around his wrist to stop bleeding. This gesture touched Krishna greatly and promised to provide her with love and devotion. The most significant story is of Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun. Rani Karnavati who was a widowed queen of Chittor sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. Without wasting any time, Emperor Humayun marched his troops to save her honour but before he reached there, Rani sacrificed her life by performing Joher.
Until the mid-20th-century, the expression was more commonly applied to a similar ritual, also held on the same day, with precedence in ancient Hindu texts, in which a domestic priest ties amulets, charms, or threads on the wrists of his patrons, or changes their sacred thread, and receives gifts of money; in some places, this is still the case. On the other hand, the sister-brother festival, with origins in folk culture, had names which varied with location, with some rendered as Saluno, Silono, and Rakri.
Significance of Raksha Bandhan
Rakshabandhan is a festival with deep-rooted significance as it defines the Indian culture in a beautiful way. It makes the brother-sister bond very strong between siblings, cousins, and even people whom we admire like our brother or sister. This bond is in fact a defining character observed in the Indian population and is very significant to our society. The celebration everywhere renews the relation and emotional bond between brothers and sisters. The sacred thread called ‘rakhi’ symbolizes the ‘knot of protection’. It signifies the lifelong promise of a brother to protect her sister no matter what and on the other hand it also shows the love of a sister who prays for her brothers’ health and prosperity. Rakhi also highlights the purity of the relation and affection that a brother or sister has for each other along with immense respect.
The concepts associated with this festival have evolved over the years. Not only blood bonded brothers-sisters but others who admire each other as siblings and consider each other as brother and sister (without being blood-related) can also celebrate this festival. This makes this festival even more precious as it signifies that blood relations are not the only relations that are important because people can form a bond by just mutual love, respect, and devotion towards the well being of each other. Like many festivals, Rakshabandhan also brings the family together to rejoice the day among each other’s company.
Raksha Bandhan Celebration
Rakshabandhan celebrations last for one day but its preparation begins many days prior to its occurrence. Sisters buy colorful rakhis to tie on the wrists on their brother(s) and brothers buy special gifts for their sisters to gift them during the rakhi celebration.
During the rakhi ritual, the family dresses up in new clothes. The sister puts ‘red tilak’ on her brother(s) forehead and after this, she can feed him some sweets or nuts. Finally the sacred thread – rakhi is tied by her and the brother appreciates her by gifting her with special sweets, chocolates, hampers, or even money. This festival is very special all over India and because of that for siblings who live far from each other, the postal department of India offers to cut off and special envelopes in which rakhis can be sent to their brothers. The brothers put extra effort to reach to their sisters anyhow as the sisters wait for an empty stomach and eat only after tying the rakhi. This day is acknowledged and appreciated all over India. Both rural and urban areas celebrate it differently. Due to the diversity among different states of India, the festival is carried out in distinguished ways but it holds the same concept i.e. celebration of the brother-sister bond. Rakshabandhan holds a special place in the hearts of Indian and this reflects upon the fact that it will be always celebrated with love and joy.