What is Raksha Bandhan?
The Raksha Bandhan is one of the purest ancient Hindu festivals celebrated every year to honor the inseparable bond of a brother and a sister. Raksha Bandhan symbolizes the bond of love, support, care, and protection siblings inculcate for the lifetime. While the relationship is unconditional and extraordinary, there is a special place for the festival in the Hindu community because we have a day dedicated to sibling love.
Why do we celebrate Raksha Bandhan?
The celebration of Raksha Bandhan is a sacred festival of togetherness. Raksha means to protect and Bandhan means relationship.
In some parts of medieval India, where women felt unsafe, they used to tie Rakhi to men they respected and regarded as brothers. The sacred thread is believed to have relevance in strengthening the emotional bond between the two.
The day begins with a ritual, during which sisters tie a sacred thread or colorful rakhi on their brother’s wrists. After performing a traditional aarti, they ask for their brother’s well-being, health, and prosperity from the god. Then sisters apply a red tilak on their forehead. And the brothers keep their hands on the sister’s head promising to guide and support her throughout her life.
Among some communities like Marwari and Rajasthani, there is a ritual to tie “Lumba or Lumba rakhi” on the bangle of a sister-in-law. As the wife is believed to be the better half of the brother, the festival is incomplete without her. Like she shares the responsibility of the husband, she also promises to protect and safeguard her amidst the tough times. This ritual is likewise growing in other Indian communities.
There would be a time when brothers used to offer a ‘Shagun’ (cash) as a token of love and respect. Now the market is boxed with trendy and contemporary gifts replaced for Shagun especially on occasions like Bhai Dooj and Raksha Bandhan. And why not? Spoiling your sister with her favorite dress or accessory or jewelry shows how much you love and adore her.
The Raksha Bandhan history and significance
In Hindu Mythology there is a plethora of evidence regarding the celebration of the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan.
The story of Krishna and Draupadi.
The story is from Mahabharata times when Lord Krishna’s finger got injured in the battle and Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas tore a piece of her saree and tied it on his finger to prevent bleeding. Lord Krishna was overwhelmed by her sisterly affection and concern. He promised to protect her in the debt of gratitude for her gesture. Years later Pandavas lost her wife in the dice game to Kauravas, who attempted to strip off her saree. Lord Krishna protected her dignity through his divine powers and saved her.
Indra Dev and Sachi
According to the Bhavishya Purana, there was a battle between the Gods and Demons. Lord Indra- the deity of sky, rains, and thunderbolts was battling on the sides of Gods against Demon King Bali. As the war was not coming to an end; Indra’s wife Sachi decided to ask Lord Vishnu for help, who gave her a bracelet made of cotton thread. Sachi tied the holy thread around the wrist of Lord Indra who was then able to defeat the demons and win Amravati.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi
According to Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, demon King Bali was the devotee of Lord Vishnu. Seeing his devotion Lord Vishnu decided to protect his kingdom by staying along with him. Lord Vishnu’s wife, Goddess Lakshmi got sad having him go. She went to Bali disguised as a Brahmin woman and tied a sacred thread on King Bali’s wrist on a full moon day called Shravan Purnima. Then later she revealed the reason why she had come. King Bali was so moved by her concern and affection for the family that he requested Lord Vishnu to go along with her wife to their place.
It is known that Lord Ganesha had no daughter but two sons. The brothers Shubh and Labh were a little upset about this. Lord Narada then persuaded Lord Ganesha to listen to his son’s request for a sister. This is how Lord Ganesha through his divine powers created Santoshi Maa. The two sons were blessed with a sister on the auspicious occasion which is now celebrated as Raksha Bandhan.
Yama and the Yamuna
Another mythological attribution to Raksha Bandhan is the bond of Yama and Yamuna. Yama, the God of death, did not visit her sister for a long time for some reason. The Goddess Ganga then persuaded Yama to see his sister the Yamuna, who was very upset at not meeting Yama for so long. Yama got so happy with her hospitality that he asked her for a gift. The Yamuna then expressed her desire to meet him again and again in the future. He got so overwhelmed that he blessed her with immortality.
Queen Karnawati and Emperor Humayun
In medieval times, the Raksha Bandhan festival was wholeheartedly committed to the protection of one’s sister. The story of Rajputana Queen Karnavati and Mughal Emperor Humayun also signifies the relevance of Rakhi in those times. Back then, Rajputs were battling to protect their kingdom from Muslims. Karnawati, the widowed queen of King Chittor was unable to rescue her land from the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah. She then opted to send a Rakhi thread to Humayun who was so moved by her gesture that he left the land without any act of fury.
Alexander the Great and King Puru
This is one of the oldest references to the occasion of Raksha Bandhan back in 3oo B.C when India was conquered by King Alexander of Macedonia. On seeing the loss of her husband’s pride, the wife of the Indian King Puri sent a Rakhi thread to Alexander who knew the relevance of the sacred thread in Indian culture. He lovingly accepted her sisterly gift and abstained from any war against Alexander.
What is the date of Raksha Bandhan?
Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in India and other countries like Nepal every year. According to Hindu Mythology, Raksha Bandhan in India falls on the last day of the lunar calendar month of Shravan. In 2021, the Raksha Bandhan festival will be celebrated on 22nd August.
Raksha Bandhan in 2021: What do we need to learn from the festival?
The occasion of Raksha Bandhan asks for a lifetime practice of cultural and moral values by humans. The values and sentiments imputed to the bond of men and women are worth inculcated by humanity. Women today are not considered safe and secure because of the existence of non peaceful elements in society. Men today need to understand that the occasion of Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of protection, the protection which is not restricted to their sisters but all the women in the world. Let’s learn the importance of Raksha Bandhan and bring back the wonderful emotional bond men and women share in the form of brother-sister and husband-wife.