Friday, May 13, 2016

Raksha Bandhan / Raakhi Poornima : A Beautiful Indian Festival of Love Between Brothers and Sisters

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Article on Raksha Bandhan / Raakhi Poornima underneath the pictures

Raksha Bandhan is also known as Raakhi Purnima or simply Rakhi in many parts of India.

The festival is a Hindu festival which celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters. The festival is also popularly observed to celebrate any brother-sister relationship between men and women who are neither relatives nor biologically related.

The festival is  celebrated by many non Hindu communities as well in India as a secular festival.

On Raksha Bandhan, sisters tie a sacred thread / Raakhi on their brother's wrist. This symbolizes the sister's love and prayers for her brother's well-being, and the brother's lifelong vow to protect his sister come what may.The festival falls on the full moon day (Shraavan Poornima) of the Shraavan month of the Hindu calendar.

Raksha Bandhan as a religious festival focuses on performing the Aarti and saying the prayers prior to tying Raakhi / Sacred thread. The prayers draw inspirations from the Hindu scriptures. The other religious feature is the application of the Tilak on the forehead of the person wearing the Raakhi.

Raksha Bandhan in Sanskrit literally means "the knot of protection". The word Raksha means protection, while Bandhan is the word for knot. It is an ancient Hindu festival that ritually celebrates the love and duty between brothers and their sisters. The sister performs a Raakhi ceremony, then prays to express her love and her good wishes for the well being of her brother. In return, the brother ritually pledges to protect and take care of his sister under all circumstances. Raksha Bandhan is one of the several occasions in which family ties are affirmed in India. The other occassions are Karva Chauth, Bhaai Dooj etc.

The festival is also an occasion to celebrate brother-sister like family ties between cousins or distant family members,and sometimes even between biologically unrelated men and women. To many, the festival transcends biological family, brings together men and women across various religions, diverse ethnic groups and ritually emphasizes harmony and immense love. It is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Śrāvaṇa, and typically falls in the month of August every year.

Days or weeks before Raksha Bandhan, women folks shop for Raakhi, the ceremonial thread to tie around their brother's wrist. Some women make their own Raakhi. A Raakhi may be a simple thread, woven and colourful; or a it may be an intricate thread with beautiful amulets and complex decorations on top of it. Sometimes, a Raakhi may even be a fancy wrist watch or men's wrist accessory in the form of bracelet or jewelery. Raakhi in the form of a simple colourful woven thread is most common. Typically the brother(s) too shop for gifts for their sisters, ahead of Raksha Bandhan. The gift from the brother can be a simple thoughtful token of love or may be more elaborate and grand.

On the morning of Raksha Bandhan, the brothers and sisters get together, often in nice dress in the presence of surviving parents, grandparents and other family members. If the sister and brother are geographically separated, the sister may mail the Rakhi ahead of the Raksha Bandhan day, along with a greeting card or letter wishing her brother well. The ritual typically begins in front of a lighted oil lamp (Diya) , which signifies fire deity.

Once the Rakhi has been tied, the sister says a prayer for the well being , good health, prosperity and happiness of her brother. This ritual  involves an Aarti, where a tray with lighted lamp is ritually rotated around the brother's face, along with the prayer and well wishes.

The prayer is a self composed note, or one of the many published Raakhi poems and prose. One of the earliest examples of a Raakhi prayer is found in Chapter V of Vishnu Purana; it is the prayer that Yashoda says while tying a Raksha Bandhan amulet on Krishna's wrist.

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