Raki or Raksha Bandan is a famous festival observed mainly in North India. This festival celebrates the relationship between the brothers and sisters. The name ‘raksha’ means Protection and ‘Bandan’ means Bond. ‘Rakhi’ is a sacred thread tied on this special occasion by the sister on her brother’s wrist. Rakhi represents the love and prayers of the sister for her brother’s wellbeing and the brother’s life long responsibility to protect her. This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the Sravana month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. This year it is on 13th august. This festival is observed mainly among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, however it has become a national festival irrespective of the religion.
On the festival day the sister ties a Rakhi on her brother’s wrist and the brother gives gifts to his sister in return. Brother takes an oath to protect his sister and they feed sweets one another. In India, cousins are considered similar to siblings according to the kinship practices. So girls tie Rakhi on their male cousins also. Unrelated boys and girls who consider themselves to have brother-sister relationship between them also ties Rakhi and take the oath. It is also believed that such boys and girls have to maintain brother-sister relationship for life long. The practice of Raksha bandan has also spread to south India and is practiced in schools and colleges of south Indian states.
Hindu mythology and Raksha Bandan:
It is believed that Santoshi mata, the Goddess of satisfaction was created on a Raksha Bandan day. In this story, a person named Ganesh had two sons and on a Raksha Bandan day, Ganesh’s sister came and tied a Rakhi on his wrist. The sons then started pressing Ganesh for a sister. At last Santoshi mata was created from the divine flames that emerged from the two wives of Ganesh.
Another story is from Mahabharat about Krishna and Draupadi. Draupadi was the wife of pandavas. During a battle, Lord Krishna was wounded on his wrist and suddenly, Draupadi came and torn a piece of silk from her sari and tied on Krishna’s wrist to stop the bleeding. This touched Lord Krishna and he declared draupadi as his sister and decided to protect her lifelong.
King Bali was a great king of demon and was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Being impressed of the devotion of king Bali, Lord Vishnu left his own abode in Vaikunth and went to the kingdom of Bali to guard the king and the people. Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu wanted to be with Vishnu in his abode. So Goddess Lakshmi went to Bali pretending to be a women to seek protection until her husband comes back. On the next festival of Shravan Purnima, she tied a thread to Bali. Bali asked the reason and she revealed her intention. King Bali was impressed and decided to send Lord Vishnu back to Vaikunth with Goddess Lakshmi. Because of this incident, the festival of Shravana Purnima is also called as Baleva meaning ‘the devotion of Bali to the Lord’.
According to a story, Yama, the lord of death and his sister Yamuna, a river in Northern India performed the ritual of Raksha Bandan. Yamuna tied a sacred thread on Yama’s wrist and attained immortality. Yama then declared that whoever gets a Raksha Bandan tied from his sister and promised to protect her attains immortality.
Other stories related to Raksha Bandan:
In 326 BC, Alexander the great invaded India. He started a battle with King Puru. The wife of Alexander the great Roxana sent a sacred thread to King Puru asking him not to harm her husband. King Puru gave full respect for the rakhi and decided not to harm Alexander the great. During the battle, when King Puru was about to kill Alexander the great, saw the rakhi in his hand and restrained himself from killing him.
There is another story about the Mughal Emperor Humayun and Rani Karnavati, the queen of Chittor. When Chittor was about to be conquered by Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat she sent a rakhi to the Emperor Humayun. Emperor Humayun suddenly set off with his troops to save Chittor from the hands of Bahadur Shah. By the time the emperor reached Chittor, Bahadur Shah had conquered the fort. Rani Karnavati killed herself to avoid being dishonoured. Emperor Humayun evicted Bahadur Shah from the fort and gave the Kingdom to Vikramjith Singh, son of Rani Karnavati.
Festivals on Raksha Bandan Day:
Balarama Janati: Prabhu Balarama is the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Raksha Bandan is celebrated with the Birth ceremony of Balarama.
Narali Purnima: In Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, Raksha Bandan day is celebrated with Narali purnima. On this day, they give coconut as an offering to Lord Varuna who is the Lord of Sea. This day is the starting of fishing season and the fishermen do this offering to the sea for prosperity in their lives.
Kajari Purnima: This ritual is famous in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Bihar. This festival is related to Sita, wife of Lord Rama. On this day, farmers and women who are blessed with a son performs various rituals.
Pavitropana: This day is celebrated with Pavitropana in various places of Gujarat. Pavitropana is a celebration of worship of Lord Vishnu.
Raksha Bandan is the sacred ritual to celebrate the relationship between the brother and sister. It is the time to take the responsibility as a brother for men and as a caring and supporting sister for women. Enjoy the love and care of a sister or brother on this special occasion. Wish you all a happy Raksha Bandan Day.