Raksha Bandhan: Hindu festival honors sibling love, special relationships

NEWS 2016: This year, UK armed forces have celebrated Raksha Bandhan across Britain; India Times presents a list of nostalgic memories slideshow for anyone who grew up with a sibling; Amazon India delivers a heartfelt message in this year’s Raksha campaign, #DeliverTheLove; and, read all about how rakhis are helping to empower a local economy.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 18: Today’s festival of Raksha Bandhan—celebrated across India and in Hindu communities worldwide—honors the sacred bonds between brothers and sisters. Over many centuries, the rakhi (from Sanskrit, “the tie or knot of affection”) has evolved from simple, handspun threads into bangles adorned in jewels, crystals, cartoon characters and even political figures.

The simple gift expresses renewed love between siblings and sometimes between others who share a bond of brotherhood. More than a century ago, the famous Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore suggested that Muslims and Hindus exchange rakhi as signs of peace and unity as Indians.

Typically, today, women present a rakhi to men and, in return, the men promise to protect the women who offer them a bracelet. (Learn more from the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India.) Although usually associated with Hinduism, Raksha Banhan has reached a wider cultural status—often celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and even some Muslims across India, Mauritus, parts of Nepal and Pakistan.


Weeks before the culmination of Raksha Bandhan, Indian shops offer a bright palette of threads for women making their own rakhi. Shops also are stocked with colorful premade rakhi. The bracelet may be as plain or as opulent as the woman wishes, although most are adorned with some type of decoration at the middle. Men also shop market stands, searching for a token of love for their sisterly Raksha Bandhan companion.

Interested in making your own rakhi? Find simple instructions here.

The morning of the festival, brothers and sisters greet one another in, if possible, the presence of other family members. The sister ties a rakhi on her brother’s wrist, reciting prayers for his well-being and applying a colorful tilak mark to his forehead. The brother promises, in return, to protect his sister under all circumstances—even if she is married—and the two indulge in sweet foods. The brother presents the sister with a gift, and everyone present rejoices in the gladness of family. When a brother and sister cannot be together on Raksha Bandhan, they often send each other cards and gifts for the occasion.


A first-of-its-kind International Raksha Bandhan festival will be held on August 17 in New Delhi, according to news sources. Aside from more local attendees and families, organizers are anticipating visitors from almost 40 countries to attend the festival. According to one representative, “Raksha Bandhan is a festival which can provide way for answers to many global problems.”

Raksha Bandhan: Celebrate brother-sister bonds with Hindu tradition

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.


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.

Rakhi DIY: Eager to make your own rakhi? Check out YouTube videos on paper quilled rakhi, beaded rakhi and felt rakhi, for do-it-yourself instructions.


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.