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Festival Of Raksha Bandhan 

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Rakhee a decorative string which bonds brothers and sisters forever in a bond of love ! The hindi word "Raksha" means protection and "Bandhan" means a knot, bond or a tie. This is a celebration of brother's promise to take care of his sister ! 

The origin of Raksha Bandhan is not really known but it is celebrated with joy and excitement in the Hindu month of Shravan the full moon day - Shravan Poornima. 

This festival celebrates this meaningful bond between a brother and his sister or sisters as sisters all over tie a colorful thread on to their brothers wrist. The tying of this simple knot signifies the deep love and commitment that the brother has towards always protecting his sister from any physical and mental harm. The thread or Rakhi promises to protect the brother from evil. He in turn vows to look after his sister and protect her all his life. Raksha Bandhan transcends more than just the brother-sister bond. Throughout history, Indian women have tied rakhi on men they have considered their spiritual brothers. 

The tying of a Rakhi by a woman on the wrist of any man signifies his religious duty of the highest order, to protect that woman. He would then put his life at stake to protect the honor of that woman. Such is the "strong bond" between brothers and sisters. 

Although Raksha Bandhan is observed between real brothers and sisters this day also brings together cousins together and also sisters and brothers who are not related to each other but share a brotherly bond with each other. The bond between sisters and brothers is so strong that the festival of Raksha Bandhan is not forgotten even as brothers and sisters are separated by distances. Sisters still remember and send a real Rakhee by snail mail or an E-Rakhee via the wonderful E-cards or e-mail.  And most brothers reciprocate by sending their beloved sisters a gift!

The Ceremony

Aarti is done to the brother while the sister applies a tall red "tikka" with "Kum Kum" on his forehead. The word Aarti comes from the Sanskrit word "Aratrik" Performing aarti means placing a "diya" or oil lamp on to a "thalla" or platter and  waving it before a person...in this case the brother three times around in a clockwise direction. This is sometimes accompanied by the chanting of mantras. At this time the brother waves his hand over the "diya" and does namaskar to the "Diya". The aarti is performed so that the blessings of God may be showered upon him. After the conclusion of the aarti ceremony, the sister usually places an Indian  sweet in his mouth. After this the sister ties a Rakhee on to her brothers right wrist. This simple tying of the Rakhee is steeped in tradition and emotion as both brother and sister feel the love and bond between them. 

"Accept my blessing and affection through this sacred thread which strengthens our relationship"

This is  a very fun time for the sisters as they get showered with either gifts or money from their brothers. So If you have many brothers then is a wonderful time for you as its "present time". Usually a sum of Rupees 51, 101, 251, or 501 is given. 

Nowadays here in the USA many friends get together to share this festival among their kids. At this time instead of money, age appropriate gifts are given. To reciprocate many times the girls too give the brothers something. This is unusual and not usually done in India. 

The Rakhee

A Rakhee can be made as simple as a red thread or as elaborate as to be embellished with beads, semi-precious stones with golden or silver threads. Rakhis are available in different sizes, colors and shapes from the typical red threads with round middles to heart shaped - symbolizing the bond of love. Venture out into any market in India and you will be awestruck by the numerous choices that re available. The striking designs and colors are breathtaking. Rakhees are an extension of an artists expression within which lie wonderful feelings and well wishes. 

The Origin of Raksha Bandhan

Legend has it that there was a fierce battle between the Gods and the demons in which the demons seemed to be in a favorable position. Indra, the king of gods, became anxious and asked Bruhaspathi to suggest a way out. Meanwhile, Indrani (wife of Indra) who was around at the time of consultation spoke her mind even before Bruhaspathi could strike upon an idea. She assured them of turning the tables in the gods' favor. Next day was the Sravan Poornima. She consulted some old scriptures and prepared a talisman, which she tied to her husband's wrist. Indra went to the battlefield again and the enemies, who had seemed so powerful, now beat a quick retreat and the gods were victorious.

Ever since, on
Sravan Poornima day, the tradition of tying the thread began and it was believed that the persons would be blessed with health, wealth, happiness and victories. Sisters tied rakhi to their brothers asking for protection. While the sisters prayed for their brothers' welfare, the latter vowed to take care of them even if it called for some sacrifice on their part.

The Rajputs also practiced this ritual. At the time of war when the brave Rajput soldiers prepared to go to the battlefield, the women folk followed the ritual of tying a thread around their wrists after applying a dash of vermilion powder on their forehead. This was considered a sign of good omen and the ladies believed that it would protect their men from the enemy's blow and bring them victory.

During the Freedom Struggle, many young women tied rakhis around the wrists of young men and made them pledge their lives, their youth, their careers, their ambitions and even their dreams to the struggle for the freedom of their motherland from the shackles of slavery of British imperialism. It is probably for this very season that the great leader of Bengal, Surendranath Bannerji endeavored to elevate this important festival of Raksha-Bhandhan to the status of a National Festival.

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