The festival of Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi celebrates the fraternal bond between brothers and sisters. Translated in English, Raksha Bandhan means the bond of protection. This festival is mostly celebrated by Hindus. Initially, it was more popular in the states of northern and western India although these days Raksha Bandhan is celebrated all over the country.
When is Raksha Bandhan and how did it start?
Raksha Bandhan is observed on the full moon day (purnima) of the lunar month of Shravana. It is also known as Rakhi Purnima. According to the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Raksha Bandhand for 2015 will be celebrated on Saturday, 29 August.
The historical significance of Rakhi goes back a long way. It is believed that this festival became more popular after Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor, sent Humayun, the Mughal ruler, a rakhi seeking his protection and help.
There are other legends associated with this festival too such as the story of Goddess Lakshmi disguising herself as a poor Brahmin lady and visiting King Bali to tie a rakhi on his wrist. Then she revealed her true identity to the king, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, and asked him to request Lord Vishnu to return back with her to Vaikunth.
Observing Raksha Bandhan
On this day, sisters wish for the well-being of their brother and they tie a rakhi on their wrist. In return, the brother promises to protect his sisters from all evil and to look after them. In Indian families, as the extended family shares a close bond, even female cousins’ tie rakhis on their male cousins’ wrists. Even males who are not related to some women but are considered to be their brothers take part in this festival.
The rakhi is a holy thread that symbolizes the bond of love and protection between brothers and sisters. While this looks like a simple thread with some intricate designs and patterns on it, it stands for something more significant. It is treated as a symbolic physical link that will bind the brother and sister in love and familial bonds forever.
Apart from the tying of a rakhi, a small prayer is performed in the morning of Raksha Bandhan. This is followed by the tying of the rakhi while chanting some prayers. After the rakhi has been tied, the brother gives gifts to his sister. This may be money, clothing and chocolates and so on. Sweet meats are also shared as part of the celebration.
Like all Indian festivals, this is also an occasion for the entire family to get together and enjoy a meal in each other’s company. With many family members spread across the globe these days, rakhi cards and e-cards have become very popular. Many sisters post rakhis to their brothers. However it is celebrated, Raksha Bandhan is an acknowledgment of the bond and love between a brother and sister.