Celebrated on the full moon day in the Hindu calendar month of Sharavan, Raksha Bandhan is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of India.
It is a day that symbolises the sacred relationship between a brother and sister. Literally translated, raksha means protection while bandhan means bond. Raksha Bandhan, therefore, signifies the bond of love out which comes a sense of security and protection.
On Raksha Bandhan, the sister ties a rakhi, comprising sacred threads, on her brother’s wrist and performs an aarati . In return, the brother gives her a gift. The ritual is meant to signify their love and that both are looking out for each other. Today, the festival goes much beyond real brothers and sisters to any two individuals who enjoy a deep relationship. So you are likely to see a woman tie a rakhi to her cousins, neighbours and close friends.
Raksha Bandhan also has a great history. Various stories have been passed on indicating the origin of Raksha Bandhan. One of them draws its origin from the Mahabharata epic. Once, Lord Krishna hurt his hand while fighting Shishupala, a man who had committed several heinous acts. When this happened, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava brothers, rushed to cover the wound by tearing a piece of her sari and tying it around Lord Krishna’s hand. In return for her kind gesture, the Lord asked what she would like. Draupadi replied by saying she only desired His Divine presence at every moment of her life. From that moment on, Lord Krishna told Draupadi that He would be with her whenever she called out for Him. Much later, when the Kauravas tried to disrobe her in their court, helpless, she called out to Lord Krishna to save her. And in return, the Lord gave her a sari that was infinitely long. As a result, the Kauravas were unable to disrobe her and Draupadi was saved from being dishonoured.
While the festival typically celebrates the relationship between brother and sister, it has a much deeper spiritual significance. When we take one step on the spiritual path, the Lord takes ninety-nine steps, as it were. This is the symbolism of Lord Krishna giving Draupadi an infinitely long sari in return for a protecting his wound with a small piece of cloth. At the absolute level, it is only when we give up our pathetic, finite egos that we are able to experience the joy of the Infinite.
Those who have embarked on the magical journey towards the Spirit experience not just and happiness and success but also an unmistakable sense of peace that the world cannot disturb. Thus Raksha Bandhan, like all other Indian festivals, is a call to the Divine Self within. So let us pledge, on this day, to commit ourselves to dedicating our actions to our goal of self-betterment, harbouring finer emotions and developing the clarity to see the permanence in and through the transience of the world.