Raksha Bandhan: Brother-sister bonds honored across India

Women at marketplace looking at bracelets

Women shop for Raksha Bandhan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, AUGUST 7: Across India and in Hindu communities worldwide, the sacred bonds between brothers and sisters are honored on Raksha Bandhan. 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. Typically, today, women present a rakhi to men and, in return, the men promise to protect the women who offer them a bracelet. Although usually associated with Hinduism, Raksha Banhan has now reached a wider cultural status—often celebrated by Jains, Sikhs and even some Muslims across India, Mauritus, parts of Nepal and Pakistan.

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. 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. 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.

RAKSHA BANDHAN: COLORS AND RITUALS

Rakhi Ganesha

A rakhi featuring Ganesha. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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. Men also shop market stands, searching for a token of love for their sisterly Raksha Bandhan companion.

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 grown and 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.

Interested in making your own rakhi? Find 15 kid- and adult-friendly ideas at the blog Artsy Craftsy Mom, which features simple to complex DIY rakhi instructions.

IN THE NEWS: 2017 AUSPICIOUS TIMES & MUSLIM-HINDU BONDS

The most auspicious times to observe Raksha Bandhan are discussed at India.com, and also in the news, Indian Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana has announced the gift of insurance coverage for 11,000 girls and women in need for Raksha Bandhan. The prime minister will also build 100 toilets in houses for women who cannot afford them, according to Times of India. A rahki campaign will also be run throughout August across India, for which Muslim girls will tie rakhi onto Hindu boys and Hindu girls will tie rakhi onto Mulsim boys. The boys will promise protection to the gift-bearers in this effort of brotherhood between religions and castes. (Read more in The Hindu.)

Raksha Bandhan: Hindu festival honors sibling love, special relationships

Woman at market in front of rows and boxes of colorfu bracelets

A woman browses a marketplace for rakhi. Photo by Vishal Dutta, courtesy of Flickr

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.

A DAY IN THE LIFE:
THE RITUALS OF RAKSHA BANDHAN

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.

NEWS: INDIA TO HOST FIRST ‘INTERNATIONAL RAKSHA BANDHAN’

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

Young boy and girl, India, stand close together as girl ties threaded bracelet onto boy's wrist

A sister ties a rakhi onto her brother’s wrist for Raksha Bandhan. Photo by Yogesh Kumar Jaiswal, courtesy of Flickr

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

Intricate peach-colored threads and beaded designs on bracelet

Rakhi threads. Photo by Santanu Vasant, courtesy of Flickr

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.

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.

Raksha Bandhan: Across India, brothers and sisters exchange rakhis

Hands and arms, tying a threaded bracelet onto another person

Tying a rakhi for Raksha Bandhan. Photo by Joe Athialy, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, AUGUST 10: 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.

A DAY IN THE LIFE:
THE RITUALS OF RAKSHA BANDHAN

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.

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. (Wikipedia has details.) When a brother and sister cannot be together on Raksha Bandhan, they often send each other cards and gifts for the occasion.

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

IN THE NEWS:
FROM DESIGNER AND CARTOON RAKHIS
TO ECO-FRIENDLY

Designers from the brand “The Anouk” have created a rakhi collection this year suitable for use year-round, news sources report: Jewels, small messages, golden inlays and crystals adorn the bracelets.

Those in search of something less pricey are turning to the trendy designs bearing Angry Birds, Ben 10 and even the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kids are choosing plastic straps, for practical purposes. Times of India also reports, however, that prices have ballooned 10 to 15 percent this year, as a result of an increased cost of labor.

Environmentally minded individuals can now choose an “Eco Rakhi,” from organic lifestyle brand Omved. These pieces are hand woven, and decorated with seeds and beads.

Raksha Bandhan: Hindu sisters & brothers tie symbolic bonds

Two photos of adult females tying a bracelet around an adult male's wrist

In Hindu tradition, girls tie bracelets onto their brothers’ wrists and, in return, their brothers promise to protect them. Photo courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21: Do you have Hindu friends, neighbors or co-workers? Ask them about this holiday and you may find someone showing you a colorful new band around a man’s wrist—placed there by his sister. It’s a tradition known as Raksha Bandhan—or “the bond, or tie, of protection” in English—and it is popular in Indian immigrant communities as well as in the Indian homeland.

This affectionate custom calls on women to tie a rakhi, or woven bracelet, onto the wrist of a brother or sometimes a male cousin. The sister recites sacred lines that declare her wishes for a long life for her brother, while the brother promises to protect his sister under unconditional circumstances; she places tilak on his forehead. As the sister has baked or bought a variety of sweets, she and her brother then feed each other, and the brother presents her with money or another form of gift. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs alike partake in this popular festival, although the legends behind it are many.

SACRED STORIES SHOW ANCIENT ROOTS

An ancient Vedic festival, evidence is found in early manuscripts of the celebration of Raksha Bandhan. Several stories exist pertaining to this holiday, with among the most popular:

  • Yama and Yamuna: Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, had a sister himself, whose name was Yamuna. When Yamuna presented a gift of rakhi to Yama, he was granted immortality. Lord Yama was so impressed by the serenity of the occasion that he declared any brother who receives a rakhi from his sister will also be granted immortality.
  • Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun: During the Medeival period, Rani Karnawati was the widowed queen of the king of Chittor. When threat loomed of an attack, Rani felt helpless. In defense, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun; Humayun was so touched that he sent his troops to defend Chittor, rather than attack it.
  • Alexander the Great and King Puru: Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BCE, and upon this event, Alexander’s wife sent a sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to hurt her husband in battle. Porus had full admiration for the rakhi, and when the opportunity came for him to personally kill Alexander, he saw the rakhi on his wrist and resisted.

Aside from siblings and cousins, priests may tie rakhis around the wrists of congregation members; dear friends may tie rakhis for each other; rakhis are tied around the wrists of soldiers. Design can be complex, intricate and of expensive materials with adornments like stones and beads, or simple and conservative. Nonetheless, a rakhi of any kind carries with it a sacred duty, and the recipient regards his obligation to the giver as an honor. It is said that the protection offered by a rakhi lasts for one year.

TAGORE’S VIEW:
CELEBRATE BROTHERHOOD

Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore reinterpreted Raksha Bandhan, declaring that it should be a festival not just for brothers and sisters but for the brotherhood bonds among all of mankind. Tagore argued that all members of society have the obligation to protect one another, and thereby a harmonious society would emerge. Tagore regarded Raksha Bandhan as the most appropriate day to spread his message.

IN THE NEWS:
BAZAARS & GLUTEN-FREE SWEETS

Merchants and event planners have welcomed the influx of Raksha Bandhan customers for weeks. Shoppers have been snapping up the most attractive rakhis, gifts and sweets. For the high-end shopper, fashion shows like the recent Vimonisha Exhibitions have promised a chic selection of jewelry, clothing and gifts, particularly at its Raksha Bandhand Designer Exhibition and Sale.

Bakeries are noting an explosion in the demand for gluten-free and sugar-free cakes and treats this year, as more brothers and sisters opt for healthier options on Raksha Bandhan. (The Times of India reports.) Prices vary depending on design and size, and bakers indicate that no difference can be detected between the low-sugar, gluten-free cakes and their high-calorie, sugary counterparts.