Siblings festival bonds Indians across religions
Red, green, blue, yellow … Monil Bhardwaj showed off the decorated threads she had just bought in every color. It wasn’t enough, though, and so she busied herself in picking out more strings as she prepared for the festival of siblings, Rakshabandhan.
Rakshabandhan, meaning protecting bond, is a Hindu festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.
During the festival, which falls on Aug. 29 this year, sisters tie rakhi, or a sacred thread, on the wrist of their brothers as a mark of love and respect. They pray for the well-being of their brothers and the latter in turn offer promises to protect and care for her all his life. The women fast until it is time to tie the string.
The brothers are supposed to give gifts or cash to their sisters after they tie the rakhi. The festival — celebrated across much of India and in parts of Nepal and Pakistan — falls on the full moon day of the Hindu calendar in the month of August.
"I look forward to this festival with great enthusiasm every year. This is the day when brothers make their sisters feel special and shower them with gifts," said Bhardwaj, who lives with her parents in Delhi.
Bhardwaj, who has two brothers, said that the affection and love between the siblings that is lost in the day-to-day lives comes alive on the festival day.
"The festival brings great joy. My mother cooks special dishes and we all wear new clothes. Everybody is happy," she said.
For Vajinder Kumar, 60, it is a festival to cherish old memories.
"My sister comes over and we relive the moments of the past when we were young. There is nothing like having a caring elder sister. I feel very protective toward her," he said.
Women who are married visit their brothers’ homes bearing rakhis and sweets to celebrate the festival, as it is the sister who has to make all the arrangements for the festival.
To make travel easier for women, several state governments, including the national capital Delhi, offer free public transport for them on the festival day so that they can visit their brothers and celebrate the festival. For those whose brothers live far away, they post the sacred threads to them days before Rakshabandhan.
Festival spans religions
Though traditionally a Hindu festival, it has gained popularity in other communities.
Rukaiyya Jaan, a young Muslim woman, has celebrated Rakshabandhan for years. "It is the spirit of the festival that is important. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion to show love to your brothers," she said.
Jaan every year ties rakhi on the wrist of a Hindu boy whom she considers as her brother. "I do not have a brother but I find the love and care of a brother in him. So Rakshabandhan is the time to strengthen that bond and tell him that he is an important part of my life," she added.
Amrit Sangma, a Christian, recalls girls coming up to him in school and tying rakhi on his wrist.
"It never occurred to me if those tying rakhis on my wrist were Hindus or Christians. I always saw it as an Indian festival and a time for celebration," he told ucanews.com.
Indian history has several stories that narrate the importance of the festival society and culture.
One such story says that when Alexander the Great invaded the Kaikeya Kingdom in India, his wife Roxana sent a sacred thread to the Indian King Porus requesting him not to harm her husband in battle. The story holds that on the battlefield Porus respected the sentiments of rakhi and restrained himself from attacking Alexander personally.
Kanchan Das, whose elder brother moved abroad last year, is sad that she will be celebrating the festival without him for the first time.
"This time the excitement is not like it has been in the past. I have posted the rakhis to him so that he can be upbeat during the festival," Das told ucanews.com.
Das said that their bond would only be strengthened if he is able to tie on her love-filled rakhieven after being so far away.
For Daksha Shukla, who has no brother, the festival is a way for her to celebrate her sister and close friends.
"Me and my sister tie rakhis on each other’s hands and I give her gifts since I am the elder one," she said.
In addition, Shukla said, she posts rakhis to one of her classmates whom she considers a brother.
"Without fail, I have been sending rakhis to him for so many years now and despite writing emails or talking on the phone, we make sure to exchange handwritten letters on this day. It is a different feeling," she said.
Ritu Sharma, Delhi
Source: ucanews.com (Aug. 27, 2015)