Raksha Bandhan: Celebrating the bond between Brother and Sister

the thread of protection

Raksha Bandhan is mainly celebrated in India, this important festival also holds great important for all religions including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in other parts of the world. Also known as Rakhi or Rakhi Poornima, as it falls on the day of the full moon. This year, Raksha bandhan will be on Monday, August 7, 2017.

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The word “Raksha Bandhan" means "the thread of protection" in Hindi, whereby sisters pray for their brothers' long and healthy life by tying a thread around their wrists. The brothers, in turn, pledge to protect sisters for life. Apart from siblings, the Raksha bandhan ritual is also observed by men and women who are not biological siblings but share the same feeling. Raksha bandhan being primarily a Hindu festival is also celebrated by other religions and societies. Rakhis are available in various shops and stalls in the market a month in advance, and are ideally made of silk threads with gold and silver; they are beautifully crafted with embroidered sequins, and embedded with semi-precious stones.

Rakhi as a social bonding

The ritual of Raksha Bandhan strengthens the bond of love between brothers and sisters everywhere; it is also known to exceed the confines of the family. Rakhi is also sometimes tied on the wrists of close friends or neighbours; this bond underscores the need for an amicable social life, in which people can co-exist peacefully as brothers and sisters. Everybody in the community promises to protect each other in such congregational Rakhi Utsavs, promoted by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

The Auspicious Full Moon Day

In North India, Rakhi Purnima is also referred to as Kajri Navami or Kajri Purnima—This is the time when wheat is sown, and Goddess Bhagwati is worshipped.

In the Western Indian states, this festival is known as Coconut Full Moon or Nariyal Purnima. In South India, Shravan Purnima is a significant religious occasion, especially for Brahmins. The festival of Raksha Bandhan is known by various names in India: Punya Pradayak--the giver of boons, Vish Tarak--the destroyer of venom, and Pap Nashak--the destroyer of sins.

Full Moon or Nariyal Purnima

Rakhi Practices

Rakshabandhan is marked by quite a few rituals, which vary regionally in India. Some typical rituals are:

  • Days or even weeks before the actual festival, the women start preparing for Rakshabandhan. They shop for Rakhi or the ceremonial thread which is tied around their brother’s wrists. In return, the brothers shop for gifts for their sisters.
  • On the morning of the festival day, the siblings get together along with other members of the family. The ritual typically starts with lighting a lamp in front of a deity; the women then tie rakhi on their brothers wrist, apply tilak on their forehead and give them sweets, dry fruits, etc.
  • While tying the Rakhi, the sister often prays for the wellbeing of her brother, this ritual may also include an aarti thaali, which is a tray with a lighted lamp, flowers, sweets and other things, which is rotated around the brother’s face.
  • The brother in return gives gifts to his sister, he also gives sweets, and dry fruits etc, to his sister as well. They hug and the elders give blessings to the children. The brothers wear the Rakhi for several days as a reminder and as a mark of respect for their sister’s love.

Significance of Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan is a festival to celebrate the sacred relationship of a brother and a sister. Raksha Bandhan is mainly celebrated in India, this important festival also holds great important for all religions including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains in other parts of the world. Also known as Rakhi or Rakhi Poornima, as it falls on the day of the full moon. This year, Rakshabandhan will be on Monday, August 7, 2017.

The name 'Raksha Bandhan' means 'a bond of protection'. On this special day, brothers make a promise to protect their sisters from all harms and troubles and the sisters pray to protect their brothers from all evil. The festival is celebrated on Shravan Purnima which generally falls in the month of August. The sisters tie a silk thread called Rakhi on their brother's wrist and pray for their well being and likewise the brothers promise to take care of their sisters.

There have been a lot of examples in history where rakhi has not just been a festival for raksha or protection. According to ancient mythology, saints used to tie rakhi to the people who came to seek their blessings. They also tied the sacred thread to themselves to guard themselves from evil. This day is truly 'Papa Todak, Punya Pradayak Parva' or the day that “blesses ones with boons and ends all sins” as mentioned in ancient scriptures.

The ritual of Raksha bandhan strengthens the bond of love between brothers and sisters everywhere; it is also known to exceed the confines of the family. Rakhi is also sometimes tied on the wrists of close friends or neighbours; this bond underscores the need for an amicable social life, in which people can co-exist peacefully as brothers and sisters. Everybody in the community promises to protect each other in such congregational Rakhi Utsavs, promoted by the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Rakhi dates back to thousands of years and has been represented and repeated itself within many famous Indian mythologies. According to the Bhagavata Purana, the Demon King Bali, who was a great worshipper of Lord Vishnu, asked him to come and live with him at his palace. Lord Vishnu’s wife, Goddess Lakshmi, paid a visit to King Bali and tied a Rakhi on his wrist, which forced him to grant her a favour. In turn Goddess Lakshmi asked him for Lord Vishnu’s return, Lord Vishnu had committed himself to protect King Bali from any danger after seeing his dedication.

So this year, if you have a brother or sister, shower them with all your love and support, they will return the same to you and strengthen the bonds of your family. And if you don’t have either, find someone who means as much to you as a sibling and give them this token of love and protection. It is truly one of the greatest honours one can ever receive.