TUESDAY, AUGUST 24: Hindus honor the sacred and unique relationship that exists between siblings today, in traditional rites for the ancient Raksha Bandhan. Today, the focus is not on love between spouses, but rather on the love between brothers and sisters that is considered inseparable and full of trust. (Wikipedia has details.) Even when a sister marries, this tradition teaches that it is her brother’s responsibility to ensure that she is safe and treated well by her new family.
Today, sisters present their brothers with a threaded bracelet and prayers for their health and longevity, along with the expressed desire that they always be protected. In return, brothers assure their sisters that they will protect them in any situation. Following the promises, sisters receive gifts and brothers receive sweets, and all celebrate the sacred bond. In many situations, girls or boys who do not have siblings choose a cousin or close friend as an “adoptive” sibling, and the two perform the rituals together. (For a history, traditions and more, visit RakshaBandhan.com.) The origins of Raksha Bandhan are disputed—multiple mythical and historical stories exist, many dating back thousands of years—but however it came about, this festival remains quite popular today.
Raksha Bandhan may have retained its streamlined popularity through the years—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t celebrated with different rituals in many different places! In many parts of India, bracelets are priced from “very affordable” to “elaborate and ornate,” and still other sisters make their brothers’ bracelets. Many sing a song with Indian lyrics that translate to, “My dear brother, please hold on to this sacred relationship of ours, forever and ever.”
During this year’s Raksha Bandhan in India, women are being offered free travel on the Delhi Transport Corporation, so that they might visit their brothers; in America, a Connecticut newspaper recently featured extended family members who traveled to perform holiday rituals over the weekend; and on Disney Channel India, the day’s programs will be devoted to highlighting the fun and mischievous relationship that siblings share. (Kids can make their own rakhi bracelets, too, with instructions from DisneyFamily.com.)
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)