India is commonly known abroad as the ‘Land of Festivals.” And rightly so. That’s because India is home to people of almost every faith in the world. Raksha Bandhan is also an important festival in India. It’s celebrated in almost every part of the country with fervour.
But, what’s exactly Raksha Bandhan and it’s importance to India? That’s exactly what I will be discussing in this article. So, continue reading.
What is the meaning of Raksha Bandhan?
Raksha Bandhan, translated into English would somewhat mean “Bond of Protection.” This festival is celebrated across India on the first full moon night of the month of Shravan, according to the Hindu calendar year.
Therefore, its date according to the international calendar usually changes, similar to other Hindu festivals.
At the same time, Raksha Bandhan isn’t a Hindu festival. Instead, it’s celebrated by people of almost every faith in India. Expatriate Indians and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) also hold Raksha Bandhan celebrations.
It is a day on which sisters tie a special, decorative thread on the right wrist of their brothers to seek protection, should any need arise.
Significance of Raksha Bandhan
Raksha Bandhan is one of the two festivals of India when a brother commits to protect or defend his sister against any evils and adversaries.
One or more sisters tie a decorative thread on the right wrist of their brothers to signify this bond of protection.
However, the festival of Raksha Bandhan has deeper meanings than merely a bond of protection. I will discuss about these meanings now.
The thread which the sister ties to a brother also has a meaning. If we look into our everyday lives, the thread is an indispensable part. Threads are used to make clothes. A thread is used to create strong ropes that’re useful for various purposes.
We use the ubiquitous thread for countless reasons in life but never really honour this carefully made piece of work. In ancient days, even the finest thread was handwoven. Nowadays, it takes complex machinery to weave threads.
The thread, therefore, symbolizes unity and strength. Imagine a life without threads and ropes. It would be really difficult for sure.
Therefore, the festival of Raksha Bandhan also signifies respect for that humble piece of thread that forms part of our daily lives.
History of Raksha Bandhan
Now we know the real meaning of Raksha Bandhan, as a bond between a brother to protect his sister or any other woman that ties the thread, it also pays respect to that humble string.
Nobody knows for sure when the tradition of tying a woman piece of thread to a man to seek protection against evil and enemies really began. However, there’re various versions of the story.
Versions of Raksha Bandhan Origin
According to the ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata, the queen Draupadi tied a piece of her saree to Lord Krishna when she knew that fall of the Pandava kingdom to Kauravas was imminent.
By doing so, she sought the protection of Lord Krishna for herself and the Pandava brothers against Kauravas.
2. Emperor Vikramaditya
Another legend has it that a queen from Brahma Desh, (modern-day Myanmar) sought the help of Emperor Vikramaditya against an evil king who wanted to invade her kingdom and seize her as a royal concubine.
This queen tied a thread from her robe on the right wrist of Emperor Vikramaditya, who reigned from Pataliputra (currently Patna).
The queen then set an appointment with her enemy to meet her at his military camp. The queen sent a message saying, she would arrive on a palanquin and that the evil king should personally welcome her was sent.
The king agreed and camped in a forest. When the palanquin carried by a handful of the queen’s soldiers arrived, he personally stepped out from his tent to welcome the queen.
To his utter shock, he found that Emperor Vikramaditya was in the palanquin, robed as a woman.
Emperor Vikramaditya swiftly beheaded the king while his soldiers decapitated the enemy’s army before returning home safely.
3. Emperor Humayun
A more recent legend comes from the Mughal period of India. A queen from Rajasthan, Rani Jodhabai, tied a thread to the right wrist of Emperor Humayun, who laid foundations of the Mughal rule on the Indian subcontinent.
Rani Jodhabai feared that a war between her armies and the mighty forces of Emperor Humayun would bring only death and destruction to her kingdom. Therefore, she sought her help.
Since then, the term ‘Rakhee” (rope of protection) came into being and continues to be widely used in India and abroad.
4. Leonid Brezhnev
Though largely unconfirmed, it is believed that erstwhile Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi had tied a Rakhee to the then General Secretary and incumbent Premier of Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, seeking protection for India against its enemies.
In response, Leonid Brezhnev, like the premier, directed the Soviet Union’s Pacific Fleet to trail the USS Enterprise and the American flotilla that was rushing to the assistance of Pakistan during the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
The USS Enterprise and American flotilla fled the Indian Ocean after two Soviet nuclear submarines surfaced a few meters away and made threatening gestures.
Continuing this tradition, sisters nowadays travel to their brothers’ houses to tie them a Rakhee. Sometimes though, the brother travels to their sister’s place for celebrating the festival, if they’re staying apart for any reason.
Importance of Raksha Bandhan in India
Like all festivals, Raksha Bandhan is also important in India. In fact, Raksha Bandhan derives its importance on two grounds. One is the commercial part and another, that it’s a secular festival celebrated by people of all faiths by putting aside any socio-cultural differences.
1. India Post
India Post, the country’s postal system, issues a special prepaid envelop every year to mark the Raksha Bandhan festival. These envelopes cost Rs.5 each and are made of thicker paper. They have greetings such as ‘Happy Raksha Bandhan’ printed on the front, with other designs.
These special envelopes are made and sold by India Post to ensure that every Rakhee sent by mail before the festival, arrives on time to the brother. That’s because millions of Indian males now stay away from their families due to marriage or employment.
You can also use these special envelopes to send a Rakhee to your brothers living abroad. However, in such cases, you’ll need to affix extra postage stamps to pay for airmail.
2. Online Sales
They offer Rakhee and gifts at discounted prices to lure buyers. Nowadays, you can also send a Rakhee to your brother from any e-commerce website. These sales net online retailers, millions of Rupees.
3. Brick-and-Mortar Shops
Brick-and-mortar stores across the country also witness brisk sales of Rakhee and gifts during the season. That’s because many sisters and brothers in India prefer to buy the Rakhee or the gift themselves and hand it over personally.
Therefore, you can see smaller vendors setting up stalls at crowded places such as markets, bus stands, railway stations and elsewhere to sell the Rakhee.
4. Small Scale Industry
A Rakhee, as I described earlier, is a piece of thread. However, over the decades, Indians use very decorative Rakhee made of sponges, beads and other adornments.
These are usually handmade by craftspersons working at small scale industries or at home by individual entrepreneurs.
This is a seasonal sale only and hence, there’re no organized Rakhee manufacturers in India. Over the years though, some kinds of Rakhee made in China could be found in the local markets.
5. Political Strings
Various political parties celebrate Raksha Bandhan in their own way. Members of a specific group that owes allegiance to a political party celebrate the day by tying a Rakhee to their community’s flag.
Others have female members of their group tie Rakhee to males and consider them as brothers and sisters.
Best Raksha Bandhan Gift Ideas for Sister
The date of Raksha Bandhan is 22 august this year. Celebrate this rakhi with prosperity and don’t buy the Chinese rakhi. I hope that you get to know the importance and history of Raksha Bandhan.
May this Raksha Bandhan brings to your life happiness and peace. Happy Raksha Bandhan!