Wednesday, August 29, 2007
"Hi didi! Happy Raksha Bandhan crap," said my brother when I called him yesterday, on this day where brothers and sisters in India celebrate their love for each other.
It's one of the Hindu festivals that I actually think is bonito, and holds much meaning. "Raksha" means protection, and "Bandhan" means bond; the festival takes place every year in July or August, depending on when it's a certain full moon.
On this day the family gets together, all siblings and cousins. Sisters tie a 'rakhi' -- a pretty band made of colourful threads and tassles -- on the wrists of their brothers (both real, and cousin), we do their aarti (yes, a kind of worship that totally goes to their head :), then we feed them a ladoo (an Indian sweet) and get money, or a gift.
The rakhi is supposed to be something that will protect the person who is wearing it. Through this mini-ceremony the sister gives her brother this charm in return for which the brother reassures and promises her that he will always protect and take care of her.
How nice ay! *Sigh*
Apparently the festival commemorates how God Vishnu helped the wife of Indra, god of the sky, to aid her husband in his fight against a demon who had driven Indra out of his celestial kingdom. Vishnu gave Indra's wife a silken thread to put on Indra's wrist as a lucky talisman. It enabled him to defeat the demon and regain his kingdom.
Not sure how if it began between a married couple, how it transcended to be between siblings. The rakhi is supposed to symbolize any form of bond built on respect, trust and protection, so it is not uncommon to see people who are not brothers and sisters exchange this promise. Anyway, there are a few varying stories of the legend behind this festival.
So, even though Rakhi is a Hindu thing, it has spread across religions and holds more of a national spirit because of it's meaningful sentiment. It is a very happy and emotional festival, and is wonderful to be in India on this day.
It's also interesting to note that our National Pledge starts with the sentence "Indian is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters." It roots from the sentiment that brotherhood is the depth of how we should be loving our fellow countrymen.
Another interesting thing is that on this day, you can make someone your brother by tying him this thread.
In school it was an excuse to be close to a boy without people thinking we are messing around. If you have tied a rakhi to a guy, and then you are spotted arm-in-arm with him, it was OK - we're brother-sister guys! It used to be a competition amongst the guys of who had the most rakhis. Yeah, slight abuse of the concept, but the intention was good and almost genuine. :)
But on a serious note, the rakhi is actually taken quite seriously -- even if he is your 'accepted' brother. Guys take it with pride and take joy in being considered not only a friend, but a brother of someone he cares about, and will care about for the rest of his life. 'Accepted' brothers automatically become part of your family, and are treated as such by all members.
My family has been out of India for 10 years now, and it has been ages since we coincided a trip with other family, let alone Raksha Bandan. So every year, our mothers would buy us rakhis, make envelopes for our brothers and get us to write a note so that she could post them and celebration of this day would still be upheld in some traditional way.
These days with the whole family in different corners of the world, it's become difficult to do all the rakhi stuff.
"Children, just to let you know that today is Raksha Bandhan so please get in touch with each other!" Was the email that my mum sent around.
I called my brother, and Facebooked my cousins.