The Festival Of Colourful Threads
Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi or Rakhi Purnima is a major festival celebrated all across India, but it holds a great significance in northern and western parts of the country. The festival falls in the month of Shravan or Savan of the Hindu calendar (between late July and August) on a full moon day. It is the day when sisters tie a silk thread on the wrists of their brothers for their well-being and ask their brothers to protect them at all times and express their love for them. The festival is also observed in Pakistan, Nepal, and Mauritius and non-resident Indians across the globe also celebrate it in their respective countries. If a woman ties a Rakhi to any man then the man becomes her brother and he treats the woman like his sister. Raksha Bandhan means the bond of protection so the brother has to protect his sister from any difficulty in life and ensure her well-being. In the present times Rakhi has gained significance as a festival on which people can strengthen their bonds with friends, cousins, family members and relatives. Many people tie Rakhi to trees to symbolize the protection of the environment. Women also tie Rakhi to Lord Krishna to celebrate the festival. The festival also celebrates the love between siblings and the bond that they share and rejuvenate relationships. Raksha Bandhan fosters a feeling of brotherhood among the people and strengthens secularism and multiculturalism in India. Many Non-Government Organisations hold Raksha Bandhan programs in jails, slums, orphanages to build ties between people and show concern for such people also. Volunteers and local people visit the borders and army camps to tie Rakhi on the wrists of soldiers who are on duty away from their sisters or those who do not have a sister. This is also one way of expressing gratitude and affection for them. Poems have been written on this festival by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and the Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu.
The Stories Behind The Celebration Of The Festival
Rakhi also came to be celebrated because demon king Mahabali accepted Goddess Lakshmi as his sister. According to the Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, after Lord Vishnu won three worlds from demon King Bali, Bali requested Lord Vishnu to stay in his palace and Lord Vishnu agreed. Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu was not comfortable with this and wanted to go back to Vaikuntha with him. To make this happen she approached King Bali as a Brahmin woman and began staying in his palace. On the day of Shravana Purnima she tied a Rakhi on King Bali's wrist. Bali was touched by the gesture and asked her what she would like as a gift. The Goddess revealed her true identity and asked for Lord Vishnu to leave his palace and accompany her to Vaikuntha. Bound by the bond of a brother Bali had to concede to her wish. This festival also came to be known as Baleva and it started the practice of sisters being invited for Raksha Bandhan to their houses by brothers.
One of the reasons for celebrating the bond between a brother and a sister is the story of Shubh and Labh. The two sons of Lord Ganesha, Shubh and Labh, were unhappy over the fact that Lord Ganesha’s sister visited him and tied a Rakhi on his wrist and they had no sister to celebrate the festival with. The two boys asked their father to get them a sister but that didn’t happen. When Narada came to know of it he predicted that will be blessed by a daughter. A daughter took birth by the divine flames that emerged from Ganesh's wives, Riddhi and Siddhi. The daughter was named Santoshi Maa who was loved and protected by Shubh and Labh.
The earliest reference to festival of Rakhi is found in the Vishnu Purana. It mentions that Yasoda says a prayer while tying a Rakhi around Krishna's wrist. It is also said that the Rakhi festival was observed to mark the bond between Lord Krishna and Draupadi. When Lord Krishna killed the evil King Shishupal he was left with a bleeding finger. When Draupadi saw it she tore a strip of cloth from her sari and wrapped it aroubd Krishna’s finger to check bleeding. Lord Krishna felt indebted to Draupadi for showing concern towards him and considered himself tied to her sisterly act. The Lord promised to rescue Draupadi from any trouble in her life in return for the favor. Several years later, when Kauravas went ahead with removing her sari, because the Pandavas lost her in the game of dice to Kauravas, Lord Krishna came to her rescue and elongated the length of the sari so much that Kauravas failed to take it off.
It is believed that in ancient times Chittor’s queen Rani Karnavati, who was a widow, sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The queen took the decision to send a Rakhi to Humayun because she felt that it was difficult for her to defend Chittor from the invasion of Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat. Humayun was moved by the gesture and sent his forces to defend Chittor but the help came too late and Bahadur Shah was able to capture the queen’s fortress. Though historians are divided about this account, many say that this reference can be found in mid-seventeenth century Rajasthani account.
Another story about the festival of threads is that of King Alexander of Macedonia and Indian king Puru or Porus. Legend has it that when Alexander invaded India his wife, Roxana, sent a Rakhi to King Porus to not to attack her husband and spare his life. At the battlefield when Porus got the opportunity to attack Alexander he refrained from doing so because he honoured the Rakhi sent to him by Alexander’s wife.
Rakhi Is All About Bonding, Caring And Giving Gifts
In a typical Rakhi tradition brothers and sisters get ready in their best clothes or new clothes and parents grandparents also come together to observe the festival according to the custom. Sisters decorate a thali (plate) with flowers and embellishments, light a lamp, put Tilak (mark with Vermillion) on their brother’s forehead along with some rice grains and flower petals, take Aarti and say some prayers, tie the Rakhi on the wrist, and offer sweets. The brother then presents his sister with a gift or cash. Brothers wear the Rakhi for the whole day or as long as they prefer to. Several kinds of gifts are available in the market for the occasion. There are umpteen options like chocolates, jewellery accessories, perfumes, watches, clothes, bags, artificial flowers, books and stationery, the list is endless. In recent times even girls buy presents for their beloved brothers. Items like cufflinks, ties, tie-pins, wallet, perfumes and deodorants are the preferred choice for a return gift. Many households also prepare a dessert like Kheer, Halwa, Kalakand or any sweet of their choice. Married women go their brother’s house to tie Rakhi on this day.
The Festivities Become Easy With Online Orders And Free Shipping
The simple woven silk thread has now been transformed into different varieties of fancy bands, intricate thread work decorated with stones, bead work, embroidery and metal work. Rakhis for children have cartoon characters on them and are very colourful. Most Rakhis use motifs such as a Swastika, Om, Lord Ganesha, Lord Krishna, and also have dear brother written on them in different languages. A lot of innovation has happened in the types of Rakhis available. These days people are buying Rakhis which are in the form of amulets, bracelets, wrist watches and in the form of some jewellery There are also quirky Rakhis with pictures of celluloid actors. Even gold and silver Rakhis are in great demand nowadays. Not just Rakhis, the way of purchasing a Rakhi has also changed. Many people are opting to buy Rakhis, greeting cards and gifts online to avoid the rush in the market. It also saves a lot of time for people who don’t find time to shop in local markets and return late from work. Most of the deals on Raksha Bandhan come as a package of Rakhi with either dry fruits, chocolates, sweets, greeting cards, gifts, flowers or all of these. Shopping online is also profitable because one gets hundreds of options about what to gift which is not possible in a retail shop that has limited stuff. Online delivery of festival goodies has reduced the distance between places and made people closer. For those sisters whose brothers are living away from them, ordering Rakhis online is a cheap and convenient way to send Rakhis to their dear brothers. Sites like awesomeji.com are offering free delivery anywhere in India. Women who stay overseas in countries like Canada, U.K, U.S, U.A.E and Australia are also making use of online Rakhi delivery services to send Rakhi and their wishes to their brothers living in India. Sending a Rakhi online not only makes the process of selecting a Rakhi simple but also takes care of the timely home delivery of the product. Some people also consider celebrating it with a cake also.
One Festival, Many Names
Raksha Bandhan is celebrated with fervor and gaiety by different names in different parts of India. In the state of West Bengal and Odisha it is known by the name of Jhulan Purnima while in Maharashtra state it is celebrated as Narali Poornima. In Haryana and Punjab, on Raksha Bandhan day people observe the festival of Salono too. The rituals in some of these places are also different. Like in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region apart from the brother sister bond, men change their Janeu and the Bagwal fair is held at Devidhura in Champawat district. In Maharashtra people throw coconuts into the sea to please Lord Varuna on Rakhi day. In Jammu and most of North India, people fly Kites on the occasion.