Today is Raksha Bandhan. Also known as Rakhi, this is a beautiful Indian tradition that celebrates the bond of love and support between brothers and sisters.
Raksha means protection while Bandhan means bond. On this auspicious day, brothers make a promise to their sisters to protect them from all harms and troubles and the sisters pray to God to protect their brother from all evil. The sister then tie a Rakhi, a sacred thread, on her brother’s wrist to symbolize the bond between them.
The celebration of Rakhi can be traced back to the ancient epics & legends such as the legend in the Bhavishya Puran, the legend of King Bali and Goddess Laxmi & Yama and the Yamuna. This festival is also mentioned in Mahabharata, where Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas tied Rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu and Draupadi to Lord Krishna.
Though the customs, traditions and rituals of this festival have undergone changes, the core essence of Rakhi remains the same everywhere. In some traditional households, the sister even performs “aarti”* for her brother and put “Tilak”* on his forehead. In return, the brother also blesses his sister and promises to protect her from all hazards of life.
While we don’t expect our kids to make such promises at a young age, my husband and I feel inclined to celebrate this time-honored tradition, as an inter-racial couple, to encourage our kids to express and remember their love for each other.
Sure, they will still bicker, but we hope that this loving act will add to their memory bank of positive family relations and they will have plenty of good sibling memories to bind them as adults.
To this day, my husband’s sister and aunt (whom he considers an elder sister) who reside in Manila and Belgium respectively, still send him rakhis each year to affirm their love and commitment to him. Some women friends I know also tie Rakhis on their male friends whom they consider their brothers.
In our home, Rakhi is a short ritual that we performed early in the day while the kids are still fresh and excited about the ritual. I’ll let the pictorial below narrate the brief ceremony.
* Aarthi – part of a Hindu religious ritual worship where light from wicks soaked in ghee or camphor are offered to one or more deities.
* Tilak – is a mark worn on the forehead.