RAKHI: Ties that bind

by admin on July 6, 2012

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rakhi imageLong ago in the book of Gods, before the chapters on dreams unfold, Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas tied a piece of silk from her own sari to stem the flow of blood of a battle wounded Lord Krishna.  Lord Krishna saw this as an act of sister hood and later saved her during her disrobement by the Kauravas by making extending her sari infinitely. Another legend says Yama (the God of death) was so impressed by his sister Yamuna tying a Rakhi on his hand that he declared that ‘who so ever gets a Rakhi tied by Yamuna would become immortal’. In the earlier eras, wives would tie the Rakhi on their husband’s hand, which slowly evolved into tying Rakhis by sisters onto brothers.

On the full moon in the month of Shravan that Lord Indra’s wife Lakshmi, tied a Rakhi on the wrist of demon King Bali, setting a trend to hold Raksha Bandhan on this date. Historically, King Alexander the Great’s wife Roxana sent a Rakhi to King Porus in 326 BC, pleading with him to spare Alexandra’s life. Porus remembered this plea and spared Alexandra’s life just before striking the final blow. Another story is that Rani Karnavati of Chittor who also sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun and asking for help against the marauding Bahadur Shah from Gujarat, touched by the gift Humayun sent his troops to defend Chittor, but tragically, they arrived too late to prevent loot and plunder of Chittor fort on March 8, 1535.

Rabindranath Tagore used Rakhi as a catalyst to bridge the gap between Hindus and Muslims because it could be celebrated between cousin brothers and sisters and not necessarily from the same lineage. The poet organized and popularized Rakhi Utsavs for all community members to protect each other.  After all, it simply promotes the universal kinship of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Today, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated all over India where sisters tie a beautifully colourful Rakhi around their brothers’ hands , praying for his everlasting life while the brother’s gift money in an envelope and pledge life long protection to their sisters . This ceremony involves tying of a Rakhi, and exchange of sweets like Jalebis, Katju, Katli and apparel etc. In southern and central parts of India like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa, Shravan Poornima day is when Brahmin community performs the rituals of Avani Avittam or Upakarma.rakhi image

Since north Indian Rakhi practices give cousins a status similar to siblings, girls and women often tie the Rakhi to their male cousins as well. Unrelated boys and men who are considered to be brothers (munh-bola bhai or adopted brothers) can be tied Rakhis, provided they vow to protect the woman or girl. The concept of Rakhi is known by various names: Gamha Poornima in Orissa, Narali Purnima in Gujarat (also Pavitropana), Goa and Maharashtra, Jandhyam Poornima in Kumaon and Uttarakhand, and Jhoolan Puja in parts of Bengal and Orissa while in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar it is referred to as  Kajari  Purnima.

Raksha Bandhan: Many names, many histories and many places but one ethos: a sacred thread that binds Brotherhood of man, so surprise your sister and give her a Rakhi gift for giving you the honour of protecting her.

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