Raksha Bandhan is an unspoken pledge exchanged between a brother and sister cementing their fraternal relationship. This also reinforces their protective bond against all ills and odds. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the day of Shravan Poornima that falls in the month of August every year. On this very day, the sisters tie a delicate, sometimes decorated, thread on the wrist of their brothers as a symbol of love and affection. This makes the brothers bound to protect their sisters from any trouble or wound. The chanting of a holy mantra by the sisters while tying the thread says, "I am tying a Raksha to you, similar to the one tied to Bali, the powerful king of the demons. Oh Raksha, be firm, do not waver". The mantra recalls how the demon king Bali had become very powerful with the Rakhi on. The power of the mantra is supposed to protect the wearer from evil influences. This shows how dependent and secure a sister feels when she has a brother. Tying this Rakhi or Raksha signifies the re-strengthening of the bond between the siblings of opposite sexes.
Time of The Year
Raksha Bandhan is the most awaited festival of the year for every girl. It is celebrated in the month of August on the full-moon day known as the Shravan Poornima in India. The celebration of this festival is followed according to the Indian calendar, and hence the month in the English calendar varies every year.
The brothers get special attention on Raksha Bandhan day. The entire day is fun filled and full of happiness. The homes are cleaned and the sisters, taking an early bath, wait for their brothers to get ready to let their sisters tie the holy thread of Rakhi. The brothers also present their sisters with gifts after she ties the Rakhi on her dear brother's wrist.
Raksha Bandhan day starts with a festive mood in every Indian home. Rakhis are made or bought a day before the festival. Traditional goodies and dishes are prepared early in the morning. After an early bath, the offering Puja (worshipping of god) takes place. The sister then offers "aarti" (a traditional way of worshipping) to her brother and ties the thread on his right wrist. Traditional "tilak" or vermilion powder on the forehead of the brother is put and the brother blesses the sister. The tradition of giving gifts and presents is also an important part of this festival. The brother gifts his sister a gift after she ties the Rakhi on his wrist. This gift acts as a token of love and affection of the brother towards the sister. Sometimes sisters also demand for a gift of their own choice to keep it as a loving memory of that very day. Nevertheless, giving gifts is not a must tradition. The blessing bestowed by the brother itself is regarded as the biggest gift for the sisters. Treating her brother along with her entire family, with the goodies and eatables that has been prepared follows next. Thus, the normal rituals are followed with great devotion and dedication. The Rakhi celebration differs from region to region.
There are many legends that signify the importance of Rakhi in India. Touching tales of women seeking protection from heroes of the contemporary period, via the Raksha, abound in the country. Legend goes that once Indra, the Pauranic King of the Heavens, while warring with the Daitya-Raaja (demon king) was confronted with reverses. Humbled, he sought the advice of Brihaspati, the Guru. On the auspicious occasion of Shravan Poornima, both Shachee Devi or Indrani, the consort of Indra and Brihaspati, the Guru of the Gods, tied silken amulets popularly known as Raksha on Indra's wrist. Subsequently, Indra vanquished the Daitya-Raaja and reestablished sovereignty over his celestial abode.
It is said that at one time, Alexander's wife approached the mighty Hindu adversary, Pururaja, and sought assurance of her husband's life by tying the Rakhi on Pururaja's hand. The story goes that just as Pururaja raised his hand to deliver a mortal blow to Alexander, he saw the Raksha and refrained from striking.
In yet another poignant instance, a Rajput princess sent a Rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun, enlisting his support against the onslaught of the Gujarat Sultan. Though engaged elsewhere, Humayun hastened to the rescue of his Rakhi sister but to his bitter disappointment found that the kingdom had been seized and the princess had committed "jauhar" to save her honor.
India shows its unity among diversity in celebrating Raksha Bandhan too. Rakhi is mostly celebrated in the northern part of India. The celebration of Raksha Bandhan is more or less the same in this region. However, the other parts of India celebrate this festival in various other ways. The rituals and customs followed differ with region to region.
The festival of Raksha Bandhan is also known as Narial Poornima or Coconut Full-Moon Day in Mumbai's famous beaches. Coconuts are thrown into the sea to propitiate the Sea-God, Varuna, who is the chief object of worship on this occasion. The 'three eyes' of the coconut are believed to represent the three-eyed Shiva and hence the religious significance. In fact, Hindus consider it auspicious to break a coconut in front of a deity before embarking upon any important venture.
A similar practice is carried in some other places in order to offer Puja to the god of rain and water, Lord Varuna. This festival is called Avani Avittam in South India. This is the time of "Upakarmam," and is celebrated in various ways. This falls on the full-moon day of the month of Shravan (August-September). It is an important Hindu festival. On this particular day, Hindu Brahmins wear a new holy thread and offer libations of water to the ancient Rishis. The day is also set apart for Brahmins to change their sacred thread they wear.