India, a country with diverse culture and multilingual people, becomes an epitome of togetherness during festivals.
These celebratory occasions with traditional significances reflect a scenario where only positive ethics thrives and the ethos of co-operation exists.
Irrespective of their castes or religions, people indulge in the celebrations of festivals together in true letter and spirit without paying any heed to such negative and reprimanding thoughts. Similar is the magic of Raksha Bandhan, an amazing Indian festival which symbolizes the beautiful and pure bond that prevails among brothers and sisters. The real beauty of this festival lies in the fact that the festival is not restricted to just blood relations, but can also be celebrated by people from all religions who imbibe sibling feelings in their hearts.
Significance of Raksha Bandhan
Every festival in the Hindu Panchang holds tremendous significance in the lives of the people.
From the mythological legends associated with them to perform the basic customs and rituals to reveling in their celebrations,
festivities let the people wallow in their rich culture and traditions. Raksha Bandhan is a renowned festival that signifies the precious and
loving bond of siblings with one another. The sacred thread of Rakhi joins them together and strengthens their relationships even more.
The basic theme of the celebration of this festival is the vow of protection which a brother gives to his sister.
This festival highlights the importance of siblings in one's life and how they make it a better and happy place.
History of Raksha Bandhan
The history of Raksha Bandhan can be found in the legends of the Hindu mythologies and historic instances.
The golden pages of history and mythology are loaded with abundant stories that can be associated with the origin of Raksha Bandhan.
King Bali & Goddess Lakshmi: When Lord Vishnu went missing from His Abode to protect King Bali, Goddess Lakshmi became worried for him. To find his whereabouts, she dons on the avatar of a Brahmin woman and went to the kingdom of Bali where Lord Vishnu was performing the role of gatekeeper in order to fulfill his promise of safeguarding the King. She went to King Bali and asks for shelter to which he agreed. With her presence in his kingdom, it began to flourish and prosper. King Bali became impressed with her and a pious bond of sibling affection developed between them. On the day of Rakhi Purnima, she asked for her husband in return for her Rakhi from Bali. Confronting the reality behind her, he returned Lord Vishnu to her and gave a lifetime promise of always protecting her.
Indra & Indrani:This is another popular legend which speaks of the origination of Raksha Bandhan. Indrani, the wife of Lord Indra, tied a sacred thread on the wrist of her husband in order to protect him from the cruel demons and make him win the war against them. This thread gave Indra powers to stand against the powerful demons and make them taste the dust in the battle. Though, it sounds a bit odd as Raksha Bandhan is more about sibling bond, but, on the other hand, it is also a bond and a promise of protection from a dear one to a dear one.
Mahabharata: This mythological epic talks of various relationships which portrays the powers of sacred threads. The first one is the tale of Lord Krishna and Draupadi in which she ties a cloth torn from her saree to stop the bleeding from the hand of Lord Krishna. In return, God protected her from the insult and embarrassment in the kingdom court at the hands of the Kauravas.
Another mythological folklore states that Kunti, the mother of Pandavas, ties a holy thread on the wrist of Abhimanyu, her grandson, like a protection band for war.
Humayun and Rani Karnavati: Threatened of the attack from the powerful Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, she sent a Rakhi to Humayun making him her brother and asking for his help. Humayun accepted her Rakhi wholeheartedly and redirected his army to Chittor to save her and her kingdom from Zafar. Though, he made strong efforts to fulfill his promise of protection to her, but, fate played its role. By the time, he reached the palace, Zafar has already conquered her kingdom.
Traditional Celebration of Raksha Bandhan
Brothers and sisters share a unique sweet and sour bond of love, care, affection, and many times, squabbles with each other. This tangy relationship has its own sweetness and flavors which is celebrated during the festival of Raksha Bandhan. This festival embodies this incredible and memorable bond shared by siblings and made much stronger by a holy thread of Rakhi. Having ancient significances, this festival ideally signifies "a knot of love and protection" which a sister ties on her brother's wrist and prays for his bright and healthy future, whereas, in return, he gives her a promise of support and safety in her thick and thin till the end of time. On this auspicious occasion, sisters apply kumkum tilak on the foreheads of their brothers, tie this sacred thread, and do aarti to shower God's blessings on them. Sisters even keep fasts for their brothers to bestow them with long and healthy lives ahead.
Essential of Performing Rakhi Tying Ceremony
Performing Puja on festivals is an age-old custom to ask for the blessings of God for the well-being of the family members and successful completion of the task taken up. Like other festivals, Raksha Bandhan also observes a Rakhi Puja that is performed by sisters to endow their brothers with long, healthy, and successful lives.
The day begins by taking a bath in the holy water and people wear new clothes on this festival and sing their usual prayers. A special rakhi Puja Thali is prepared by the sisters in which they make a Swastika with kumkum and place roli, chawal, flowers, sweets, a lit diya, and a Rakhi for brother.
Brothers are asked to cover their heads with a handkerchief and sit, while the sisters perform their arti in front of their brothers. Then, they apply the liquid roli and rice on their forehead and tie Rakhi around their wrists while chanting the following mantra:
"Yena Badhdho Bali Raja
Tena twam anubadhnaami
Raksha maa chala maa chala."
Apart from this Raksha Sutra mantra, sisters also chant Gayatri Mantra-
"Aum bhoor bhuva suvah
tat savitur vare Nyam
bhargo devasya dheemahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat"
Rakhi tying ceremony strengthens the bonds between siblings and showers ethereal blessings on them.
Celebration of Raksha Bandhan in Different Regions of India
Celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Shravana, Raksha Bandhan is also known as Rakhi Purnima under Hindu traditions. Apart from the popular Rakhi tying ceremony on this day, Raksha Bandhan is also considered an auspicious occasion to perform various other rituals as per the Hindu lunar calendar. The people revel in the spirits of its celebrations all over the country following a variety of customs followed in their regions.
Kajri Purnima in Central India: Celebrated by the farming communities in the central part of India, Rakhi Purnima is celebrated as Kajri Purnima in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. This ritual is mainly observed by women blessed with sons. It also signifies the commencement of the sowing season.
Nariyal Purnima in Coastal Areas: The people of the fishing community in the coastal regions of India celebrate the occasion of Rakhi Purnima as 'Nariyal Purnima'. This occasion observes fishermen offering coconuts in the sea to the God Varuna (God of sea). They believe that this ritual will protect them from any natural calamities in the sea and bestow them with a good fishing season.
Pavitropana in Gujarat: Rakhi Purnima is celebrated as Pavitropana by the Gujarati people in which they offer their prayer to the God of Death, Lord Shiva, along with a cotton filament dipped in Panchagaivya, a liquid made with five pure elements of cow, i.e. cow's ghee, milk, curd, urine and excreta which is tied around the Shivalinga. It is also known as Putrada Ekadashi in Bhavishya Purana.
Avani Avattam: Another ritual performed on the occasion of Rakhi Purnima, Avani Avattam is observed in the southern states of India like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerela, and Odisha. This day holds immense significance for the Brahmin community of these regions as a Sacred Thread ceremony (Yajnopavitam) is observed as per the Vedas. All the Brahmins take a dip in the holy water to wash away their past sins and don a fresh Janeyu thread.
The other rituals that are performed on this day are Jhulan Purnima, Lumba Rakhi ceremony, Gamha Purnima, Jandhyam Purnima, and the Kite Flying Tradition in Jammu.