Raksha Bandhan (which in Hindi means the bond of protection ) or Rakhi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the sublime bondage of love between brothers and sisters. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shraavana and in 2007; the auspicious occasion will be celebrated on August 28.
The ceremony or ritual, so to say, on the Raksha Bandhan day revolves round tying of the Rakhi thread. Sisters tie the sacred thread around the brothers right wrist, praying for their long life and well-being. Brothers too lavish gifts on their sisters, pledging to protect them and take every care of them.
The festivity of Raksha Bandhan is believed to have mythological origin. A legend has that Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had torn a strip off her sari and tied it around Krishna s wrist, which was left bleeding by the chakra (blade) he had used to severe the head of Shishupala during the Rajsuya Yagya. Lord Krishna was so moved by Draupadi s gesture that he promised to repay this debt manifold. When years later Draupadi was being humiliated in the royal court by her evil brother-in-law Duryodhan (and Dushshashan who was trying to disrobe her), she prayed to Krishna for help and he elongated the sari by his divine powers. Draupadi was saved from being disgraced publicly.
Another legend linked to the origin of Raksha Bandhan is based on Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna. It is believed that Yamuna tied Rakhi to Yama, bestowing immortality on him. Yama was so overwhelmed that he made a declaration that a brother who gets a Rakhi tied from his sister and promises her protection will become immortal.
Raksha Bandhan is thus not bound by blood relations. It transcending family barriers and women tie Rakhis to their cousins, friends, and neighbors. In fact, any male member of the society can be adopted as a brother by a woman if she ties a Rakhi. Indian history is replete with stories when a woman has sent a Rakhi and adopted a brother, finding her safety and security at risk. Thus, Rani Karnavati of Chittaur adopted Mughal Emperor Humayun as her brother seeking protection from him by sending him a Rakhi when her territory was under threat. Humayun immediately came to her rescue.
Celebrations In Contemporary India
In the present times, Raksha Bandhan commemorates social kinship and solidarity. It is a symbol of harmonious co-existence as brothers and sisters, each promising to protect and help each other. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had organized congregational Raksha Bandhan to promote brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims so that they could oppose the partition of Bengal as a united force.