Raksha Bandhan: Celebrating the Bond of Protection

August 1, 2017 Indian festival Raksha bandhan @TheRoyaleIndia 1533 0 0

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The Sanskrit word ‘Raksha’ stands for protection and ‘Bandhan’ is bonding. Usually, on the day of Raksha Bandhan sisters tie decorated threads on the wrists of their brothers, uttering prayers and marking their foreheads with sandalwood paste and red lead, to receive gifts and the promise of forever protection in return. But it is not only brothers who protect us from the evils of everyday! Why can’t the valorous sisters, dutiful children, indefatigable friends and resolute lovers be a part of this celebration too? Why don’t sisters tie Rakhi on the hands of their sisters, instead of bemoaning absence of brothers entrusted with the duty of their protection?

In a country like India where beliefs, myths, traditions, philosophies, societal norms and spirituality are amalgamated beyond recognition, no celebration can be one dimensional. Celebrated on the pious full-moon day of Rakhi Purnima or Narali Purnima, Raksha Bandhan is also a multi-dimensional festival wrought in human values.

Let us find out whether this Hindu festival allows celebrations beyond gender roles, familial hierarchy, dogma and blood relations.

When Mythology Illustrates Raksha

The root of Raksha Bandhan can be trailed back to the fertile soil of mythology, consisting of beautiful stories, richly endowed with connotations. The first myth regarding this festival is narrated in Bhavisya Purana, where the King of Gods, Indra, humiliated by the arrogant demon King Bali, decides to wage war against him. Fearing for the god’s well-being, his wife Sachi asks help from Vishnu, who gives her a divine thread amulet to tie on Indra’s wrist, safeguarding him from evil. Wafted with Vishnu’s blessings and wrapped in Sachi’s prayers, the holy thread helps Indra emerge victorious in the war, winning the seat of gods, Amravati, back. This mythology depicts how even the king of gods, custodian of rain and lightning, needed the help and devotion of his wife for succeeding.

The next myth related to Raksha Bandhan is from Mahabharata, bearing testimony to the sacred friendship between Krishna and Draupadi. Once seeing Krishna injured and bleeding profusely Draupadi had torn her silk garment to tie on the wound, preventing blood flow. Her act of love made Krishna utter a vow of protecting his friend’s honor and this he did by preventing the Kauravas from ripping off Draupadi’s sari, molesting her publicly at the royal court. Despite having five valorous husbands, Draupadi was saved from indignity and insult by her friend Krishna.

Raksha Bandhan: Celebrating the Bond of Protection

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In another alternative mythic story, it is goddess Lakshmi who tied the sacred band or Rakhi on the hand of demon king Bali, persuading him to accept her as his sister. Afterwards, the goddess requested Bali to let Vishnu travel back to Vaikunth with her. Bali who had entreated Vishnu into protecting his kingdom relented to the request of Lakshmi, freeing Vishnu from the bondage of oath to his devotee. Though this story depicts the commitment of Bali towards his sister Lakshmi, it also underlines the role a wife plays in the welfare of the husband.

When History Elucidates Raksha

Legend has it that Roxana, a Sogdian princess by birth and wife to Alexander the Great, had sent a holy thread to the valiant Indian king Porus, beseeching him to spare her husband fatal injury during battle. Porus, honorable as he was, wore the Rakhi to the battleground and withdrew his sword, when chance presented him the opportunity to kill Alexander. True or otherwise, this story is not just about the value of Rakhi in the eyes of Indians but a losing person’s integrity towards his promise.

In a second historical account of controversy, the Mughal emperor Humayun received a Rakhi from Rani Karnavati, the widowed queen of Chittor, imploring him to save her people before the royal palace got vanquished by Bahadur Shah, the sovereign of Gujrat. Humayun immediately readied his troop in response to her plea but reached Chittor too late to help the queen. Though a story of questionable accuracy, this historical legend is a proof of Hindu-Muslim solidarity, close to the inception of the Mughal era, and exemplified through ages since.

Jindan Kaur, the last wedded spouse of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, leader of the Sikh dynasty in India, had sent a Rakhi to the ruler of Nepal, who had gladly accepted the role of brother to her. Later when the British snatched power from the hands of the Sikh, taking over their empire, Jindan fled to Nepal and was received with great hospitality into the King’s family. Acting as a Good Samaritan, the king of Nepal had merged the essence of “love thy neighbor” with the humane principle of protecting those in need, which has always been at the core of Raksha Bandhan.

When Tagore Illuminates Raksha

The British had promoted westernized education in Bengal, to create a class of English speaking, sycophantic clerks, who will help them in the nitty-gritty of ruling at minimum wages. This ploy backfired, as a new generation of Bengalis, well-versed in western literature and philosophies, started raising questions against the British rule, challenging the latter’s authority with logic backed by intellect. Frightened by the rising consciousness of nationalism among this new sect of enlightened Bengalis, Viceroy of India under the British Rule, the infamous Lord Curzon, decided to provoke Hindus and Muslims against each other. Employing the divide and rule policy, he brought about the Partition of Bengal in 1905.

Heartbroken at this instance, Rabindranath Tagore became determined to prevent his beloved Bengal from falling to bits and pieces over communal disharmony. The Nobel laureate Indian poet of immense repute called out his countrymen to celebrate Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi on the day of partition. With his leadership Raksha Bandhan became a symbolic protest against the death grip of imperialism. In response to calculated religious segregation, Tagore struck the match of solidarity and brotherhood that spread like wildfire. In response to his imploration, Hindus and Muslims thronged the roads of Kolkata, Dhaka and Sylhet, tying Rakhi on each other’s hands, unconcerned about religion, caste, sex or creed. Both religious fraternities continued protests in cooperation, forcing the British rulers to revoke the partition orders in 1911. Reuniting the halves of Bengal back by the sublime thread of harmony, Tagore has paved the path of perceiving Raksha Bandhan in a broader spectrum of humanity.

When Affection is Raksha

Raksha Bandhan or the thread of protection is what gives every relationship its meaning, especially bonds pledged with the affection of a mother or a progeny. May it be burping the baby right to prevent colic pain or instilling values that last a lifetime, what does a mother do but protect her child from every bump on the road? In the bosom of every mother, there resides a protective warrior, ready to take a stance against the entire world for her offspring. An inspirational example of motherly protection is Dr. Archana Nayar, whose son got diagnosed with Autism around six years ago. Appalled at the limited therapeutic intervention available for autism in India, she started the Autism Centre for Excellence to help children who fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

History and folklore also echoes with umpteen examples where children protect their parents from grief, financial crisis and debility. In the legend of Shravan Kumar it is the son who carried his enfeebled parents on his shoulders to the forty pilgrimages they wished to visit, protecting them from exhaustion.

When Sisterhood is Raksha

Despite its vast symbolism and message of comradeship among humans of both genders, Raksha Bandhan is mainly celebrated to glorify the importance of brothers as protectors in the lives of their female counterparts, the sisters. Innumerable examples show how oftentimes it is the sisters who sacrifice honor, dreams, desires and even vital organs to lengthen the thread of their brothers’ lives. On the day of Raksha Bandhan in 2016, Jayanti Gili had tied the Rakhi to her brother Mahesham Biswal, in between her preoperative tests for the kidney transplant operation in a day or so. For Jayanti, a 100% tissue match of her brother suffering from End Stage Renal Disease, sharing the organ was not a matter of sacrifice but as natural as feeding him from her plate.

Noguny, a Mauritian visiting India, donated 250gm portion of her liver for the emergency treatment of her ailing baby brother, whose liver was on the brink of collapsing and catastrophe. Noguny, a Mauritian visiting India, saved her baby brother from collapsing and catastrophe by donating a 250 gm portion of her liver for emergency transplant. Beyond the lines of borders and genders, Raksha is what constitutes the foreground of siblinghood.

When Love is Raksha

No matter how versatile in its manifestations, love is nothing if not about Raksha. On a fateful summer morning, when Rupji Gamit went to work on the sugarcane field, he didn’t expect death to be awaiting him in the shape of a leopard. But in the country of Savitri, who snatched her husband’s life back from the god of death, Yama, a twist to the story was a given. Seventy five year old Rupji’s septuagenarian wife Kiruben went in his defense, throwing stones and dry sticks at the intimidating animal. Her efforts distracted the animal, making it turn to look at her way, enabling Rupji to escape. In a report of the incident published in The Times of India, on 3rd April, 2013, she was quoted saying, “The laborers were shouting from a distance. Anyone can get scared by a leopard. But for me it was the life of my husband at stake. I stopped there to save him”. Propensity of such incidents makes it legitimate enough if spouses and lovers celebrate the day of Raksha Bandhan, promising to guard each other from all harm.

When Loyalty is Raksha

Hardly mentioned in history text books, Panna Dai was the embodiment of loyalty and Raksha combined together. Wet nurse to Udai Singh II, the fourth son of Maharana Sangram Singh and crown prince to the throne of Mewar, she sacrificed her own son’s life by guising him as the prince and fled the royal palace with her charge. Her loyalty was not only towards her late regal employer but her country and countrymen who needed Udai Singh’s as their future leader.

Not just history but also the contemporary times resound with the valiance of duty-bound saviors. It won’t be factitious to remember the martyrs of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26/11 in this regard. Loyal to the ascribed duty of guarding lives of commoners, the names of Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar, Tukaram Gopal Omble and Major Sandeep Unnikrisnan will be etched in our hearts, defining the Bandhan of Raksha.

When Courage is Raksha

Senior flight purser, Neerja Bhanot, could have saved her life but she decided to help passengers get off the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73. Quickly spotted by the terrorists on a raving rampage of bloodlust, she was shot point blank, defending the lives of three American children.

Raksha Bandhan: Celebrating the Bond of Protection

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With her red bindi and affectionate smile, Anuradha Koirala looks just like the docile aunt we have grown up loving, but behind her gentle smile there is a determined woman who has rescued more than 12,000 girls from the maze of sex trafficking. Having only courage as their shield, numerous defenders like them are relentless in their stance of protection, honoring Raksha as a humane calling.

When Kindness is Raksha

Palak Mucchal, the mellifluous singing sensation, started her career in charity at seven, raising funds for the families of Kargil martyrs. She performed extensively on stage, raising funds for the treatment of children suffering from dire heart diseases. Seeing her devotion to the cause even the T.Choithram Hospital in Indore had reduced surgical costs by 50% on cases referred by her.

Kanta Chakraborty of Kolkata took up the challenge of transforming the lives of street children who begged at the Dumdum junction railway station. For years, she has been tutoring them every morning and evening at Platform number One. Using a designated curtained part of the railway platform she feeds and readies them for school. Compromising leisure and pleasures, kindness often make Raksha its motto, taking the utterly helpless under its wings.

When Defiance is Raksha

Battling for life for the last six days, traffic sergeant Bapi Sen died of severe head injuries”,

-The Hindu, Tuesday, Jan 07, 2003

On the night of 31st December, 2002, returning home to his wife and children, traffic sergeant Bapi Sen spotted five off-duty constables chasing a lady, riding pillion. Surcharged with the feeling of duty towards the helpless stranger, Bapi stopped the drunken policemen, letting the woman flee. However, five to one being an unjust ratio he was soon cornered and thrashed mercilessly, ruthless blows from the eve-teasers pulping his head. The father of two neither had a second thought nor a trace of fear, chasing death and interpreting Raksha with blood and might.

Epitome of defiance, Irom Sharmila Chanu fasted for more than five hundred weeks, demanding the repeal of AFSPA or the Armed Forces Act in Manipur. Her act of defiance was in response to the Malom Massacre when Armed Force personnel killed ten civilians indiscriminately and was pardoned under the draconian AFSPA regulations. On behalf of a stranger or defenseless masses, defiance against injustice is unquestionably the supreme act of Raksha in the chronicles of time.

It’s Time to Turn the Tide

The endless examples of Raksha strewn across mythology, history and contemporary times prove that Raksha Bandhan is not limited within the bounds of brother-sister relationships. From tireless mothers and self-less sisters to the earth-quake volunteers playing who-blinks-first with death, each tender heart aglow with the promise of Raksha deserves a Rakhi on their wrist. It is high time to break all stereotypical limitations and acknowledge our heroes for whom Raksha is an instinct.

SO, this year irrespective of who ties the Rakhi to you, make sure to return the gesture with gifting them something special. Just in case you need help – CouponRaja Rakshabandhan Offers

Categories: Lifestyle