Raksha Bandhan

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(Raksha Bandhan)
Rakhi 2.jpg
Examples of Rakhi.
Official name Raksha Bandhan
Also called Rakhi
Observed by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, increasingly multicultural
Celebrations Sister-Brother get together, tie Rakhi on wrist, mark Tilak, brother promises to protect sister, sister feeds brother, brother gives gift, hugs
Date Purnima (full moon) of Shraavana
2014 date Sunday, August 10 [1]
2015 date Sunday, August 29
2016 date Thursday, August 18
Related to Bhai Duj

Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters; the festival is also popularly used to celebrate any brother-sister like relationship between men and women who are relatives or biologically unrelated.[2][3] It is called Rakhi Purnima, or simply Rakhi, in many parts of India.[4] The festival is observed by Hindus, Jains, and many Sikhs.[5] Raksha Bandhan is primarily observed in India, Mauritius and parts of Nepal. It is also celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs in parts of Pakistan,[6] and by some people of Indian origin around the world.[7]

Raksha Bandhan is an ancient festival, and has many myths and historic legends linked to it. For example, the Rajput queens practised the custom of sending rakhi threads to neighbouring rulers as token of brotherhood.[8][9] On Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a rakhi (sacred thread) on her brother's wrist. This symbolizes the sister's love and prayers for her brother's well-being, and the brother's lifelong vow to protect her.[10][11] The festival falls on the full moon day (Shravan Poornima) of the Shravan month of the Hindu lunisolar calendar.[12]

Significance[edit]

Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit literally means "the tie or knot of protection".[13] It is an ancient Hindu festival that ritually celebrates the love and duty between brothers and their sisters.[3][14] The sister performs a Rakhi ceremony, then prays to express her love and her wish for the well being of her brother; in return, the brother ritually pledges to protect and take care of his sister under all circumstances. It is one of the several occasions in which family ties are affirmed in India.[2]

The festival is also an occasion to celebrate brother-sister like family ties between cousins or distant family members,[15] sometimes between biologically unrelated men and women.[16] To many, the festival transcends biological family, brings together men and women across religions, diverse ethnic groups and ritually emphasizes harmony and love. It is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Śrāvaṇa, and typically falls in August every year.[2][3][17]

Description and rituals[edit]

Women shopping for Rakhi, the ceremonial thread marking brother-sister love, before the Raksha Bandhan festival.

The festival is marked by the several rituals, which vary regionally within India. Typical rituals include:

Prepare for Raksha Bandhan

Days or weeks before Raksha Bandhan, women shop for Rakhi, the ceremonial thread to tie around her brother's (or brother-like friend's) wrist. Some women make their own Rakhi.[18] A Rakhi may be a simple thread, woven and colorful; or a Rakhi may be intricate with amulets and decoration on top of it. Sometimes, a Rakhi may be a wrist watch or men's wrist accessory in the form of bracelet or jewelry. Rakhi in the form of a colorful woven thread is most common. Typically the brother(s) too shop for gifts for the sister, ahead of Raksha Bandhan. The gift from the brother can be a simple thoughtful token of love, and may be more elaborate.[2][19]

Rakhi ritual

On the morning of Raksha Bandhan, the brother(s) and sister(s) get together, often in nice dress in the presence of surviving parents, grandparents and other family members. If the sister and brother are geographically separated, the sister may mail the Rakhi ahead of the Raksha Bandhan day, along with a greeting card or letter wishing her brother well. The ritual typically begins in front of a lighted lamp (diya) or candle, which signifies fire deity. The sister and brother face each other. The sister ties the Rakhi on her brother's wrist.[2]

Prayer, aarti, promise and food
The Festival of Raksha Bandhan
Tie Rakhi On the ocassion on raksha bandhan.jpg
1. Tie the Rakhi
Tilak ritual.jpg
2. Wish, do Tilak, promise
Feeding Sweets by hand on the ocassion of Raksha Bandhan.jpg
3. She feeds him with her hands
Hugs And Gifts.jpg
4. Hugs and gifts
The key rituals of Raksha Bandhan. In the first image, the 'Rakhi' is evident on the brother's wrist.

Once the Rakhi has been tied, the sister says a prayer for the well being - good health, prosperity and happiness - for her brother. This ritual sometimes involves an aarti, where a tray with lighted lamp or candle is ritually rotated around the brother's face, along with the prayer and well wishes.

The prayer is a self composed note, or one of many published Rakhi poems and prose.[20][21] One of the earliest examples of a Rakhi prayer is found in Book V, Chapter V of Vishnu Purana; it is the prayer that Yasoda says while tying a Raksha Bandhan amulet on Krishna's wrist.[22][23] An abridged form of the prayer is:

May the lord of all beings protect you,
May the one who creates, preserves and dissolves life protect thee,

May Govinda guard thy head; Kesava, thy neck; Vishnu, thy belly;
the eternal Narayana, thy face, thine arms, thy mind, and faculties of sense;

May all negativity and fears, spirits malignant and unfriendly, flee thee;
May Rishikesa keep you safe in the sky; and Mahidhara, upon earth.

After the prayer, the sister applies a tilak, a colorful mark on the forehead of the brother. After the tilak, the brother pledges to protect her and take care of his sister under all circumstances.[2][13]

The sister then feeds the brother, with her hands, one or more bites of sweets (desserts), dry fruits and other seasonal delicacies.[13][24]

Gifts and hugs

The brother gives his sister(s) gifts such as cards, clothes, money or something thoughtful. The brother may also feed his sister, with his hands, one or more bites of sweets, dry fruits and other seasonal delicacies. They hug, and the larger family ritually congratulate the festive celebration of brother-sister love and protection.[2][19]

The brother(s) wear the Rakhi for the entire day, at school or work, as a reminder of their sister(s) and to mark the festival of Raksha Bandhan.[25]

A more formal Aarti plate for Raksha Bandhan.

Myths and parables[edit]

The scriptures, epics and ancient fiction of Hinduism is peppered with stories of Rakhi and Raksha Bandhan. Some of these include:

Indra Dev[edit]

According to Hindu scripture Bhavishya Purana, in the war between Gods and demons, Indra - the deity of sky, rains and thunderbolts - was disgraced by the powerful demon King Bali. Indra’s wife Sachi consulted Vishnu, who gave her a bracelet made of cotton thread, calling it holy.[12] Sachi tied the holy thread around Indra wrist, blessed with her prayers for his well being and success. Indra successfully defeated the evil and recovered Amaravati. This story inspired the protective power of holy thread.[13][19][26] The story also suggests that the Raksha Bandhan thread in ancient India were amulets, used by women as prayers and to guard men going to war, and that these threads were not limited to sister-brother like relationships.[12]

King Bali and Goddess Laxmi[edit]

According to this legend, credited to Hindu scriptures Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, after Vishnu won the three worlds from the demon King Bali, he was asked by Bali that Vishnu live in his palace, a request Vishnu granted. Vishnu's wife, Goddess Lakshmi did not like the palace or his new found friendship with Bali, and preferred that her husband and she return to Vaikuntha. So she went to Bali, tied a Rakhi and made him a brother. Bali asked her what gift she desired. Lakshmi asked that Vishnu be freed from the request that he live in Bali's palace. Bali consented, as well accepted her as his sister.[27]

Santoshi Ma[edit]

Ganesh had two sons, Shubh and Labh. On Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh's sister visited and tied a Rakhi on Ganesh's wrist. The two boys become frustrated that they have no sister to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with. They ask their father Ganesh for a sister, but to no avail. Finally, saint Narada appears who persuades Ganesh that a daughter will enrich him as well as his sons. Ganesh agreed, and created a daughter named Santoshi Ma by divine flames that emerged from Ganesh's wives, Rddhi (Amazing) and Siddhi (Perfection). Thereafter, Shubh Labh (literally "Holy Profit") had a sister named Santoshi Ma (literally "Goddess of Satisfaction"), who loved and protected each other.[28]

Krishna and Draupadi[edit]

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in some Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities outside India. Above, Rakhi tied to a man's wrist in Mauritius.

Krishna considered Draupadi his sister. When Krishna cut his finger while beheading Shishupal, Draupadi immediately tore off a piece of her sari and bandaged his cut. Krishna said that with this loving act, she wrapped him in debt and he would repay each “thread” when the time arrives. Indeed, whenever Draupadi needed Krishna’s protection she fervently prayed for his help, he came to the rescue and gave her unlimited cloth. This is one of the stories of the origin of the Raksha Bandhan festival.[citation needed]

In the epic Mahabharat, Draupadi tied a Rakhi to Krishna, while Kunti tied her Rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu, before the great war.[26]

Yama and the Yamuna[edit]

According to another legend, Yama, the god of Death had not visited his sister Yamuna for 12 years. Yamuna, the goddess of Yamuna river, was sad and consulted Ganga, the goddess of Ganga river. Ganga reminded Yama of his sister, upon which Yama visits her. Yamuna was overjoyed to see her brother, and prepared a bounty of food for Yama. The god Yama was delighted, and asked Yamuna what she wanted for gift. She wished that he, her brother should return and see her again soon. Yama was moved by his sister's love, agreed and to be able to see her again, made river Yamuna immortal. This legend is the basis for a Raksha Bandhan-like festival called Bhai Duj in some parts of India, which also celebrates brother-sister love, but near Diwali.[29][30]

Historical references[edit]

Alexander the Great and King Puru[edit]

According to one legendary narrative, when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE, Roxana (or Roshanak, his wife) sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in battle. In accordance with tradition, Porus, a Katoch king, gave full respect to the rakhi. On the battlefield, when Porus was about to deliver a final blow to Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his own wrist and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.[31]

Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun[edit]

Another controversial historical account is that of Rani Karnavati of Chittor and Mughal Emperor Humayun, which dates to 1535 CE. When Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of the king of Chittor, realised that she could not defend against the invasion by the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun. Touched, the Emperor immediately set off with his troops to defend Chittor.[32] Humayun arrived too late, and Bahadur Shah managed to sack the Rani's fortress. Although contemporary commentators and memoirs do not mention the Rakhi episode and some historians have expressed skepticism about it, it is mentioned in one mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account.[33]

Rabindranath Tagore and Rakhi[edit]

Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Nobel Laureate for literature, invoked Raksha Bandhan and Rakhi, as concepts to inspire love, respect and a vow of mutual protection between Hindus and Muslims during India's colonial era.[34] In 1905, the British empire divided Bengal, a province of British India on the basis of religion. Rabindra Nath Tagore arranged a ceremony to celebrate Raksha Bandhan to strengthen the bond of love and togetherness between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, and urge them to together protest the British empire. He used the idea of Raksha Bandhan to spread the feeling of brotherhood. In 1911, British colonial empire reversed the partition and unified Bengal, a unification that was opposed by Muslims of Bengal. Ultimately, Tagore's Raksha Bandhan-based appeals were unsuccessful. Bengal not only was split during the colonial era, one part became modern Bangladesh and predominantly Muslim country, the other a largely Hindu Indian state of West Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore started Rakhi Mahotsavas as a symbol of Bengal unity, and as a larger community festival of harmony.[35] In parts of West Bengal, his tradition continues as people tie Rakhis to their neighbors and close friends.[36]

One of Tagore's poem invoking Rakhi is:[37]

Rakhi threads on sale in India.

The love in my body and heart
For the earth's shadow and light
Has stayed over years.

With its cares and its hope it has thrown
A language of its own
Into blue skies.

It lives in my joys and glooms
In the spring night's buds and blooms
Like a Rakhi-band
On the Future's hand.

Regional variations[edit]

While Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in various parts of South Asia, different regions mark the day in different ways.

Kumaon region[edit]

The people of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, celebrate Raksha Bandhan with Janopunyu (जन्यो पुन्यु). Along with the sister-brother ritual, men change their janeu (जनेयु or जन्यो, sacred thread). The region also marks the day with Bagwal fair at Devidhura in district Champawat.[38][39][40]

West Bengal and Odisha[edit]

In the state of West Bengal and Odisha, this day is also called Jhulan Purnima. Prayers and puja of Lord Krishna and Radha are performed there. Sisters tie Rakhi to Brothers and wish immortality. Political Parties, Offices, Friends, Schools to colleges, Street to Palace celebrate this day with a new hope for a good relationship.[41]

Nepal[edit]

In Nepal, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on shravan purnima. It is also called Janaeu Purnima (Janaeu is sacred thread and purnima means full moon). A sacred thread is tied on wrist by senior family members and relatives. Nepalese people enjoy this festival, eating its special food "Kwati", a soup of sprout of seven different grains.[42][43]

Maharashtra[edit]

In Maharashtra, the festival of Raksha Bandhan is celebrated as Narali Poornima. Kolis are the fishermen community of the coastal state (Maharashtra). These Kolis offered prayers to Lord Varuna for invoking his blessings. As part of the Rakhi rituals, coconuts were thrown into the sea as offerings to Lord Varuna also they apply vermillion on each other's foreheads as a symbol of prosperity

Multiculturalism[edit]

In contemporary practice, Raksha Bandhan festival has developed into a broader context and a multicultural event.[44] Priests tie rakhis around the wrists of congregation members. Rakhis are often shared between close friends. Women tie rakhis around the wrists of the heads of state, political party or social leaders. Ceremonies are also held to tie Rakhi around the wrists of soldiers.[45] Some Muslims in India view it a secular, multicultural festival.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Raksha Bandhan Date 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e f g J Gordon Melton (Editor), Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays Festivals Solemn Observances and Spiritual Commemorations, ISBN 978-1598842067; pp 733-734
  3. ^ a b c Raksha Bandhan Hinduism Today (August 2013)
  4. ^ K. Moti Gokulsing, Wimal Dissanayake (2009-02-04), Popular culture in a globalised India, Taylor & Francis, 2009, ISBN 978-0-415-47667-6, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... Raksha Bandhan: A popular festival of Indian Sub-continent where sister ties a thread on brother's wrist, seeking protection ..." 
  5. ^ Sylvie Langlaude (2007), The right of the child to religious freedom in international law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007, ISBN 978-90-04-16266-2, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... certain festivals which many Sikhs share with Hindus (namely Divali and Rakhri) ..." 
  6. ^ "Rakhi festival celebrated in Taxila". Dawn.Com. 2011-08-12. Retrieved 2012-07-27. 
  7. ^ Guyanese in London, NY observed Raksha Bandhan Guyana Chronicle (August 2013)
  8. ^ Misbah Nayeem Quadri (August 5, 2009), Rakhi strengthens communal ties, DNA India, ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... But even today, in many cities across the country, Hindu girls tie rakhi on the wrist of youths they consider their brothers." 
  9. ^ a b "Rakhi: Symbol of secularism". The Economic Times. "Raksha Bandhan is a secular festival, say liberal Muslims who have no qualms about celebrating it within and outside the community." 
  10. ^ Raksha Bandhan, BBC, 2009-08-28, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... when a woman ties a rakhi around the hand of a man it becomes obligatory for him to honour his religious duty and protect her ..." 
  11. ^ Dale Hoiberg, Indu Ramchandani, Students' Britannica India, Popular Prakashan, 2000, ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... Raksha Bandhan (also called Rakhi), when girls and women tie a rakhi (a symbolic thread) on their brothers' wrists and pray for their prosperity,happiness and goodwill. The brothers, in turn, give their sisters a token gift and promise protection ..." 
  12. ^ a b c S. Sehgal (1999), Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, Vol 3, ISBN 978-8176250641, pp 536-537
  13. ^ a b c d Sue Penney (2007), Hinduism, Heinemann Library, ISBN 978-1432903145, page 33
  14. ^ Gnanambal, K. (2008), Festivals on an All India Basis, Festivals In Indian Society, pp 65
  15. ^ Christine Moorcroft (1995-03-31), Folens religious education, Folens Limited, 1995, ISBN 978-1-85276-397-8, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... sisters tie to their brothers' or male cousins' wrists ..." 
  16. ^ Edward Balfour (1885), The cyclopaedia of India and of eastern and southern Asia, Volume 2, B. Quaritch, 1885, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... Muh-Bola-Bhai. Hind. An adopted brother ... Brother-making; Rakhi ..." 
  17. ^ Arora, P. (1986), Hindu festivals of India, The ,Journal of Popular Culture, 20(2), pp 175-182
  18. ^ Bobbie Kalman, India - The Culture, Crabtree Publications, ISBN 978-0778792871, page 21
  19. ^ a b c Manish Verma (2010), Fasts & Festivals Of India, Diamond Books, ISBN 978-8171820764; pp 40-41
  20. ^ Satvinder Kaur, Sarojini Naidu's poetry, Sarup & Sons, ISBN 81-7625-428-2, pp 302-305
  21. ^ Rakhi Poems Rakhi India (2011)
  22. ^ Horace Hayman Wilson (1868), The Vishńu Puráńa: a system of Hindu mythology and tradition, Volume 4, Editor: Fitzedward Hall, Trubner & Co., London, pp 276-278
  23. ^ Vishnu Purana - Book 5, Chapter 5, Verses 14-23
  24. ^ Desiree Webber et al., Travel the Globe: Story Times, Activities, and Crafts for Children, Libraries Unlimited, ISBN 978-1610691246, pp 132-133
  25. ^ Roger Whiting, Religions for Today, ISBN 978-0748705863, Dufour, page 182
  26. ^ a b The Legends of Rakhi The Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (2012)
  27. ^ Prem Bhalla, Hindu Rites, Rituals, Customs and Traditions: A to Z on the Hindu Way of Life, Pustak Mahal, ISBN 978-8122309027
  28. ^ Robert L. Brown (1991), Ganesh: studies of an Asian god, SUNY Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-7914-0656-4, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... The boys are jealous, as they, unlike their father, have no sister with whom to tie the rakhi. They and the other women plead with their father, but to no avail; but then Narada appears and convinces Ganesa that the creation of an illustrious daughter ... a flame that engenders Santoshi Ma ..." 
  29. ^ Mark Fox and Olga Fox, Time to Celebrate: Identity, diversity and belief, ISBN 978-1-86366-703-6, Curriculum Corporation
  30. ^ Roshen Dalal (2011), Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, Penguin, ISBN 978-0143414216, page 64
  31. ^ India cultures quarterly, Volume 25, School of Research, Leonard Theological College, 1968, 1968-01-01, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... They themselves took her to Porus and there she performed the ceremony of raksha bandhan ..." 
  32. ^ History and Significance of Raksha Bandhan Raksha-Bandhan.com
  33. ^ Satish Chandra (2005), Medieval India: from Sultanat to the Mughals, Volume 2, Har-Anand Publications, 2005, ISBN 978-81-241-1066-9, retrieved 2011-08-16, "... According to a mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account, Rani Karnavati, the Rana's mother, sent a bracelet as rakhi to Humayun, who gallantly responded and helped. Since none of the contemporary sources mention this, little credit can be given to this story ..." 
  34. ^ Gaurav Pradhan, Rabindranath Tagore: Literary Concepts, APH Publishing, ISBN 978-8176482790, page 33
  35. ^ K. S. Bharathi, Encyclopedia of Eminent Thinkers, see Tagore, ISBN 81-7022-684-8, page 14
  36. ^ AP Sharma, Famous Festivals of India, ISBN 1-81-87057-50-5, see Raksha Bandhan
  37. ^ Rabindranath Tagore, The Jewel that is Best: Collected Brief Poems, Penguin, ISBN 978-0-143415-633, page 118
  38. ^ "Janopunya Festival Uttarakhand Janopunya Festival Tour Uttarakhand Tourism Uttarakhand Fairs and Festivals Uttarakhand Tour Packages". Archive.is. 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  39. ^ "Fairs and Festivals :: About Uttaranchal - Maps, Tours, Holidays & Tourist Destinations, News, Jobs, Business Listing | eBharat - Discover Bharat". Archive.is. 2013-02-17. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  40. ^ Indo Vacations Team. "Uttaranchal, Information about Uttaranchal Festival, Uttaranchal Festivals". Indovacations.net. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  41. ^ "Jhulan Purnima | Puri Waves". Puriwaves.nirmalya.in. 1934-08-10. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  42. ^ "Janai Purnima today - Detail News : Nepal News Portal". The Himalayan Times. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  43. ^ "Janai Purnima,nepal culture, nepal family festivals, nepal religionnepal tourism festivals". colorfulnepal.com. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  44. ^ Raksha Bandhan (Rakhi) BBC Religion (2011)
  45. ^ BSF soldiers celebrated Rakhi at border in Jammu, India (2012)

External links[edit]