Lord Krishna is believed to have advised King Yudhishtir, as recorded in the Bhavishya Purana, that on the full moon night of the Shravan month, offerings must be made to the deceased forefathers. Following this ritual in the morning, the royal priest must tie the sacred thread symbolizing ‘raksha’ or protection that is sought by the king from the subjects of the kingdom. Subsequently, all the people across caste are advised to celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan by tying the Rakhi along with offering grains and the tilak.
Thus began the celebration which now predominantly celebrates the bond between a brother and sister. The sisters visit the brother’s house, apply the tilak on the brother’s forehead, tie the Rakhi on his wrist, and feed him sweets. The brother, in return, promises to be there for the sister and support her in times of need. Many also show their appreciation and affection towards their sisters in the form of gifts.
Another popular story regarding Rakshan Bandhan is that of Rani Karnavati and Emperor Humayun. Keen on protecting her kingdom from the vicious and powerful attacks of the Mughals, the widowed Queen of Chittor is believed to have sent the Emperor a Rakhi as a mark of trust and seeking the promise of protection, thus forging a bond with the Emperor. This story and many more that are associated with the festival highlight the sanctity of the relationship between a brother and sister.
The tradition of Raksha Bandhan is believed to strengthen the ties between a married woman and her parental family through her brother. By continuing to visit the brother and his family every year after being married and moving away, the woman is assured of her security and affection back at her maternal home.
The tradition of Raksha Bandhan, though predominantly a part of North Indian culture, has grown to find its place among a number of communities that have accommodated this endearing tradition. A number of families in parts of South India encourage their daughters to take part in the tradition as well. Moreover, this festival has also found its presence beyond the confines of the immediate family. Celebrating Raksha Bandhan with cousins and even friends across different communities is commonplace.
Here’s wishing all our readers a Happy Raksha Bandhan!