Raksha Bandhan

Last Updated: April 23, 2020

Definition - What does Raksha Bandhan mean?

Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival to celebrate the love between brothers and sisters. It is also celebrated by Jaians, and observed by Sikhs as Rakhardi. In Sanskrit, raksha means “protection” and bandhan means “to tie.” During the festival, sisters will offer a rakhi (a thread tie) to their brothers, tying it around the wrist as a symbol of love and commitment. Brothers also offer a gift as a symbol of their commitment to protect their sisters.

Sometimes abbreviated to Rakhi, Raksha Bandhan is celebrated on the full moon of Sravana, a month in the lunar calendar. Typically, this falls in the August month of the Gregorian calendar, and is followed eight days later by Janamashtami, a festival to mark the birth of Krishna.

Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in many parts of the world by both Hindu and non-Hindu traditions, particularly in India and Nepal. Within some yoga traditions such as Siddha yoga, Raksha Bandhan is practiced as a symbol of universal brotherly love, devotion, and protection of fellow humans

Yogapedia explains Raksha Bandhan

The festival of Raksha Bandhan is symbolic of brotherly and sisterly love, as well as the duty to protect one another. It is believed that tying a rakhi around a brother’s wrist serves as a reminder for him to honour his moral duty of protecting family. Whilst the festival is primarily celebrated by biological siblings, rakhis and gifts are often exchanged between cousins, other family relatives and even in close friendships between men and women. Historically, rakhis were even offered by Indian rulers to rulers of other kingdoms in order to request protection.

Today, the festival has developed to include others in the festivities; priests offer rakhis to their congregation members, and some women tie rakhis around the wrists of soldiers and the Prime Minister. Modern rakhis tend to be decorated with multicoloured silk thread, beads or stones. Throughout Raksha Bandhan, brothers and sisters offer prayers and poems alongside rakhis and other gifts as a symbol of their commitment to their relationship.

Traditionally, rakhis were blessed with sacred verses or consecrated in rice or grass before being offered. These customs ensure that the tie both protects and removes sin from the wearer, a shield which is said to last for one year. During the offerings, prayers are made for prosperity and happiness, and once the rakhi has been tied a mantra may be chanted in Sanskrit or Pali. At the end of the ceremony the sister will place a sweet in her mouth while the brother gives a gift or a small monetary offering.

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