More about Raksha Bandhan
Rakhi(Raksha Bandhan) holds a special place in the hearts of Indians. Raksha Bandhan is a festival that though rooted in the Hindu tradition of reaffirming the bond between brothers and sisters, has become a secular festival where a girl can tie a rakhi to anyone whom she considers as her brother and he gives her a gift in return and promises to be there for her if she requires help.
Thus on Raksha Bandhan day, young girls and women are seen greeting the President and the Prime Minister of India, and tying Rakhis on them. Girls send rakhis to soldiers guarding the country's borders or visit hospitals and orphanages and tie rakhis on boys to remind them that someone cares.
While these are newer and positive changes in the ways of celebrating the festival of rakhi, Raksha Bandhan is rooted in Hindu tradition. According to the Hindu calendar the full moon day or Purnima of the month of Shravan, is an auspicious day and it is on this day that Raksha Bandhan is celebrated. The association with Shravan Purnima is because according to legend the king Bali was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Because of Bali's devotion the Lord came down to Bali's kingdom and remained there for a long while. Lord Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, became worried by his absence and came in search of him. She arrived in Bali's kingdom on Shravan Purnima Day and tied a Rakhi on Bali. Pleased by this honour, Bali asked her to name what she wished for and he would grant her desire. She wished for Lord Vishnu's return and her wish was granted.
Lakshmi's treatment of Bali as a brother is the foundation of the ritual of Raksha Bandhan that continues to the present day. Traditionally sisters tie a Rakhi to their brother's wrist as sign of the bond of affection that unites them and brothers in turn promise to protect their sisters from harm.
Sweets are shared and prayers are chanted along with a Sanskrit mantra that is special to the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah |
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala ||
The lines mean: "I am tying a Raksha to you; similar to the one tied to Bali, the powerful and generous king. Oh Raksha, be firm, do not go away, do not go away." Thus while the rakhi wards negative influences away from the wearer, the wearer also promises to be there for his sister in times of need.
Sisters and brothers prepare for this festival several days in advance. New clothes are bought and sweets and festive food is prepared. Laddoos, Kheer and other traditional Indian sweets are made. Rakhis though increasingly purchased are also made by hand by some sisters. Thus the rakhi while expressing a sister's affection, can also be a labour of love. Raksha Bandhan day begins with an early bath, prayers and rituals including arti and applying a tilak to the brother before tying the rakhi on his wrist. The brother gives the sister his blessings and promises to protect her. He also gives her a gift as a gesture of affection. All the family members share sweets and festive food in a spirit of affection and joy. The festival of Raksha Bandhan brings together young and old, in a common celebration of shared feeling.
Different regions of India celebrate Raksha Bandhan in different ways. While celebrations are similar in North India, Southern and Eastern India celebrate this festival in different ways.
Raksha Bandhan Day is celebrated as Narial Purnima or Coconut Full Moon day in Maharashtra and its capital city Mumbai. Varuna the Sea God is offered coconuts as a form of worship. Young boys dive into the sea to collect the coconuts and money offered to the sea. The festival also coincides with the coming of the monsoon rains to Mumbai.
This auspicious day is celebrated as Avani Avittam in parts of South India. Brahmins recite the Vedas, wear a new sacred thread, and offer libations to holy men and rishis.
The festival of rakhi has taken on greater meaning with the passage of time, due to the change in the traditional Hindu joint family, as families spread out across India and the world. The ties between family members and siblings who live far apart, is reaffirmed on Raksha Bandhan day. The rakhi sent by a sister to her brother reconnects them in a bond of love and bridges the distances between them.
The finest and most sublime emotions in the human spirit are celebrated on the festival of Raksha Bandhan-the supportive and familial bond of love between brothers and sisters. With the widening of the meaning of this festival from a Hindu religious and familial event to a more secular social event, the festival of Rakhi has become a global event celebrated by the Indian diaspora worldwide.