In a few days, Indians all over the world will again celebrate Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi. Once again social media will be abuzz with feminists claiming how sexist this Hindu festival is. Neo-Nazis will soon engulf the social media with the reports of how brothers have oppressed their sisters for ages instead of protecting them and hence there is no need to pray for brothers’ safety. There will be demand all over to ban such one-sided rituals.
But is Raksha Bandhan a festival for sisters seeking brothers’ safety? Legends, however, state otherwise.
Rakhi – The thread that unites
The thread that binds two souls in a bond of joy forever. The sacred thread of togetherness and love is not just a ritual that celebrates the relation between a brother and sister, but it has bounded the country together since ages.
Raksha Bandhan – campaign by Rabindranath Tagore
Rakhi has a great significance in Indian freedom struggle as well. Rabindranath Tagore used Rakhi to inspire love and unity among Hindus and Muslim. In 1905, after the division of Bengal, he arranged for a ceremony to strengthen togetherness and brotherhood among the people. While the British empire had already divided two Indian provinces based on religion, this thread of love inspired us to protest against the Britishers. However, Tagore’s Raksha Bandhan-based appeal was not successful as Muslims in Bengal opposed unification of Bengal in 1911. Some other mythological stories behind Raksha Bandhan are –
Lord Krishna and Draupadi
This story is believed to be the founding pillars of the auspicious occasion. It is said that Lord Krishna was hurt during a fight with King Shishupal. Draupadi had torn a strip of cloth from her sari and tied it around the bleeding finger of Lord Krishna. He, in return, declared himself bounded by her sisterly love and concern. Years later, when Pandavas lost their wife, Draupadi, in the game of dice and the Kauravas were outraging her modesty, Krishna came to her rescue. He elongated her sari divinely, so that, they couldn’t remove it.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi
According to another mythological belief, Lord Vishnu has taken the task of protecting the kingdom of Bali, his great devotee. Goddess Lakshmi – the wife of Lord Vishnu wanted to accompany him. So, she impersonated the image of a Brahmin woman and took refuge in the palace of Mahabali. On Shravana Purnima, she tied a Rakhi on the wrist of the king and revealed her true self. He was so touched by the affection of Lord Vishnu and his wife that he requested him to accompany her to Vaikundam. Since then, it has become a tradition to invite sisters to tie the sacred thread of Rakhi on the wrist of brothers. This is why the day is even called Baleva.
Yama and the Yamuna
Another legend says that Yama, the God of Death, had not visited his sister, Yamuna for 12 years. This made her sad and she consulted this with Ganga, who reminded Yama of his sister. As a result, he paid a visit to his sister. Yamuna was overjoyed when she saw her brother. Yama asked her what she wanted for a gift. She replied that her brother should return and see her again soon. Yama was so moved by her sister’s love that he made the river immortal. This legendary belief is the basis for the festival called Bhai Duj.
Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun
As per a history, during the medieval period, the Rajputs were fighting the Muslim invasions. The queen of Chittor, Rani Karnawati, realized that she could not defend the invasion of Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat. So, she sent a Rakhi to Emperor Humayun. Touched by the gesture of the queen, he started off with his troop to defend the territory of his sister.
Alexander the Great and King Porus
A legendary narrative says that Roxana, the wife of Alexander the Great, sent the sacred thread to Porus, asking him not to harm her husband in the battle. It is said that in the Battle of the Hydaspes, Porus was about to attack Alexander personally, but he saw the thread in his hands and restrained himself.
Not just in India, the festival of love is celebrated across the globe. Some of the lesser-known facts about Raksha Bandhan is mentioned below.
Facts about Raksha Bandhan
- Raksha Bandhan is one Indian festival that is even celebrated in Nepal. The day is referred to as Janai Purnima or Rishitarpani and involves the sacred thread ceremony. Rakhi is observed by both the Hindus and the Buddhists in Nepal. The Hindu men change the thread that they wear around their chests (also known as Janai). In some parts of Nepal, ladies tie rakhi on the wrist of their brothers. This day is observed by other Hindus of Nepal during one of the days of the Tihar (or Diwali) festival.
- The USA is one of the countries where the festival of Rakhi is celebrated with full gaiety. The Indians have made their own communities there. Though the distance is great, the celebration of Raksha Bandhan has, in fact, become a perfect chance for the Indians to stay close to their roots.
Rakhi, the very word signifies a bond of love and affection is tarnished by feminists for their narrow-minded agenda of dividing the society based on gender. Unlike what feminists claim, Rakhi is not a ritual to pray for brothers’ safety but traditionally it was a festival to create bonding not only between siblings but also between religions. Rakhi Bandhan had been a great force in our freedom struggle as well.
It is important to celebrate Rakhi in a different flavor now. Let us change the trend this year that the love and support of our brothers are enough to face the world independently. Let’s celebrate this festival in its true spirit of creating great bonds. Amazing gifts on this occasion can make this festival special for you. Let’s unite the society with this divine bond and see that feminist agenda of dividing us based on gender is not succeeded.
By Neha Shukla
Neha Shukla is a writer by choice and an introspective by nature. She writes about the fashion industry, lifestyle, and relationship for various websites for a long time.