In India, festivals are the celebration of togetherness, of being one of the family. Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that is all about affection, fraternity and sublime sentiments. It is also known as Raksha Bandhan which means a ‘bond of protection’. This is an occasion to flourish love, care, affection and sacred feeling of brotherhood.
Not a single festival in India is complete without the typical Indian festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts, lots of noise, singing and dancing. Raksha Bandhan is a regional celebration to celebrate the sacred relation between brothers and sisters. Primarily, this festival belongs to north and western region of India but soon the world has started celebrating this festival with the same verse and spirit. Rakhi has become an integral part of those customs.
On the day of Rakhi, sisters prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal, rakhi thread and sweets. The ritual begins with a prayer in front of God, then the sister ties Rakhi to her brother and wishes for his happiness and well-being. In turn, the brother acknowledge the love with a promise to stand by his sister through all the good and bad times.
Sisters tie Rakhi on the wrist of their brothers amid chanting of mantras, put roli and rice on his forehead and pray for his well-being. She bestows him with gifts and blessings. In turn, brothers also wish her a good life and pledges to take care of her. He gives her a return gift. The gift symbolizes the physical acceptance of her love, reminder of their togetherness and his pledge. The legends and the reference in history repeated, the significance of the festival is emphasized.
Raksha bandhan has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions for many years. Only the means have changed with the changing lifestyle to make the celebration more elaborate and lively. This day has an inherent power that pulls the siblings together. The increasing distances evoke the desire to be together even more. All brothers and sisters try to reach out to each other on this auspicious day. The joyous meeting, the rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood calls for a massive celebration.
For everyone, it is an opportunity to reunion and celebrate. People also share tasty dishes, wonderful sweets and exchange gifts. It is a time to share their past experiences also. For those who are not able to meet each other, rakhi cards and e-rakhis and rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages. Hand made rakhis and self-made rakhi cards are just representation of the personal feelings of the siblings.
Traditions & Customs
Raksha Bandhan is an occasion to celebrate the sacred bond of love and affection between siblings with lots of verve. Also known as Raksha Bandhan across the world, this festival is primarily a north Indian festival that is celebrated all brothers and sisters to express their deep emotions, love and affection.
Preparation of Rakhi Festival
Generally, the fancy Rakhis and delicious sweets are prepared long before the Shravana Purnima. According to the Indian tradition, the family members get ready for the rituals early in the morning. They take a bath to purify mind and body before starting any preparations. Sisters prepare the puja thali which consists of roli, tilak, Rakhi threads, rice grains, aggarbattis (incense sticks), diyas and sweets. After offering the rituals to the deities of the family, the sister perform aarti of their brothers and ties Rakhi on their wrist. Then, they put kumkum powder on the forehead of their brother and offer sweets. All these rituals take place amid the chanting of the following mantras :
“Suraj shakhan chhodian, Mooli chhodia beej
Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee”,
Which means “The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds,
I tie the rakhi to you O brother and wish that may you live long.”
After her prayer for a long life for her brother, she says that she is tie the ever-protective Raksha to her brother’s wrist and chants:
“Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala”
This means,” I tie you the rakhi that was tied to king Bali, the king of Demons,
O Rakhi I pray that you never falter in protecting your devotee.
In return, brothers pampers and blesses the sisters and promises to protect her from all the evils of this world. He also present a token of his love and affection as a Rakhi gift. The rituals performed on Raksha Bandhan may differ from place to place but they carry the same aura throughout the globe.
Raksha Bandhan in History
Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun
The story of Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun is the most significant evidence in the history. During the medieval era, Rajputs were fighting Muslim invasions. Rakhi at that time meant a spiritual binding and protection of sisters was foremost. When Rani Karnawati the widowed queen of the king of Chittor realised that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor touched by the gesture started off with his troops without wasting any time.
Alexander The Great and King Puru
The oldest reference to the festival of rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. at the time when Alexander invaded India. It is said that the great conqueror, King Alexander of Macedonia was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru in his first attempt. Upset by this, Alexander’s wife, who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached King Puru. King Puru accepted her as his sister and when the opportunity came during the war, he refrained from Alexander.
Lord Krishna and Draupathi
In order to protect the good people, Lord Krishna killed the evil King Shishupal. Krishna was hurt during the war and left with bleeding finger. Seeing this, Draupathi had torn a strip of cloth from her sari and tied around his wrist to stop the bleeding. Lord Krishna, realizing her affections and concern about him, declared himself bounded by her sisterly love. He promised her to repay this debt whenever she need in future. Many years later, when the pandavas lost Draupathi in the game of dice and Kauravas were removing her saari, Krishna helped her divinely elongating the saari so that they could not remove it.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi
The demon king Mahabali was a great devotee of lord Vishnu. Because of his immense devotion, Vishnu has taken the task of protecting bali’s Kingdom leaving his normal place in Vikundam. Goddess lakshmi – the wife of lord Vishnu – has became sad because of this as she wanted lord Vishnu along with her. So she went to Bali and discussed as a Brahmin woman and taken refuge in his palace. On Shravana purnima, she tied Rakhi on King Bali’s wrist. Goddess Lakshmi ord Vishnu to accompany her to vaikuntam. Due to this festival is also called Baleva as Bali Raja’s devotion to the Lord vishnu. It is said that since that day it has become a tradition to invite sisters on sravan pournima to tie sacred thread of Rakhi or Raksha bandan.
In India, Rakhi celebrations are about strengthening the bond of love between brothers and sisters and fostering brotherhood. This festival is not a ritual, custom and tradition that can change over time but its style of celebration has become contemporary. Since ages, Raksha Bandhan is being celebrated in the same way. All the traditions are followed with the same enthusiasm. The gaieties have only blown up to a larger scale. Rakhi festival is the celebration of the chaste bond of love amongst the siblings.
Everyone start preparing for this festival much in advance. About a month before the commencement of raksha bandhan, you can see fancy and colorful rakhis in every market. Ladies start shopping for rakhi and rakhi gifts quite early. They shop for new clothes and beautiful rakhi gifts specially the one that have to be sent to their brothers staying far. Almost every shop, be it sweet shops, garment shops, gift shops, or any other shop, all are flooded with attractive rakhi gifts to attract people.
The celebration of Rakhi, in India, is well known for its carnival spirit and strengthening the bond of love between brothers and sisters. In fact, India is globally known for its colorful festivals and ever-green tradition. Celebrated with different rituals, family get-together and sweets, Raksha Bandhan is about sentiments, love and enjoyment. Like any other festival, rakhi has its unique significance.
On the day of Rakhi festival, the festivity of this auspicious day begin by the day break. After taking bath early morning, people get ready by wearing new clothes and gather for worshiping. After invoking the the blessings of the Gods, the sister performs brother’s arti, puts tika and chawal on his forehead and ties Rakhi amongst chanting of mantras. Sisters whole heartedly give sweets to their brothers to eat which in turns add more sweetness in the Raksha Bandhan celebration and pray for their well being. In return, brothers pamper their sisters and present beautiful gifts to lure them. They also promise to take care of her and stand by her side in any circumstances.
After performing all these rituals, the whole family reunion to enjoy and have fun. Then all of them share the delicious food, tasty sweets, gifts, music and dance. It is a day to remember all the memorable time spent together for those who, for any reason, are far away from their family. Emotions can also be expressed through e-mails, e-cards, rakhi greeting cards and rakhi through Internet. The overflowing emotions of siblings cannot be stopped on this day.
Rabindra Nath Tagore started gathering of people like ‘Rakhi Mahotsavas’ in Shantiniketan to propogate the feeling of brotherhood among people. He believed that the this will invoke trust and feeling of peaceful coexistence. Raksha Bandhan, for them, is a way to harmonize the relationship of humanity. The tradition continues as people started tying rakhis to the neighbor and friends.