Significance of ‘Raksha Bandhan’

via V.N. Gopalakrishnan published on July 27, 2009

V.N. Gopalakrishnan

Raksha Bandhan festival falls on August 5 this year. Rakha Bandhan symbolizes unconditional love between brothers and sisters and spreads harmony and brings in family bondage.

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Shravana (July-August). The festival underlines the notion that everybody should live in harmonious coexistence with each other. It is being celebrated with joy and fervor. Exchange of gifts among dear ones make this occasion a sweet remembrance.

The festival holds immense significance in India and the custom of celebrating Raksha Bandhan started from time immemorial. On Raksha Bandhan (raksha means protection and bandhan means tie), sisters tie rakhi, a bracelet made of thread of different colours, on their brothers’ wrist. The elder brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her while an elder sister returns offers to her younger brother.

Rakhi symbolises the unconditional love between brothers and sisters and it binds the most beautiful relationship in an inseparable bond of love and trust. It spreads harmony and brings together the family members. On the Raksha Bandhan day, sisters pray for long life of their brothers and ask God to bless them.  Brothers, in turn, give them gifts and promise life-long care. Traditionally, the brother and sister feed each other sweets.

It is not necessary that the rakhi can be given only to a brother by birth. Instead any male can be ‘adopted’ as a brother by tying a rakhi on the person i.e. ‘blood brothers and sisters’, whether they are cousins or friends. When a girl or woman ties a rakhi around the hand of a boy or man it means he will protect her from all dangers.

Indian history is replete with women asking for protection, through rakhi, from men who were neither their brothers, nor Hindus themselves. This protection thread saves from sins and removes diseases. By tying this thread, protection is afforded for a full one year and all kinds of fears are removed. It is said that while tying the rakhi, both sister and brother should pray for strength to protect the nation and Dharma.

Rakhi is celebrated as Rakhi Purnima in North India as well as in parts of Northwest India. The word “Purnima” means a full moon night. In Western India and parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa this day is celebrated as Nariyal Purnima. On this day, an offering of a coconut (nariyal) is made to the sea, as a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Nariyal Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fishermen, who depend on the sea for a living, make an offering to Lord Varuna so that they can reap bountiful fish from the sea. In parts of Gujarat, this day is celebrated as Pavitropana and people perform puja and worship of Lord Shiva on this day.

In Southern and Central parts of India including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Orissa, this day is celebrated by the Brahmin community as Avani Avittam. In Karnataka, this day is celebrated as Upakarma by Yajurvedis when they commence the Vedic studies. As part of the Upakarma ritual, they also change their sacred threads.
In Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkand and Bihar, this day is celebrated as Kajari Purnima. It is an important day for the farmers and women blessed with a son. The preparations of the Kajari festival start on the ninth day after Shravana Amavasya.

Bhavishya Purana refers to a battle between gods and demons. In the battle, Indra, the King of Devtas lost his kingdom to Vritra, the Asura demon. At that time, Sachi, Indra’s wife at the behest of Guru Brihaspati took a thread, charged it with mantras or sacred verses and tied it on Indra’s hand to ensure his victory. Through the strength of this thread, Indra is said to have conquered his enemies.

It is believed that during the Rajasuya yagya Lord Krishna was left with a bleeding finger. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna’s wrist to stop the flow of blood. Touched by her act of compassion, Lord Krishna had declared himself bound to her. He also promised to repay the debt and spent the next 25 years of his life doing just that. Though the daughter of a powerful monarch, sister to a legendary warrior, and wife to five powerful Pandavas, Krishna remained the only man Draupati could ever truly depend on.

During the Middle Ages, if a woman tied a Rakhi on the hand of any man, then it became imperative for him, as his religious duty, to protect the honour of that woman even by risking his life.

(Author is the Director of a PR consultancy firm. He can be contacted on [email protected])

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