The meaning of Raksha Bandhan is – tying a sacred thread around a man’s wrist as a symbol of protecting them from evil eyes. The practice of Raksha Bandhan is an age-old Indian tradition. For the query – why do we celebrate rakhi, the answer lies in the Hindu customs and practices, as well as the cultural practices in various parts of India.
Do you know when rakhi is celebrated? Rakhi festival date does not occur as per the English calendar. Rakhi festival is celebrated on Shravan Pournima (full moon day of Sravan month) which falls in July or August. Thus, the rakhi 2021 date is 22nd August. Rakhi 2022 date is 11 August.
Significance of Rakhi
Rakhi signifies the relationship between a brother and his sister. It tells how important it is for a brother to safeguard his sister in any circumstance and at any time. By tying rakhi across the wrist of her brother, a sister wishes him good health and prosperity. She prays to God to keep her brother away from evil energies and give him protection throughout his life.
In return, the brother should take care of the sister come what may. On the day of Rakhi, the brothers visit their sister’s houses. Sisters cook the favorite dishes of their brothers. They perform puja and light diya and show them to their brother. Then they apply vermillion on their forehead and tie a rakhi thread to their brother’s wrist. The brother in turn blesses or seeks blessings from the sister depending on the age. Brothers also give a gift that his sister likes and adores.
Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan originated from the marriage practices of India. In many places, parents of girls were not allowed to visit a girl in her in-law’s home. Instead, she travels to her parent’s house every year and stays with them for some days. It was a custom that the son or the brother of the sister stays with the parents may be in the same home or the same village as the parents. Thus, when the sister comes to her parent’s home, on her return journey, the brother must drop her at her in-law’s place. Thus, it was a duty of a brother to ensure the safety of her sister.
Rakhi is majorly a North Indian festival. Even the stories behind the rakhi festival are associated with legends that are majorly reflecting North Indian culture. However, the beauty of the festival is so that it charmed the whole of India. Today, Indians across the globe celebrate Rakhi despite their geographical location. At the rakhi festival, millions of rakhi gifts and rakhis cross borders through posts and online services.
But how did the rakhi festival originate? Legends behind Raksha Bandhan help us understand.
Rakhi story of Krishna and Draupadi
According to one legend of the story, in one instance Lord Krishna was injured in his finger and was bleeding. Rukmini Devi, his wife, who was in the court rushed to bring a cloth for a bandage. Another queen of Krishna, Satyabhama ordered the maids to bring her bandages. But, Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas and the sister of Lord Krishna tore her saree and tied it as a bandage to his finger. Pleased with her act, Lord Krishna helps her during Vastrapaharan in the court by giving her an abundance of sarees.
Rakhi story of Subh-Labh and Santoshi Maa
Shubh and Labh are the sons of Lord Ganesha. They longed for a sister to have as a company and requested their father for the same. On one rakhi day, Ganesha’s sister Manasa visits him and ties rakhi to him. Looking at this, both Labh and Subh insist that they want a sister too. According to their requests, Ganesh creates Santoshi Maa with the divine flames and as per Sage Narada’s guidance. Thus, it was on this Raksha Bandhan day that Shubh and Labh were gifted with their sister.
Rakhi story related to Yama and Yamuna
Lord Yama is the God of Death. The Yamuna, the river of India, is his sister. It was on Sravana Pournami – the full moon day of Shravan month as per the Indian Lunar calendar, that Yamuna invited her brother to her home and offered him a feast of his favorites. She also tied a sacred thread around his wrist and took his blessings. Pleased with her devotion, Yama blessed her with immortality. He also promised that any brother who gets a rakhi tied on this auspicious day shall remain healthy and successful in all their attempts.
Rakhi story related with Goddess Lakshmi and Demon King Bali
Bali Chakravarti was a famous demon king. He is kind-hearted and was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He did penance for him and Vishnu appeared asking him what he wanted. Bali asks Vishnu to stay with him all the time in his court. Vishnu agrees and then stays with Bali. Worried about her husband not returning to Vaikuntha, Goddess Lakshmi finds out what happens. She then visits Bali and ties a sacred thread Raksha Bandhan around his wrist and makes him her brother. Feeling so happy with this, Bali asks what she wants. For this in return, she wants her husband Lord Vishnu back. As promised and obliged with rakhi, Bali sends Vishnu back to her to Vaikuntha.
Cultural significance of Rakhi
Rakhi is not just a thread; it signifies the protection a brother has to offer to his sister lifelong. There are many incidents in Indian culture where a woman ties a rakhi to another man and makes him her brother. Rakhi is also tied among cousins who are related as brothers and sisters. It need not necessarily be tied among siblings born to the same parents.
Rakhi culture is so great and deep-rooted in India that rakhis are tied to movie heroes, politicians, traffic police, soldiers, and many more prominent personalities including the prime Minister. To tie a rakhi to a man, the woman need not be his own sister. A feeling of brotherhood and respect is all that a woman needs to tie rakhi to another man. In turn, the man assures that he would help her and protect her in times of need.
Rakhi is a national holiday in India. Along with India, the rakhi festival is celebrated in Mauritius and Nepal also. Indians living in the USA, Australia, and Britain make sure to send rakhis and rakhi gifts to their brothers and sisters to make sure they do not miss this festive essence.
You may get a doubt here: Are rakhis only tied between brothers and sisters? In many cultures of India, including Rajasthan and Telangana, rakhis are tied between women too. Sisters in law tie rakhi to each other as a mark of love and affection. In Gujarat, sisters tie rakhis to each other.
Another beautiful aspect of Rakhi is it shatters the religious limits that exist. Rakhi is celebrated irrespective of religions in India. If someone asks you – only Hindus celebrate Rakhi– you can give an affirmative answer saying No. Rakhi is celebrated by people of all religions in India. Hindu women tie rakhis to Muslims and share their sisterly affection. Similarly, people of Jainism and Sikhism celebrate rakhi with equal fervor and enthusiasm.
It is a feast to the eyes when little siblings and brothers and sisters tie rakhi and feel the pride. Teach your children the significance of rakhi and encourage them to understand the importance of rakhi tying.
If you have been wondering – what to gift to my sister on rakhi – we suggest giving her something that she uses in her daily life. Rakhi is the occasion where you have to shower your love on your sister. So, there is nothing wrong with little splurging and surprising your sister with the best rakhi gifts.
Similarly, for rakhi gift ideas for brothers, sisters should think creatively. Gift him in whatever your budget approves and something useful to him. Just explore the best rakhi gifts online and you will be spoilt with rakhi gift ideas.
The true gift for rakhi for a sister is protection from the dangers she faces in life while the best gift for rakhi for a brother is the love and care that you as sister take for him and share his pain and happiness all the time. We wish a happy rakhi to your brother-sister duo!!