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Rakhi: Tracing it Back in History

Updated on August 19, 2013

Festivals of India: Raksha Bandhan

Brother and Sister Celebrating Rakhi
Brother and Sister Celebrating Rakhi

Raksha bandhan, conveniently abbreviated to Rakhi or Rakhdi in various part of the Indian subcontinent, is an ancient Vedic Hindu festival that has now taken a more secular colour. The generic words — Raksha (safety) and Bandhan (binding) state the thought behind this age-old practice. The ritual of sisters tying sacred threads on the wrists of their brothers has been traced back to the ritual of a brahmin/pandit (Hindu priest) tying a raksha on the wrists of a kshatriya (warrior).

The Beginning

The hierarchy of caste structure in India placed the brahmins at the top. Their social responsibilities included praying for all and offering spiritual help and judgments. This was followed by the warriors or kshatriyas and their social and moral obligation was to protect everyone — foremost the brahmins. The brahmins would tie ‘raksha’ around the kshatriyas’ wrists to keep reminding them of their duty. The priest would tie ‘raksha’ and it was believed that it would protect people from any harm.

Indian festivals, like most cultures, have emerged from weather and climatic changes. The once-common ritual of Rakhi emerged into a festival of the month of Shravan (monsoon) and expanded to other sections of the society from the two castes. Girls and women started tying ‘raksha’ on the wrists of their brothers. Contrary to popular belief, Rakhi is not confined to sibling relationships. The ritual was more general in nature at its roots as is evident from several myths and legends.

The Sacred Thread of Rakhi

What Rakhi Means

Over the past, Rakhi has stood for the sanctity of sibling relationships, a religious symbol of God’s protective cover (Indra-Indrani legend) and a way of forging a relationship of trust even with someone not related by blood (Lakshmi-Narayana-Bali legend). Rakhi is not just a simple thread. It bears with it the weight of brotherly affection and responsibility. On the auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan a sister ties Rakhi around her brother’s wrist, puts a ‘tilak’ on his forehead and the brother reciprocates with affection through gifts.

Happy Raksha Bandhan

Rakshi Greetings to all Brothers and Sisters
Rakshi Greetings to all Brothers and Sisters | Source

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