SATURDAY, AUGUST 13: The bonds that tie fill India with color today, as Hindus celebrate Raksha Bandan by exchanging vibrant bracelets and gifts between brothers and sisters. Indians regard the sister-brother relationship as sacred, filled with love and trust, and it’s today that siblings express this love through an exchange of prayers and well wishes. (Get ideas at RakshaBandhan.com.) For thousands of years the full moon day of the Shravan month has generated legends and rituals as rich as the festival itself, although the most widespread tradition has always been to exchange rakhi.
Raksha Bandhan begins with a sister’s personal prayers, followed by the presentation of a sacred bracelet to her brother. After applying tilak (a mix of rice grains and roli) in a design onto her brother, a sister will often present the bracelet (rakhi) to her brother, which is said to be thin in thread but as strong as steel—much like the bond between brothers and sisters. A brother will then offer his sister a gift, along with a vow to protect her for the rest of her life. (Wikipedia has details.) In joy, both siblings indulge in sweet foods. (Check out Raksha Bandhan recipes here. Banana cutlets or vegetable pancakes, anyone?)
For those without siblings, Raksha Bandhan can mean focusing on a kinship relationship with cousins or even good friends. American Hindus, who often live far away from adult brothers and sisters, often connect via kinship relationships within their Hindu communities (an article from the Houston Chronicle gives examples). Rakhis have changed with the times, too: while many bracelets used to be handmade, today’s are commonly purchased. Despite the rocketing price of gold, gold-plated rakhis are “the rage this season,” according to an article in the Times of India. Even when prices rise, siblings are showing that no price is too high to honor their prized relationships.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.