Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi, the festival to celebrate the love of brothers and sisters. The word Raksha Bandhan is originated from a Sanskrit word ‘Rakshabandhanam’. It consists of two words Raksha that means protection & Bandhan which means a bond, which simply means a ‘Bond of Protection.’
This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravana, the fifth month of Hindu Calendar every year. On this day Sister ties the knot of Rakhi (silk thread, the thread signifies a thread of love and sacrifice) on her Brother’s wrist, and prays for his prosperity. The Brother, in return, gives her sister a gift and promises her of an eternal bond of love and protection.
Like every festival, Raksha Bandhan too has many stories behind it. There are cultural and historical beliefs that enhance the significance of Raksha Bandhan. There are many beliefs in Hindu culture and Mythology about Raksha Bandhan.
One of the most popular reverences in Hindu Culture is of Lord Krishna and Draupadi (Panchali, wife of Pandavas). On Makar Sankranti Lord Krishna cuts his little finger. Draupadi saw Krishna bleeding profusely, she cut off a part of her Saree and tied it on Lord’s finger, in return, Lord Krishna promised to protect her and he protected her from the Kauravas.
One more belief is of Yama and Yamuna. Yama, the God of Death, did not visit his sister Yamuna. When Yama visited her, by getting a reminder from Ganga after 12 years, Yamuna was overjoyed by the visit of her brother and she tied a Rakhi to him and in return, Yama asked her to make a wish and she wished for her brother to visit her soon.
Another belief is of Lord Bali and Goddess Laxmi, on full moon day of Sharavana Goddess Laxmi tied a knot of Rakhi on Lord Bali’s wrist for his protection and in return, he asked her what she wants as a gift, she asked to return Lord Vishnu to her, Bali kept his promise but Lord Vishnu, in turn, promised to spend four months of each year with Lord Bali.
It is also precedence in a Sacred book of Hindu culture, The Bhavishya Purana. In chapter 137 of Uttar Parva, Lord Krishna has described to Yudhishthira, the ritual of having a raksha tied to his wrist by the Raj Purohit (royal priest) on the Purnima (the full moon day) of Shravana.
A famous historical story about Raksha Bandhan is of the queen of Mewar, Rani Karnavati, and Mughal emperor Humayun. After the death of her husband Rana Sanga, Bahadur Shah of Gujarat attacked Mewar for the second time then the queen wrote a letter to Humayun for help, sending him a rakhi and sought protection. The Mughal emperor Humayun couldn’t help her in time and the Queen Immolated herself in Jauhar. Humayun was heartbroken. Later he restored The Kingdom to Karnavati’s son Vikramjit.
There is also a historical story of Roxana and King Porus, When Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC, his wife, Roxana, sent Porus, the king of the Pauravas, a sacred thread and asked him not to harm her husband on the battlefield. In the Battle of the Hydaspes, when Porus saw the rakhi on his own wrist, he restrained himself from attacking Alexander. Porus lost the battle but he won the respect and honor of Alexander & Alexander not only reinstated him as a satrap (governor) of his own kingdom but also granted him dominion over lands to the south-east extending until the Hyphasis (Beas).
History, Culture, Mythology, and Present signifies the adoration and importance of Raksha Bandhan. Raksha Bandhan keeps sisters and brothers bonded. It gives our culture an opportunity to celebrate, cherish the Sister Brother bond. Sisters use to send Rakhis by post or emails. The ways and mediums of the ritual could be changing but the intent of the festival remains intact.