Every August, Hindu’s all over the world celebrate a very important festival – the festival of Raksha Bhandan, which in Sanskrit means “knot of protection”
The word Raksha means “protection” and Bhandan is the verb for “bond” or “tie”.
This ancient festival celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters. This celebration is not only limited to siblings, but celebrates the relationship between cousins, friends and basically anyone and everyone!
On this day, sisters give their blessing and protection to their brothers, who in turn appreciate their sisters. The ceremony is simple. Sisters tie their brothers with a “rakhi” or colored thread and perform a prayer to ask for protection and blessings for their brothers.
The ritual of typing the “Rakhi” follows a script similar to this:
We get up early and dress in our best clothes and in the presence of our family members the brother and sister will face each other while the sister performs a prayer ritual (puja). The ritual usually involves an “aarti”, where a tray with a “diya” or lighted lamp is ritually rotated in a clockwise motion around the brother’s face, along with a prayer asking for good health, prosperity and happiness for her brother. There is no real standard prayer, sisters have freedom for creativity or can recite many published poems or prose (look online for examples). After the prayer, the sister applies a “tilak” or colorful mark on her brother’s forehead.
Following this, she feeds her brother with her hands, usually a traditional hindu sweet or chocolate and asks for a blessing while the brother pledges to protect her and care for her under all circumstances. He also provides her with a gift in the form of cards, money or something bigger.
There are many types of Rakhi, ranging from plain colored designs to intricate woven designs with amulets on them. Rakhi’s are usually colorful and bright and are a symbol of love, respect, loyalty and friendship.
On this day sisters rule – they know they can ask for anything from their brothers and they will get away with it.
Right now, I am really far away from most of my sisters, bar one and I really miss them all. I am lucky to have so many great sisters whom I greatly love and respect. While I usually end this festival pretty much broke (buying gifts for my sisters) and looking really weird with all the “rakhi” on my wrists, I treasure the simple but beautiful ceremony and feel privileged to have so many great sisters whom I greatly love and respect.
This is dedicated to all sisters out there.
Till next time!