Original Article: 20 August 2013 Article updated: 25 July 2017 Read your guide on where to get your Rakhis in Hong Kong in 2017 here. Indians will look for any excuse to celebrate. No one really knows the official number – I’m not sure if there even is one – but according to everyone’s favourite unofficial source of information (I’m talking about Wikipedia, of course), India celebrates 167 festivals yearly. That’s an average of one festival every 2.5 days! Raksha Bandhan (literally, bond of protection) is one of the more well-known festivals celebrated by Indians all over the world. Also known as rakhi, this popular festival celebrates the chaste bond of love between brother and sister. A sister ties a thread of silk around her brother’s wrist and prays for his longevity. Brothers, in return, vow to protect their sisters from harm. Sisters tie a rakhi (an elaborate thread of cotton or silk) around their brother’s wrist in a prayer of longevity. Image credit: musical poet When I was a kid, I enjoyed rakhi without understanding it. It’s hard not to have a good time. There was plenty of food and conversation. We kids played Antakshari, drank Tango juice and dug into the food with unabashed gusto. I asked my mother once, “Why do I tie rakhi?” The best answer I received was “So that your brother will protect you. It is a tradition.”
The Stories Behind Raksha Bandhan
The tying of rakhi may be tradition but Mum forgets that everyone loves a good story. The origins of the Raksha Bandhan festival are found in Indian mythology and history. Here are 5 fascinating stories about Raksha Bandhan that you can tell your kids.
Safeguarding modesty – The Raksha Bandhan Story of Krishna & Draupadi
Possibly the most popular story about rakhi comes from the Mahabharata, involving Lord Krishna and Draupadi, the wife of the 5 Pandava brothers. One fine day, Krishna cut his finger while handling sugarcane. Draupadi, seeing this, tore off a corner of her sari and bandaged his finger. In return for this deed, Lord Krishna vowed to protect her. And that was how Draupadi’s sari became endless and saved her embarrassment on the day she was publically disrobed in King Dhritarashtra’s court.
Bestowing Immortality – The Raksha Bandhan Story of Yama & Yamuna
It is said that Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, and his sister Yamuna, a river that flows in India. Yamuna tied rakhi to her brother Yama and bestowed immortality upon him. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion and her gesture that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised protection in return will become immortal.
Securing victory in war – The Raksha Bandhan Story of Indra & Brutra
A legend speaks of a war between the Gods, led by Lord Indra and the Demons, led by King Brutra. When the Gods were on the verge of defeat, Indra approached Guru Brihaspati to find a solution to the situation. Brihaspati asked Indra to tie a sacred thread on his wrist. Lord Indra’s Queen Sachi, also called Indrani, empowered the thread and tied it on to his hand on the decided day. It is said the power of the sacred thread helped the Gods to victory.
Reuniting of love – The Raksha Bandhan Story of Goddess Laxmi & King Bali
We pick up in the middle of the story where Lord Vishnu has been protecting his devotee, the demon King Bali, by disguising himself as his doorman. Back at home, Vishnu’s consort, Laxmi (also known as the goddess of wealth and prosperity) has been missing him. So she approaches Bali in the disguise of a woman seeking shelter in the absence of her husband. Bali, a generous king, opens the doors of his palaces for the lady. On the full moon day of in the holy month of Shravana, Laxmi ties a thread on Bali’s wrist and wishes for protection and happiness. Bali asks her what she desires and promises to fulfil it. Laxmi simply points to the gatekeeper who reveals his true identity. The goddess, too, follows suit. Bali keeps his promise and requests Vishnu to return home with his consort. In return, Vishnu promises to return and be with Bali for four months of each year.
Ending a war – The Raksha Bandhan Story of the Mughal Emperor Humayun & Queen Karnavati
Now here’s a historical anecdote involving the Mughals and Rajputs, who were waging a war. Karnavati, the widow of Rajput King of Chittoor, tied rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun for her state’s safety. Humayun abided by her rakhi and called actually ordered his armies to retreat. Now you that you know the stories, use the occasion of Raksha Bandhan to show your love towards your siblings.