Raksha bandhan- the celebration of love and brotherhood
One of the most important festivals of India that has a deep religious significance is undoubtedly Raksha bandhan. This is a day that celebrates the bond of love between a brother and a sister. Interestingly, over a period of time this day celebrates not only the love between biological siblings but also one when a similar relationship exists between a man and a woman. Popularly known as Rakhi or Rakhi Purnima, this festival is widely popular amongst the Sikhs, Jains and Hindus. Although this is particularly an Indian festival, the occasion of Rakhi has also been preferred and observed in parts of Mauritius and Nepal. The festival is celebrated by several Sikhs and Hindus residing in Pakistan, and by others of Indian origin from across the world.
It’s an ancient festival and has several historic legends and myths associated with it. The Raj put queens in the ancient times, used to send Rakhi bands to the kings and rulers of neighboring kingdoms, as a token of friendship and brotherhood. On the day of Rakhi Purnima, sisters tie a sacred thread on their brother’s wrist, known as Rakhi. This thread symbolizes the sister’s prayers and love for the well being of their brothers. On the other hand, the thread is symbols of vow for the brothers to lifelong protect their sisters from all kinds of evil. This festival is celebrated on Shravan Purnima, or full moon day of the Shravan month according to the Hindu solar calendar.
On the morning of the festival, the brothers and sisters of every family get up early, dress in new and nice clothes. According to the actual norms of Rakhi every family member needs to be present in the ceremony. In modern times, when siblings are geographically separated, they mail the sacred thread or Rakhi to their beloved brothers, and in return the brothers send gifts as a token of their appreciation. The ceremony commences in front of a lighted candle or diya, signifying fire deity. During the ceremony the sisters chant prayers typical to different regions of the country for the well being of their elder or younger brothers. In some cases especially in rural regions of India, members of more than one family get along to celebrate the occasion.
It is mandatory for the brothers to give a return gift to their sisters which could be something thoughtful, money, clothes cards and so on. On this particular day, brothers also feed their sisters with their own hands which could be seasonal delicacies, dry fruits, or sweets. It is significant for the brother to wear the Rakhi for the entire day as a reminder of their sister’s love and respect. In modern times, the occasion of Rakhi has matured into a broader context as a multicultural event. Several people now prefer priests to tie the sacred threads to the congregation member’s wrists. Rakhi is very similar to the western custom of tying friendship bands on Friendship’s day. With modernization several Muslim families have viewed the ceremony as a multicultural event and thus participate in it.