“Sisters and brothers just happen, we don’t get to choose them, but they become one of our most cherished relationships”, wrote Wes Adamson the author of ‘Imagination By Moonlight’.
India is a country of festivals and each festival has its specific importance. ‘Rakshabandhan’ is one of those north Indian festivals which also have great importance. Every year this festival is celebrated on the full- moon night of the Shravan month of the Hindu calendar, which is sometime in August.. This year it is on the 15th of August, coinciding with Independence Day.
Rakshabandhan is a festival of brothers and sisters. On this occasion sister ties a sacred thread on her brother’s wrist and to pray for his prosperity and well- being. The brother in return promises to protect his sister from harm and difficult situations. In the world of the joint family tradition, the term ‘sister’ is extended to cousins and other intricate ‘family ties’.
The sacred thread has now evolved to a hand ornament strung with all sorts of decorations. This is the Rakhi, which is a sign of love, affection and protection between brother and sister.
Then there is the ‘Rakhi brother’, some boy who is ‘like a brother’. There are legends about princes and kings keeping the ‘honour’ of the rakhi and coming to the aid of their ‘rakhi sisters’
This festival has been celebrated from ancient times and several historical stories and religious myths are related with this festival.
On the occasion of Rakshabandhan the local markets of Patna are flooded with colourful and beautiful Rakhis and women are seen in front of stores and purchasing them.
One Rajdeep Mona from Sadaquat Aashram said, “I am excited for Rakshabandhan every year. I tie Rakhis to my own brother as well as my cousin who lives at my Maternal grandmother’s home and we enjoy the whole day”.
Amrita Kumari who is from Kurji Mor said, “I don’t have my own brother but I tie Rakhi to my cousin. When I was in school, we students used to tie Rakhi to trees and we also sent Rakhis to soldiers from the school”.
Rani Madhu who is from Digha said, “this festival is a sign of love and peace between brother and sister. It is one of the most awaited festivals for me because I enjoy the day with my all members of family”.
On the face of it, this festival that originated on the plains of Eastern India, maybe seen as another partiarchal construct to ward off any challenge to the males decision making within the family. The ‘protection’ of the girl is an interesting concept, which has much to do with the upper caste notions of honour. Thus a boy who is not of the family, but who may be seen as close to a girl is made a’Rakhi brother’, and he is now sworn to protect her ‘honour’.
We find that this festival has been transplanted to Assam over the past two decades, and Rakhis are sold in Guwahati also.
The festival of Bhai Tika in Nepal (also called Bhai Dooj in some parts of East India) is less patriarchal in nature, because on this day, the girl prays for long life of the brother. The brother is supposed to respond with a gift.
From Preeti Dayal in Patna and Mohit Brahma in Assam