Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raksha Bandhan – The Bond of Rakhi That Defines the Love between a Brother and a Sister

Sister Tying Rakhi Around Brother's Wrist

Raksha bandhan is the festival when the sacred thread of rakhi is tied around the wrist of the brother by his sister. Raksha bandhan festival or the rakhi festival is thus the celebration of the unconditional love and affection between brothers and sisters. Sisters start the preparation of rakhi festival a fortnight before. They buy rakhis, rakhi sweets, rakhi gifts and rakhi thalis to celebrate the occasion with their brother. Raksha bandhan means a bond of protection which the sister ties around the wrist of her brother asking her to protect her.

When is rakhi celebrated?
Rakhi festival usually falls in the month of August. The 2010 raksha bandhan falls on 24th August.  

History of raksha bandhan festival
Raksha bandhan is traditionally a Hindu festival which originated some 6000 years back when the Indus Valley Civilization came into existence. During the reign of Emperor Humayun, when the Rajputs were fighting the Muslim invaders, rakhi meant a spiritual bond of protecting the sisters. Rani Karnawati sent rakhi to Emperor Humayun to protect herself and her kingdom from invader Bahadur Shah. Another account of rakhi has been found as long back as 300 B.C when the wife of Alexander the Great had sent rakhi to King Puru so that he would protect her marriage by not killing her husband in the war. Rakhi festival or rakhi utsav was all the more popularized by Rabindranath Tagore for promoting unity and commitment amongst all the members of the society.

Rakhi Bazaar
Legends of raksha bandhan festival
There are several raksha bandhan legends. It is believed that during a fierce war between the demons and the Gods, Lord Indra and his queen Indrani tied rakhi around Lord Brihaspati’s wrist powered by mantras and he in turn made the Gods victorious in the war. There’s another legend where the demon king Bali, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu was tied a rakhi by Goddess Lakshmi. Yamuna, the sister of Lord Yama or the Lord of Death had also tied her brother the sacred of knot of rakhi and this impressed him so much that he declared whoever would get a rakhi tied by Yamuna and would pledge to protect her, he would become immortal. It is said that even draupadi had tied a strip of cloth around Krishna’s wrist to stop his arm from bleeding in a fight against an evil king. This strip of cloth became the seed of brotherly and sisterly affection between Draupadi and Lord Krishna.
Rakhi Pooja Thali

Raksha bandhan traditions and customs
The preparation of rakhi festival begins with the rakhi puja thali. The rakhi or the raksha bandhan puja thali comprises rice grains, incense sticks, sweets, diyas or earthen lamps, roli, tilak and rakhi threads. All the family members take bath and the sisters prepare the rakshabandhan puja thali after that. Then, the family offers prayers to the deities. After that, the sisters perform aarti and tie rakhis around their brothers’ wrists. Then, they apply a tilak of kumkum powder on their brothers’ foreheads and offer rakhi sweets to them. The entire ritual takes place with the sister reciting some special mantras. In return, the brothers offer rakhi gifts to their sisters.

Rakhi Sweets
Regional rakhi celebrations
Due to numerous legends and different histories, the festival of raksha bandhan is celebrated in different ways in different parts of India. Thus, the raksha bandhan festival has various names across the entire Indian subcontinent. The rakshabandhan festival is more popular as rakhi purnima in the north and North West part of India. Nariyal purnima is popular along the Western Ghats and celebrated with great festive fervor in Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and also Karnataka. In Gujarat, Rakshabandhan day is also celebrated as Pavitropana. Avani Avittam or Upakarmam festival is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Orissa. Rakshabandhan is more famous as Kajari Purnima or Shravani in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Picture source: thecolorsofindia.com, talash.com, giftstoindia24x7.com, toursoperatorindia.com

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