Raksha Bandhan is a festival that celebrates the bond between a brother and a sister in India, Nepal, and parts of the Indian subcontinent. On the day, the sister ties a sacred thread to her brother’s right hand. This sacred thread is called Rakhi. On this auspicious day, they promise that they shall always be there for each other.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the Hindi word “rakhi” (IPA: rākhī) derives from the Sanskrit “raksika” (IPA: rakṣikā) means protection.
The significance of the festival can be estimated from the fact that it strengthens the relationship between a brother and sister, a defining character of Indian society. Raksha Bandhan is a festival marked since ancient times and several mythological myths revolve around this custom. Indian history has several tales when brothers are said to have stepped up to protect their sisters during times of trouble. It is said that in ancient times, queens used to send Rakhi to their neighbors symbolizing brotherhood.
The festival gained its popularity when Rani Karnavati queen of Chittoor sent a Rakhi to Mughal emperor Humayun when she needed his help. This happened when there was a struggle between Rajputs and Mughals. Folklore has it that when Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor, sought help from Humayun when her state was in crisis against the attack of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. Due to the respect for the thread, Humayun immediately sent his army to Chittor to protect her.
Another story in history says when Draupadi ties Rakhi to Lord Krishna. It believed that Draupadi once tore a strip of her saree and tied it on Krishna’s wrist, which stopped the bleeding in the wrist of the Lord from a battlefield wound. Lord Krishna declares Draupadi as his sister. Later, Lord Krishna protects her when she was abused by the Kauravas in front of Pandavas.
Raksha Bandhan also finds its links to the birth of Goddess Santoshi. The relationship between Goddess Laxmi and King Bali shared among many other tales of similar nature. There is also a belief that Raksha Bandhan was even followed by Lord Yama (God of Death) and his sister the Yamuna (river). The Yamuna tied Rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality.
Whatever be the tales or myths associated with the festival, all celebrate with full fervor with a touch of modern trends. The importance of Rakhi has not limited to common people and their families even politicians consider this festival as an important tradition. Every year thousands of Rakhis are sent to President, Prime Minister, and prominent personalities across the country.
When is celebrated?
According to the Hindu Calendar, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon of the Savan month. The Savan month is considered an auspicious period among Hindus, and Lord Shiva is worshipped every Monday this entire time.