Festivals of India: Raksha Bandhan

Tomorrow is Raksha Bandhan, a beautiful festival which celebrates the beautiful bond between a brother and his sister. Tomorrow  is also Avani Avittam, the only Hindu festival which is a men’s festival, as opposed to others where it’s women all the way. I’ve blogged about Avani Avittam before, so this post is mainly about Raksha Bandhan.

Known simply as Rakhi in India, not only is this festival celebrated between blood siblings, but also between people who consider each other as brother and sister. This festival is mainly celebrated in Northern and Western India, but these days, it is celebrated all over the country as well as in places where the Indian diaspora have settled down.

The literal meaning of Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit is “the knot of protection”. A sister performs the Rakhi ceremony to her brother which incorporates her love for her brother and her wishes for his continued well-being and happiness. In return, the brother pledges to love and protect her under any and all circumstances. When brothers and sisters are far away from each other, sisters generally send their brothers their rakhi by post or courier. In return for the rakhi tied to his wrist, a brother generally gives his sister money or gifts as tokens of his love to his sister.

The festival has many myths surrounding it along with historical references. You can read them here, but some of the historical references are as ancient as the wife of Alexander the Great, Roxana, sending a Rakhi to King Puru asking him not to harm her husband in battle and Rani Karnavati of Chittor in present day Rajasthan sending a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun when Shah Bahadur, the sultan of Gujarat invaded her kingdom. Humayun rushed to help his sister, but arrived too late.

Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan are usually the start of the festive season for Hindus which goes on till almost the end of the year.

GG has been tying Rakhi to BB since she was less than a year old and I hope they continue doing this their whole life, irrespective of where in the world both may be. BB does not like to keep the Rakhi on, especially if it’s a school day, but this year, he has said he’ll keep it on the whole weekend!

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