Importance of Raksha Bandhan- The festival of Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi celebrates the brother-sister relationship. There are various reasons as to why this festival is celebrated, in which the sister ties a ‘rakhi’ or thread on her brothers’ wrist, wish for his long life and they ensure each other’s safety.
The name Raksha Bandhan as per the Hindi Script has a symbolic significance in which the word ‘Raksha’ signifies safety and ‘Bandhan’ signifies a bond, together which means a bond to ensure safety and well-being of each other.
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The Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the day of the full moon of the Shraavana month, according to the Hindu Lunar calendar. There are many mythical references related to the origin of this festival, some of which are:
According to Bhagavata Purana and Vishnu Purana, after King Bali was sent to netherworlds, Lord Vishnu pleased by his devotion promised to always guard his kingdom; he came to his palace in netherworlds disguised as a layman and offered to be his guard, leaving behind his abode in heaven. Goddess Laxmi followed her divine consort and came to Bali’s palace and started working as a maid, impressed with his kingship she asked to be accepted as his sister. After some time when she wanted to go back with her husband to their native place ‘Vaikuntha’, she tied Rakhi to King Bali and in return asked him to let her husband free so that they can go back. After everything was revealed to King Bali he asked the Lord to return to ‘Vaikuntha’. Since Vishnu was bound by his vow, it was decided between the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh to guard Bali’s kingdom for four months each around the year.
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The other mythical reference is to the incident of creation of Santoshi Maa: The two sons of Lord Ganesh, namely Shubh and Lab, were once upset about the fact that they had no sister, Lord Ganesh then created Santoshi out of flames, and the two brothers got a sister for themselves on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.
Another allegory that is related to the festival is when death God, Yama does not visit his sister Yamuna for a long time and she longs to see him. Then Ganga suggests Yama come and sees her. The Yamuna on his arrival feels delighted and asks him to visit her every year. This reference also accounts for the origin of another festival celebrating brother-sister bond i.e. ‘Bhai dooj’.
There is also a reference in Mahabharata where Kunti tied ‘Rakhi’ to her Grandson Abhimanyu.
In the past there have been many references where the women tie Raksha Sutra, or the ‘safety thread’ to their male counterparts, whether it was their brother, husband or any other warrior, to wish for their victory and safety in the war.
However, the festival of Raksha Bandhan is now entitled to only celebrate the brother-sister relationship. It is widely celebrated in India and Nepal. In some families, the sisters fast till the time they tie rakhi to their brother’s wrist. In modern times, the siblings exchange sweets and other gifts and celebrate together.