Raksha Bandhan

Foreign tourists who are now in north India may be wondering at how scarce (and expensive) taxis and autorickshaws have become today? They may also be surprised to see most men wearing colourful amulets around their wrists today. Well, it is easily explained. Today Hindus are celebrating the  festival of Raksha Bandhan. This festival is all about the love and devotion between brothers and sisters. The sudden scarcity of public transport is because almost every one is visiting their brothers or sisters. Women tie rakhis, which are bracelets or amulets of coloured silken thread, around the right hand wrists of their brothers and the brothers give them gifts. Actually, the word raksha means protection and bandhan means a bond. Thus together, they signify the emotional bond between brothers and sisters which  protects them from all evils. One could think of it as a brothers and sisters day.

Sarojini Naidu, who was called the  Nightingale of India for her exquisite poetry, described the spirit of this festival in the following words:-

“Beloved I offer to you

In tender allegiance anew

A bracelet of floss. Let me twist

Its tassels, vemillion and blue

And violet, to girdle your wrist.”


when it is not possible for brothers to meet their sisters on this day, the sacred thread is often sent by post and the brothers get them tied on their wrists with due ceremony by some one else, maybe a daughter or another female relative. The presents are also sent by post or are left to be collected whenever they happen to meet each other. Of course, every one can speak to each other as mobile phones have become so ubiquitous these days.

Naidu again says:

Accept this bright gage from my hand,

Let your heart its sweet speech understand,

The ancient high symbol and end

Inwrought on each gold- threaded strand,

The fealty of friend unto friend”.

Thus, it is not that the sacred thread is to be tied on the wrist of real brothers only. Any person may be adopted as a brother by tying a rakhi around his wrist and that person is then morally bound to protect her as a real brother. It is said that  Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor  had sent a rakhi to Humaun, the Moghul king, seeking his help against Bahadur Shah, the king of Gujarat, who had besieged Chittor and Humaun had rushed to her help immediately.

But this custom of getting adopted as brothers has its risks, particularly for those of the romantic bent of mind. It seems the fairer sex has adopted this as a stratagem to avoid unwanted suitors! They take this as a good opportunity to rid themselves of such amorous gentlemen by making them as their rakhi brothers by tying a rakhi on their wrists! As a result, I am told there are many such people who do not venture out this day to avoid such a risk!

But frankly, it is indeed a noble tradition to celebrate this festival. No body could have put it more sweetly than Sarojini Naidu when she says of the sacred thread of rakhi

“A garland how frail of design,

Our spirits to clasp and entwine

In devotion unstained and unbroken,

How slender a circle and sign

Of secret deep pledge unspoken.”

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of you.

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