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Meaning & Significance of Raksha
The relationships are the essence of celebration. This
holds true for any Indian festival. Each festival brings the families
together. That mere togetherness is celebration. It calls for a total
festive environment. The celebration of one such relationship is Raksha
Bandhan; the celebration of brother sister relationship. The sibling
relationship is nowhere so celebrated as in India. The brother sister
relationship is no where so worshiped as here. It is this affection and love
that is celebrated on the Raksha Bandhan.
Raksha Bandhan is a festival celebrating the bond of affection between
brothers and sisters. The day when the siblings pray for each others' well
being and wish for each others' happiness and goodwill. As the name 'Raksha
Bandhan' suggests, 'a bond of protection', Raksha Bandhan is a pledge from
brothers to protect the sister from all harms and troubles and a prayer from
the sister to protect the brother from all evil.
The festival falls on the Shravan Purnima (full moon day of shravan month)
which comes generally in the month of August. The sisters tie the silk
thread called rakhi on their brother's wrist and pray for their well being
and brothers promise to take care of their sisters. The festival is unique
to India creates a feeling of belongingness and oneness amongst the family.
Though now it is considered as a brother and sister
festival, it was not always so. There have been examples in history where in
rakhi has just been a raksha or protection. It could be tied by wife, a
daughter or mother. The Rishis tied rakhi to the people who came seeking
their blessings. The sages tied the sacred thread to themselves to safe
guard them from the evil. It is by all means the 'Papa Todak, Punya Pradayak
Parva' or the day that bestows boons and end all sins as it is mentioned in
Rakhi for many centuries encompassed the warmth shared between the siblings
but now it goes way beyond it. Some tie rakhi to neighbors and close friends
signifying a peaceful co-existence of every individual. Congregations like
Rakhi Utsavs, popularized by Rabindranath Tagore, promote the feeling of
unity and a commitment to all members of society to protect each other and
encourage a harmonious Social life.
The day has a deeper perspective in today's scenario. The occasion holds for
a life long pledge to practice moral, spiritual and cultural values. The
values and the sentiments attached to the rituals of this festival are worth
inculcating by the whole human race, the sentiments of harmony and peaceful
Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of Raksha or protection, of righteousness
and destroyer of all sin. The rakhi tying ritual has become so much a part
of the families that come what may brothers and sisters try to reach out to
each other on this particular day bringing back the oneness of the family,
binding the family together in an emotional bond.
Importance of Rakshaa Bandhan
On the 15th day of the vEDik calendar month of SRaavAN (around mid-August
depending if the vEDik year has 12 or 13 months and alos on the additions
and deletions of tithi in a vEDik month), Hindus all over the world
celebrate Rakshaa bandhan. "Raksha" means protection, and "bandhan" means
bound or binding.
In North India, the occasion is popularly called Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan or
Rakshaa Bandhan- the tying of an amulet.
In ancient times a woman tied a 'rakshaa' on her husband's wrist to protect
him from evil. Gradually this changed; she tied a 'rakshaa' on her brother's
right wrist, to protect him from evil influence and those factors which may
taint his character, and to strengthen the bond of sibling love between
them. On the occasion of Rakshaa Bandhan she visits her brother's home and
performs his 'pujan' by applying kumkum and rice grains on his forehead. In
return the brother gives her a gift and vows to protect her too. The
'rakhadi' for rakshaa bandhan itself ranges from a coloured cotton string to
exquisitely decorated balls of various sizes and materials such as fluffy
cotton, 'zari' paper, tinsel, beads and so on.
On Rakshaa Bandhan a second importance relates to 'Baleva' and our devotion
to the Lord. Just as Bali Raja offered devotion to Lord Narayan by
sacrificing his kingdom and himself, devotees should endeavor to emulate
him. That is the true spirit of Baleva.
Rakshaa bandhan day is important for the priests too, as they tie rakhis on
their patrons wrist and in return receive offerings from them. In some parts
of the country it is customary to draw figures on the walls of their home
and worship them with offerings of vermilion and kheer. The imprints of
palms are also put on either side of the entrance and rakhis are stuck on
them as part of rakshaa bandhan rituals. Some parts of India also reserve
Rakshaa Bandhan day importance for the sacred thread changing ceremony when
the young brahmin boys discard the old one and don a new one
ritualistically. However, on rakshaa bandhan it is the emotions which are
important. The rakshaa bandhan ceremony performed is the symbolic
everlasting bond between brothers and sisters that reinforces ties between
them even across continents, and it is the one which has the most importance
on this auspicious day.
Traditions and Customs
Raksha Bandhan is primarily a North Indian festival kindling the deepest
emotions of love and affection amongst the siblings. Just like all Indian
festivals, this is also celebrated with lots of verve.
The sister ties the rakhi on the brother's wrist and both pray for each
others' well being followed by a pledge from the brother to take care of his
sister under all circumstances. The brother then usually gifts something to
the sister to mark the occasion. Celebrated enveloped in the festivities.
The mirth that surrounds the festival is unsurpassed. Amidst the merriment
the rituals are also followed with great devotion.
The rakhis and the sweets are bought and prepared generally before the
Purnima. As per the tradition the family members get ready for the rituals
early. They take a bath to purify mind and body before starting any
preparations. The sisters prepare the thali for the poojan. It contains the
rakhi threads, kumkum powder, rice grains, diya (an earthen or a metal lamp
used for worshiping), agarbattis (incense sticks) and sweets.
First of all the offerings are made to the deities of the family. The sister
then performs the arti of the brother and ties the rakhi. She then Tilaks
(puts kumkum powder on the forehead) him and offers sweets. While performing
the rituals the Sister chants
"Suraj shakhan chhodian, Mooli chhodia beej
Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee",
Meaning "The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds,
I tie the rakhi to you O brother and wish that may you live long."
After her prayer for a long life for her brother, she says that she is tying
the ever-protective Raksha to her brother chanting:
"Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah
tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala"
Meaning ," I tie you the rakhi that was tied to king Bali, the king of
O Rakhi I pray that you never falter in protecting your devotee.
The brother in turn blesses the sister and promises to protect her from the
evils of the world. He gifts something to her as a token of his love and
affection. The rituals may differ a little from region to region but
generally carry the same aura.
Rakhi: The Thread of Love
Any Indian festival is incomplete without the typical Indian
festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts,
lots of noise, singing and dancing. Festivals are the celebration of
togetherness the celebrations of being on of the family. Festival of Rakhi
or Raksha Bandhan is one such major occasion.
It is the celebration of brothers and sisters. It is one festival that
primarily belongs to the North and Western regions of India but celebrated
throughout the country with the same verve. Regional celebrations may be
different but Raksha bandhan has become an integral part of those customs
As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali with
diya, roli, chawal and rakhis. She worships the deities, ties Rakhi to the
brother(s) and wishes for their well being. The brother in turn acknowledges
the love with a promise to be by the sisters' side through the thick and
thin and gives her a token gift.
The festival has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions
for centuries. Only the means have changed with the changing lifestyles.
This too to make the celebrations more elaborate.
This is the day that still pulls the siblings together. The increasing
physical distances evoke the desire to be together even more. They try to
reach out to each other on the Raksha Bandhan day. The joyous meeting, the
rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and
sisterhood calls for a massive celebration.
The sisters tie that thread of love to their brothers amongst chanting of
mantras, put roli and rice on his forehead and pray for his well being. She
bestows him with gifts and blessings. The brother also wishes her a good
life and pledges to take care of her. He gives her a return gift. The gift
is the physical acceptance of her love, reminder of their togethernesp and a
symbol of his pledge. The legends and the reference in history repeated, the
significance of the festival is emphasized.
Well that is kind of an end to the rituals but the celebrations actually
start after that. For the parents, it is a family reunion. Tasty dishes,
wonderful sweets, exchange of gifts and sharing of past experiences.
For those who are not able to visit each other, rakhi cards and e rakhis and
rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages.
Hand made rakhis and self-made rakhi cards are just a representation of the
personal feelings of the siblings.