Kerala, août 2007
RAKHI – A sacred thread of love
This file contains the narrative of a particular cultural ritual that promotes the message of sacred love which in turn culminates in to the renunciation of the five vices of lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego that pollute the soul.
India is a land of festivals. Though all the festivals have their importance; Rakhi stands out as a unique gift of Indian culture. The simple threads of Rakhi symbolize the sacred love of brother and sister. When a sister ties a Rakhi on her brother’s wrist, her sentiments flow towards her brother that he should get all the happiness in life. At the same time the brother thinks on the same wavelength that at in any cost he would protect the honour of his sister. This festival establishes the bond of love and affection between the siblings. Interestingly this has been practiced today by people of all religious faiths.
It is said that Rakhi Purnima originated when Indrani, wife of Lord Indra, prepared a talisman, which she tied on her husband’s wrist on Sravan Purnima to win the battle against the demons. The power of the talisman made the Gods victorious. Ever since, on Sravan Poornima day, the tradition of tying the thread began and it was believed that the persons would be blessed with health, wealth, happiness and victories.
This practice was prevalent among the Rajputs and our history is full of instances related to the significance of this tradition. At the time of war when the brave Rajput soldiers prepared to go to the battlefield, the women folk followed the ritual of tying a thread around their wrist after applying a dash of vermilion powder on their forehead. This was considered a sign of good omen and the ladies believed that it would protect their men from the enemy’s blow and bring them victory. The queen of Mewar, Maharani Karmavati, had to face the threat of Governor Bahadur Shah who laid seige on her kingdom. Helpless she sent a rakhi to the Mughal king, Humayun. The emperor who under normal circumstances would not have preferred to help a Rajput ruler, decided to protect her from the threat. Humayun reached Mewar chased Bahadur Shah and his men and restored the kingdom to the queen of Mewar.
There were instances during our freedom struggle when freedom fighters wore the thread around their wrists with pride. Rabindranath Tagore introduced this tradition in Santiniketan to re-establish the bond of love between all sects and religions.
Raksha Bandhan has retained its glory and sacred sensation in modern times too. Brothers and sisters wherever they may be make it a point to celebrate the occasion together. If they are far away, rakhi and gifts are sent through mail or online gifting sites. And even today, the meaning of custom remains beautifully intact. Today rakhi is even tied on the wrists of soldiers by children and women all around the country, filling the soldiers with self-esteem and a heightened sense of responsibility. It is thus interesting to note that for centuries this festival has been celebrated in the same way and the traditions are followed with the same enthusiasm. It is the celebration of the chaste bond of love amongst the siblings and the gaieties of Rakhi have only blown up to a large scale.
On the day of Raksha Bandhan sister visit their brother and sometimes brother is invited by sister for Rakhi celebrations. After performing Puja, sister applies a tilak on brother’s forehead and performs arti for him. She then ties a Rakhi on her brother’s wrist while praying for his long, healthy and happy life. Brother expresses his gratitude to sister for her affection and vow to protect her from all hardships in life. Brother and sister share a sweet and enjoy a harmonious time with rest of the family.
Festival of Raksha Bandhan also calls for celebrations and merriment. Brother pampers their sweet sisters by return gifts for her. This could be some cash or gifts like jewelry, apparel, cosmetics or household gift items. Sisters too depict love for their brothers by showering presents on them. They also prepare brothers favorite dishes.
Nowadays Rakhis are decorated with soft silky threads of various colours, and also with ornaments, pictures, gold and silver threads etc. These Rakhis enhance the artistry of the people. Within these Rakhis reside sacred feelings and well wishes. It is also a great sacred verse of unity.
However, there is much more to rakhi than a sister tying the sacred thread round the brother’s wrist in order to bind him into an obligation to protect her in times of need. Which is why even older sisters tie the thread round the wrist of brothers much their junior.
The application of the tilak is a reminder from the sister to the brother to be soul-conscious, for it is in the space between the eyebrows - where the tilak is applied - that the soul resides. Then again, mauli, the red and saffron-coloured thread that is usually tied round the brother’s wrist, is meant to serve as a constant reminder of the bond of purity. In India, the mauli has traditionally been used for taking a religious or sacred vow or making a pledge of purity.
Raksha Bandhan conveys to all men and women the divine message that they must overcome lust and remain pure by practising soul-consciousness. The rakhi is an annual reminder to both brother and sister of this noble aim. It is the renunciation by the brother of the five vices of lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego that pollute the soul. For, only by giving up these vices would the brothers truly become conscious of the need to engage in the effort of elevating one’s consciousness.
Today it is not only the Hindus but people from all walks of life and faith participates in this ritual to show solidarity and communal harmony.
This portion is taken from an article written by Dharmaraj Joshi