Raksha Bandhan

This festival is observed in the month of Shravan (July/August). Raksha Bandhan is also called with many other names- Rakhi, Rakkhari, Salono, Rakha-mangal, Rakhouni or Rakhi-Purnima. Literally, Raksha means protection, and Bandhan means a bond or the act of tying a knot. Since tying a knot signifies a reminder to do something, Raksha Bandhan implies reminding someone of his duty to protect somebody or something. The Guru initiates the disciple by tying a red and orange thread around the latter’s right wrist which connotes that it is the duty of the disciple to protect his Guru as well as Dharma. During many other ceremonies, the officiating priest also ties the thread around the wrist of the host or the householder seeking the pledge to protect.

Later on, sisters started tying a Rakhi (a kind of a colourful bracelet made of glittery decorative threads) on their brothers or any man they wished to adopt as a brother. It means that the brother has the duty to protect his sister from every kind of trouble. There are many historical events signifying the importance of Rakhi as a pledge to protect. The most important one relates to Alexander the Great.

When Alexander invaded India, he faced the mighty Hindu king Pururavas. While Alexander was preparing for the decisive battle, his wife feared for his life. She had heard of the Rakhi custom and planned to use it to protect Alexander’s life. She sent a Rakhi to Pururavas seeking his pledge to save her husband’s life. The mighty Hindu king gave his promise. During the face-to-face sword fight, Alexander fell and became disarmed. Just as Pururavas raised his hand to slay his enemy, he noticed the Rakhi on his wrist reminding him of his pledge, and he spared Alexander’s life.

On the Rakhi day, the sister and the brother before eating anything dress up in their best clothes to celebrate the occasion . She puts the auspicious vertical red mark, called Tilak, in the middle of his forehead, ties a Rakhi on his right wrist and offers him sweets to eat. The brother gives her a present and/or money as a symbol of his affection. If the distance makes it impossible for the sister to visit her brother to put on the Rakhi, she feels very sad and has to be content with sending a Rakhi by mail. In return, the brother sends the money by mail.

This festival offers a formal opportunity for brothers and sisters to express their respect and affection for each other and to fortify their relationship. In addition to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Canadian Hindus also celebrate Sister & Brother’s Day. In modern times, Raksha Bandhan symbolizes the Canadian man’s responsibility to respect women and protect their rights.

Book: Dharma, Karma and much more

Author: Ajit Adhopia