In India, Rakshābandhanam is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) of the month Shravan (around August), (popularly known as Rakhi). On this day, sisters tie Rakhis around the wrists of their brothers or brother-like people. The word ‘Raksha’ states protection and ‘bandhanam’ indicates bracelet/thread etc., thus making it an analogy for protection. The brother vows to safeguard his sister in every birth. To symbolize this, he allows her to fasten a thread on his wrist. The sister complies so that he maintains his vow. Since time immemorial this tradition is common to keep a brother and sister in a relationship. The rakhi is a symbol of the virtue of a relationship between a sister and brother.
Just as the brother is bound by a promise to protect the sister after getting a string tied onto his wrist, the sister prays to God for his protection.
The Vedic Rakhi
In old times, akshata (Unbroken rice grains) were enclosed in a white cloth, which was tied with a silk thread as rakhi.
Akshata is all-encompassing and the silk thread has the potential to quickly transmit sattvik waves. Thus, rakhi is created from akshata and silk thread. When the sister fastens the rakhi on her brother’s wrist, the waves of spiritual energy in the sister are transmitted to the brother. This initiates the Suryanadi (Sun channel) in the brother, and the Deity Shiva Principle in him is awakened. This deteriorates the Raja-Tama particles into the environment.
There is a special method advised on how to fasten a Rakhi in ‘Dharmasindhu’ and ‘Nirnayasindhu’.
A. A short wooden seat is positioned for the brother to sit on.
C. The brother wearing new clothes and a handkerchief or any type of cloth on his head applies tilak to his forehead and sits on the wooden stool. His sister goes in front of him carrying a platter for aukshan. The brother and sister close their eyes and pray to God. The brother and sister pray to the Deities for each other’s safety.
D. The sister put a tilak of vermillion to the brother.
E. She then fastens the rakhi on her brother’s right wrist.
F. A wristband is prepared with a small bundle of rice grains, gold, and white mustard seeds tied together. This is inferred as a Raksha or a rakhi.
G. After fastening the rakhi, the sister hovers a ghee lamp i.e. Arati (in a semi-circular manner) in front of the brother.
H. After waving the Arati, the brother blesses his sister with something. The sister expresses her affection and respect for her brother by accepting the gift.
It is asserted that on the day of Shravan Purnima, during noon, one should tie a Rakhi chanting the below sloka –
“येन बद्धो बली राजा दानवेन्द्रो महाबालः।
तेन त्वामभिबध्नामि रक्षे! मा चल मा चल॥“
“yena baddhō balī rājā dānavendrō mahābalaḥ|
tēna tvāmabhi-badhnāmi rakshē mā chala mā chala||”
The implication of the sloka – because of which (Rakshābandhan) Bali, the king of Rakshasas could not gain a victory over Indra and had to come to terms (compromise) with Indra, here I am fastening that Rakshābandhan) around your wrist. O Rakshābandhan! Do not quit this person, do not leave this person.
To know the importance of the above sloka, we must relate to the Bavishya Purana. The process of Rakshābandhan is illustrated in the 137th Adhyaya, in the Uttara Parva of the Bhavishya Purana.
Yudhisthira (Dharma Raja), after being victorious in the great war of Kurukshetra, mounts the throne of Bharata. He strives for guidance from the sage Vyasa to get rid of the guilt/sin that he and his family obtained by killing people, mostly his relatives in the war. Sage Vyasa inquires Lord Sri Krishna to supervise Yudhishthira in this regard. Then, Lord Sri Krishna educates Yudhishthira by advising many Vratas (religious rites) that need to be executed on particular days. In this light of incidents, Lord Sri Krishna instructs Rakshābandhan to be performed on the full moon day in the month of Shavana. The legend goes like this –
Once upon a time, Bali Chakravarti the ruler of Asuras started a war against Indra, the king of Devatas. Bali could not gain a victory against Indra in the battle. Dishearten by his loss, Bali visits his Guru Shukracharya and conveys his dissatisfaction. Shukracharya then clarifies that Sachidevi, wife of Indra had tied ‘Raksha’ around the wrist of Indra. And due to that Indra has become undefeatable. Hence wait for one year, because the ability of the ‘Raksha’ shall remain for a year. Agree to a treaty with Indra and do not wage war on him for another year. Bali obeyed the instructions of his Guru. That is the importance of ‘Rakshābandhan’.
Further, Lord Sri Krishna clarifies what should be performed on the day of Rakshābandhan. On the day of Shravana Purnima, after finishing daily chores, in the midday one should tighten Rakshābandhan on the wrists chanting the above-mentioned shloka. This can be accomplished by anyone. In this way, one should perform Rakshābandhan every year and shall thrive for the rest of the year.
From this legend, one can comprehend that Rakshābandhan is a festival that has origins in Puranas and can be identified by anyone with anyone. But with time, there may be some chronological incidents that may have turned the festival more ‘brother-sister-centric’.
By these, one can comprehend that the festival Rakshābandhan is not a mere cultural festival, but is an ancient Sanātan Dhārmic tradition.
Various names related to Rakhi
India is a country of festivities and fairs, a land of culture and ritual. In various states of India, this festival is commemorated by various names. For instance, in the western Indian region, Rakhi is known as “Nariyal Purnima” and symbolizes the full moon like coconut. In southern India, this festivity is called “Avani Avittam or Upakarmam”. “Kajari Purnima” is the name by which Raksha Bandhan is observed in central India and in other areas rakhi is also called “Rakhi Purnima”.