We all know the bond between a Brother and a Sister is so unique and inseparable. The relationship between siblings is given importance all over the world. We cannot describe it in words. Moreover, to specially remind their love towards each other, the festival of Rakshabandhan is celebrated annually in India and many parts of South Asia. This year it falls on August 15 co-occurring with India’s 73rd Independence Day.
Rakshabandhan ( also called Rakhi, Saluno, Silono, Rakri )
It is a special Hindu festival celebrated in India and countries like Bangladesh, Nepal etc. Rakshabandhan represents the love between a brother and a sister. The holy festival of Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu Luni-Solar calendar. It falls in the month of Shravana which typically falls in the August month of the Gregorian calendar.
On this day, sisters of all ages tie talisman or amulet which is called a rakhi around the wrists of their brothers. It symbolically protects them and sisters receive a gift in return. Basically, to get it straight they are traditionally investing in brothers with a share of the responsibility of their potential care.
It is also celebrated among cousins, sister and sister-in-law (Bhabhi), fraternal aunt (Bua) and nephew (Bhatija) and other such relations.
Now according to Sanskrit terminology Rakshabandhan is made up of two words ” Raksha ” meaning to protect and ” Bandhan ” meaning the bond or to tie. Together it showcases the immense love not only between blood relation brothers and sisters but cousin brother/sisters too.
When did Rakhi come into existence?
One of the earliest traits of festival Rakshabandhan or Rakhi was in 326 BC in the battle between King Alexander and King Porus. Alexander’s wife feared his death so she approached Porus and tied Rakhi on Porus’s wrist.
In return, the king Porus promised not to harm/kill King Alexander. Meanwhile then in the battle too when King Porus raised his sword to kill Alexander, he stopped after looking at the rakhi tied on his wrist.
Rani Karnavati of Chittor
Another story which marks the history of festival Rakshabandhan is Rani Karnavati. Feared of the invasion from the Sultan of Gujarat Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Mughal Emperor Humayun asking to save the life of her family. Deeply touched by this gesture he immediately rushed with his military for saving her family and kingdom but failed to do so…
They all burnt themselves rather than fall into the hands of the enemy.
Mythological Evidence of why Rakhi is celebrated?
Indra Dev and Sachi
According to Bhavishya Purana, once there was a fierce battle between Gods and Demons. Lord Indra the deity of sky, rains and thunderbolts, was fighting from the side of Gods and he finds little trouble while fighting with King Bali.
The war continued for a very long time but did not bear a conclusion. Seeing this, Indra’s wife Sachi went to Lord Vishnu who gave her a holy bracelet made up of cotton thread. Sachi tied the holy thread around the wrist of her husband Lord Indra to protect him. He then ultimately defeated the demons and recovered Amaravati.
The context of this festival described these holy threads to be amulets which were used by women for prayers and were tied to their husband when they were leaving for war.
Note – That’s the reason when Indian Soldiers leave for battle their wives tie holy threads in order to protect them.
Unlike the present period, those holy threads were not limited to brother-sister relationships.
Yama and the Yamuna
Now according to the death God Yama, who did not visit his sister the Yamuna for a period of 12 years, to which she feels very sad.
On the advice of Maa Ganga, Yama went to meet his sister the Yamuna. After meeting her brother she felt very happy and performed good hospitality of her brother, Yama. This made Yama delighted who asked the Yamuna for a gift.
She expressed her desire to see her brother again and again. Hearing this Yama made his sister Yamuna immortal so that he could see her again and again forever.
This mythological story forms the basis of a festival called “Bhai Dooj” which is also based on the brother-sister relationship.
Story of Krishna and Draupadi
In Mahabharat, Lord Krishna got injured and was bleeding from the finger. After realizing this Draupadi torn a piece of her clothing and tied it on Lord’s Krishna fingers to stop bleeding.
This reference here referred to as rakhi to Lord Krishna which shows caring of a sister towards her brother. Also in return Lord Krishna helped Pandavas defeat Kauravas in the battle indirectly saving Draupadi. Kunti tied the rakhi to grandson Abhimanyu before the epic war too.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi
As per Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana when Lord Vishnu won three worlds from the demon King Bali. He then was asked by the demon king to stay beside him in the palace. The Lord accepted the requested and started living with the demon king.
However, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu wanted to return to her native place of Vaikuntha. So, she tied the rakhi around the wrist of the demon king, Bali and made him her brother.
On asking about the gift in return Goddess Lakshmi asked Bali to free her husband from the vow and let him return to Vaikuntha. Bali agreed to the request and Lord Vishnu returned to his place with his wife, Goddess Lakshmi.
FACT UPDATE – Rabindranath Tagore and Rakhi Bandhan
Not many people know that Rakhi was used as a social device or inter-religion friendship tool by Rabindranath Tagore. The famous Noble prize winner poet and freedom fighter suggested the custom of Rakhi to strengthen the bond between Hindus and Muslims during the freedom struggle. The festival also goes beyond the line of religion in the country even today.