Raksha Bandhan 2017
The festivals of India portray celebrations. Rakhi 2017 The festivals of India portray celebration of relationships, their belonging and oneness. A very special festival Raksha Bandhan is the celebration of a special bond between a sister and a brother. This festival, therefore, epitomizes love, affection and feeling of brotherhood. This Year Rakhi / Raksha Bandhan celebrates on 7th August 2017.
Raksha Bandhan as the name suggests, signifies a bond of protection that is derived from raksha meaning protection and bandhan meaning bound. On this day of Shravan Purnima (full moon day of shravan month), sisters tie Rakhi, a sacred amulet made up of silky threads matted together in an appealing style and festooned with beads on their brothers’ wrist. It is a way of praying for their brothers’ good health, wealth, happiness and success. The brothers, likewise, promise to protect their sisters from danger or evil and also give them a token gift. This practice fortifies their protective bond against all ills and odds.
Traditional celebration of the festival starts at the daybreak. The rakhis and the sweets are bought and prepared generally before the Purnima. As per the tradition the family members get ready for the rituals early. They take a bath to purify mind and body before starting any preparations. The sisters prepare the thali for the pooja. It contains the rakhis, kumkum powder, rice grains, diya (an earthern or a metal lamp used for worshiping), incense sticks and sweets.
First of all deities of the family are worshipped in order to invoke their blessings. The sister performs aarti of her brother, applies tilak on his forehead and ties Rakhi, the sacred thread to his wrist while chanting holy verses- “Yena baddho Balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshe maa chala maa chala”. This mantra means, “Similar to the rakhi tied to the mighty demon king, Bali, I am tying one on your wrist. Rakhi please do not abate but stay firm and determined”.
Another verse that finds its place during the ritual is the one in Punjabi- “Suraj shakhan chhodian, Mooli chhodia beej Behen ne rakhi bandhi / Bhai tu chir jug jee”. This one means, “The sun spreads out its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds, your sister is tying the rakhi to you, dear brother may you live long.”
The sister then offers sweets to his brother and the brother in turn blesses the sister and vows to take care of her and stand by her through thick and thin. The brother also gives a gift to her as a token of his acknowledgement, love and affection.
Nowhere other than India such extraordinary festival marking celebration of brother- sister relationship is celebrated with fervor, devotion and zeal. This practice followed by almost every Indian has been into the existence from past so many centuries. The rich Indian Mythology provides different religious reasons to celebrate the day. This festival finds a mention in most of the epics and its origin can be traced back to Hindu folklore.
It is said that Yamuna, the sister of Yama, the lord of death used to tie rakhi to his brother’s wrist on every Shravan Purnima.
The legend says that once Indra, the Pauranic King of the Heavens, while warring with the Demon King Bali was confronted with reverses. Humbled, he sought after the advice of Brihaspati, the Guru of the Gods. On the auspicious occasion of Shravan Poornima, Indrani, the wife of Indra, tied talisman popularly known as Raksha on Indra’s wrist. Consequently, Indra bested King Bali and re-established sovereignty over his celestial abode.
This signifies that Rakhi has been an un-maligned prayer for good will and protection. It symbolizes values that embody various relationships even encompassing sibling relations. That is, it personifies that raksha bandhan is not only meant for siblings, but for safety of any loved one. It could be tied by wife, a daughter or mother.
The main primordial occurrence refers to the invasion of Alexander the Great during 300 B.C. It is said that Puru was a mighty Indian king. Alexander of Macedonia had to face a great resistance from him. Worried about her husband’s safety, Alexander’s wife seeked audience with King Puru. She requested him to accept her as his sister. Puru obliged her and promised not to harm Alexander. And when the opportunity came during the war, he refrained from Alexander. The Rakhi on Puru’s hand is said to be the savior of Alexander.
During the medieval era, the Mughal rulers were invading the Rajput kingdoms. Rakhi at that time meant a spiritual binding and a call for help. A famous incident relates how rakhi by then had broken the religious barriers. When Rani Karnawati the widowed queen of the king of Chittor realized that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor touched by the gesture started off with his troops without wasting any time.
Rabindranath Tagore started Rakhi Utsavs in Shanti Niketan. It was a congregation signifying the pleasant liaison amongst the community. It was a vow to re-establish the bond of love between all sects and religions of society. This was in order to bring in universal attitude towards this day.
In comparison, today Raksha Bandhan is one unique festival eagerly awaited in the month of August during Shravan Purnima. This day has significance beyond the brother- sister bond. It is called Naryali Purnima or coconut full moon in the coastal areas of India. The day is devoted to the Rain God Indra and the Sea God Varuna (gods of water that is the basis of life).
The coconuts are offered to the Gods to please them and seek out their blessings. Coconut is considered to be a symbol of three-eyed God, Lord Shiva. Throwing the coconut in the sea makes the offering. It is said that Lord Rama started for Lanka to rescue Sita on this day. He crossed the sea from the bridge made by the Vanar Sena by throwing stones in water. The fishing season starts now for the fishermen. Also, people begin their voyages on this day, certain that the seas have calmed down and it is a propitious day.
The farmers celebrate it as “Kajri Purnima”. They start the sowing of wheat on this day and pray for a good crop to the God.
The day is very important for the Brahmins as well. It is also called as “Avani Avittam or Upakarmam” in southern parts of India. ‘Rishi Tarpan or the Shravani Ceremony’ marks this day. On this day they change their holy thread called the Janeyu or the Yajnopavit amidst the chanting of mantras. The Janeyu represents observance of Vedic culture, adherence of Hindu traditions and service to people with compassion. The sweets made of coconut are served after the ceremony.
Raksha Bandhan is celebrated as “Pavitropana” in Gujarat. On this day, people perform grand pooja or worship the three-eyed god, Lord Shiva. It is the finale of the prayers done through out the year.
The day is all about raksha or protection, not just for self but also for the loved ones. It dictates the values of togetherness and self- perseverance. Each ritual has an important connotation, which varies with different regions and communities.
Preparations for the festival begin well in advance
The market pulsates with activity. One can see colorful rakhis everywhere. Hand made rakhis may just represent personal feelings of the siblings. The rakhi tying ritual has become so much a part of the families that come what may brothers and sisters try to reach out to each other on this particular day, thereby, bringing back the oneness of the family, binding the family together in an emotional bond. But for those who are unable to visit each other due to some valid reason, Rakhi Cards have been introduced in the market which extend the feeling of warmth and can be send across to your loved ones. Also, e-mails, e-rakhis and rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages.
The sweet shops have different scrumptious sweets and gift shops have diverse range of rakhis and gifts to attract the buyers, young and old. Nowadays, chocolates and cookies are being looked as other options to the sweets that are exchanged. It is a much-awaited festival for the siblings. Not just a thread tying ceremony, it is the reunion and the transcendent sentiments that call for the celebration.
The festival has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions for centuries. Only the means have changed with the changing lifestyles. As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal and rakhis.
She worships the deities, ties Rakhi to the brother(s) and wishes for their well being by chanting holy verses. The brother in turn acknowledges the love with a promise to protect his sister from all evils and gives her return gift as a sign of his promise and affection. Then after these rituals start the celebrations. It is a sort of family reunion and get together and calls for revelry. Delicious traditional goodies and delicacies are prepared at home early in the morning. The tradition of exchange of sweets and gifts is also an important part of this festival. There is a mood of joy, love and bliss in the air.
Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of Raksha or protection, of rectitude and destroyer of all sins. It is a tacit word exchanged between a brother and a sister bolstering their abiding and chaste relationship. Also, through varied celebrations of this day, India yet again illustrates its harmony among the diversity. This simple and pious rite avows the belief and reliance not only amongst the individuals, but also for the society. It plays a major role of humanity by strengthening the bond between the people and arousing the feeling of belongingness amongst them. It fills colors, fervor and excitement amongst their otherwise mundane lives. In true sense, Raksha Bandhan is a special sought after festival looked forward by all.