Significance of Raksha Bandhan

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Rakhi Festival in India is being celebrated since Vedic times. The tradition is being joyfully continued even in present era albeit in style and trend.  According to legends, the first Rakhi that Lord Indra’s wife Indrani tied on Indra’s wrist is said to have been a sacred thread powered by mantras. The power of this sacred Rakhi is said to have helped Indra to win battle against the demons. 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.

Rakhi Festival in India is being celebrated since Vedic times. The tradition is being joyfully continued even in present era albeit in style and trend.  According to legends, the first Rakhi that Lord Indra’s wife Indrani tied on Indra’s wrist is said to have been a sacred thread powered by mantras. The power of this sacred Rakhi is said to have helped Indra to win battle against the demons.

To control the blood flowing from Lord Krishna’s hands Draupadi tore a strip of silk from her sari and tied around Krishna’s wrist. Krishna was so moved by the affectionate gesture that he promised to protect Draupadi against all hardships in future.

From these and several other examples we know that Rakhi in early times served as a symbolic gesture of a sister’s love for her brother.

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 ends all sins as it is mentioned in the scriptures.

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 coexistence.

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 many 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.

Raksha Bandhan 2010
Raksha Bandhan falls on the full moon day of the bright phase of Hindu month of Sravan or commonly referred as Sravan Purnima. In 2010 the festival of Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi is on Aug, 24.

It is not the rituals, customs and traditions that change over the time but the celebration styles and perspectives that become contemporary. For centuries this festival has been celebrated in the same way. The traditions are followed with the same enthusiasm. The gaieties have only blown up to a large scale. It is the celebration of the chaste bond of love amongst the siblings.

The preparations begin much in advance. Some 20 days ahead of the festival you can see colorful Rakhis in the market. Girls start the shopping and preparations quite early. The shop for new clothes and buy rakhis specially the ones that have to be sent to the brothers staying far. The sweet shops, the garment shops, gift shops, all are flooded with things to attract people.

On the Raksha Bandhan day, the festivities start by the daybreak. Everyone gets ready early and gathers for the worship of the deities. After invoking the blessings of the gods, the sister performs brother’s Arti, puts Tika and Chawal on his forehead and ties Rakhi amongst chanting of  mantras. Then she gives him sweets and gifts. The brother accepts her offerings and vows to take care  of her and be by her side in the time of need .  As a token he gives the sister a return gift and  sweets.

The Raksha Bandhan ceremony ends here and the celebrations begin. The family reunion itself is the reason for celebration. Tasty dishes, sweets, gifts, songs and dances and what not. Any Indian festival is incomplete without this.  

Congregations like Rakhi Mohotsavas were started by Rabindra Nath Tagore in Shantiniketan. He  started this to propagate the feeling of brotherhood amongst people. This invoked trust and feeling of peaceful coexistence. The festival for them is a symbol of harmony. The tradition continues as people tie rakhis to the neighbors and close friends. It is a festival denoting National sentiments of harmony.

Regional celebrations
Rakhi, which is an important festival in India is observed differently in various parts of the country. Though it is a festival celebrated largely in North and Western India, it holds special significance in other parts of the country as well.

Nariyal Purnima: Coconut Day festival or Nariyal Purnima is celebrated each year with loads of fun by the people of Maharashtra namely the fishermen on the full moon day in the month of Shravan. The festival coincides with Rakhi Purnima and is celebrated mostly by the fishermen.

Avani Avittam/Upakarmam: Oakhi Purnima is known as Avani Avittam in southern parts of India i.e. in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and even in parts of Orissa. It is an important day for the Brahmins as they change their holy threads on this day. Brahmins take a holy dip and wear the holy thread called Yajnopavit or Janeyu. The first step is the Prayashchita, which is performed as an atonement of all the sins. Mantras are read  out at both times when the thread is worn and when it is taken out to be replaced with a new one.

Kajari Purnima: Kajari Purnima is celebrated  on the same day as Rakhi mostly by the people of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and parts of Uttar Pradesh. The rituals of this day are performed by women who are blessed with a son. It holds a lot of significance for the farmers as it marks the beginning of the sowing season of wheat and barley.

Pavitropana: This is mostly celebrated by the people of Gujarat, who are devotees of Lord Shiva. On this day, water is offered to the Lord and people pray and ask for forgiveness.

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