Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival, that celebrates the caring relationship between brothers and sisters. It is celebrated on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Shravan. This year it falls on the 26th of August 2018. As the name suggests Raksha Bandhan is the bond of protection between brother and sister. It encompasses the warmth shared between the siblings and reminds them of the strong relationship they share. By tying a raakhi the sister asks her brother for his protection and love. The brother, in turn, accepts the raakhi, confirms his love and affection, and presents the sister with an assurance of protection along with gifts and sweets.
The traditional significance of the elements of Rakhi Purnima
Every element of this day has a special significance. In our culture, whenever we have any spiritual significance, the first thing we do is to prepare the ‘Aarti Thal’ and honor each other by putting a ‘Tilak’ on the forehead, offering sweet and circling the ‘Arti Thal’ over the individual.
Rakhi is the sacred thread that reminds the wearer of his commitment, his promise and responsibilities. Interestingly, the ‘Rakhi’ surfaced around the time when India was ruled by kings and queens. When soldiers were on the battlefield, most would not see their families for years. It is said that the sister of a captain on the battlefield, sent this sacred thread to remind him about his responsibilities and his duty towards his family. Motivated by this simple gesture, the captain fought vigorously to win the war and got back to his family. From then on, Rakhi has become a sign of love, affection and reminder of the commitment of protection.
The Tilak: Putting dried KumKum or wet Kumkum is a prayer offered to God saying, ‘Let the receiver of this Tilak be blessed with colourful happiness and abundant prosperity.’ Putting rice grains after the KumKum asks that the receiver have ample food for his lifetime.
Offering Sweets: Offering sweets signify that the one eating this sweet shall always have a sweet speech and no ill thought shall touch his mind, body or soul. Likewise, he shall also be kind and generous to others. Every word that comes out of his mouth shall be a goodwill, prayer or a blessing.
Circling of the Arti Thal:
Every Arti Thal has an oil lamp in it. When an individual is encircled by the Arti Thal, it signifies a prayer for the long life of an individual. The oil lamp, Kumkum, rice and the sweets, therefore, signifies that the receiver’s life be blessed with abundant goodwill, colourful happiness, sweet memories and a long prosperous life.
As we understand the beautiful significance of the elements of Rakhi Purnima, there are stories from history too associated with this festival.
More than a brother-sister bond
Rani Karnavati, the Queen of Chittor, sent the sacred thread to Emperor Humayun when she realized she could not defend her kingdom after the demise of her husband. Touched by this gesture, Emperor Humayun along with his cavalry left to protect Chittor and The Queen.
Another story dates back to 300 BC when Alexander of Macedonia set on a mission to conquer India. Outraged by his crusade, the then King of India, King Puru, vowed to execute Alexander. Shaken by his fury, Alexander’s wife sent a Rakhi to King Puru asking him for the gift of her husband’s life. Respecting the bond of sacredness and the pious relation of sisterhood King Puru pardoned Alexander.
For ages now, we have been practicing this festival by celebrating the love-hate relationship between a brother and a sister. The significance of the rituals, the way this day is celebrated, all of this reminds us of the relation of brother and sister. But, in today’s scenario, Rakhi Purnima has a different perspective. The occasion involves the pledge of a lifetime practice of moral, cultural and spiritual values. The values and the sentiments attached to the rituals of this festival are worth inculcating by the whole human race, the sentiments of harmony and peaceful coexistence. The festival of Raksha Bandhan assumes all forms of Raksha or protection, of righteousness and destroyer of all sin.
-Snigdha Keskar is a content writer at Investronaut, a firm dedicated to providing organizations with business, products and services consultation.