Rakhi is also called Raksha Bandhan. Raksha Bandhan is a hindu festival celebrating the bond of love between a brother and sister. Nowhere else is it celebrated as enthusiastically and reverently as in India.
Raksha Bandhan literally means the bond of protection.
This festival is celebrated in the month of August mostly, on the full moon day in the month of shravan.
On this day sisters tie a thread called rakhi on their brother’s wrist and pray for their well being. Brothers on their part vow to protect their sisters at all times.
Though rakhi is a celebration of the sacred bond between a brother and sister who are siblings, there are numerous examples in history when rakhi was tied or sent just for protection.
Also, a woman can also tie a rakhi to someone who is a total stranger but does not have a sister and thus a bond as strong as the one between blood related siblings follows.
Rakhi thali is the plate that the sister takes to her brother’s home when she goes to tie rakhi to him. This thali or plate an be of brass, steel or silver. It is decorated with a diya or lamp, roli or vermillion, rakhi ( a decorative thread), some rice grains and sweets.
Three small containers having rice, roli and some water are kept in the thali. A swastika sign is drawn in the middle of the thali (swastika is the symbol of Lord Ganesha). One incense stand and a lamp (diya) is put in the thali. Rakhi and some sweets are also placed in the thali.
The thali can also be decorated with lace, betel leaves or banana leaf.The Ritual
On the day of Raksha Bandhan sisters take an early bath, offer prayers and then prepare a Rakhi thali (thali is a plate), adorned with a diya (lamp), roli (vermillion mixed with some water to make a paste), rice, rakhi thread and some sweets.
She then visits her brother’s home to tie the rakhi. She first applies tilak on his forehead with the vermillion (roli) and a few grains of rice and then offers him sweets. The brother blesses her and gives her gifts. The pledge of protection is one that is mutually understood.
Raksha Bandhan is an occassion for the entire family to get together and spend sometime uniting, celebrating and partaking food together. It is a festival that brings together siblings and is a reminder of the strong bond of love and protection between a brother and sister.Types Of Rakhis
Almost a month before the festival various colorful and fancy rakhis start arriving in the market. The earliest shoppers are the women who have to send rakhis to their brothers who live far away. Shops of all types from the biggest to the smallest, have rakhis on display for sale at this time.
Different types of rakhis like cartoon rakhis, sandalwood rakhis, musical rakhis, floral rakhis, gold and silver coated rakhis, currency notes rakhis, beads rakhis etc are available in the market.2 Historical Anecdotes About Rakhi
Though there are many historical anecdotes about rakhi, I am citing just two of them to emphasize how much importance and respect was given to this simple bond of love called Raksha Bandhan.
Emperor Humayun & Rani Karnawati
Rani Karnawati was the widowed queen of the King of Chitoor. At the time when she realised she could not defend the invasion of her kingdom from the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun . So touched was the Emperor by this gesture that he immediately set off with his troops to defend her.
Alexander The Great & King Porus
King Alexander was a great warrior and conquered many countries. However when he invaded India he encountered the fury of the Indian King Porus.
Foreseeing the imminent defeat of King Alexander, his wife sent a rakhi to King porus. Later on when a war ensued between the two Kings, King Porus remembered the rakhi sent to him and thus refrained from killing King Alexander.