Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan ‘is a special occasion to celebrate the emotional bond between a sister and her brother.  She ties a holy thread around his wrist.  The chaste bond of love between a brother and a sister is one of the deepest and noblest of human emotions.  This thread pulsates with sisterly love and sublime sentiments.  It is rightly called the ‘Rakhi’.  It means ‘a bond of protection’.  It signifies that the strong must protect the weak from all that is evil.
In olden times, Rakhis were cotton or silken threads.  These days they are specially made of different materials, suitably studded.  Among the rich and prosperous, new age Rakhis have precious stones.  Rakhis are worn only for a day or two.  After that the precious stones are fixed in ornaments. The ritual is observed on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravan. On that day, sisters tie the sacred Rakhi string on their brothers’ right wrists, and pray for their long lives.

Social Importance

This ritual strengthens the bond of love between brothers and sisters.  It also transcends the confines of the family.  When a Rakhi is tied on the wrists of close friends andneighbours, it underscores the need for a harmonious social life.  In this every individual co-exists peacefully as brother and sister.  All members of the community commit to protect each other.  Some groups or societies organize special Rakhi utsavs.  Rabindranath Tagore started his custom.

The Friendly Knot

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 boy a Rakhi.  It turns the relationship into a sisterly one.  This is one way of saying, “let’s just be friends”.  The boy may have had crush on the girl.  The offer of a Rakhi has a salutary effect.

The auspicious Full Moon

In Northern India, Rakhi Purnima is also called Kajri Purnima or Kajri Navami. 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 Brahimins.
Raksha Bandhan is know by various names: Vih Tarak – the destroyer of venom, Punya Prakayak – the bestow of boon, and Paap Nashak – the destroyer of sins.

Places of Rakhi in Indian History

The strong bond represented by Rakhi has resulted in innumerable political ties among kingdoms and princely sates.  The pages of Indian history testify that the Rajput and Maratha queens have sent Rakhis even to Mughal kings.  They, 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 or Rakhis.
Rakhis have many a times put an end to enmities between kingdoms.  According to history, Alexander’s wife had tied a Rakhi on the wrist of King Porus.  She had urged him not to hurt Alexander.  In the battle when Alexander was on the ground before Porus, Porus did not kill him.  He let Alexander go.  He did not violate his vow given to his Rakhi sister.  History says Porus lost the battle.

Why Rakhi?

Rituals like Rakhi help ease various societal strains. These induce fellow-feeling and open up channels of expression.  They also give us an opportunity to rework on our role as human beings.  Most importantly, they bring joy in our mundane lives.
“May all be happy
May all be free from ills
May al behold only the good
May none be in distress.”
This has always been the idea of an ideal Hindu society.

Rakhi Folklores

According to one mythological allusion, Rakhi was intended ot be the worship of the sea-god Varuna. Hence, coconuts are offered 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 brothers Indra ad Yama.  Once, Lord Indra stood almost vanquished in a long-drawn battle agains the demons.  Full of remorse, he sought the advice of Guru Brihaspati.  The Guru suggested for his sortie the auspicious day of Shravan Purnima (full moon day of the month of Shravan).
On that day, Indra’s wife and Brihaspati tied a sacred thred on the wrist of Indra.  He then attacked the demons with renewed force and routed them.  Thus the Raksha Bhandhan symbolises all aspects of protection of the good from evil forces.  Even in thegreat epic Mahabharata, we find Krishna advisiting Yudhisjarata to tie the puissant Rakhi, to guard himself against impending evils.
In the ancient Puranik scriptures, it is said that King Bali’s strength had been the Raakhi.