Incredible India, the land of festivals, has a festival to rejoice in every kind of human bond and relationship. Raksha Bandhan is one such festival that felicitates the subliminal bond of unconditional love between a brother and a sister. Also known as Rakhi Purnima, this festival falls on the Full Moon day, known as Poornima, in the month of Shravan as per Hindu Lunar Calendar. This year in 2020, Rakshabandhan will be celebrated on August 03. Rakhi, being a secular festival, is celebrated across India, irrespective of state, caste, and religion. It is also celebrated in Mauritius and Nepal.
The literal meaning of Raksha Bandhan is the bond of protection. On this pious occasion brothers and sisters promise eternal love for each other. Sisters tie a sacred thread on the wrist of their brothers and pray for their long life. In return, the brothers take a vow to protect their sisters from every untoward happening and obstacle and also give their sisters a gift.
There is a legend associated with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, which goes like this:
As per the accounts from the epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, once in the company of the Pandavas, was flying kites, when he cut his finger on the thread. Draupadi, to stop the bleeding, immediately tore a piece of her attire and tied it around the finger. Lord Krishna was touched by this gesture of love and promised lifelong protection to Draupadi. It is believed that when the Kauravas were trying to shame Draupadi by stripping her in public, it is this small piece of cloth that Krishna increased in number and size to keep covering her while she was being stripped.
Another interesting legend associated with Raksha Bandhan is the bond of love between the brother and sister, Lord Yama, the God of Death, and Yamuna, the river. As per mythology, Yamuna once tied a thread on the wrist of Lord Yama, to symbolise the eternal love that they shared as siblings. Lord Yama was touched by this gesture and while granting her protection and immortality, also promised that he would bless every brother who protected his sister with a long life.
It is also believed that Lord Ganesha had created Goddess Santoshi out of divine flames as his sons Shubh and Labh had insisted that they wanted a sister. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated to rejoice this divine relationship between Shubh, Labh and Goddess Santoshi.
The Symbolic Colours of Rakhi
Yellow, Orange and Red are the favoured colours of the Rakhi festival, which symbolises love and loyalty. Rabindranath Tagore included the colour white to these colours, which saw the bond of love between siblings transcend from blood relationships to friendships.
Rakhi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the following ways:
- Sisters head out to the markets to buy the choicest Rakhi for their brothers well in advance so that they can send the Rakhi by post if the brothers live far away, while the brothers start surveying the market for gifts for their sisters which suits their pockets and budgets.
- In this day of the internet, the concept of sending rakhis and gifts directly through online stores is also fast catching up. Some even opt for virtual rakhis instead of real ones.
- It is a scenario of great festivity in all the houses on the day of rakhi, where the entire family tries to get together. Family members flaunt new clothes, and women and girls apply henna on the palms. There are sweets galore and a carnival spirit in all the homes.
- After worshipping the family deity, the sisters perform brother’s arti and apply tilak and rice on the forehead as a blessing. In return, the brother promises lifelong protection and gives a gift to the sister.
- Post-Independence Rabindranath Tagore initiated the ‘Rakhi Mahotsavas’ in Shantiniketan, with the idea of propagating the feeling of universal brotherhood, and peaceful coexistence. Here Rakhi symbolises harmony in human relationships.
- The armed forces are also not forgotten on this day. The men in uniform, who are out there protecting the interests of the nation as well as the citizens, are felicitated on this day, as the locals near the border area go and tie the thread of utmost respect on the wrist of the soldiers.
The Modern Concept of Rakhi
Raksha Bandhan is no longer limited to blood relations or for that matter the love between a brother and a sister. Today, even sisters tie each other rakhi with a promise of lifelong love and protection, while friends celebrate this festival with a promise of eternal love and loyalty. Today Raksha Bandhan encompasses a larger perspective including a lifetime practice of moral, cultural and spiritual values.
Any relationship transcends the boundaries of specific dates and festivals. However, festivals are just an excuse to shed the mundane daily routine and celebrate life and love with great gusto and fervour. Here is to wishing everyone Universal Brotherhood and Love. Happy Raksha Bandhan!!