# Day 94 (A Sacred Bond and more)

The Sanskrit term “Raksha Bandhan” translates to ‘a knot of protection’. Every year at the end of the lunar month of ‘shravan’ on full moon day this ancient festival is celebrated throughout our country as a symbol of the special bond between a brother and a sister. By tying the sacred thread or ‘rakhi’ on her brothers right wrist the sister offers her prayers and wishes for his well being and in return the brother reaffirms his lifelong vow to protect her. Around this simple basic ceremony a host of other traditions have sprung up…the ‘rakhi’ itself comes in different avatars from the simple hand woven and colourful threads, fancy silken ones adorned with beads and other decorations to rakhi-amulets made in silver. There is also the tradition of gifting with the sister bringing sweets or chocolates for the brother and in return being given a gift by the brother. Children specially love this aspect and there is much friendly-banter about who has more ‘rakhis’ on his wrist to who got what gift among the little ones. In many ways it is one more occasion in our culture where family ties are reaffirmed.
The beauty of this festival is also that this sibling bond can even be marked among those not biologically related and may even transcend ethnicity and religious backgrounds. There is a tradition of “moonh-bola-bhai’ where you can tie a rakhi on any acquaintance and make him your brother. There are many recorded historical instances where the rakhi-bond was invoked…some examples being of Rajput and Maratha queens who sent rakhis even to enemy Mughal kings. Inspite of their differences, these kings in return offered them help and protection at critical moments and honoured their brotherly commitments. One story even relates how the great King Porus refrained from striking Alexander the Great on the battlefield because the latter’s wife had sent him a ‘rakhi’ prior to the battle and urged him not to hurt her husband!
Different regions of our country have various myths about the origin of this symbolic sacred thread. My personal favourite is from the epic ‘Mahabharata’. For Krishna, Draupadi was like his younger sister. The story goes that when Krishna cut his finger while beheading Shishupal, Draupadi immediately tore off a piece of her sari and bandaged his cut. Krishna told her that with this loving act she had ‘wrapped’ him in her debt and he would repay each “thread” when the time came. So when the Kaurava Kings sought to dishonour her by unravelling her saree in front of all the courtiers present, she fervently prayed for his protection which he gave her in the form of the ‘unending-saree’. In that sense this thread also signifies the need for the strong to protect the weak from all that is evil.
This auspicious day has also been used as an occasion for social change by none other than Rabindranath Tagore. In 1905 when the British decided to divide Bengal on the basis of religion, Tagore organised a ceremony to celebrate Raksha-Bandhan as a means of strengthening the bond of love and togetherness among Hindus and Muslims of Bengal in their fight against the British empire. He used the platform to spread the feeling of brotherhood and nationalism among people from different ethnic groups by starting the ‘Rakhi-Mahotsav’ in Shantiniketan. The secular, multicultural tradition continues to this day as people in some parts of Bengal tie ‘rakhis’ even on the wrists of their neighbours and close friends.
The last day of the month of ‘shravan’ in a way also marks the end of this years monsoon cycle. The markets and shops are now abuzz and bustling as commercial activity picks up and everyone prepares for the festivities of the coming season. The familial bond that has been re-validated today will be further celebrated and feted in the months ahead.


About sunsur81

A gatherer of thoughts...exploring myths,metaphors and expressions of life...
This entry was posted in 365 Days Blog-roll, Indian Accents and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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