This is a special Hindu festival which is celebrated in India and countries like Nepal to symbolize the love between a brother and a sister. The occasion of Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar in the month of Shravana which typically falls in the August month of Gregorian calendar.
Meaning of Raksha Bandhan
The festival is made up of two words, namely "Raksha" and "Bandhan." As per the Sanskrit terminology, the occasion means "the tie or knot of protection" where "Raksha" stands for the protection and "Bandhan" signifies the verb to tie. Together, the festival symbolizes the eternal love of brother-sister relationship which does not mean just the blood relationships only. It is also celebrated among cousins, sister and sister-in-law (Bhabhi), fraternal aunt (Bua) and nephew (Bhatija) and other such relations.
Importance of Raksha Bandhan among various religions in India
Hinduism- The festival is mainly celebrated by the Hindus in the northern and western parts of India along with countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Mauritius.
Jainism- The occasion is also revered by the Jain community where Jain priests give ceremonial threads to the devotees.
Sikhism- This festival devoted to the brother-sister love is observed by the Sikhs as "Rakhardi" or Rakhari.
Origin of Raksha Bandhan Festival
The festival of Raksha Bandhan is known to have originated centuries before and there are several stories related to the celebration of this special festival. Some of the various accounts related to the Hindu mythology are described below:
Indra Dev and Sachi- According to the ancient legend of Bhavishya Purana, once there was a fierce battle between Gods and demons. Lord Indra- the principle deity of sky, rains and thunderbolts who was fighting the battle on the side of Gods was having a tough resistance from the powerful demon King, Bali. The war continued for a long time and did not came on a decisive end. Seeing this, Indra's wife Sachi went to the Lord Vishnu who gave her a holy bracelet made up of cotton thread. Sachi tied the holy thread around the wrist of her husband, Lord Indra who ultimately defeated the demons and recovered the Amaravati. The earlier account of the festival described these holy threads to be amulets which were used by women for prayers and were tied to their husband when they were leaving for a war. Unlike, the present times, those holy threads were not limited to brother-sister relationships.
King Bali and Goddess Lakshmi- As per an account of Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, when Lord Vishnu won the three worlds from the demon King Bali, he asked by the demon king to stay beside him in the palace. The Lord accepted the requested and started living with the demon king. However, Goddess Lakshmi, wife of Lord Vishnu wanted to return to his native place of Vaikuntha. So, she tied the rakhi around the wrist of demon king, Bali and made him a brother. On asking about the return gift, Goddess Lakshmi asked Bali to free her husband from the vow and let him return to Vaikuntha. Bali agreed to the request and Lord Vishnu returned to his place with his wife, Goddess Lakshmi.
Krishna and Draupadi- Based on an account of Mahabharat, Draupadi, wife of Pandavas tied a rakhi to Lord Krishna while Kunti tied the rakhi to grandson Abhimanyu before the epic war.
Yama and the Yamuna- Another legend says that the death God, Yama did not visit his sister Yamuna for a period of 12 years who ultimately became very sad. On the advice of Ganga, Yama went to meet his sister Yamuna who has very happy and performed hospitality of her brother, Yama. This made the Yama delighted who asked Yamuna for a gift. She expressed her desire to see her brother again and again. Hearing this, Yama made his sister, Yamuna immortal so that he could see her again and again. This mythological account forms the basis of festival called "Bhai Dooj" which is also based on the brother-sister relationship.
The festival of Raksha Bandhan is observed as a symbol of duty between brothers and sisters. The occasion is meant to celebrate any type of brother-sister relationship between men and women who may not be biologically related.
On this day, a sister ties a rakhi around the wrist of her brother in order to pray for his prosperity, health and well-being. The brother in return offers a gifts and promises to protect his sister from any harm and under every circumstance. The festival is also celebrated between brother-sister belonging to distant family members, relatives or cousins.