Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi is not one of those Hindu festivals that have been newly embraced by people. Its existence, albeit, has been since time immemorial. There have been numerous instances in the past when great people, have also respected this humble thread that is tied by the sister on the brother’s wrist. By tying the sacred string on the brother’s hand, the sister declares her love for her brother and prays for his prosperity and health. While the brother makes a vow that he would protect her sister for life.
Rakhi knows no boundaries. The moving story of Emperor Humayun and Rani Karnawati is still fresh in the chapters of history when the queen sent across a humble Rakhi to seek protection from the Muslim invader Humayun. Touched by this gesture, he accepted the queen as his sister and offered his full protection to her.
Who can forget the epic Mahabharata when during Dyutsabha, Draupadi’s modesty was being violated; it was Lord Krishna who rescued her. This was because Lord Krishna had promised Draupadi his protection when she had tied him a symbolic rakhi during his war with Sishupal.
A lesser known name of the Rakhi festival – Baleva
The Rakhi festival is called Baleva owing to the devotion of Raja Bali to Lord Vishnu. The story of Raksha Bandhan that emerged goes like this. Pleased with Raja Bali and his ‘tapasya’, Lord Vishnu left his abode and went to Bali’s kingdom which saddened his consort, Lakshmi. She dressed like a Brahmin woman took the opportunity of Rakhi Poornima and tied a rakhi on Bali’s wrist. When she revealed her status and her plea of having the Lord back in Vaikuntham, Bali had no other choice but to award his sister her wish.
The festival of Rakhi in contemporary times
The festival of Rakhi is celebrated in the Shrawan months during Rakhi Poornima. Not much has changed about the festival. Sisters are invited by brothers who come dressed appropriately with an ‘Aarti Thal’. In the presence of family members and loving friends, a tika is placed on the brothers’ forehead, aarti is done and rakhi is tied on his wrist. Various treats also follow the ritual where sisters love to pamper their brothers. The brothers gift their sisters with the ultimate promise to protect her in times of need and also pamper them with Rakhi Gifts.
This celebration has retained its significance over the times
With changing times, lots have changed. Some traditions are forgotten, some let go off, but the festival of Raksha Bandhan has gone from strength to strength. In anticipation of the festival, there is a huge production of Rakhi which infiltrates through suppliers and vendors to Indian households. Popular exhibitions are set up prior to the festival where choicest rakhis get displayed for sale and girls make a beeline to buy the best for their brothers. Such a relation and its expression are purer and continue to fill the hearts of brothers and sisters with feelings of great affection.