SATURDAY, AUGUST 29: A promise for protection, blessings for a healthy life and home-baked sweets color the joyful Hindu holiday of Raksha Bandhan, an ancient festival that celebrates the bond between brother and sister. Weeks in advance, girls and women flood marketplaces in search of rakhi, or sacred threads, to tie on their brothers’ wrists; men hunt for chocolates, jewelry, clothing and more, in hopes of finding the perfect gift for their sisters. Treats are prepared and, on the full moon day of the Hindu month Shravana, in India, boys and girls young and old turn to their siblings and renew the bond.
THE RAKHI CEREMONY
From Sanskrit for “the tie or knot of protection,” Raksha Bandhan ritually celebrates a unique bond. To begin ceremonies, which are often carried out in the presence of several other family members, a sister ties rakhi on her brother’s wrist and declares her love for him. She prays for his well being and applies a tilak, or colorful mark, on his head. In return, the brother pledges to protect his sister—under all circumstances. Siblings then partake in desserts and prepared treats, and a brother gives his sister her gift(s).
What is a rakhi? A rakhi is a type of bracelet—intricately designed or simple, expensive or handmade—tied onto a brother’s wrist by his sister. The fragile thread of rakhi represents the subtle yet impermeable strength that exists between siblings—and the duty of the recipient to protect the giver. The sacred relationship between brother and sister is considered unparalleled, as even when a woman marries, her brother’s duties as protector do not cease. (Wikipedia has details.) On a broader scale, Raksha Bandhan is a time for harmonious existence and a bond between leaders—teachers, political figures, civil authorities—and those they serve.
IN THE NEWS: FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR ‘SISTERS’
This year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will grant up to 51,000 women and girls insurance in Varanasi, while urging others to give their sisters the insurance as a gift for Raksha Bandhan. (India Today has the story.) Any woman tying a rakhi on a BJP member’s hand may receive the insurance as a return gift, reported Hindustan Times. Organizers have expressed hope of enrolling at least 11,000 women in each assembly constituency across India during the Raksha Bandhan program.