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Raksha Bandhan is one of the most pious festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated to cherish the sacred bond between a brother and his sister. Although it is a Hindu festival, yet brothers and sisters all around the country observe this festival with the same zeal and enthusiasm. The meaning of Raksha Bandhan translates to ‘the bond of protection.’ On this day, a sister ties a sanctified thread on her brother’s wrist and wish for his excellent well-being and health. The brothers promise their sisters that they’ll always protect her honour. Another beautiful aspect of this festival is that there’s no age or cultural restriction. Brothers and sisters of any age-group, ethnicity, or religion celebrate this festival with great zeal and enthusiasm. Since this festival cherishes the sacred bond of brothers and sisters, anyone can celebrate this festival with whom they share this bond, whether they’re related by blood or not.
The origin of this festival took place around 6000 years ago. Raksha Bandhan has several stories associated with it. However, the main story behind its origin is the story of Lord Krishna and Draupadi. When Lord Krishna slew the evil Shishupal, he cut his little finger during the fight. Draupadi saw his bleeding finger. She immediately tore a piece of her saree and tied it on his finger to stop it from bleeding. Lord Krishna was touched with her sisterly concern towards him and pledged that he’ll always protect her honour. A few years later, when Draupadi’s husband lost her to Kauravas in the game of dice, Lord Krishna protected her dignity.
Another story that’s also very popular in this context is the story of Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun. Rani Karnawati was the widow of the king of Chittor. After the death of her husband, she started ruling Chittorgarh in the name of her elder son, Rana Vikramaditya. However, the sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, decided to attack the kingdom of Chittor. Fearing the impending danger, Rani Karnawati sent a Rakhi thread to emperor Humayun, seeking his help. The emperor was overwhelmed with this gesture and immediately set out towards Chittor, abandoning all his active operations in Bengal. Even though Rani Karnawati lost the battle to Bahadur Shah, Emperor Humayun won it back. He restored her family’s reign over Chittor honouring the sanctity of the Rakhi sent to him.
As per the Hindu calendar, the festival of Rakhi is observed on the full moon and the last day of the Shravan month. This day usually falls in the first week of August, a month in the Gregorian calendar.
The festivals of Raksha Bandhan primarily belong to the North and Western regions of India. However, it is also celebrated across India. Hindus across the globe celebrate Raksha Bandhan with great zeal. The festival is known by different names in different regions of the country. It is known by the name of Rakhi Purnima in northern and north-western parts of the country and is popular as Shravani or Kajari Purnima in the states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Bihar.
A few days before this celebration, the markets are flooded with colourful Rakhis, gifts, and delicious sweets. Women usually shop for beautiful Rakhis, new dresses, and sweets for a special occasion, while the men shop for their attire and Rakhi-gifts for their sisters. On the morning of Raksha Bandhan, everybody wakes up early and takes a bath to purify their body and mind, before getting dressed in their new clothes. The whole family gathers to celebrate the occasion in one place. The sisters make all the arrangements for the ceremony and brothers seat themselves in front of their sisters. After that, sisters anoint their brother’s forehead and tie their Rakhi on his wrist, followed by an offering of sweets. This is a way for sisters to convey their gratitude and best wishes to their brothers. In return, brothers pamper their sisters with all sorts of gifts including chocolates, dresses, jewellery and money. They also pledge to protect their sister throughout their lives. In states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka, this day signifies the beginning of a new season. In Gujarat, people perform a grand pooja or the worship of the three-eyed god, Lord Shiva, to celebrate this day.
In its essence, Raksha Bandhan is a unique festival that celebrates the bittersweet relationship of the brother and sister. The merriment that surrounds this festival is unsurpassed. It plays an important role in rejuvenating the bond among siblings and remind them of the love and responsibilities they have for each other.