Being Women

Rakhi : Celebrating the Unbreakable Bond of Sibling Love and Protection

Rakhi celebrates the bond of a brother and sister. There are historical references to this festival as well.

Rakhi Purnima – It’s that time of the year again when moms heave a sigh of relief for the peace at home! Most of us have an irritating brother (or brothers) who are always at our throats every single day! But on this day every year, we girls, stop all the silly squabbles. Instead, we perform Pooja and Aarti (prayers) for our brothers’ wellbeing—it’s Raksha Bandhan time!

I get excited to see those street-side shops that spring up on every corner weeks before the festival! The vast collections of ornately decorated Rakhis in various colours and designs! The colourful display of strings and pompoms, stone-studded and “bling”y bracelets, and whatnot! Shopping for Rakhis is a fun activity in itself!

I am from Kerala, where we don’t celebrate the festival as much. But during my college days, we used to tie Rakhis to chosen friends. As I always say, “God didn’t give me a brother, so I went ahead and chose my brothers by myself!”

Pictured here are two Rakhis that I made myself by hand. These were a gift to my daughter for her first Raksha Bandhan ceremony with her “muh bole bhaiyya” (chosen brothers). It was the first time I tried making Rakhi and I absolutely loved the process and outcome. Notice that one of the Rakhis has a DIY fidget spinner on it—a fully functional, innovative Rakhi!

A special tie of love

Rakshabandhan is a unique Hindu festival dedicated to the special tie and love between a brother and sister. It is mostly celebrated across the northern parts of India and falls on the “Purnima” (full moon day) of the month of Shravan (July or August). As part of the ceremonies, girls and women tie a sacred thread (like an amulet) known as “Rakhi” around their brother’s wrists, praying for their longevity and happiness. In return, the brothers promise to protect their sister for the rest of their lives and give her presents and sweets, symbolising their affection.

Women and girls eagerly await the Rakshabandhan festivities every year. Married women travel to their parents’ homes to attend the ceremony. Although traditionally, sisters tie Rakhi for their brothers and cousin-brothers, it can also be tied on the wrist of anyone whom they consider a brother. Thus, Rakshbandhan is a celebration that involves other religions as well. In some places, girls visit soldiers or political leaders and tie the Rakhi as a gesture of gratitude for the protection they provide to all the girls in the country.

The word “Rakshabandhan” in Sanskrit means “the bond of protection”.

Did you know that this ritual, a symbol of brotherly love, is associated with the Mahabharata?

An association with Mahabharata: The folklore behind it

Once, Lord Krishna was playing a dice game with his wives, Rukmini and Satyabhama, and the Pandava queen, Draupadi. Although Draupadi was not his blood sibling, they shared an extraordinary bond. While playing carelessly (or while chewing sugarcane, according to some other accounts), Krishna’s palm got injured and started bleeding. Rukmini panicked and ran to the kitchen to fetch water. Satyabhama called her attendants to bring medicines quickly. But it was Draupadi who acted immediately by tearing off the hem of her sari without thinking twice. She tied the small piece of cloth over the wound and stopped the bleeding in no time. This incident symbolises that a sister understands her brother’s pain better than anyone else.

Moved by her love, Lord Krishna promised to protect her forever and rush to her rescue anytime she was in trouble. Incidentally, it was this promise made over a small piece of cloth that saved Draupadi’s dignity during her “Cheerharan”, when Dusshaasan was disrobing her in front of the royal durbar. The story goes on to say that Draupadi’s saree was unending and saved her from embarrassment.

The Bond of Rani Karnavati and Mughal emperor Humayun

There are interesting stories from Indian history about the significance of Rakhi and the bond of security it symbolizes. In the 16th century, newly widowed Rani Karnavati of Chittorgarh sent a Rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, requesting him to help her escape Bahadur Shah’s attack in Gujarat. Humayun respected her request and, as a token of protection, sent a large army to Chittorgarh to safeguard her from future attacks.

The true meaning of Rakhi

In addition to its historical significance, the true meaning of this ritual lies in the sacred relationship between a brother and a sister. Rakhi gives us the message of promise that our “bhaiya” (brothers) will always be with us, in happiness and in pain.

We may always be bickering and fighting over the smallest things, but we would fight the whole world for our brothers too!

Happy Raksha Bandhan 2023 to all the lucky brothers and sisters out there!


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