The chaste bond of love between a brother and a sister is one of the deepest and noblest
of human emotions. 'Raksha Bandhan' or 'Rakhi' is a special occasion to celebrate this
emotional bonding by tying a holy thread around the wrist. This thread, which pulsates
with sisterly love and sublime sentiments, is rightly called the Rakhi. It
means 'a bond of protection', and Raksha Bandhan signifies that the strong must protect
the weak from all thats evil.
The ritual is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravan, on which
sisters tie the sacred Rakhi string on their brothers' right wrists, and pray for their
long life. Rakhis are ideally made of silk with gold and silver threads, beautifully
crafted embroidered sequins, and studded with semi precious stones.
The Social Binding
This ritual not only strengthens the bond of love between brothers and sisters, but also
transcends the confines of the family. When a Rakhi is tied on the wrists of close friends
and neighbors, it underscores the need for a harmonious social life, where every
individual co-exist peacefully as brothers and sisters. All members of the community
commit to protect each other and the society in such congregational Rakhi Utsavs,
popularized by the Nobel laureate Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
The Friendly Knot
It wont be wrong to say the fashionable friendship band in vogue today is an
extension of the Rakhi custom. When a girl feels a friend of the opposite sex has
developed a kind of love too strong for her to reciprocate, she sends the guy a Rakhi and
turns the relationship into a sisterly one. This is one way of saying, "lets
just be friends", without hurting the other person's soft feelings for her.
The Auspicious Full Moon
In Northern India, Rakhi Purnima is also called Kajri Purnima or Kajri Navami, when wheat
or barley is sown, and goddess Bhagwati is worshipped. In Western states, the festival is
called Nariyal Purnima or the Coconut Full Moon. In Southern India, Shravan Purnima is an
important religious occasion, especially for the Brahmins.
Raksha Bandhan is known by various names: Vish Tarak - the destroyer of venom, Punya
Pradayak - the bestower of boons, and Pap Nashak - the destroyer of sins.
Rakhi in History
The strong bond represented by Rakhi has resulted in innumerable political ties among
kingdoms and princely states. The pages of Indian history testify that the Rajput and
Maratha queens have sent Rakhis even to Mughal kings who, despite their differences, have
assuaged their Rakhi-sisters by offering help and protection at critical moments and
honoured the fraternal bond. Even matrimonial alliances have been established between
kingdoms through the exchange of Rakhis.
History has it that the great Hindu King Porus refrained from striking Alexander, the
Great because the latters wife had approached this mighty adversary and tied a Rakhi
on his hand, prior to the battle, urging him not to hurt her husband.
Rituals like Rakhi, there is no doubt, help ease out various societal strains, induce
fellow-feeling, open up channels of expression, give us an opportunity to rework on our
role as human beings and, most importantly, bring joy in our mundane lives.
May all be happy
May all be free from ills
May all behold only the good
May none be in distress.
This has always been the idea of an ideal Hindu society.
According to one mythological allusion, Rakhi was intended to be the worship of the
sea-god Varuna. Hence, offerings of coconut to Varuna, ceremonial bathing and fairs at
waterfronts accompany this festival.
There are also myths that describe the ritual as observed by Indrani and Yamuna for their
respective brothers Indra and Yama.
Once, Lord Indra stood almost vanquished in a long-drawn battle against the demons. Full
of remorse, he sought the advice of Guru Brihaspati, who suggested for his sortie the
auspicious day of Shravan Purnima (fullmoon day of the month of Shravan). On that day,
Indra's wife and Brihaspati tied a sacred thread on the wrist of Indra, who then attacked
the demon with renewed force and routed him.
Thus the Raksha Bhandhan symbolizes all aspects of protection of the good from evil
forces. Even in the great epic Mahabharata, we find Krishna advising Yudhishtthir to tie
the puissant Rakhi to guard himself against impending evils.
In the ancient Puranik scriptures, it is said that King Bali's stronghold had been the
Raakhi. Hence while tying the rakhi this couplet is usually recited:
Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala
"I am tying a Rakhi on you, like the one on mighty demon king Bali. Be firm, O Rakhi,
do not falter."