Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan (or Raksha Bandhana) is a Hindu festival that celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters, and families, on the full moon of the Hindu month of Shravana (Shravan Poornima), or around July and August. This day is also called Brother and Sister Day.

A Rakhi is exchanged between brother and sister as a symbol of protection.

©iStockphoto.com/ajaykampani

What Do People Do?

The festivities of Rakhi Bandhan begin at day break where people wear new clothes and gather for worship. Traditionally, the sister ties a rakhi or raksha bandhan, a bracelet made of interwoven red and gold threads and amulets, around their brother’s wrists while offering a prayer of happiness and prosperity. The brother then offers his sister gifts such as a piece of jewelry or money, while promising to protect her under any circumstances. During this exchange, the brother and sister traditionally offer each other sweets.

After performing all these rituals, the whole family gathers together to enjoy in the festivities. They celebrate with food, sweets, gifts, music and dance. It is a day to reflect on family memories as well as other family members who live far away.

In Nepal, the festival is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists. The Brahmins put the rakhis around everyone’s wrist and it is worn until Diwali.

Public Life

Raksha Bandhan is a restricted holiday in India, so government offices and many businesses are closed on this day. It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Background

Raksha Bandhan is based on the battle between the deities and the demons where the king of the deities, Lord Indra feared that they were going to lose to the demons. The wife of the king, Indrani (Shashikala) prepared a sacred thread with her religious power and tied it around her husband’s right wrist in hopes that it would protect him from the demons. Her hopes came true when the deities defeated the demons later that day and Lord Indra returned to her safely.

The occasion involves more than a celebration among brothers and sisters but also a pledge of moral, cultural and spiritual values. The festival and rituals of Raksha Bandhan has become so important to Hindus that brothers and sisters try to visit each other in order to bring back the solidarity of the family, binding the family together in an emotional bond of love.

Symbols

Rakhi has been a symbol of seeking help or protection from the powerful ones by the weaker ones. The translation behind this ceremony comes from the word Raksha meaning protection and Bandhan meaning the verb to tie.  The Raksha bandhan or rakhi symbolizes a “thread of protection”.

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