Sunday, August 14, 2011

Raksha Bandhan - The Bond of Protection

[Examples of rakhi]
Today India celebrates Raksha Bandhan, or Rakhi. Rakhi is a festival celebrated primarily by Hindus, to honor the relationship between brothers and sisters, whether biologically or symbolically. The "sister" will tie a sacred thread (rakhi) around the wrist of her "brother" to symbolize her love and prayers for his well being. In exchange, the brother must vow to protect her lifelong. Generally there is an exchange of sweets during the tying of the bracelet as well.

In traditional ceremonies, prayers are said before and after the tying of the bracelet as well as a special meal prepared for the brother.

There are many possible origins for this holiday, here are a few:

Draupadi (Wife of Pandava) and Lord Krishna:
In the fight between Lord Krishna and Shisupal, Lord Krishna's finger was found to be bleeding after he defeated Shisupal. To stop the flow of blood, Draupadi tied around a strip of fabric taken from her Sari to the wrist of Lord Krishna. In exchange, Lord Krishna vowed to protect her and promised to repay his debt. He spent the next 25 years of his life doing just that.

Lord Vishnu and Demon Bill:
According to this legend, the Lord Vishnu, with the extreme devotion of his devotee the demon Kang Bali, promised him to serve as guard in the Mahal. Lord Vishnu left his Vaikunth and began to live in Bali's palace. Goddess Lakshmi wanted Lord Vishnu back in her Vaikunth. She went to the King Bali disguised as a Brahmin and sought shelter, telling that her husband had gone away on long journey. On Shravan Purnima, she tied a thread on the wrist of King Bali wishing for his wellbeing. In return he granted a boon vide which Goddess asked him to send her husband back to Vaikunth.

Lord Yama and Yamuna
It has been found that Lord Yama and his sister Yamuna also celebrated Rakhi. Yamuna tied sacred thread on Yama's wrist. Since then, Yama promised that whosoever gets a Rakhi tied by his sister vows to protect her.

Alexander’s wife and Porus
A battle was fought between Alexander the Great and the King Porus. Fearing for the life of her husband, Alexander's wife approached Porus and tied a Rakhi around his wrist. In return of that, she got blessings from Porus that he will never kill Alexander. During battle when Porus lifted his hand to kill Alexander, he saw the Rakhi and refused to kill him.

I've been told that on this day in schools many of the boys will stay home or skip class to avoid having a bracelet tied on them. Their biggest fear is having a girl they have a secret crush on present them with a bracelet, thereby dashing any chance of the two of them having any sort of romantic relationship and him instead being looked upon as her brother.

Although I'm not Hindu, I did partake of this holiday and present my good friend Rupert (also not a Hindu) with a bracelet. Rupert's been an amazing friend to me for the past year and I'll always consider him my brother from another mother. Here's a photo of us taken in Delhi last fall. I was forturnate enough to see him  today as well and spend time with his real life sister and brother, Anna and Richard. Thanks for everything, Bhai!

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