Fast, Fair and Festivals of India Fast, Fair and Festivals of India
Significance : Brothers protect their Sisters from Evil
Falls on : August - September
Raksha Bhandan is celebrated on the full-moon day in the month of Sravana (July-August). The festival of Raksha Bandhan symbolises love, affection and the feeling of brotherhood. On this day, sisters tie an amulet, the Rakhi, around the right wrist of their brothers praying for their long life and happiness. Raksha means protection, and in some places in medieval India, where women felt unsafe, they tied Rakhi round the wrists of men they could count upon, regarding them as brothers. The tradition of tying a thread or "rakhi" around the wrist to convey different feelings has been coming down through the ages since the vedic times.
Legend - The Origin of Raksha Bandhan
The origin of Raksha Bandhan is not really known but there is a popular legend, which goes like this. There was a fierce battle between the Gods and the demons in which the demons seemed to be in a favorable position. Indra, the king of gods, became anxious and asked Bruhaspathi to suggest a way out. Meanwhile, Indrani (wife of Indra) who was around at the time of consultation spoke her mind even before Bruhaspati could strike upon an idea. She assured them of turning the tables in the gods' favor.
Next day was the Sravan Poornima. She consulted some old scriptures and prepared a talisman, which she tied to her husband's wrist. Indra went to the battlefield again and the enemies, who had seemed so powerful, now beat a quick retreat and the gods were victorious. Ever since, on Sravan Poornima day, the tradition of tying the thread began and it was believed that the persons would be blessed with health, wealth, happiness and victories.
Significance of the Tradition
The practice of Raksha Bandhan was also conspicuous with the Rajputs and history is replete with instances related to the significance of this tradition. At the time of war when the brave Rajput soldiers prepared to go to the battlefield, the women folk followed the ritual of tying a thread around their wrist after applying a dash of vermilion powder on their forehead. This was considered a sign of good omen and the ladies believed that it would protect their men from the enemy's blow and bring them victory.
Popular Stories
According to a popular story, the queen of Mewar, Maharani Karmavati, had to face the threat of Governor Bahadur Shah who laid siege on her kingdom. Unable to fight the army, she sent a rakhi to the Mughal king, Humayun. The Muslim emperor, who under normal circumstances would not have preferred to help a Hindu ruler, decided to protect her from the threat. Humayun reached Mewar at the nick of time when the queen was preparing for self- immolation. He chased Bahadur Shah and his men and restored the kingdom back to the queen of Mewar.
In another incident, when King Porous' wife tied a rakhi to the mighty Alexander who fought with her husband, Alexander the great became cowed down and the fierce battle ended in a treaty. That is the significance and power of the flimsy thread!
Raksha Bandhan Raksha Bandhan - The Bond Of Attraction
Over time however, the significance of rakhi moved on from battlefields to personal relations reflecting the bond of affection. Sisters tied rakhis to their brothers asking for protection. While the sisters also prayed for their brothers' welfare, the latter vowed to take care of them even if it called for some sacrifice on their part.
On the day of Raksha Bandhan, there is a lot of excitement among the girls. After an early bath, the sister invites her brother to wear the rakhi and reaffirm the bond of love. She applies `tilak' or vermilion powder on his forehead and ties the rakhi on the right hand. She then performs aarti and offers her brother some sweets. After she completes the traditional formalities, the brother gives her a gift as a token of his love and affection. It could be in the form of jewellery, new clothes, money or blessings too ! But its value is immeasurable!! Raksha Bandhan
Brahmins and Purohits similarly tie amulets round the wrists of their patrons and receive gifts. A Mantra is recited when the Rakhi or the silken thread is tied. The silken thread is charged with the power of the Mantra which is as follows:
"Yena baddho balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah; Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshey maa cchala maa chala."
The power of this Mantra protects the wearer from evil influences.
The Celebrations
The celebration of Raksha Bandhan is marked by happiness and excitement especially for young girls and women. Preparations for the festival begin well in advance. The markets wear a festive look with the colourful, ornate and dazzling 'Rakhis' hanging loose or put on display for sale in shops that specially come up for this occasion. You find them heaped on pushcarts too. Sweet marts also sell a variety of sweets for the festival.
The Rakhi thread, which was simple and unostentatious, gradually began to be embellished with beads, semi-precious stones, coloured or golden/silver threads, satin ribbons, floral motifs etc. Some of the Rakhis are very ostentatious and others have a simple, yet aesthetic look. Rakhis are available in different sizes, colours and shapes from the typical round ones to heart shaped, symbolising the bond of love.
Every year some novel ideas are introduced in the design of Rakhis. They come with small painted faces or made of spices like cardamoms and cloves or grains of rice, corn etc, perhaps to add more spice, colour, and variety to the traditional Rakhi. Sometimes Rakhis have tiny dolls made of fabric, straw or paper stuck on them. The myriad range of Rakhis is breathtaking and often the buyers who flock at these shops are left dazed at the display. The girls want to make the best choice and pick the most ornate pieces. After all it will adorn their brothers' wrists!