Raksha Bandhan is a traditional ceremony celebrated between brothers and sisters of all ages in Hindu culture. Rakhi is a decorative thread or amulet tied by the sister on their brothers’ wrist, symbolically a thread of protection or ‘Raksha.’ This ritual of bonding and well-wishing between brother and sister is celebrated on the day of Raksha Bandhan every year. For a brother also, this is an obligation towards his sister to protect her throughout his lifetime. The day of Raksha Bandhan falls on the last day of Shravana month in the Hindu lunar calendar or August every year. Gifts, sweets, and special delicacies are also integral to this ceremony enjoyed between siblings. In Sanskrit, “Raksha Bandhan” means “the bond of protection, obligation, and care.”
History, facts & more regarding Raksha Bandhan
The beauty of the Indian scenario is that festivals could be one and the same for all, but the intention of celebration comes with a wide range of stories. Rakhi or Rakshabandhan was celebrated mainly in some states of northern India earlier, while it is celebrated in almost all parts of India nowadays. In Haryana state, priests tie threads or amulets on people’s wrists, protecting against evil. This festival is called Solono and is celebrated along with Raksha Bandhan.
In Odisha, it is also called Rakhi Purnima, celebrated among brothers and sisters. However, the same day is celebrated as Lord Balabhadra’s (God of farming) birthday and is known as Gamha Purnima. It is known as Jhulan Purnima in West Bengal when Krishna and Radha are worshipped. Sisters tie Rakhi on their brother’s wrist for their wellness and long life while brothers bless and take the obligation of protection. In the year 1905, Rabindranath Tagore turned Rakshabandhan into a movement. He used it to stop the division between Hindus and Muslims and spread friendship and harmony, apart from protection.
After this movement, Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan got a broader meaning and was not limited to only siblings.
The Koli community of Maharashtra celebrates Narali Pournima with Rakhi. They are the fishermen’s community who worship the god of Sea Varuna and throw coconuts into the sea as offerings. Rakhi is celebrated among siblings.
In Nepal, it is called Rishitarpani or Janai Purnima and is celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus together. Janai is the thread around men’s chests that changes during this festival. Raksha Bandhan is celebrated among the brothers and sisters of Nepal.
Popular Stories of Raksha Bandhan
- Krishna and Draupadi (Mahabharata)
The story of Sri Krishna and Draupadi is one of the well-known stories from Mahabharata. When Krishna injured his finger while killing evil King Shishupal, Draupadi used a part of her saree to tie around the injured finger of Sri Krishna. Lord Krishna was overwhelmed with this affection and promised to help her in the future whenever required. Lord Krishna kept his promise and helped her many times in the future. He also protected her dignity during humiliation or disrobing in the Sabha of Dhritarashtra as per plans by Kauravas.
- King Bali and Goddess Laxmi
Mahabali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu left his home, Vaikuntha, to protect Bali’s Kingdom. Goddess Laxmi was not happy with this decision, and she started staying in Bali’s castle as a brahmin woman in disguise. On the day of Shravana Purnima, she tied Rakhi on Bali’s wrist. After this, Bali moved away, and Lord Vishnu returned to Vaikuntha. From this day, the custom of inviting sisters also started celebrating Rakhi on Shravan Purnima.
- King Puru and Alexander’s wife
It was around 300 BC when Alexander invaded India. Alexander’s wife approached Puru for rakhi to avoid war and maintain friendly relations with King Puru, who was one of the greatest Kings during that time. King Puru accepted and stopped the war against Alexander.
- Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun
This is the story of Rani Karnavati, which dates to 1535 CE. Rani Karnavati of Chittor was widowed and needed protection from Humayan (an emperor of Delhi) for the invasion or attack of Bahadur shah (Sultan of Gujrat). She sent Rakhi to Humayun. This is a popular story but lacks some evidence to validate it.
While there are a lot of stories and facts about the festival of Rakhi, it is one of the most celebrated festivals enjoyed between the brothers and sisters. This festival is traditionally valued and followed for a long time which also holds cultural values and helps strengthen bonding between siblings and share a day of happiness with blessings.