OFF THE BEATEN PATH: The Annual Festival of Raksha Bandhan
Raksha Bandhan is a beautiful Hindu festival that commemorates the love and loyalty that exists between brothers and sisters. Celebrations include a meaningful tradition where sisters tie a colorful rakhi bracelet fashioned from silken threads onto their brother’s wrists. Raksha Bandhan translates to mean “Knot of Protection” and its significance is a reminder that above all, brothers must provide protection for their sisters.
The celebration of Raksha Bandhan begins with Hindu prayer and then sisters each tie Rakhi bracelets onto their brother’s wrists while mantras are chanted by family members. Sisters will then place roli (vibrantly colored powder) and rice upon their brother’s forehead, praying for him and bestowing him with her blessings and gifts.
Brothers return the blessings and pledge to take care of their sisters. As a reminder of his pledge, sisters receive a gift from their brothers. It is a unique opportunity for siblings to show their admiration and respect for each other. Additionally, Raksha Bandhan is a celebration of family where relatives can gather and share their appreciation of one another.
Historically, the gift of the Rakhi bracelet has extended beyond a tradition between brothers and sisters. The Maratha and Rajput queens sent bracelets to Mughal Kings for protection and alliance. In modern society, the bracelets have also been incorporated into marriage ceremonies to symbolize the exchange of vows.
Mantra for Raksha Bandhan (anonymous):
“Yena baddho balee raajaa daanavendro mahaabalah;
Tena twaam anubadhnaami rakshey maa chala maa chala“
“I am tying on your hand this Raksha,
with which the most powerful and generous King Bali himself was bound;
O Raksha, don’t go away;
don’t go away.”